Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has taken some heat during his short tenure for trading first-round picks, but that criticism has to be mitigated by the fact that has hit the jackpot with selections deeper in the draft.
On Monday, ESPN’s Chris Peters revealed his All-Prospect team for the 2019-20 season and named Leafs prospect Nick Robertson Prospect of the Year.
The 18-year-old led the Peterborough Petes and the Ontario Hockey League with 55 goals in 46 games this season and was a top performer for Team USA at the 2020 IIHF World Junior in the Czech Republic.
"(Robertson) was really strong for us in the rookie tournament in Traverse City, carried that through training camp. I think looking back and reflecting on it, we probably should have given him more of a look in training camp and probably reward (him with) an exhibition game or two to see how he did there, but he went back to Peterborough, had a great attitude and was an excellent player for them right away." Dubas said about the 19-year-old last month. “I know the goal scoring was prolific, but the part of his game we really came to admire during the season was his play on the defensive side, especially on the penalty kill. His ability to win the puck back and then, and then tear down the ice and introduce chances and scoring for the Petes (and) obviously played a huge role (for Team USA at the 2020 World Junior) as well”
Peters believes that Robertson’s work ethic and high motor makes up for his lack of size and that the pesky winger could challenge for an NHL roster spot as early as next season.
Another Leaf prospect, Harvard’s Nick Abruzzese was listed as one of the top wingers in the 2019-20 class. The 20-year-old led the Crimson and all NCAA first-year players with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists), was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and earned ECAC First Team honors after being drafted 124th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft last June.
The Maple Leafs are continuing their pursuit of KHL free agents after adding Alexander Barabanov earlier this month, but after having success signing the SKA St. Petersburg winger to a one-year deal, Toronto missed out on another KHL free agent in Konstantin Okulov.
Sport-Express reporter Igor Eronko reported on Tuesday that the 25-year-old winger (who had a career-high 38 points in 2019-20) re-signed with CSKA Moscow for one year after receiving interest from Toronto and the Montreal Canadiens.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston indicated that the uncertain status of the NHL’s schedule with the current league shutdown due to COVID-19 may be giving KHL free agents second thoughts about heading to North America for 2020-21.
By signing a one-year deal, Okulov will remain on the radar for interested teams like the Leafs and will likely be a target after next season.
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