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Sign them or lose them: The Toronto Maple Leafs have three decisions to make

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Have we seen the last of Desrocher, Korostelev, and Herzog?

Aaron Bell / OHL Images

June 1 is the day that a prospect’s future changes. The unsigned 2015 draft class CHL players’ rights expire on that day. The 2013 European players’ rights expire, as well, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have some unsigned players of each type to make a decision over.

Stephen Desrocher and Nikita Korostelev were both drafted from the OHL in 2015 — Desrocher from the Memorial Cup winning Oshawa Generals and Korostelev from the Sarnia Sting. Neither has been signed to an SPC.

Fabrice Herzog was picked from Switzerland in 2013; he hasn’t been around the team much, and has been pretty much forgotten by many Leafs fans, but he was still held by the Leafs. Until the end of the day tomorrow.

Should the Maple Leafs sign any of these players? Let’s look a little deeper and find out.

Fabrice Herzog

via Elite Prospects.com

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
2013-14 Québec Remparts QMJHL 61 32 26 58 34 19 Playoffs 5 3 2 5 4 -4
Toronto Marlies AHL 5 0 0 0 0 -1
2014-15 EV Zug NLA 43 6 3 9 16 5 Playoffs 6 0 3 3 0 0
2015-16 ZSC Lions NLA 34 9 13 22 57 15 Playoffs 4 2 0 2 0 0
2016-17 ZSC Lions NLA 44 9 11 20 14 10 Playoffs 6 2 1 3 4 1

Fabrice Herzog has spent the past two season in the NLA, playing for the Zurich Lions, and the season before he was with EV Zug. He’s spent his entire career playing in his native Switzerland except for his post draft year, when he came to North America at the behest of the Maple Leafs and played with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.

In Quebec, he scored 58 points in 61 games, and then suited up for five games with the Toronto Marlies. After that year, he decided he preferred to play on home turf and went to the NLA as described above.

He’s been an average player there and a steady presence on the Swiss national team. The closest he’s gotten to making the Leafs roster was playing with Auston Matthews in 2015-2016 in Zurich.

The Leafs haven’t made any moves with Herzog in recent seasons. He hasn’t been invited to rookie camp or main camp, so it’s not hard to read the writing on the wall.

Nikita Korostelev

via Elite Propsects.com

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
2013-14 Sarnia Sting OHL 60 17 21 38 23 -35
2014-15 Sarnia Sting OHL 55 24 29 53 18 4 Playoffs 5 1 2 3 6 -1
2015-16 Sarnia Sting OHL 53 23 19 42 15 13 Playoffs 7 0 5 5 2 0
2016-17 Sarnia Sting OHL 31 17 18 35 20 -7
Peterborough Petes OHL 24 12 17 29 12 1 Playoffs 12 4 7 11 4 2

Korostelev’s rights will expire on the first, and he’ll head back into the draft. Unofficial rumblings have said that he was advised to get traded to a contender so he’d have a better showing before he goes back to be re-drafted. Take that with as many grains of salt as you wish, but being unsigned the day before his rights expire give these rumours some weight.

This year, he has finally reached the point per game rate that you want to see out of a player his age. The move to his new team was supposed gave him some more room to breathe on the ice and make his plays — he moved from the toughest division in the CHL to a very weak OHL eastern conference — but his point totals were no better against weaker competition.

Korostelev has been one of my favourite prospects to watch in the OHL, and he’s a really nice kid, very happy to talk with and eager to play his best. Some of my other favourite OHLers have been Andrew Agozzino, Mark Visentin, and Mikkael Aagaard, so I don’t have the best streak at picking players.

What I’m getting at, in a round about way, is Korostelev will work as hard as he can to get as far as he can, but I can’t see him topping out above a AAAA talent. Taking until his draft+2 year to go PPG in the OHL isn’t a great outlook, and he’ll be another seventh round pick this year, if he gets picked at all. Someone will sign him if he goes undrafted, most likely to an AHL deal in my mind, but for now, the Leafs will give up their exclusivity.

Stephen Desrocher

via Elite Prospects.com

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus / Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM Plus / Minus POST GP G A TP PIM Plus/Minus
2013-14 Oshawa Generals OHL 43 4 4 8 6 6 Playoffs 12 1 2 3 6 1
2014-15 Oshawa Generals OHL 66 10 13 23 41 33 Playoffs 21 4 8 12 14 5
2015-16 Oshawa Generals OHL 17 5 6 11 6 -2
Kingston Frontenacs OHL 52 6 29 35 33 31 Playoffs 9 1 5 6 4 -2
2016-17 Kingston Frontenacs OHL 65 12 39 51 30 1 Playoffs 11 2 3 5 10 -5

The Kingston Frontenacs captain has the best resume out of the three players named here. He won the OHL Championship and the Memorial Cup in his draft year in 2015 while with the Oshawa Generals. After he was drafted, he was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs, which had been acquired by former Maple Leaf Doug Gilmour, and played out the rest of his junior career there.

As a defenseman he has the scoring touch you’d want, putting up 46 and 51 points after his draft. He’s a solid defender, plays the point really well, and in junior was a physical force to be reckoned with. He was named captain of the Frontenacs this year, and he led the team from the bottom of the league to the second round of the OHL playoffs. Most people had written them off after a disappointing second round exit last year.

Desrocher has stepped up and improved all of the areas he was asked to work on this season. Out of these three players, he’s the one most likely to stick with the Maple Leafs organization.

The Leafs have been focusing on defensive depth this year with their signings at the world championships, and with those new Swedes in town, is there any room for a Memorial Cup winning local kid?


Those are the three players the Leafs have to decide on now. In August the rights expire on NCAA player Dominic Toninato. Contract slots are at a premium. Will we see any of these players on an NHL deal, or perhaps an AHL/ECHL deal in the summer? We’ll find out soon.

Poll

Which player do you want the Maple Leafs to sign?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Stephen Desrocher
    (1651 votes)
  • 7%
    Nikita Korostelev
    (182 votes)
  • 1%
    Fabrice Herzog
    (34 votes)
  • 21%
    Don’t sign any to an NHL deal
    (519 votes)
2386 votes total Vote Now