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)
#33 - Vladislav Kara – LW (Cherepovets Severstal – KHL)
#32 - John Fusco – D (Harvard – NCAA)
#31 - Wyatt Schingoethe – C (Waterloo – USHL)
#30 - William Villeneuve – D (Saint John – QMJHL)
#29 - Joe Miller – C (Chicago – USHL)
#28 - Axel Rindell – D (Jukurit – Finland SM-Liiga)
#27 - Kristians Rubins - D (Toronto - AHL / Frederikshavn - Denmark)
#26 - Justin Brazeau - RW (Newfoundland - ECHL / Toronto - AHL)
#25 – Dmitry Ovchinnikov – F (Sibir Novosibirsk – MHL/KHL)
#24 – Artur Akhtyamov – G (Ak Bars Kazan – MHL/VHL/KHL)
#23 – Noel Hoefenmayer – D (Ottawa – OHL / Wichita ECHL)
#22 – Roni Hirvonen – C (Assat Pori – Finland SM-Liiga)
#21 – Teemu Kivihalme - D (Toronto - AHL)
#20 – Pontus Holmberg – LW (Vaxjo HC – SHL
#19 – Filip Kral - D (HC Prerov / Kometa Brno - Czech)
#18 – Ian Scott – G (Toronto - AHL)
#17 - Joseph Duszak - D (Newfoundland - ECHL / Toronto - AHL)
#16 – Mac Hollowell - D (Newfoundland – ECHL / Toronto – AHL / TuTo Turku – Finland Mestis)
#15 -Topi Niemela – D (Karpat – Finland SM-Liiga)
#14 – Semyon Der-Argushintsev (Center, Peterborough Petes – OHL / Torpedo - KHL)
#13 – Adam Brooks – C (Toronto – AHL/NHL)
#12 – Mikhail Abramov – C (Victoriaville – QMJHL)
#11 – Joseph Woll – G (Toronto – AHL)
#10 – Alexander Barabanov – F (SKA St. Petersburg – KHL)
#9 – Egor Korshkov - RW (Lokomotiv - KHL / Toronto – AHL/NHL)
#8 – Mikko Kokkonen – D (Jukurit – Finland SM-Liiga)
#7 – Filip Hallander – C (Lulea – SHL)
#6 - Timothy Liljegren – D (Toronto – AHL/NHL)
Liljegren was one of the top rated defensive prospects in the 2017 draft class, but his stock plummeted after a bout of mononucleosis kept him from participating in the World Junior and had him shift between four teams at various levels of the Swedish Hockey League. At the NHL Draft in Chicago, the Leafs selected the speedy Swede 17th overall.
Gifted with good skating ability and an aptitude for pushing the puck up the ice, Liljegren is the type of blueliner that has the tools necessary to succeed in the new NHL. Toronto had the option of keeping the youngster in the SHL after signing him to an entry-level contract, but the club decided to provide a more stable environment and begin his transition to the North American game in the American Hockey League with the Marlies.
The right-handed Liljegren had 17 points (1 goal, 16 assists) as a rookie, but was limited to 44 games during the regular season due to injuries and being loaned to Team Sweden for the 2018 World Junior in Buffalo.
In the Marlies run to the Calder Cup, head coach Sheldon Keefe managed the youngster’s ice time carefully, keeping him mostly on the bottom pairing. Liljegren had four assists in 20 games, but was poised and did not make the bad decisions that inexperienced players tend to make in pressure situations.
In his second professional campaign, Liljegren missed over two months and the 2019 World Junior with a high ankle sprain, but put up similar offensive numbers (3 goals, 12 assists in 43 games), and played more difficult minutes, matching up often against the opposition’s top lines during the regular season and the playoffs.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said the only thing that prevented Liljegren from making his NHL debut in 2019 was missing significant time with the injury. Last season, the 21-year-old doubled his point total (5 goals, 25 assists in 40 AHL games) and earned a promotion to the parent club, playing 11 NHL games while both Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin were out injured.
With the additions of TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian, Dubas added veteran depth on the right side which made it nearly impossible for the youngster to break into the NHL lineup, but Liljegren’s quick start with the Marlies (six points in eight games) earned him a promotion to the taxi squad.
The lone bright spot for the Marlies today was this little give and go between Nick Robertson and Timothy Liljegren for Liljegren’s first goal of the season. #LeafsForeverpic.twitter.com/gAWsBd4ktr
With Bogosian on a one-year deal, and the likelihood that Toronto will lose one of Justin Holl or Travis Dermott in expansion, 2021 might be the year that Liljegren and 2018 top pick Rasmus Sandin will force their way onto the NHL roster.
Frederik Andersen will be in goal for the Leafs in the finale of their five-game road trip vs. Vancouver at Rogers Arena on Saturday. Jack Campbell is still not ready to get back into the lineup after his lower body injury flared up after his start against Edmonton last week, so Michael Hutchinson will back up Andersen.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that the only lineup change will be Travis Boyd for Nic Petan on the fourth line.
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