Kasperi Kapanen is ready to make an impact at the NHL level
Welcome to the 1st edition of the Future of the Six Prospect Rankings. Now I believe you can divide most prospect rankings on the internet into two categories: those who heavily favor the older, more proven guys and those who heavily favor the flashy young guys with potential. With my rankings, I like to think that I find the happy medium between these two schools of thought. With my first set of rankings, I decided to rank the top 20 guys because that’s when I believe the rankings have the most meaning. Once you get it to the 20s, there’s not much difference between the 22nd best prospect and the 28th best prospect in the organization.
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Honestly, this was probably the easiest choice I have made all day. Kasperi Kapanen is already a very solid professional hockey player with 42 points in 42 GP with the Marlies this season. Great offensive skills, sound defensive ability, the guy is pretty much a lock to be an NHL player. He probably would have gotten some games with the big club earlier this season if not for the injury he suffered in January that set him back 7 weeks. I honestly believe that he should be up with the Leafs right now, but he should be a full-time, valuable player with big club next season, maybe he could even contend for a Calder if given the right opportunities.
Dermott at #2 may be controversial for some, but I think he is clearly the #2 prospect in the organization. For a young guy, he is very solid defensive player who has high hockey IQ which is always great to see in your young, developing defenseman. Not the biggest player, but he does not shy away from the physical game. Offensively, he’s doing fantastic at the AHL level with 20 points in 42 games (0.48 PTS/G). He’s scoring at a similar rate as other prospects such as Travis Sanheim and Madison Bowey, and is scoring at a higher rate than prospects such as Oliver Kylington and Hayden Fleury. With his offensive game transferring over to the professional level, there’s a lot for Leafs fans to be excited about.
Carl Grundstrom is the type of guy that Mike Babcock will love. He’s a hard-nosed, in-your-face player who can also chip in offensively. I was shocked when he fell to 57th overall in the 2016 Draft as I had him pegged as an early 2nd round pick who could possibly sneak into the late 1st round. It’s not often that you can draft a guy who is a safe bet to become an NHLer in the late 2nd. He has had a very solid year playing professionally in the SHL, putting up 12 goals and 6 assists in 42 games. He leads all U20 players in the SHL in goals. Down the road, I could see him replacing Zach Hyman on Auston Matthews left side.
Andrew Nielsen is a guy whose potential is sky high. He put up 24 points in 59 games for Lethbridge in his draft year then went on to put up 71 points in 70 games for them in his post-draft year. He has been able to carry that offensive success over to the professional level putting up 33 points in 55 games with the Marlies as a 20 year-old. He’s tied for 7th in AHL defenseman scoring. His offensive ability is undoubtedly the premier aspect of his game, however, there is concern that his defensive ability and skating mechanics will hold him back from becoming a solid NHL defenseman. All of these are aspects of his game that can be fixed, but only time will tell when it comes to his skating. He is somewhat of a risky prospect, but his potential is very high, maybe has the highest ceiling out of any prospect in the organization.
Many questioned this pick when it happened because Korshkov was an overager who was not supposed to go until the middle rounds, but it turned out to be a pretty solid pick. He has showed off some of his offensive game in the KHL putting up 19 points in 36 games this season. His season hit a bump in the road when he broke his leg, but he has returned to Lokomotiv for the KHL Playoffs. The big Russian is a very intriguing prospect, it will be very interesting to see if he could continue to elevate his game in the KHL next season.
Brendan Leipsic has been putting up very good numbers at the AHL level for the past couple of years. His numbers with the Marlies this season have been very impressive with 38 points in 34 games. He turns 23 this May and the question is when the Leafs will give the guy a chance to prove himself in the NHL. He got a couple games in the NHL last season and was not horrible putting up 3 points in 6 games. I would like to see him get another call-up when he returns from his injury. In my mind, he’s an ideal bottom 6 guy. He’s small, but he’s a pest who is able to chip in offensively, similar to Brendan Gallagher. Definitely a guy you want to have on your side.
Andreas Johnsson is a smaller player who is known for his offensive ability. He put up very big numbers for a young, late round pick over in Sweden and came over to North America for this season. Like most guys on the Marlies, he has been improving as the season went on, putting up 16 points in his last 16 games. He might not be as hyped up as he was back in 2014, but I still think he has the ability to provide some scoring depth at the NHL level.
Frederik Gauthier is one player who is difficult to place in prospect rankings. Sure, the Goat has some NHL experience playing 21 games with the Leafs this season, but he really is not that exciting of a player. He’s just a big center who is more known for his defense than his offense. Since he played a quarter of a season in the NHL and was not a liability, I will award him with the 8th spot. However, he will always be known as a bad 1st round draft pick when guys like Andre Burakovsky and Shea Theodore were still on the board.
Dmytro Timashov was not very impressive at the start of the season with the Marlies, but he has really turned it on as of late. He had just 7 points in his first 34 games and then went on to put up 15 points in his last 16 games with Leipsic and Kapanen out of the lineup. He is very talented offensively and has great creativity, definitely a fun player to watch. I was beginning to doubt his ability as a prospect, but his recent hot streak has made me a believer and has moved him ahead of Bracco in my rankings.
This may be a very unpopular pick amongst some Leafs fans, but I am not as high on Jeremy Bracco as others. I love his skating ability and his offensive ability, but he has been struggling to put up points since his trade to the Spitfires with only 19 in 22 games. A guy who relies on his offensive ability as much as he does needs to be putting up bigger numbers at the OHL level, I thought he would be dominating. However, there’s still some hope that Bracco can be an NHLer, he’ll just need to prove it when he gets a shot with the Marlies.
Joseph Woll was off to a great start with Boston College, but the Eagles have been pretty horrible as of late. This has caused Woll’s numbers to drop, but he’s still having a very solid freshman campaign. He is always a beast in net for USA during international competition, was very solid at the WJC this season. He definitely has the talent to become the Leafs goalie of the future, but is still very young.
Sometimes I forget that Kerby Rychel is even in the Leafs system. He’s been having a solid year in the AHL with 38 points in 55 games, but the clock is ticking on him. The 22 year-old former Blue Jacket 1st round pick does not look like he will be able to live up to the expectations, but maybe he can develop into a bottom 6 guy at the NHL level.
Adam Brooks has been dominant in the WHL, posting back to back 100-point seasons for the Regina Pats. He has all the tools offensively, but is not really elite in any one category. Maybe he’s just putting up big numbers because he’s an overager or maybe he is just having a late resurgence like Connor Brown. He is one of the players I’m most interested in seeing with the Marlies next season. If he’s able to put up solid numbers in the AHL, he will shoot up these rankings. However, right now he’s a little difficult to rank due to his age and level of competition. The Prairie Jesus is definitely an intriguing prospect.
Players like Nikita Korostelev are the reason I always like when teams draft highly skilled Russian players in the 7th round. He has blossomed in the OHL this season, especially after his trade to Peterborough. He is a guy who is capable of scoring highlight reel goals on a nightly basis, that’s just the type of player he is. His game still has long way to go to make it in the NHL, but I am just in love with his offensive creativity.
Jesper Lindgren was a 4th round pick in 2015 who has taken a big step forward in the Allsvenskan this season with 24 points in 50 games, tied for the 6th most points for a defenseman in the league. He is a defenseman whose game is very offense oriented, his puck skills and high hockey IQ give him great potential, but he still has a long way to go. It’s never a bad thing to have Swedish offensive defensemen in your system.
Rinat Valiev has seen a drop off in his numbers in the AHL this season (0.38 to 0.26 PTS/G), but he’s the only defensive prospect who has seen NHL action, seeing 10 games with the Leafs last year. He’s still young as he turns 22 this May, but the time is running out for him to make an impression if his offensive game does not come along.
Trevor Moore put up great numbers at Denver University on the Pacific Rim Line with Danton Heinen and Dylan Gambrell. He impressed the Leafs enough to sign him to a 3-year, two-way ELC this summer. He has been very good for the Marlies, putting up 26 points in 40 games in his first pro season. He has high hockey IQ and is a great passer, it will be interesting to see if he can continue to progress.
The Latvian is a smaller, high energy player who is a fantastic skater. He would be higher on this list, but he has not been producing at the same rate as he was last season with Rouyn-Noranda in the Q. He is definitely a very entertaining player to watch, I would just like to see more production from him at the junior level.
The big 2014 5th round pick on Ohio State is usually forgotten about by Leafs fans, but he is one of my favorite Leafs prospects. He is a power guy with great hands that allow him to finish around the net or find the open man. He went from a 0.59 PTS/G player last year to 1.07 PTS/G this year. That increased production is great to see from the big man who continues to improve his offensive game.
JD, the brother of Jordan Greenway, is an absolute monster at 6’4” and 205 lbs. He is currently a freshman at Wisconsin and has struggled to produce much offense only putting up 7 points. But his size will allow him to develop into a big, bruising defenseman at the professional level. It’s not like he’s void of offense either, he has some sneaky offensive talent that he shows off from time to time. The NCAA path is perfect for him as he continues to develop and add strength, this guy could be something down the road.