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Leafs prospects at WJC, Marlies signings

August 3, 2022, 3:07 PM ET [76 Comments]
Mike Augello
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Although the final rosters have not been confirmed, the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have three prospects who will participate in next week’s restart of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships in Edmonton next week.

Winger Matthew Knies is considered a shoo-in for Team USA, while 2020 draftees Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela’s participation with Team Finland was confirmed late last week.

"Yeah, (I’m getting) three days of rest at home, and then I'm headed off to practice again. So, I'm gonna enjoy the rest and (I'm) excited for that tournament to start up again." Knies said at last month’s Development Camp. "I want to win. It's my last chance to play with that team with those group of guys, so anything I can do to help them get to the finals and get that gold medal, that's my goal."

Knies scored a goal in Team USA’s only game before the tournament was postponed due to a number of positive cases in Edmonton last December, and will be expected to be a top producer for the Americans after playing in the Olympics and in the NCAA’s Frozen Four last spring.

Hirvonen and Niemela did not travel to Toronto for camp because they are preparing to play for their country in Edmonton. Both are playing in their second World Junior for Finland. The 20-year-old Hirvonen had six points for the Finns in 2021, while Niemela is hoping to add to his resume after being named the tournament’s best defenseman with eight points in January 2021.

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The Toronto Marlies announced the signings of forwards Jack Badini, Brett Budgell, Zach O’Brien, and Zach Solow to one-year AHL contracts.

Badini, 24, registered two goals and five assists in 46 games with the San Diego Gulls this past season. The Greenwich, Connecticut native appeared in 97 games over three seasons (2017-20) with Harvard University (NCAA), collecting 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists), captured the Clark Cup with the Chicago Steel (USHL) in 2017, and was originally selected by Anaheim in the third round (91st overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Budgell recorded 79 points (40 goals, 39 assists) in 67 games this past season as captain with the Charlottetown Islanders. The 21-year-old scored 20 points (12 goals, 8 assists) in 15 playoff games, and collected 241 points (107 goals and 134 assists) in 270 QMJHL games.

O’Brien appeared in 53 games with the Newfoundland Growlers (ECHL), registering 28 goals and 50 assists. The 30-year-old was tied for second overall in points (78) in the regular season, and 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists) in 13 postseason games.

Solow, 23, split this past season between the Milwaukee Admirals and the Florida Everblades (ECHL). Skating in 18 games with the Everblades, he recorded 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) and added 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 19 playoff appearances before capturing the Kelly Cup.


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