I think we can all agree that, for one reason or another, the year of 2019 was extremely frustrating as Leafs fans a lot of the time. Losing another playoff series to Boston, Marner’s contract negotiation, Babcock’s coaching, and the team’s early season struggles are all up there.
But if there’s been one consistently good part to the year, it’s seeing how all their prospects are progressing. You’d think after being a playoff team for the last three years and trading away some first round picks would make it harder for them to produce many impact prospects. However, the Leafs are proving that their scouting, drafting, and development system seem to be working.
Nick Robertson we all know and love. He’s a smol precious boy who is like a wrecking ball on the ice. He has over one GOAL per game in the OHL this year, and he’s added 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games in the World Juniors for good measure. A reminder, if he was born even a few days later he wouldn’t be draft eligible until this coming draft.
Then there’s Rasmus Sandin, an at-the-buzzer first round pick two years ago who has been raising eyebrows for the level of performance he’s put up in the AHL as a teenage defenseman. He was good enough to crack the NHL out of camp as a 19 year old, and got into 6 games before being sent back down to the Marlies. He has 40 points in 63 career AHL games. Counting two games this year, he has 5 points in 7 World Junior games.
Mikko Kokkonen is a third round pick, also in the World Juniors for Finland. He had a rough start to the year with an injury in an off-season camp with Team Finland, and was slow getting back into the Finnish men’s league. He’s had 20 games now, and while he’s only had 2 goals and 1 assist, but he’s up to averaging over 3 shots per game. He also has 2 goals already in 3 games for Finland.
🚨 Mikko Kokkonen— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 29, 2019
6-1 FIN pic.twitter.com/eUBysFWtUl
One guy you might not have heard much about? Mikhail Abramov. He was drafted in the fourth round this year, and he’s having a huge breakout season. Let’s hit the facts:
- He has 24 goals and 20 assists in only 37 games, already beating his season last year for goals in half the amount of games. His points per game of 1.19 is up from 0.87 last year.
- He’s averaging 4 shots per game, after averaging 2.7 shots last year.
- He leads his team in points by 18. In fact, he almost has as many goals (24) as his next closest teammate has in points (26), and that teammate is someone they just traded for./
All this is happening in a year when the Leafs are getting surprising contributions from late round picks in Dmytro Timashov and Pierre Engvall. They’ve also toyed with our emotions in their call up/send down carousel with Adam Brooks and Timothy Liljegren, other picks of theirs.
When the Leafs already have a young core locked up for a while now, it’s nice to see they have so many other potential impact players coming through the system. They might not all pan out, but given what the Leafs have been able to make out of other later round picks it’s hard not to be optimistic about it.
ONTO THE LINKS
Back to Excited Episode 87 - Injuries and Dubas’ 2019 | by Fulemin and Arvind
World Juniors Report: Nick Robertson is Looking Good | by 51Leafs at The Leafs Nation
Injuries pose the thorniest questions for the Maple Leafs on defence | by Jonas Siegel
The Leafs-Marlies shuttle bus is probably ruining the environment with the amount of gas they’ve used up.
AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD
Canada’s Veleno suspended one game | by TSN.ca
Canada’s Hayton apologizes for leaving helmet on during Russian anthem | by Sportsnet.ca
Breaking news: John Tortorella was mad. (To be fair I think he had a legitimate gripe that cost his team the win)
John Tortorella rips into the refs and the NHL review process before walking out of his press conference pic.twitter.com/1USZBloGv6— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 30, 2019
Steven Stamkos scored his 800th career point last night: