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Leafs Top 40 Prospects - #1

November 30, 2021, 2:39 PM ET [159 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, Toronto - AHL)
#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)
#12 – Joseph Woll – G (Toronto – AHL)
#11 - Dmitry Ovchinnikov – F (Sibir Novosibirsk – MHL/KHL)
#10 - Mikhail Abramov – C (Victoriaville – QMJHL)
#9 – Adam Brooks – C (Toronto – AHL/NHL) (claimed by Montreal)
#8 - Roni Hirvonen – C (Assat Pori – Finland SM-Liiga)
#7 - Timothy Liljegren – D (Toronto – AHL/NHL)
#6 - Matthew Knies – LW (Tri-City – USHL)
#5 – Nick Abruzzese - C (Harvard - NCAA)
#4 - Topi Niemela – D (Karpat – Finland SM-Liiga)
#3 – Rodion Amirov – LW (Ufa Salavat – KHL)
#2 - Nick Robertson - LW (Toronto – AHL/NHL)

#1 – Rasmus Sandin – D (Toronto – NHL)

In his first draft as Leafs GM, Kyle Dubas traded down in the first round with St. Louis to get an extra third round pick and selected defenseman Rasmus Sandin at #29 overall. Sandin was a player he was quite familiar with, due to his ties to the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.

After scoring 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 51 games in his first season of junior hockey in North America, the Leafs signed Sandin to an entry-level contract and followed the same developmental model they used with 2017 top pick Timothy Liljegren, opting to play him in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies instead of a year in Sweden or a second season in the OHL.

The 5-foot-11, 178 lb. blueliner is the prototype of the type of defenseman that most NHL clubs are looking for, someone who can play at both ends of the ice, skate well, carry the puck, make smart decisions and good passes to create offense.

Sandin’s hockey IQ and maturity helped in his quick adjustment to pro game with the Marlies, where he scored 28 points (6 goals, 22 assists) in 44 regular season games and 10 assists in 13 playoff games. After another strong start in the the AHL, he scored 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in seven games at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and was named the tournament’s top defenseman.

With Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin injured, the Leafs were forced to promote Sandin to the NHL midway through the 2020 season. The youngster showed flashes of the talent that could make him a future top-four defenseman, but there were also signs in the 28 games that he needed to get stronger to win puck battles along the boards.

Those aspects prevented Sheldon Keefe from considering Sandin as an option in the play-in round after Muzzin was injured.

2021 showed early signs of being a lost year, as Sandin resided on the practice squad and played just one NHL game before being sent to the AHL and suffering a broken foot in his first game with the Marlies. After being inactive for nearly two months, the Leafs gave the 21-year-old an opportunity to play and he was inserted into the playoff roster, but inexperience caused some defensive issues in the first round series vs. Montreal, seeing Sandin getting pulled in favor of Travis Dermott midway through the series, only to return in Game 7 after Muzzin was injured.

With Bogosian gone to Tampa Bay, the Leafs have given Sandin regular duty on the bottom pairing with countryman Liljegren or Travis Dermott and on the second power play, and his play has been solid and improving, with seven assists and a +5 rating in 22 games.


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