The Toronto Maple Leafs organization has drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Pierre Engvall, Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, but the next step for the club under GM Kyle Dubas 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 year, we will rank the club’s top prospects over the next few weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe, ECHL or AHL and their potential to make the Leafs roster and make a contribution in the future.
Players are eligible for the list if they have not played more than 40 NHL games:
#40 – J.D. Greenway – D (Maine – NCAA)
#39 – Eemeli Rasanen – D (HPK – Finland SM-Liiga)
#38 – Jeremy McKenna – RW (Moncton – QMJHL)
The Leafs continue to scour the US College and CHL ranks for potential hidden gems that can be developed into useful players. After signing leading OHL goal scorer Justin Brazeau to an AHL contract in 2019, GM Kyle Dubas followed a similar path with QMJHL product Jeremy McKenna.
The Summerside, PEI native scored 121 goals over three seasons with the Moncton Wildcats. After a career-high 97 points (45 goals, 52 assists) last season, McKenna had 82 points in 57 games and tied for third in the league with 40 goals.
After not being picked in three NHL Drafts and being invited to Calgary’s rookie camp in 2019, the 21-year-old was signed to an AHL deal by Toronto in April. The 5’10”, 180 lb. right winger is known for his wrist shot and quick release, and has the ability to find space in the offensive zone to get scoring chances. McKenna’s issues are linked to his skating, but the Leafs may believe that can be improved by working with guru Barb Underhill.
The news of the Newfoundland Growlers being shut down for the 2020-21 season is a blow to prospects like McKenna, who would have likely received significant playing time in the ECHL as Brazeau did last season. It is unknown whether the larger numbers expected to be on hand with the Toronto Marlies will prevent the winger from being a contributor or improving as a player.
O’Connell was the Leafs final pick in the seventh round of 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago. The Gloucester, ON (suburb of Ottawa) native played for Junior 67’s for three years and St. Andrew’s College prep school before playing for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL and going through a long rehab for a broken arm.
Originally committed to Boston University, O’Connell ended up going to play for Ohio State and has played two seasons for the Buckeyes in the Big 10. The 6’1”, 185 lb. blueliner is known for his skating ability, hockey IQ and being adept at possessing the puck, but his offensive skills have not shown themselves yet in the NCAA, as the 21-year-old has just two goals in 60 games.
O’Connell has another two years of college eligibility remaining before Toronto will have to make a decision on signing him, and they will hope to see growth in all aspects of his game to make their decision a difficult one.
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