As we head into the weekend series of games in the AHL and the Canadian Hockey Leagues, it is time to take a look at where the Leafs prospects sit in terms of point production and contributions to their respective clubs.
While most of the attention in the Leafs system has been heaped on William Nylander, Mitch Marner and even Kasperi Kapanen, there are plenty of other highly skilled players performing very well and flying off the radar.
Diminutive American forward, Jeremy Bracco is dazzling the Kitchener Ranger fans with his puck handling abilities, elusive speed and outstanding on-ice vision. After being snubbed by the American World Junior team, Bracco has lit up the OHL. Having played just 5 games for Boston College of the NCAA, the 5’9” native of Freeport, New York left that NCAA program and landed in Kitchener. Playing just 29 games this year, Bracco 40 points with 27 assists and 13 goals. While Bracco is a pass first type of player, his shot is underrated and continues to prove why the Leafs were correct in selecting him with the 61st pick in the 2nd round of the 2015 NHL entry Draft.
Continuing to lead the WHL in scoring by a defenseman is Andrew Nielsen of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Standing in a 6’3” and weighing 212 pounds, Nielsen is having a breakout season as he continues to gain confidence in his own game in the WHL. On ice vision, solid first pass, and a heavy shot is what Nielsen believes are the strengths to his game. Also known for his physical play this is the exact type of player the Leafs blueline is in desperate need of. Two-way with the ability to punish.
Meanwhile overseas, Andreas Johnson continues to perform well in Sweden as a Professional hockey player. Selected in the 7th round of the 2013 Draft, the 5’10” Frolunda forward has 31 points in his 35 games played. With 16 goals and 15 assists, balanced contributions and a solid shot is what Johnson brings to the ice each and every game in the Swedish Elite League, and has the brass at MLSE excited to see how these skills translate into the North American game next season.
Born in the Ukraine but of Swedish nationality, Dymtro Timashov might just be the steal of the 2015 Draft when it comes to forwards. Selected by the Leafs in the 5th round, Timashov who played very well in the World Juniors is lighting up the QMJHL. With 53 points in 29 games for the Quebec Remparts, the elusive speedy forward was traded to Shawinigan after his World Junior appearance. In the 4 games that Timashov has played he has compiled another 8 points while adjusting to a new city and new group of teammates. Impressive to say the least.
A Marlies player that is having quiet success is defenseman, Rinat Valiev. A smooth moving, two-way defenseman is second on the team (only to veteran Captain, Andrew Campbell) in plus/minus with a +23. Valiev has a respectable 12 points in his rookie campaign with the Marlies and his attention to positioning is excellent to watch. While no player is perfect, it is clear that Rinat will recognize when he has made a mistake in his coverage and rarely makes the same mistake twice. Last season for the Kootenay Ice, Valiev had 46 points in 52 games and while scoring is a big part of his game, the young Russian is more than willing to also take the body and play physical.
One of the best Marlies forwards last season, Connor Brown has been out with injury since blocking a shot earlier this season at the Ricoh Coliseum. Out of his walking cast and back to skating it will be interesting to see what Brown can do for you (bad pun) as the rest of the season unfolds for the playoffs bound and AHL leading, Marlies.
So the list of prospects continues to grow in the Leaf organization. How many will turn into NHL regulars? How many will be stars in the NHL? The answer to these questions is rooted in time and the talent they are surrounded with. Many members of management teams in the NHL will tell you, that a club can only ice a select number of similar players. The Leafs have stockpiled the market on smaller wingers. Who could potentially be moved to acquire a different asset? Again, it’s too early to tell but the journey should finally be exciting for the Leafs fans in the not so distant future.
We encourage you to take a look at the stats, and if you have any questions about any of the other players listed (or even ones that aren’t ie Nikita Zaitsev) please let us know and we can focus on those players in the following weeks to come.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read.
DH took the time to compile the below Prospects Tracking Spreadsheet that is absolutely perfect for following the progress of these kids, so for that we extend a tremendous amount of gratitude to him for his ongoing work at Leafs Hub.
– Phook Out
NOTE: I will be updating this spreadsheet weekly, check back every Monday morning — DH