The Toronto Maple Leafs organization has drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL, but with players like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott on their roster, the next step for the club is to keep replenishing the prospect pool to provide the Leafs with youngsters who can step up and replace veterans who retire, depart via free agency or are traded.
As we did last summer, we will rank the club’s top 25 prospects over the next few weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe or the American Hockey League and their potential to make the Leafs roster and make a contribution in the future.
Players are not eligible for the list if they are 25 years old or over, or if they have played more than 30 NHL games:
Top 25 list
#25 – Eemeli Rasanen - Defense, Jokerit – KHL / Toronto Marlies – AHL
#24 – Pontus Holmberg – Left Wing, Vaxjo HC – SHL
#23 – Mikhail Abramov – Center, Victoriaville – QMJHL
#22 – Nick Abruzzese - Center, Chicago Steel – USHL
#21 – Teemu Kivihalme - Defense, Karpat – SM-Liiga
#20 – Riley Stotts - Center, Calgary – WHL
#19 – Filip Kral (Defense, Spokane Chiefs – WHL)
#18 – Mikko Kokkonen (Defense, Jukurit Mikkeli – SM Liiga)
2018 Ranking – N/A
The Maple Leafs continued their trend of selecting smaller defensemen with the selection of Mikko Kokkonen in the third round of the 2019 Draft. The 18-year-old blueliner was selected 84th overall out of the Finnish SM-Liiga, where he scored 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists) in 56 games for Jukurit Mikkeli and played for his country in the Under-18’s and Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The 5’11”, 198 lb. defenseman is considered an intelligent player and was physically mature at a young age, which helped him advance in the ranks, but still has room to grow in his game.
Unlike the first crop of blueliners selected by GM Kyle Dubas in 2018, Kokkonen’s main shortcoming is his skating. According to HockeyProspect.com’s Mark Edwards, the 18-year-old’s footwork is decent, but his lack of speed hurts him when rushing the puck or when jumping into the play and he has trouble creating separation between himself and his coverage.
"(Kokkonen is) very smart (and a) good defender. (He) can still improve his foot speed, but like a lot of these kids, they all have work to do.” Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley said in Vancouver.
It is expected that Kokkonen will continue to be in the mix for Finland internationally, which means possibly playing at the 2020 World Juniors in the Czech Republic, but he is likely a project that will have to work with Leafs skating consultant Barb Underhill at future development and training camps to improve his mobility and chances of being an NHLer.
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