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)
#37 – Ryan O’Connell – D (Ohio State – NCAA)
#36 – Veeti Miettinen – RW (St. Cloud St. – NCAA)
The Maple Leafs chose to go heavy on European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft, likely because they would have more time to develop in their home countries while Toronto retained their rights. The club selected four players from Finland, and with the first pick in the 6th round selected forward Veeti Miettinen.
Miettinen was a scoring star at the junior level and played internationally for Finland. The 19-year-old had 69 goals in 100 games the last two seasons for Kiekko-Espoo and setting the all-time record of 42 goals last season. The belief is that he purposely played at a lower level instead in the SM-Liiga to retain his eligibility to play college hockey in the US.
Ranked #29 in the Hockey News Top 100 NCAA players, Miettinen will begin his college career for St. Cloud State next month. He is known for his excellent shot and good footwork, but needs to work on his speed to be able to create space in the offensive zone
The HockeyProspect.com Black Book loves Miettinen’s skill set and believes that he has the potential to be a top-six NHL winger, but also believes that he is much smaller than the 5’9” indicated by most hockey sites, which could be an issue if he cannot improve his speed.
It is possible that Miettinen could be selected for Team Finland for the upcoming 2021 IIHF World Junior in Edmonton, but other freshman in the NCAA have been denied leave from their college teams due to missing a large chunk of their shortened schedule.
The Leafs have struck gold in the late rounds of the draft, with Andreas Johnsson in 2013 and Pierre Engvall in 2014, but it took both wingers four to five years to develop and gain experience. Toronto is hoping for similar good fortune with Semyon Kizimov. The 6’0”, 176 lb. winger was selected 211th overall in the 2018 Draft in Chicago.
Kizimov scored a pair of goals for Russia in the Under-18’s in 2018, but put forth a couple unspectacular years in the second-level VHL. This season, the 20-year-old opened the season with four goals in 10 games for Lada Togliatti and earned a promotion to the KHL, playing with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod along with Leafs prospect Semyon Der-Argushintsev.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******