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
#35 - Semyon Kizimov – RW (Lada Togliatti – VHL / Torpedo – KHL)
#34 - Kalle Loponen – D (Karpat – Finland SM-Liiga)
The Leafs normally go to Europe in the later rounds because of the longer development window and have had good luck in drafting the likes of Andreas Johnsson, Pierre Engvall and Carl Gunnarsson. In his second draft, GM Kyle Dubas and his scouting staff followed this model and selected Finnish defenseman Kalle Loponen in the seventh round (204th overall).
The 19-year-old is a product of the Karpat junior system and played internationally for Finland in the Under-18’s and 30 games in the second-level Mestis league in his draft year, but opted to head to North America to play regularly in the OHL for Sudbury instead of fighting for playing time in the SM-Liiga.
Loponen has decent offensive tools and scored 24 points (6 goals, 18 assists) in 56 games with the Wolves, but with the OHL shut down returned to Finland this season to play in junior and one game for Karpat.
According to HockeyProspect.com, Loponen is “not afraid to engage physically along the boards in addition to having good timing with his hits, but “his skating and footwork are average…..not very fluid and doesn’t generate a lot of speed from his strides.”
With international experience and as a right hand shooter, Loponen has an outside shot at being selected for the Finn’s World Junior Tournament club, especially with the possibility of clubs having expanded rosters.
#33 - Vladislav Kara – LW (Cherepovets Severstal – KHL)
The Maple Leafs have long-range plans for some of their European prospects and winger Vladislav Kara is someone that will have to show something in the next year or so to not be considered a mistake. The 6’2”, 187 lb winger was selected in the fourth round (124th overall) in the 2017 Draft after scoring 11 goals in 31 games and four playoff goals as an 18-year-old in the junior-level MHL.
Vladislav Kara, Leafs 2017 4th rounder and tremendous long shot to get a sniff of the NHL, got his first KHL goal of the year today thanks to a pretty incredible bit of penalty killing by teammate Alexander Petunin pic.twitter.com/fdIDqUVu0D
A product of the Kazan system, Kara played in the second-level pro VHL and 11 KHL games in 2017-18 and mostly in a depth role for Ak-Bars in 2018-19, scoring only five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 41 games. Last season, the left winger averaged nearly a point-per-game in the VHL, but did not get much more opportunity to play quality minutes in the KHL.
Kara was dealt to Severstal Cherepovets in July and given a larger role with a middle-of-the pack club, but struggled after a strong debut with his new club, scoring three points (1 goals, 2 assists) before being demoted to the VHL last week.
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