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Leafs Sign Filip Kral, Kristians Rubins to Entry-Level Contracts

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The Leafs officially ink two defencemen.

NHL: SEP 09 NHL Rookie Showdown Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced this afternoon that they have signed defencemen Filip Kral and Kristians Rubins to entry-level contracts.

Kral, 20, was taken by the Leafs in the fifth round back in 2018. Decision time was drawing near for him, as the Leafs’ reserve rights to him would have expired on June 1, 2020. He’s been plying his trade for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL the past two years; he put up 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 points in 53 games this season. Our former editor Scott Wheeler had this to say about him in his January prospect ranking, where he slotted Kral 11th in the organization:

I’ve got mixed emotions on Kral. When he moves his feet, he’s excellent. He can move the puck, he does a good job getting to holes in the offensive zone as a shooter and he has learned to defend the rush well despite lacking physical element. But I’ve also seen him play some ugly games where he gets caught standing around, he doesn’t track backside pressure well and he doesn’t look dynamic enough to translate the power-play role he plays in junior to the pro level. His upside is probably limited to a No. 4-6 as a result. He’s going to have to prove himself in the AHL first, too — and I’d sooner bet on a tweener development curve than on an everyday NHLer.

To judge by his press, Kral seems to be one of those players who doesn’t dazzle you with raw skill or possess towering size, but who plays a heady, competent game at his best. We’ll have to see how it translates to the pro game next season, assuming the world hasn’t ended by then. Kral joins Rasmus Sandin, Sean Durzi (traded to Los Angeles), Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, and Mac Hollowell as 2018 Leafs draftees who have now signed contracts.

Kristians Rubins, 22, is familiar to Growlers and Marlies-watchers. He spent 2018-19 with the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL, putting in 18 points and earning himself a small spot in history by scoring the first goal in the history of the Growlers’ franchise. This year he made his way up to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies; he put in 47 games there this year on a minor-league contract. He produced two goals and 12 assists in that time; the team must have liked what they saw. Rubins is a big body, 6’4” and 221 lbs., proving once again that while the Leafs’ organization isn’t fixated on size, they also don’t have any aversion to it. I asked our own Hardev Lad and Katya Knappe for quick thoughts.

Hardev:

“Probably had the best rookie season of all the Marlies this season. Beat Harpur and Schmaltz for the third pair job and was there or on the second pair all season.”

Katya:

“Rubins is a sneaky good, big player. The new Mason Marchment, since he played in the E a lot. Higher level of skill than you’d expect. Typical Dubas big guy player.”

Obviously getting carried away with undrafted 22-year-olds is generally a mistake, but it is impressive how Rubins has managed to rise from the ECHL to the AHL to gaining an NHL contract. Kyle Dubas has spoken before about his desire to build a tri-level development system for the Leafs, and while it’s borne limited NHL fruit just yet—Mason Marchment, since traded to Florida, is the current best outcome—it is encouraging for the team to use every means at its disposal to develop talent.

Both Kral and Rubins are likely to be on the Marlies’ defence group next season, where each of them will be hoping to take the next step. Best of luck, boys.

Filip Kral

Kristians Rubins