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Rumours of Maple Leafs defenceman signings: the long and the short of it

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One draft pick and one free agent are rumoured to be on the radar of the Leafs.

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: Eemeli Rasanen poses for a photo with coach Mike Babcock after being selected 59th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

We have two rumours today about right-shooting defencemen coming to the Leafs organization, so let’s get right to it.

Yesterday Pekka Jalonen reported that Eemeli Räsänen is set to join the Marlies:

The article states that Räsänen has dissolved his contract with Jokerit in the KHL and was already on his way or in Toronto. We might have solid news on this as early as today.

Räsänen was originally under contract to Jokerit for two years, this season and next. He suffered an injury this season and missed most of the games, and he was also dressed but not played for a great deal of games he was healthy for. In 12 games played, he averaged 10:23 per game. He appeared in one playoff game, the final game in the third period after the game was hopelessly lost, and he played for four minutes.

Originally, Räsänen took the KHL opportunity instead of another year in junior hockey in the OHL (he just turned 20 a few days ago) as a greater challenge where he’d be able to grow his game. Between the injury and the traditional light usage a player his age often gets in his first KHL season, that plan didn’t work out all that well. Of course, he did spend the season training with a professional organization, not an OHL team.

Räsänen was originally drafted by the Leafs in 2017, 59th overall. In the two years in the OHL that bracketed the draft, he scored 11 goals and had 61 assists in 127 games played. He also appeared in 27 playoff games and had 11 points.

Outside of the OHL, where his size (he’s 6’7”) is a massive advantage against younger players, he scored less. But with this lost season so far, it’s impossible to say how well he can play pro hockey as he grows into his own body and learns the game at a more advanced level than he needed in junior. He never looked out of place in the KHL, but he wasn’t ever playing in meaningful situations.

The knock against him from long before he was drafted is his skating. He began playing hockey very late in childhood for a Finn, and it shows. But what’s not clear is how good his defending would be now, as an adult in a pro league. No one has seen him try for more than a scrap of time here and there, so no one knows.

Räsänen’s draft rights are indefinite per Cap Friendly, due to his relocation to the KHL. It will be up to him to make enough of an impact to prove the Leafs should give him an ELC.

Today, Elliotte Friedman has this little tidbit:

It’s spring! And that means undrafted free agent signings. The Newfoundland Growlers actually started the ball rolling already, snagging a defenceman out of Div III NCAA.

Joe Duszak is another sort altogether. First, and best, he played his pre-college hockey for the Junior Islanders, so we’d be stealing another Islanders player. He’s also got a lot of points for a defenceman on a not very good NCAA squad. In fact, he leads his team in points.

He’s listed on Elite Prospects at 5’ 10” and 185 lbs, and he is 21 and just finishing up his third year of college.

Here’s a video to help you get to know him:

Duszak is a Hobey Baker nominee this season, and a quick perusal of his stats should show you why:

He currently leads the NCAA in points for defenders and is second in goals for defenders, and he’s comparable to Cale Makar in both categories. He is over a year older than Makar, a fourth overall pick, however.

Last season, Duszak was only 10th in points in the NCAA.

And that’s your right-shooting defencemen rumours of the day.