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Maple Leafs Prospect Report: Akhtyamov, Hildeby, Peksa, and other goalies

Looking at how Toronto’s top goalie prospects have been performing

Toronto Maple Leafs host 44 prospects at their rookie development camp Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

It’s been a while since my last Prospect Report update. But I am back and want to focus this report on Toronto’s various goalie prospects. It was good timing, as I found out, because the big names have all been pretty darn good lately.

Let’s talk about them.

Artur Akhtyamov

Toronto’s fourth round pick way back in the ancient year of 2020, Artur Akhtyamov has had an up and down development curve over in Russia. As of right now, he is very, very, very on one hell of an up.

Here is his game by game save percentage for all his November starts in the VHL:

  • .893, which isn’t great, but then...
  • .957
  • .969
  • 1.000 (shutout)
  • .927
  • .963
  • .972
  • .962

In total, he stopped 230 of 241 shots he faced across 8 games in November, good for a .954 sv%. He raised his stats for the season to a .941 with three shutouts. In the VHL, he ranks second of all goalies behind a 22 year old backup that has played half the total games that Akhtyamov has. He also has the most wins and is tied for the most shutouts in the league.

Now for my usual context for Akhtyamov’s playing conditions when it comes to the team around him. Neftyanik currently sits 9th in the VHL with a 17-8-2 record. They’ve given up the second fewest goals against, behind only the top team in the league. They’ve also scored the 8th fewest goals, which is why they’re sitting in the middle of the pack in the league standings. Of the 37 VHL goalies who have played in at least 10 games, Akhtyamov faces the 12th highest shots per game at 27, with the leader facing an average of 32. He’s also the fifth youngest goalie in the 7th youngest among that group.

Here’s some highlights of his recent games:

In the games of his that I’ve watched recently, I’ve noticed two things — one about his strength, the other of his weakness. When he’s on his game, he looks very calm and in control and doesn’t give up almost any rebounds. He’s been very good at seeing pucks through traffic and gloving/smothering shots before the other team even has a chance to create a chaotic scrum in front of him. He’s also been excellent positionally, so the shots he faces are easier to control. Off the rush, he’s good at handling more difficult shots to again avoid juicy rebounds. The team in front of him also seems to do a good job at limiting more dangerous chances against, relatively speaking. So from what I’ve seen it hasn’t looked like he’s faced a highly difficult workload, but part of that can also be down to him not giving up second, third, and fourth chances off rebounds.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that if you can get a chaotic scrum going in front of him, his control breaks down and he can get happy feet. He’ll stray out of his net trying to stay square to a shooter and get caught in no mans land. He can try to use his stick to poke pucks away or block passes, but leave his five hole open as a result. This is something I noticed a lot more earlier in the year, but not as much now. It may be that he’s just really dialed in of late so he doesn’t allow himself to get in those situations. But when things get more difficult, against tough opponents down the stretch or in the playoffs, can he keep that same level of control? You’re never as good as your hot streak, as they say.

Dennis Hildeby

Hildeby is also on a nice hot streak, though not as long as Akhtyamov’s has been. In his first two starts in the SHL, Hildeby gave up 8 goals in 2 games. He then didn’t get another start for almost a full month, until an injury to Färjestad’s starter gave him a three game run where he gave up only 4 goals on 96 shots. He had one meh game after that, before a solid 33 save on 35 shot game in his last start.

Hildeby’s save percentage on the season is up to .919, which puts him in a tie for 5th in the SHL among all goalies. He faces an average of 30 shots against per game, which is the second most in the SHL among all goalies. So he typically faces a pretty high shot volume.

Here are some highlights from his games:

From the games of his that I’ve watched, he’s a... weird goalie to describe. I would not at all call myself a goalie scout, so take everything I say with a heap of salt. But he is good at using his size to his advantage, has decent athleticism and can read plays pretty well. I would say he seems much better at making saves down low, and adequate at stopping shots up high.

But the reason why he’s any good at stopping high shots is because he’s big and has decent positioning. Of the goals he’s allowed, most of them I’d say are shots that just went through/past him up high. And I’d say that’s the case for his blocker and glove side, which doesn’t seem great to be honest but I don’t know if I’m reading too much into the goals he’s allowed when he’s still posting good results. I don’t want to overstate it as a big problem for the same reason, because overall he’s looked like a good to very good goalie in the SHL this year in limited games.

But... it is something I will be keeping an eye on as a trend going forward.

Vyacheslav Peksa

Peksa, a year younger than Akhtyamov, is playing his first season in the VHL this year after becoming one of the best MHL goalies last season. So far, so good for Peksa — he has a .925 sv% in 26 games as Bars Kazan’s starting goalie. That ranks him 13th for all goalies in the league, with at least 10 games. For U21 goalies, that ranks him as the 2nd best.

Peksa has Akhtyamov’s loan to another team to thank for the opportunity to play so much, considering their rights are owned by the same organization. He’s even been called up to the KHL to serve as an emergency backup, when their club had a sudden injury.

As far as contextual information, Peksa is averaging right around 30 shots against per game. That’s close to tops in the league, so he does face an above average workload in terms of shots faced. Bars has the 14th best record in the league, so they’re pretty mediocre overall.

Here are some highlights from Peksa’s recent games:

When I’ve watched Peksa, I’ve mostly noticed two things in comparison to Akhtyamov. First, he doesn’t quite have the same level of rebound control and calmness in the crease. Second, despite not being as “calm” I wouldn’t say he’s just chaos. He definitely seems more active and willing to move around, but it does have an element of control. He is quick with his movements and still good at getting square to shooters. He is very athletic and better able to fall back on emergency/recovery saves. The downside is that, without the tight rebound control, he has to rely on that a lot more often than Akhtyamov.

I would say that Peksa has better physical tools, and if he can improve on his reads of the play and rebound control more then he could have a higher ceiling as a result. He is certainly having a better rookie-VHL season than Akhtyamov did last year at the same age.

Joseph Woll

Joseph Woll has been around the longest out of all of Toronto’s current prospect goalies. He was a third round pick way back in 2016, and at 24 years old he’s definitely on the older side. He’s now in his fourth season as a pro, and his results have been not so great during a time that the Marlies have been pretty bad. His career save percentage in the AHL is .892 in 65 games.

Now, if you see me say he’s been with the Marlies for four seasons but he’s only gotten into 65 games and assume he’s been hurt a lot — you’d be right. And despite the bad-looking save percentage, Toronto’s coaches and management have said good things about him and he was the first of the Marlies goalies to get called up last year when Campbell was hurt. He did pretty well for himself, posting a shutout against the Islanders and finishing with a .911 sv% in four games. But, then he was hurt and Källgren took his place.

He only just returned from his last injury a couple of weeks ago. He backed up a couple of games, but has since had three starts, posting a .934 sv% so far. Here’s some highlights from those three games:

I’ll admit, I haven’t seen a lot of Woll at any point in his career. I managed to watch most of his last game for the Marlies, but I hadn’t started watching NCAA games regularly when he was there, and I’ve never watched many Marlies games on a regular basis. I can say that he seems to play a bit like Hildeby, where he seems technically sound but is prone to just... letting shots go through him. But that is something that can seem like a “trend” when you look up his highlights.

Other Goalie Notes

There are three other goalie prospects in the system that we can talk about, but I haven’t seen any of their games yet and probably won’t at any point this year. Not for lack of belief in any of them, but they’re all pro in the AHL or ECHL and I typically don’t watch those leagues regularly. We have others for that! But let’s check in on them all the same.

Luke Cavallin — played his whole season in the ECHL this season, and is doing very well for himself. He has a .931 sv% in 11 games, which is good for second in the league as one of the youngest goalies in the league. He’ll have a long way to go to reach the NHL, but he’s starting his pro career off on the right foot.

  • Keith Petruzzelli — Petruzzelli is one year ahead of Cavallin, as an AHL signing by Toronto who debuted as a pro in the ECHL and had great numbers there last season. This year he’s played entirely in the AHL as there have been many injuries to Toronto’s goaltending depth chart. He had a great start to the season, and earned an NHL contract when Toronto was desperate for bodies as both Murray and Samsonov was hurt. But since returning to the Marlies in mid-November, he’s let in 19 goals in 5 games, with an .861 sv%.
  • Dryden McKay — one of the top NCAA goalies for the past four years, McKay is another AHL signing by Toronto this off-season. He’s a smaller goalie (6’0”) that was always going to be a longshot to make the NHL, especially since he’s already 25 years old. He’s gotten into 9 ECHL games, where he has an .889 sv%, and 2 games in the AHL where he has an .885 sv%. Suffice to say the start to his pro career is not going as well as I’m sure he

Poll

Which goalie prospect are you most hyped about?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Artur Akhtyamov
    (334 votes)
  • 29%
    Dennis Hildeby
    (231 votes)
  • 14%
    Vyacheslav Peksa
    (111 votes)
  • 12%
    Joseph Woll
    (95 votes)
771 votes total Vote Now