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Matthews return, Leafs vs. Rangers; Top 40 Prospects - #13

October 18, 2021, 12:49 PM ET [739 Comments]
Mike Augello
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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 - Jeremy McKenna – RW (Wichita – ECHL, Toronto – AHL)
#39 – Ryan Tverberg – C (Connecticut – NCAA)
#38 – Ryan O’Connell – D (Ohio State – NCAA)
#37 - Semyon Kizimov – RW (Lada Togliatti – VHL / Torpedo – KHL)
#36 - Wyatt Schingoethe – C (Waterloo – USHL)
#35 - Kalle Loponen – D (Karpat – Finland SM-Liiga)
#34 - Vladislav Kara – LW (Cherepovets Severstal/Moscow Spartak – KHL)
#33 - Kirill Semyonov – C (Avangard Omsk – KHL)
#32 - William Villeneuve – D (Saint John – QMJHL)
#31 - Ty Voit – LW (Sarnia – OHL)
#30 – Joe Miller – C(Chicago – USHL
#29 - Brennan Menell – D (Minsk Dynamo – KHL)
#28 - John Fusco – D (Harvard – NCAA)
#27 - Axel Rindell – D (Jukurit – Finland SM-Liiga)
#26 - Noel Hoefenmayer – D (Toronto - AHL)
#25 - Alex Steeves – C (Notre Dame – NCAA)
#24 - Teemu Kivihalme - D (Toronto - AHL)
#23 - Kristians Rubins - D (Toronto - AHL / Frederikshavn - Denmark)
#22 - Ian Scott – G (Toronto - AHL)
#21 – Veeti Miettinen – RW (St. Cloud St. – NCAA)

#20 – Artur Akhtyamov – G (Ak Bars Kazan – MHL/VHL/KHL)
#19 – Filip Kral - D (Kometa Brno – Czech, Toronto - AHL)
#18 - Joseph Duszak - D (Toronto - AHL)
#17 – Mac Hollowell - D (Toronto – AHL / TuTo Turku – Finland Mestis)
#16 – Semyon Der-Argushintsev - C (Torpedo – KHL, Toronto - AHL)
#15 – Pavel Gogolev – LW (Vasby IK – Swe-1, Toronto – AHL)
#14 - Pontus Holmberg – LW (Vaxjo HC – SHL)


#13 – Mikko Kokkonen – D (Jukurit Mikkeli – Finland SM-Liiga, Toronto - AHL)



The Maple Leafs signaled their turn towards Finnish prospects a year prior to choosing four in 2020 by selecting defenseman Mikko Kokkonen in the third round of the 2019 Draft. Kokkonen was selected 84th overall out of the Finnish SM-Liiga, where he played 56 games and scored 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists) in 56 games for Jukurit Mikkeli as an 18-year-old.

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, his 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.

The 20-year-old played in his second straight World Junior for Finland in Edmonton last January and after completing his third year of professional hockey in the SM-Liiga, Kokkonen came over to North America and played 11 AHL games for the Toronto Marlies, scoring seven points (1 goal, 6 assists).

Kokkonen has yet to sign his entry-level contract with the Leafs, but does appear to be on track to be coming to North America as soon as next season.

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After going 2-1 against division rivals Montreal and Ottawa, the Leafs welcome their first non-Canadian opponent to Scotiabank Arena since March 2020 in the New York Rangers and will have Auston Matthews in the lineup for the first time.

Matthews is fully recovered from offseason wrist surgery and will center the Leafs top line between Nick Ritchie and Mitch Marner. His return has brought about changes in Toronto’s forward line combos, with John Tavares moving to the second line with Michael Bunting and William Nylander. Alex Kerfoot moves to the wing on the checking line with David Kampf and Ondrej Kase, with Pierre Engvall shifting to the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that Justin Holl has recovered from a non-COVID illness that caused him to miss the 3-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday and will return to the lineup alongside Jake Muzzin.

Goalie Michael Hutchinson has been called up on an emergency basis and will back up starter Jack Campbell. Keefe said on Sunday that injured goalie Petr Mrazek may be out two weeks with a groin injury, so it is likely that Hutchinson may see his first action either on Friday vs. San Jose or Saturday in Pittsburgh.

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