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Maple Leafs Hiatus Pipeline

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Who is signed to which team, and where are they going to play?

Toronto Maple Leafs Headshots Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

With the NHL and AHL frozen and nearly everything else cancelled for 2019/2020, it’s a little difficult to decide if this is offseason or not. For junior draft picks it is, but they don’t all know where they’ll be next year. There’s a couple that are in that grey area of still eligible for junior hockey as an overager, but now AHL eligible as well. There are also other NCAA and junior players who aren’t formally named to teams for next year. We can likely guess where they’ll play next year, but it’s not official yet. For them and others, they’ll live in limbo for a while longer.

It seems as though the Leafs have signed all the draft picks they want to add before rights expire in June (assuming that date isn’t moved). The drafted prospects that haven’t fully moved to the AHL or the NHL yet now looks like this:

Hiatus Pipeline, April 2020

Name Birthdate Pos 2019/2020 Team 2020/2021 Team Rights Expire
Name Birthdate Pos 2019/2020 Team 2020/2021 Team Rights Expire
Nick Robertson September 11, 2001 LW Peterboroough Petes, OHL NHL Contract - still junior eligible
Mike Koster April 13, 2001 D Tri-City Storm, USHL University of Minnesota, NCAA August 15, 2024
Mikhail Abramov March 26, 2001 C Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL NHL Contract - still junior eligible
Kalle Loponen March 13, 2001 D Sudbury Wolves, OHL (Loan from Kärpät) Kärpät, Liiga June 1, 2023
Mikko Kokkonen January 18, 2001 D Jukurit, Liiga Jukurit, Liiga June 1, 2023
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev September 15, 2000 C Peterboroough Petes, OHL NHL Contract - AHL eligible in 2020/2021
Semyon Kizimov January 19, 2000 RW Lada Togliatti, VHL Indefinite
Riley Stotts January 5, 2000 C Calgary Hitmen, WHL June 1, 2020
Zachary Bouthillier November 8, 1999 G Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL June 1, 2020
Filip Kral October 20, 1999 D Spokane Chiefs, WHL NHL Contract - AHL eligible in 2020/2021
Nick Abruzzese June 4, 1999 F Harvard, NCAA August 15, 2023
Ryan O'Connell April 25, 1999 D Ohio State, NCAA August 15, 2022
Eemeli Räsänen April 6, 1999 D Jokerit, KHL HPK, Liiga Indefinite
Pontus Holmberg March 9, 1999 LW/C Växjö HC, SHL Växjö HC, SHL June 1, 2022
J.D. Greenway April 27, 1998 D University of Maine, NCAA August 15, 2021
Vladislav Kara April 20, 1998 C/W Ak Bars KHL/Bars Kazan VHL Ak Bars KHL/Bars Kazan VHL Indefinite
Nikolai Chebykin August 1, 1997 LW Toros Neftekamsk/Traktor Chelyabinsk, VHL Indefinite
Vladimir Bobylev April 18, 1997 C Toros Neftekamsk/Traktor Chelyabinsk, VHL Indefinite

Beginning with the oldest drafted player still under team control would really involve starting with the 25-year-old Fabrice Herzog, but he’s a confirmed Swiss league player, and under indefinite rights due to the lack of transfer agreement with Switzerland.

The next two players are younger versions of Herzog and one of these days they’ll drop off this list entirely. The most notable thing about Vladimir Bobylyov and Nikolai Chebykin is that they ended up on the same team in the VHL and were traded together to a new team in December. They are both 23 this year, and are as set in their VHL careers as Herzog is in his league. The team they were traded to has a KHL club so bad right now, they might get some KHL games in next season if they re-sign, but both are currently without contracts. Neither of them would be a significant asset on the Marlies, even if there was interest on either side.

Vladislav Kara, under contract with Ak Bars/Bars Kazan, is a better player than the two older Russians, but he’s also got a good deal on a very good team and may well want to stay there permanently.

J.D. Greenway made a decent comeback in the NCAA after a year back in the USHL. He has one more year of eligibility for the NCAA.

Pontus Holmberg, drafted as an overager, has a contract in the SHL that runs for years, and there’s no way of knowing if there’s interest in him playing on the Marlies, but a loan could happen at some point.

Eemeli Räsänen is signed to play in the Liiga for next season, and that might cause his rights to revert to non-indefinite, but we have no confirmation on that yet.

Ryan O’Connell and Nick Abruzzese are about the same age, even though they were drafted in different years, and they will both play more NCAA hockey before the Leafs have to make a decision on them. Abruzzese has impressed in his first year with Harvard, and made the NCAA second-team all-star team.

Filip Kral will almost certainly be on the Marlies or Growlers next year, but take note of his age vs Abruzzese. Kral has played three years in the WHL and seems like he’s been around forever, and yet he’s the younger player.

Zach Bouthillier and Riely Stotts seem to be about to fall out of team control unsigned, although no one has confirmed that. Bouthillier could show up in the ECHL, even in Newfoundland, and Stotts seems like a player who would get a serious look by AHL teams, perhaps the Marlies.

Semyon Kizimov is curiously unsigned for next season so far. He would be better off in a club with a KHL and a VHL team so he doesn’t get stuck in the VHL, but that hasn’t happened yet, and he was snakebit on goal scoring this season, making it harder. It pays to remember he’s only 20 years old, has been playing pro hockey for years, and has room to develop significantly yet.

That leaves the six youngest prospects, three of whom are already on ELCs. Nick Robertson and Mikhail Abramov will both be in the CHL next year, but not without a whole lot of “will he or won’t he” games around Robertson making the NHL in training camp.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev will likely be on the Marlies/Growlers along with Kral. Mike Koster is starting in the NCAA and the two Finnish defenders, Mikko Kokkonen and Kalle Loponen might both be in the Liiga next year. The difficulty for Loponen is that his team’s roster will be almost impossible for him to crack, so he might be loaned somewhere, perhaps to the OHL again. Kokkonen finished up this season playing top pair, and should start next year where he left off.

One thing that stands out as a concern with this list is that once Bouthillier’s rights expire in a few weeks, the Leafs have no junior-aged goalie prospects. The other thing is that half the youngest cohort of prospects are defenders, leaving a dearth of forwards to move up the ranks. Once you lop off the older prospects on indefinite rights and look as the younger ones with serious chances to develop to something better than their draft position should have given you hopes for, the list is short. Very short.

The Leafs have 10 draft picks for this year’s draft, whenever that will take place, so that infusion should bring up the numbers, but only one of those picks is higher than the fourth round. We will need to see more late-round hits on picks than you get on average to improve this list significantly. If you believe the Maple Leafs scout and draft better than average, you should be cautiously optimistic for what that list will look like the day after draft day.

Next up, I’ll try to sort out who is likely on the Marlies and Growlers rosters and where the empty places are that need to be filled.