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Toronto Maple Leafs prospect report: Who’s where in North America

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We have the usual suspects; the OHL, WHL, NCAA, and now, the BCHL

Aaron Bell / OHL Images

It’s September, training camps are underway, pre-season games are being played, and we’re all getting so excited for the game of hockey we’re resorting to watching rookie tournament streams.

It’s fantastic.

So, here I am to let you know how you can check out the non-professional prospects we have playing in North America this upcoming season. I’ll give a little preview for the upcoming season as well as your best places to watch them play if you’re not nearby.

Ontario Hockey League

Eemeli Räsänen (D)
Team: Kingston Frontenacs
2016/17 Stats: 66GP - 6G - 33A - 39Pts
Acquired: 2017 draft, 59th overall
How to watch: OHL Live, Sportsnet, Public Access TV (Home/Away stations only)

Räsänen is the newest big defenceman and placed 23rd in this years Top 25. He’ll be looked upon to help lead the Frontenaces as they continue to re-tool from a failed championship run in 2016.

Räsänen is a strong defender in his own zone and this year he’s looking to improve on his positioning and hockey sense as he has a tendency to go for the hit but leave the defensive zone unprotected.

Keaton Middleton (D)
Team: Saginaw Spirit
2016/17 Stats: 64GP - 4G - 18A - 22Pts
Acquired: 2016 draft, 101st overall
How to watch: OHL Live, Sportsnet, Public Access TV (Home/Away stations only)

The captain of the Spirit has his work cutout for him this year. Saginaw is looking to build upon last season that saw them hover around the bottom of the Western Conference all year, and ultimately miss the playoffs

In his second post-draft season Middleton will be focusing on his skating and his offensive abilities. While he almost tripled his points from his draft year (from eight to 18), it’s still low for a player of his size and age in the Ontario Hockey League.

Nicolas Mattinen (D)
Team: London Knights
2016/17 Stats: 66GP - 2G - 6A - 8Pts
Acquired: 2016 draft, 179th overall
How to watch: OHL Live, Sportsnet, Public Access TV (Home/Away stations only)

In his second post draft year, and his second year in the OHL Mattinen saw more games played but his points total went down by two points last season from ten (four goals, six assists) to eight (two goals, six assists).

While an average defender in the OHL, Mattinen looks more and more like a team owner/Leafs scout doing something nice for a player he convinced to quit on the NCAA to join his OHL team.

Fedor Gordeev (D)
Team: Flint Firebirds
2016/17 Stats: 64GP - 4G - 10A - 14Pts
Acquired: 2017 draft, 141st overall
How to watch: OHL Live, Sportsnet, Public Access TV (Home/Away stations only)

Gordeev is a big defenceman along the lines of Middleton and Räsänen. He hasn’t developed the offensive skills of the Finnish Frontenac, but he’s a lump of fresh clay willing to do what it takes to improve himself.

Traded from the Hamilton Bulldogs to the oft maligned Flint Firebirds, Gordeev left the team that drafted him for a better chance at ice time and development. The FIrebirds have taken steps last season to distance themselves of the mess that their first season was, and they should move forward into a playoff spot next season.

Ryan McGregor (F)
Team: Sarnia Sting
2016/17 Stats: 65GP - 14G - 13A - 27Pts
Acquired: 2017 draft, 172nd overall
How to watch: OHL Live, Sportsnet, Public Access TV (Home/Away stations only)

Ryan McGregor was drafted just before Ryan O’Connell, and was forgotten about when everyone tried to figure out exactly who the latter Ryan was. McGregor had a good season last year, and should - hopefuly - break out offensively this year. 27 points is fine for a defender, but for a forward we’re wanting a PPG pace.

The Sarnia Sting have always been one of those teams that’s kinda just there. They’ll be talked about when they have a Steven Stamkos or Nail Yakupov, but otherwise they’re fodder for the rest of the OHL West. Even when they won their division in the 15/16 season they were still just the 4th best team in their conference. This season should be better than last years 8th place finish, but not by a lot.


Western Hockey League

Vladimir Bobylyov (F)
Team: Victoria Royals
2016/17 Stats: 38GP - 9G - 27A - 36Pts
Acquired: 2016 draft, 122nd overall
How to watch: WHL Live, Sportsnet

Bobylov started last season in the KHL, but didn’t make a huge impact with just 3 points in 20 games. By mid-season he was loaned again to Victoria where he went on a PPG pace. He’ll be missing his Leafs partner in crime out on the west coast as Jack Walker is now with the Minnesota Wild.

Ian Scott (G)
Team: Prince Albert Raiders
2016/17 Stats: 50GP - 3.69GAA - .895sv%
Acquired: 2017 draft, 110th overall
How to watch: WHL Live, Sportsnet

Ian Scott played well at last weekend’s Leafs rookie tournament, and his numbers up above are a bit deceiving. Scott was tending goal for one of the worst teams in the WHL last season, and when a team is bad the goalie often gets hung out to dry.

Hopefully he gets some better performers in front of him this season, or perhaps a trade to a contender at the deadline in January.


Junior A

Ryan O'Connell (D)
Team: Penticton Vees, BCHL
2016/17 Stats: 47GP - 6G - 27A - 33Pts
Acquired: 2017 draft, 203rd overall
How to watch: HockeyTV.com

Ryan O’Connell was a mystery when he was drafted. St. Andrews College? Where’s that? Well, it’s a rare move but O’Connell was drafted out of Canadian high school. We’ll see kids be drafted from high school in the US, but the vast majority of Canadian draftees come from the CHL or another junior A league. St. Andrews College calls itself the ‘best private boys boarding school in Canada’, but enough about the Little Lord Fauntleroy School for Albino Hemophiliacs. O’Connell is moving on to the BCHL, where he will play out his final year before moving on to Boston College in the 18/19 season.


NCAA

Nolan Vesey (F)
Team: Maine Black Bears
2016/17 Stats: 36GP - 13G - 10A - 23Pts
Acquired: 2014 draft, 158th overall
How to watch: Check team website

Nolan Vesey is playing out his final year as a Leafs prospect before leaving Maine and becoming a free agent on August 15th, 2018. The theory is that he was drafted by the Leafs to get his brother Jimmy Vesey to sign with them, but Jimmy went to the Rangers, and Vesey is a meh player in a terrible system so odds are he’ll go off and play in the DEL in 18/19.

JD Greenway (D)
Team: Wisconsin Badgers
2016/17 Stats: 34GP - 1G - 6A - 7Pts
Acquired: 2016 draft, 72nd overall
How to watch: Check team website

James ‘JD’ Greenway was a freshman for Wisconsin last season, but managed to get himself into the majority of games for the Badgers. This year he should spend time working on his offensive game, to give himself a more rounded skill set.

Joseph Woll (G)
Team: Boston College Eagles
2016/17 Stats: 34GP - 2.64GAA - .913sv%
Acquired: 2016 draft, 72nd overall
How to watch: Check team website

The BC Eagles didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament last year, but with a goalie as strong as Woll in net they should advance past their conference within the next couple years.

Dakota Joshua (F)
Team: Ohio State Buckeyes
2016/17 Stats: 33GP - 12G - 23A - 35Pts
Acquired: 2014 draft, 128th overall
How to watch: Check team website

The Buckeyes sophomore had a break out year last season, putting up just over a point per game, and taking on a larger role with the team. His biggest improvement this year needs to be with discipline, since we don’t want to see another suspension, and a decrease in penalty minutes. Joshua could have a role in the Leafs future when he’s done school if he keeps advancing at the rate he is currently.


It’s going to be a great year for prospects. If there’s anything you wanted to see but didn’t see it last year in this feature let me know in the comments. The USHL and BCHL have started their season so perhaps we’ll get some mini-updates before the NCAA and CHL kick off.