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 – D (Jokerit – KHL / Toronto Marlies – AHL)
#24 – Pontus Holmberg – LW (Vaxjo HC – SHL)
#23 – Mikhail Abramov – C (Victoriaville – QMJHL)
#22 – Nick Abruzzese - C (Chicago – USHL)
#21 – Teemu Kivihalme - D (Karpat – SM-Liiga)
#20 – Riley Stotts – C (Calgary – WHL)
#19 – Filip Kral - D (Spokane – WHL)
#18 – Mikko Kokkonen – D (Jukurit – SM Liiga)
#17 – Jesper Lindgren - D (HPK – SM Liiga / Toronto – AHL)
#16 – Joseph Duszak - D (Mercyhurst – NCAA / Toronto - AHL)
#15 – Mac Hollowell - D (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL / Toronto - AHL)
#14 – Semyon Der-Argushintsev – C (Peterborough – OHL / Newfoundland - ECHL)
#13 – Mason Marchment – LW (Toronto - AHL)
#12 – Adam Brooks – C (Toronto - AHL)
#11 – Ian Scott – G (Prince Albert - WHL)
#10 – Dmytro Timashov – LW (Toronto - AHL)
#9 – Egor Korshkov - RW (Lokomotiv - KHL / Toronto - AHL)
#8 – Nick Robertson - LW (Peterborough - OHL)
#7 – Joseph Woll - G (Boston College - NCAA)
#6 – Ilya Mikheyev – RW (Avangard Omsk - KHL)
#5 – Pierre Engvall – LW/C (Toronto - AHL)
#4 – Trevor Moore – LW/RW (Toronto – AHL / Toronto – NHL)
#3 – Timothy Liljegren – D (Toronto – AHL)
#2 – Jeremy Bracco – RW (Toronto – AHL)
#1 – Rasmus Sandin – D (Toronto – AHL)
2018 Ranking – 4
The only thing that may prevent Rasmus Sandin from being promoted to the NHL this season is the Toronto Maple Leafs being cautious about rushing a young defenseman too soon. There are enough examples Leafs history of first round picks like Gary Nylund, Jim Benning, Al Iafrate, and Luke Richardson who were ruined by making their debut before they turned 20 before their game was more well-rounded and mature.
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 a player he was quite familiar with due to his ties to the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.
Sandin (selected 29th overall) was loaned from Rogle BK of the SHL and thrived in his rookie season in the OHL, scoring 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 51 games.
The 5-foot-11, 186 lb. blueliner is the prototype of the type of defenseman that Dubas is looking for, someone who can play at both ends of the ice, who can skate well, carry the puck, make smart decisions and good passes to create offense.
The Leafs signed Sandin to an entry-level contract in July 2018 and followed the same developmental model they used with Timothy Liljegren, opting to play him in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies instead of another year in Sweden or a second season in the OHL.
As expected, it took a little time for the youngster to adjust to the North American pro game, but his hockey IQ and playmaking ability was apparent from the outset. Sandin had 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 19 games before departing to join Team Sweden for the 2019 World Junior.
The 19-year-old played performed well in a primary role on the Swedish blueline, but suffered an elbow injury that kept him out until early February. Once he returned, Sandin was a more consistent contributor offensively (points in eight consecutive games) and began quarterbacking the Marlies power play with Calle Rosen called up to the Leafs.
That point production continued into the playoffs, where Sandin led the Marlies with 10 points (all assists) in 13 games, but a need for improvement in his own showed in the Eastern Conference Final against Charlotte, where the youngster was -7 in a pair of losses to the Checkers.
Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe was impressed with Sandin’s ability to control the pace of the game and believes he has the attributes to be an NHL player. The 19-year-old is not taking part in this weekend’s Prospect Challenge in Traverse City, MI and will get a long look at training camp with an open competition for jobs on the bottom pairing, but unless he wows Mike Babcock over the next few weeks, he will start the season in the AHL.
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