For the Winter T25U25 list, we were expecting to have some new names since the Leafs had a lot of draft picks. By the time the draft arrived, those picks just started to multiply.
By the end of the draft, they’d all turned into actual people, not ideas of people, which should make everyone happy.
The Summer list had three draft picks ranked, the second rounder was tenth, and the two fourth rounders were 23rd and 25th. Kasperi Kapanen was sixth. And he and those picks turned into most of the new names on this year’s list.
Acquired in Trades
Filip Hållander was acquired in the Kapanen trade. Drafted in 2018, 58th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he is only 20 years old. In fact, he’s two months younger than Axel Rindell, just drafted by the Leafs, and only a few months older than Semyon Der Arguchintsev.
No longer junior-eligible, his WJC days are over, and he is currently playing his third full season in the SHL. He is a top line LW and plays on the number-one power play unit for Luleå. His loan, negotiated by the Penguins, is for the full SHL season, but he can be recalled for NHL training camp. Normally a Swedish player not selected in the first round has to be sent back to the SHL if not put on an NHL roster, so this loan is standard stuff.
Hållander’s status as a multi-year pro playing a meaningful role makes him seem older than he is, but he’s very much still in the “there’s growth to come” phase of development. He’s very unlike most other Leafs prospects, since he’s not a speed and wrist shot man, he’s more of a net-front agitator who can tip it in kind of guy. If he was the only take from this trade beyond the cap space created and the AHL-level defender received for Jesper Lindgren, we’d likely be grudgingly okay with it.
Where will Hållander end up in the T25 list? I’m confident he’ll be on it, but he’s not exactly a household name for Leafs fans, and might just be barely more than a concept of a player like a draft pick is.
Joey Anderson was the entire take for the Andreas Johnsson trade, marking out how different the market is for a player someone else covets versus one who might be overpaid by the new salary structure in the NHL. But Anderson is going to unfairly wear the comparison for some time.
Drafted in 2016, 73rd overall, by the New Jersey Devils, Anderson is a right-shooting right wing, and should more properly be seen as a big upgrade replacement on Jeremy Bracco than a new Johnsson. At 22, he already has 52 NHL games played for the Devils, and a very impressive part season last year in the AHL.
He’s likely blocked from the NHL at first for the Leafs, and looks like he would benefit from a tour of Marlies hockey school, so that might play into how people rate him. It’s going to be tricky to figure out where to slot in this player, who is getting too old for us to expect much in development, but is not set in concrete yet.
Drafted this Year
The rest of the new faces were just drafted, the most important with the first-round pick, the 15th overall, acquired in the Kapanen trade. If that pick was all that was returned for Kapanen, we’d all be really happy, so the fact there are two players replacing Kapanen on the T25 is one of the best things about this list, and the offseason.
Rodion Amirov is already turning heads, and few Leafs fans are upset about this draft choice. A lock for the Russian WJC team in a month or so, he was one of the team’s best players at the Karjala Cup in early November.
When not playing as a junior, the 18-year-old winger (who seems to play centre on some occasions) is in a sort of limbo with regards to his KHL team. They don’t actually need him. They have good forward depth, and KHL teams often get more serious and cut the juniors as they head to the playoffs. He’s only played in a few games since the November break and will leave for WJC camp this week.
He will return in mid-January when there are only about a dozen KHL games left. They may keep him on the big club, surely playoff bound, or they may want to give him more ice time in the VHL if that team is also playoff bound. Any decision they make puts him playing men’s pro hockey and ahead of many of his age-peers, so it’s all good.
We’ll be voting on him before his WJC, and if Russia is as good as they can be, and he performs well, the hype train for this prospect will be supersonic. Get on board now! Avoid the rush!
The Leafs made some pick trades on draft day, so their original number of picks ballooned. The Leafs traded the 44th overall (the second rounder that came 10th in the summer T25) for two picks and drafted Roni Hirvonen at 59th overall and Topi Niemelä at 64th.
The fun part is where all of us get to try to figure out how to fit them in on a new list with Amirov above them and no Kapanen. Will either hit as high as tenth?
Hirvonen is a centre playing on a Liiga team that’s struggling a bit, but he’s usually in the top six.
Niemelä is s defender who is splitting his season between the men’s team and the junior team. He has played top pair in the Liiga at least once, so his start to the season in junior is a little mystifying.
Both should be on the Finnish WJC team, so they will shortly leave their league teams for camp, and then return in mid-January for the rest of the Liiga season. It runs to the end of March, so there’s opportunity for a lot more senior-level play for both of them.
Artur Akhtyamov, a goalie, was taken with the Leafs’ fourth-round pick, the one that finished 23rd in the summer T25. You may recall that Ian Scott and Joe Woll tied for 26th and didn’t make the cut, so this sets up an interesting question to answer about how high we think the man who is likely going to the WJC, but unlikely to get out of Yaroslav Askarov’s shadow should be ranked.
He’s played junior, VHL and KHL this season so far and has very good results at all levels.
And now for someone completely different. With the pick acquired in the Garret Sparks trade that was ranked 25th on the T25, the Leafs took the imperfect Canadian junior defender William Villeneuve.
Because his team is a QMJHL team in Atlantic Canada, he’s also got a lot of games in already, and everyone can see his highlights and some of his flaws as discussed in many draft profiles. Just by virtue of being in the only Canadian league playing, he’s had a lot of attention paid. But will we consider him worth ranking in the top 25? There’s been three ranked players leave, and some sure things arrive, so do the numbers work for him or against? Maybe we should ask ourselves what the chances are he’s better than Jesper Lindgren.
Dimitri Ovchinnikov was drafted with the Leafs’ own fifth-rounder, but the pick went to Florida for a vacation first (remember when that was a thing people did?).
The Leafs traded the pick to the Florida Panthers for Michael Hutchinson. Then the Leafs also got involved in the Robin Lehner trade, ending up with Vegas’s fifth-rounder in exchange for hosting some of Lehner’s cap hit. That pick was on our list of T25 eligibles, but it did not end up ranked, rather it fell to 30th spot, just ahead of the older prospects no one thinks have a chance.
At the draft, the Leafs took that Vegas pick, the 153rd overall, added one of their seventh-rounders, the 212th overall, and traded them to Florida for their own fifth, the 137th overall.
Then they drafted enigmatic MHL winger Ovchinnikov. He’s showing up as too good for Russian junior hockey so far this year, and has had a promotion to the KHL where he’s... a bit of mystery still.
What we’ve learned here is that the Leafs now have Hutchinson and the pick they traded away for him, just in player form. But players drafted 137th are in the range of not likely to make the T25 list.
Veeti Miettinen, a Finnish winger playing in the NCAA this year was taken with the Leafs’ sixth-round pick, the 168th overall.
Axel Rindell was taken nine spots later at 177th overall with the pick that came back to the Leafs in the trade of Patrick Marleau’s disastrous contract to the Carolina Hurricanes. Rindell is an overager, now 20, out of junior eligibility, but playing the top pair defence alongside Mikko Kokkonen these days in the Liiga.
It’s as if Dubas set out to make this exercise hard. Is Rindell less than Kokkonen? Is he a draft steal or are we overrating Kokkonen who is only one year younger just because he’ll show up at the WJC? We’ll all have to decide that.
Joe Miller was taken only three spots later at 180 with the pick acquired in the Nazem Kadri for Alex Kerfoot trade. Miller is an NCAA-bound forward playing another year in the USHL, where he’s barely had a game due to cancellations so far this season.
John Fusco is a Harvard-bound defender who is playing in the USHL this year (no games played yet) since Harvard’s season has been cancelled. He was taken at 189th overall with the pick received for Eric Fehr, who has 10 points in six games so far in the Swiss league, in case you wondered about him.
Wyatt Schingoethe was taken at 195th overall with the pick the Leafs got for the rights to Fedor Gordeev just as those rights were expiring. He is a centre, NCAA-bound, who is also playing in the USHL for the season. Godeev is likely to play in the AHL for Iowa this season, after a good final year in the OHL.
The Maple Leafs traded their seventh-round pick for 2021 to the Boston Bruins for the Boston 2020 seventh rounder on draft day, and chose Ryan Tverberg at 213th overall. Tverberg, a centre, played in the OJHL and was heading for Harvard eventually at the time of the draft. He’s since been traded to a team in the BCHL and has committed to the University of Connecticut. He’s the longest of long shots, just like Andreas Johnson was once upon a time.
And those are the new names on the list, puzzles, most of them, and some of them very difficult to evaluate. Start deciding you you’ll rank them.