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The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a state of limbo with the dismissal of GM Kyle Dubas and the uncertainty of what direction the club will take with a new man at the helm. Dubas dealt a lot of draft picks in his five years as GM, but also appears to have been much better at restocking the shelves of the club with potential NHL prospects than his predecessor Mark Hunter did from 2015 to 2017.
In The Athletic’s rankings of the 32 NHL clubs prospect pools, the Leafs rank 18th, a far cry from being the top-ranked team when Toronto had emerging prospects Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, but quite respectable when you consider that the Leafs traded their first-round pick in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 and a variety of lower picks.
Three of the five top Leafs prospects (Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson, Fraser Minten, and Roni Hirvonen) were selected in the second round, while the other (Topi Niemela) was a high third-round pick in 2020.
Knies appears to be a shoo-in to make the NHL roster as a replacement for free agents Michael Bunting and Alex Kerfoot on the left side. Robertson could also be in the mix at left wing if he can shake off the injury bug that has plagued him the last three seasons. Minten had an excellent season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers (31 goals, 36 assists in 57 games) and is playing in the Memorial Cup this week. Niemela and Hirvonen joined the Marlies late in the season after completing their Liiga obligations in Finland.
Niemela made an impression in the Calder Cup Playoffs, with five points in seven playoff games, and could be someone that steps into the Leafs lineup in the near future.