Braeden Kressler, an invite to the Leafs development camp and the Traverse City prospect tournament was presented with the proverbial open door when Alex Steeves was hurt. He skated through it without hesitation, impressed in a top line role, and has earned an entry-level deal.

When I looked up who this guy was who was playing so well filling in for Steeves, I thought he looked like he could walk into the AHL.  I was not expecting him to be 18 and in the OHL.

Born in Kitchener, and playing in Flint for the Firebirds, he’s got only one year of stats because he didn’t play last year. He went undrafted, likely because he had nothing but his 16 year old season to recommend him — oh, and that height thing. His first OHL season wasn’t all that impressive on a team with Riley McCourt, now on the Marlies. But not many 16 year olds are all that impressive in the OHL.

He got some pre-draft attention, and no one would have been surprised if he’d been taken with a late-round pick, but he was passed over.

His showing at Traverse City made him worth snapping up now, instead of waiting until the next draft. This is the only time the Leafs would be allowed to sign him — prior to the regular season’s start. At 18, he will return to the OHL for two more years, and his contract will slide. In January 2023, he will turn 20, and be eligible that fall for the AHL.

Kressler is listed at 5’9” and 165 lbs, and he plays centre regularly. He’s described as being dogged on the puck, and a good skater.

Oh, and if you think it’s odd that his agent is the famous agent to all the Russians, Gold Star is located in Michigan, and former teammate Yevgeni Oksentyuk, drafted by the Stars, is also a Milstein client.

Welcome to the team, Braeden.