Last year the Leafs had a massive influx of rookie talent that had a profound positive impact on the roster, but at the same time depleted the reserves significantly as well. That being said the cupboards are far from empty and the Leafs Management team has done an admirable job of feeding the beast this off-season via the draft and free agency. For more on the draft additions see the July 31-in-31
Gone via free agency are Antoine Bibeau, Andrew Campbell, Seth Griffith, Sergei Kalinin, Alex Marchenko, and Steve Oleksy. Toronto also failed to make qualifying offers to prospects Stephen Desrocher and Nikita Korostelev and lose their rights. The Leafs lost a significant prospect in Brendan Leipsic to the expansion draft; Leipsic was no longer waiver exempt and likely would have been lost to waivers anyway.
The signing of veteran Patrick Marleau up front eats up a roster space in the top six limiting opportunity for prospects. The Leafs also addressed their blueline depth by signing a pair of promising Swedish defensemen in Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman. Another key free agent signing from Europe is Finnish forward Miro Aaltonen.
The competition for NHL jobs will be intense as there are very few positions open. Dominic Moore will replace Boyle as the fourth line center and Ron Hainsey will slide in for Matt Hunwick. Roman Polak remains unsigned leaving an opportunity on defense which should be contested for by Borgman and Rosen, who likely share time between the Leafs and Marlies. Look for Aaltonen to see some NHL duty as well, the 24-year-old is NHL ready now and may just need a short AHL adjustment stint before he sees time with the Leafs.
Turning pro this year will be impact junior players Jeremy Bracco Martins Dzierkals, and Adam Brooks who will replace the offense on the Marlies lost by Leipsic. J.J. Piccinich will also debut with the Marlies after playing his overage season as Captain of the London Knights.
Prospects Trending Up
Jeremy Bracco is surging up the Leafs depth chart. The dynamic offensive winger had a monster final year in junior. He began with a 26 game scoring streak in which he posted 51 points. He picked up a World Junior Gold Medal in January and then capped the season off with a Memorial Cup Championship. Bracco will make the jump to the AHL this year after getting a Lou approved haircut and signing his ELC.
Travis Dermott had an impressive rookie pro season for the Marlies in the AHL and by seasons end was their top defenseman. The addition of the Swedish free agents take off the pressure for him to be rushed into the NHL and he should get another year as the Marlies top defenseman playing top minutes in all situations and build his confidence sky high.
Andreas Johnsson (formerly known as Johnson) apparently adding the extra “s” really improved his game as he found his stride with the Marlies mid-season and became an impact top six offensive forward. His six playoff goals served notice he should be the winger recalled if there is an injury to one of the Leafs top six.
Adam Brooks was drafted as an overage player by the Leafs in 2016 and played his OA season in the WHL with Regina where as a 20-year-old he posted an eye-popping 130 points in 66 games for 1.97 points per game. The undersized forward will have to show he can translate that to the pro level, but it is hard to ignore numbers like that!
Prospects Trending Down
Kerby Rychel managed 19 goals and 52 points in 73 games, not bad right? The 23-year-old struggled with consistency and his compete level tended to disappear for stretches. His foot speed isn’t NHL quality and his acceleration isn’t even AHL quality. His NHL future is doubtful at best.
Tobias Lindberg was considered an important prospect acquired in the Dion Phaneuf deal. His role on the Marlies was limited and he was held to just six goals and 16 points in 44 games as he struggled with the pace of the AHL.
Vladimir Bobylev started last year playing pro in the KHL but struggled and was sent down to the MHL. Shortly after that he decided to come back to North America to the Victoria Royals where he finished the year well with 36 points in 38 games. Bobylev will be playing for the Royals again this year as he returns for his overage season.
Prospects Depth Chart
Top Ten Prospects
1. Timothy Liljegren, D Rogle (SHL). The Leafs first round pick was a lottery pick a year before the draft for a reason. He suffered a miserable draft year and fell to Toronto with the 17th overall pick. He has number one defenseman potential.
2. Kasperi Kapanen, RW Toronto (AHL). Kapanen saw time with the Leafs last season and in the playoffs and looked like he belonged. He is NHL ready, but the numbers game is working against him.
3. Jeremy Bracco, RW Windsor (OHL). The Leafs best offensive prospect could make their dynamic trio of young star forwards a quad, he is that good.
4. Andreas Johnsson, LW Toronto (AHL). A strong second half last season and playoff make Johnsson a likely candidate for promotion to the NHL at some point this season
5. Carl Grundstrom, LW Frolunda (SHL). A strong debut in the SHL lead to his debut in Toronto for a playoff run with the Marlies where he had four points in six games. Loaned back to Frolunda for the coming season, but all signs point to an impact player.
6. Miro Aaltonen, C Vityaz (KHL). The 24-year-old Fin scored 44 points in 59 games in the KHL last year and the Leafs are thin in center depth so don’t rule out the possibility of significant NHL time this season.
7. Joseph Woll, G Boston College (NCAA). The Leafs future starting goalie had an impressive freshman season at BC and got into two games for USA at the WJC where he won the Gold. There will be some wait time on Woll, but he will be well worth the wait.
8. Travis Dermott, D Toronto (AHL). Dermott showed steady progression in his first year in the AHL and by seasons end he was clearly the Marlies top defenseman surpassing the likes of Rinat Valiev and Andrew Nielsen. The Leafs will be patient with his development as he is trending in the right direction.
9. Andreas Borgman, D HV71 (SHL). The 22-year-old left shot defenseman will compete with Calle Rosen for the sixth defenseman job with the Leafs
10. Calle Rosen, D Vaxjo (SHL) The 23-year-old will compete with Andreas Borgman for NHL time. Expect both to get good looks in the NHL, and significant time in the AHL