According to the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox, the Leafs are expected to sign 24 year old forward prospect Leo Komarov to an entry-level contract at some point in the near future. The Maple Leafs hold Komarov’s NHL rights as a 6th round selection, 180th overall back in 2006. Komarov was born in Estonia, but grew up playing hockey in Finland where currently holds a duel-citizenship along with Russia. He has spent the last two years playing in the KHL, earning himself an all-star appearance this past season. In 52 games played for OHK Dynamo Moskva, he recorded 14 goals and 12 assists, in addition to 70 penalty minutes. Komarov also impressed during a brief playoff run, scoring 4 times and adding 2 helpers in just 6 games.
Drawing comparisons to the likes of Jarkko Ruutu or Steve Ott, Komarov is described as a classic hockey pest who plays with a great deal of tenacity, heart and energy. He is a hitting machine who covers a lot ice very quickly and finishes all his checks with force. Standing at roughly 5’11 200 lbs, Komarov is not a big guy but he is an excellent skater whose uptempo style of play can be a strong asset on the forecheck.Â Komarov is a particularly effective player in open ice, taking away time and space with good positional instincts combined with remarkable speed and an active stick. He also engages well along the boards in the offensive zone and shows a willingness to drive to the net with the puck.
Komarov has played a little bit of centre, but is likely a better fit playing the wing. While the young Estonian doesn’t quite have the hands of a top six forward, he possesses a decent shot and can be counted on to chip in offensively every now and then. Komarov’s greatest strength is the ability to absolutely infuriate his opponents by playing hard and tight, chirping all game long, and occasionally pushing the limits of dirty play. During his time in the Finnish SM-Liiga, he was named the league’s “Most Hated Player” three times. However, Komarov antics can also frustrate his own coaches and teammates by losing his temper and taking unnecessary or ill-advised penalties.
At 24 years of age, with an NHL ready body and two years of experience playing against men in the KHL, it won’t take long for Komarov to see some NHL action on the team’s 4th line. He may challenge for a checking role in September, but if sent to the Marlies, he should be ready for an injury call-up to the big club as early as midseason next year. In time, Komarov could develop into an effective bottom six agitator.
It’s also interesting to note that this is yet another John Ferguson Jr. draft pick that appears poised to one day wear a Toronto Maple Leafs‘ sweater. Even just from the 2006 and 2007 drafts, Fergson’s regime has produced NHL’ers Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Carl Gunnarsson, Jiri Tlusty and Viktor Stalberg, with prospects Matt Frattin, Juraj Mikus, Korbinian Holzer, and Leo Komarov not far behind. Say what you want about him, but the man can really draft.