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The Toronto Maple Leafs organization has drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Pierre Engvall, and Justin Holl), but the club under GM Kyle Dubas has 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 year, we will rank the club’s top prospects over the upcoming weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe, ECHL or AHL and their potential to make the Leafs roster and make a contribution in the future.
Players are eligible for the list if they have not played more than 40 NHL games:
#40 - Vladislav Kara – LW (Yugra - VHL)
#39 – Kalle Loponen – D (Koo Koo Kouvola/JyP HT – Finland SM-Liiga)
#38 - Jeremy McKenna – RW (Wichita – ECHL, Toronto – AHL)
#37 - John Fusco – D (Harvard – NCAA)
#36 Noel Hoefenmayer – D (Newfoundland – ECHL, Toronto – AHL)
#35 Ryan Chyzowski - LW (Newfoundland - ECHL, Toronto - AHL)
#34 Braeden Kressler - C (Flint - OHL)
The Leafs continue to scour the US College, European and CHL ranks for potential hidden gems that can be developed into useful players. After having just three picks in the 2021 Draft, Toronto looked to the free agent route to add more to their prospect pool and signed forward Braeden Kressler to a three-year entry-level contract.
The Kitchener, ON native played for Canada in the 2019 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, debuted for the Flint Firebirds as a 16-year-old, with 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 46 games. After the OHL shut down for the 2020-21 season, Kressler went undrafted in 2021, but impressed Leafs management at their development camp last year enough to earn an ELC.
The 5’9”, 175 lb. center was limited to 28 games due a knee injury, but after scoring 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 28 regular season games, he moved up to the first line for the Firebirds in the OHL playoffs and scored six goals in 17 postseason games.
The Hockey Prospect Black Book says that Kressler “is elusive with and without the puck, shows great acceleration and explosiveness as a skater, flashes a great first step, the ability to fight in battles as he plays bigger than his size and has no fear”.
Only 19 years old, Kressler will likely play another full season for Flint before making the jump to the ECHL or AHL.