The Toronto Maple Leafs organization has drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL, but with players like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott on their roster, the next step for the club 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 summer, we will rank the club’s top 25 prospects over the next few weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe or the American Hockey League and their potential to make the Leafs roster and make a contribution in the future.
Players are not eligible for the list if they are 25 years old or over, or if they have played more than 30 NHL games:
Top 25 list
#25 – Eemeli Rasanen - Defense, Jokerit – KHL / Toronto Marlies – AHL
#24 – Pontus Holmberg – Left Wing, Vaxjo HC – SHL
#23 – Mikhail Abramov – Center, Victoriaville – QMJHL
#22 – Nick Abruzzese - Center, Chicago Steel – USHL
2018 Ranking – Not Ranked
The Maple Leafs once again went the overage route and followed the draft model of GM Kyle Dubas, opting for another smaller player with high-level skill, skating ability and hockey IQ in 20-year-old Nick Abruzzese.
The Slate Hill, NY native is a late bloomer that joined the USHL’s Chicago Steel in 2017 before finding his game as a 19-year-old and leading the league with 80 points (29 goals, 51 assists) last season. Toronto selected Abruzzese in the fourth round (124th overall) as a developmental project, as he will play for Harvard University next season.
The 5’9”, 160 lb. center has “above average footwork and directional skating that allows him to play an up-tempo style and excels at making plays with the puck as he enters the offensive zone” according to HockeyProspect.com’s Mark Edwards.
Abruzzese is considered an excellent playmaker, but needs to work on his defensive game and strength if he hopes to succeed professionally.
Harvard has been successful at developing pro prospects in recent years, including Ryan Donato, Jimmy Vesey, Adam Fox and new Leaf Alex Kerfoot, so if Abruzzese is able to continue growing and improving, Toronto may have a good prospect in three or four years.
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