In this week’s Toronto Maple Leafs prospect update, we catch up on Rodion Amirov, Nick Robertson, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Fillip Hallander, Pontus Holmberg, and more.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Josh Simpson and this is my first article here at MLHS. I had previously been posting weekly Maple Leafs prospect updates over on my substack profile, but I will now be writing those (along with other Leafs prospect content) here at MLHS.
Every Monday, I’m going to provide a recap of the last seven days in the world of Leafs prospects. I’ll keep you updated on every player from every league as best I can, sharing news/notes, stats, and observations along the way.
Without further ado, let’s get into the week’s update covering all of what happened from March 28th to April 4th.
MHL update: Amirov, Akhtyamov on the brink of elimination in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs
After KHL club Salavat Yulaev Ufa was swept in four games in the second round of the KHL playoffs, they assigned young winger Rodion Amirov, the Maple Leafs first-round pick in 2020, to their MHL affiliate, Tolpar Ufa.
For those of you who don’t know much about how the way Russian hockey works, the MHL is Russia’s top junior league. The league is filled with NHL Draft-eligible talent and some NHL drafted prospects every year, and it is common practice for young KHLers to be sent back down to the junior ranks once the big club’s season ends. This ensures that these young players are getting in as many games as possible while boosting the MHL club’s chances in the Kharlamov Cup playoffs.
Amirov and Tolpar Ufa find themselves in a 2-0 hole against Dynamo Moscow in the third round. Given that the Kharlamov Cup Playoffs play a best-of-five series instead of a best-of-seven, Amirov and his team are just one loss away from elimination.
As for how Amirov is doing individually, the winger has recorded two assists through two games in the series against Dynamo Moscow to go along with this shootout goal that he buried on Sunday morning:
— Dylan Griffing (@GriffingDylan) April 4, 2021
If Amirov and Tolpar Ufa do end up dropping the series to Dynamo Moscow, it’s looking more and more like we may see Amirov cross the pond and join the Leafs organization soon after.
Amirov’s KHL contract expires at the end of his season, and there have been rumblings out of Russia that the young winger desires to sign his entry-level contract with the Leafs as soon as possible. The latest rumour on this front surfaced on Thursday from Hockey Pravda, a Russian Hockey Publication. The link to their piece on Amirov’s status can be found here, but here is the Russian translation:
“Striker ‘Salavat Yulaev’ Rodion Amirov will go to the location of the NHL club ‘Toronto’, according to the telegram channel “Hockey Truth”. The forward will leave Ufa immediately after the end of the MHL playoffs, where he plays for Tolpar. Amirov’s contract ends on April 30, 2021.
This season, the 19-year-old hockey player has played 39 matches in the KHL regular season and scored 13 (9 + 4) points. He also played nine playoff games.”
This isn’t the first time that rumours like this have surfaced on Amirov out of Russia, and the fact that he has yet to extend with Ufa is pretty telling. It was rumoured that Amirov was offered a two-year deal to remain with the club a few months back, but obviously, he has not accepted it.
On the other side of the Kharlamov Cup Playoffs Bracket, G Artur Akhtyamov, another 2020 Maple Leafs draft pick out of Russia, also finds himself in a 2-0 hole. Irbis Kazan has dropped both games in the series so far against Loko Yaroslavl, including a 4-2 final on Sunday morning.
Akhtyamov has had decent series despite an 0-2 record. He’s faced 71 shots and has allowed six goals, giving him a .915 save percentage. For most goalies, that’s a pretty strong overall performance, but Akhtyamov has a .925 save percentage through 10 MHL playoff games and had a.935 save percentage in nine MHL regular-season games, so it’s a bit of a blip on the radar for him.
If both Tolpar Ufa and Irbis Kazan can muster up reverse sweeps, we would have an Amirov vs. Akhtyamov matchup with the Kharlamov Cup at stake, but that possibility seems pretty unlikely at this point.
Der-Arguchintsev, Robertson re-unite with Marlies
C Semyon Der-Arguchintsev completed his quarantine and LW Nick Robertson returned from an injury that kept him out of game action for around a month this week.
The duo that was so dangerous a year ago for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes has been re-united at the AHL level, and the early returns are pretty promising.
Der-Arguchintsev has played three games with the Marlies, and he’s got four assists already, starting his AHL career on a three-game point streak. He’s been given the role of second-line center and is getting reps on the power play, where his playmaking ability has really stood out.
On the play where he gathered his first AHL point, Der-Arguchintsev has the puck in his hip pocket, leaving him the option to either pass or shoot — creating deception and keeping potential options open. He’s also looking at the goalie, once again suggesting that he could shoot this puck. He then slides a perfect pass on the tape of Adam Brooks’ while in motion, and the Marlies score a power-play goal as a result:
Some pretty advanced playmaking here from the Marlies:
• Kossila incorporates angle change to complete pass through sticks while under pressure
• SDA (first AHL point) showcasing some deception (puck in hip pocket, eyes looking at net) #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/tlUJhRBf2O
— Josh Simpson (@joshsimpson77) March 29, 2021
Encouragingly, the young forward hasn’t struggled with the increased level of physicality in the American League so far despite his small stature. On another one of his assists, Der-Arguchintsev forced a turnover, shrugged off an opposing player, and slipped a pass to the aforementioned Nick Robertson, leading up to an absolute snipe from #89:
Robertson from SDA 👀 pic.twitter.com/NOfq5nsZFS
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) April 1, 2021
I still think needs to work on becoming more of a shooting threat. Der-Arguchintsev rarely shoots the puck, and if he wants to be an offensive player at the NHL level, he’s going to need to contribute some goals. Also, a heavier shot that the opposition needs to respect could open up more passing opportunities — the forward will be a little more unpredictable in his approach.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev does not believe in shooting the puck. pic.twitter.com/CCyYdAkWkf
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) March 31, 2021
Overall, though, I can’t complain about how he’s played for Toronto in the early goings, and the chemistry with Robertson is apparent at this level.
One more note on Robertson: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas hinted that a call-up (at least to the taxi squad) could be in the cards for him pretty soon in a recent interview with TSN, stating that he’s performed well with the Marlies and that he should challenge for a spot on the big club’s roster soon. He also noted that D Rasmus Sandin is coming back from injury soon and that he’ll also receive an NHL opportunity before too long.
On Robertson: "Has performed well for the Marlies … we expect to challenge for our roster." #Leafs
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) April 2, 2021
SHL Regular Season Ends, Playoffs Coming Up
The Swedish Hockey League wrapped up its regular season this week. As a result, the next games LW Filip Hallander and C Pontus Holmberg play will be SHL playoff contests.
Holmberg, who plays for the Vaxjo Lakers, has been progressing consistently since the Maple Leafs drafted him in the sixth round in 2018. He set career highs this year in goals (9), assists (14), points (23), and points per game (0.534) this season despite playing fewer games (45) than he did in either of his previous two seasons. He also finished in the top-10 in points per game this season among all U22 SHL players.
The versatile, hard-working forward can play center or the wing and in any situation. As long as he continues to progress, he’s probably going to be in consideration for an entry-level contract at the end of his SHL deal in the summer of 2022.
As far as the immediate future goes, Vaxjo topped the SHL standings with 102 points and will begin their playoffs on April 9th. Their opponent is TBD.
As for LW Filip Hallander, he put together a decent season, recording a career-high 13 goals. He finished with 24 points in 51 games while playing in Lulea HF’s top-six, scoring at the same rate he scored in his last full SHL season (2018-19). Hallander and Lulea begin their playoffs on April 11 against Skelleftea.
GM Kyle Dubas has mentioned in the past that Hallander, who is signed to an NHL contract, is expected to head overseas and join the organization as the conclusion of his SHL season.
Other News and Notes
- I launched “The Leafs Prospect Project” this week. What it is, for now, is a bunch of charts filled with microstats (zone exits/entries, shot locations, shot assist locations) that I’ve tracked for players in Toronto’s system this season. I’m going to continue to add more players and games as the season progresses. You can check it out here.
- F Denis Malgin plays his last regular-season game tomorrow in the National League, Switzerland’s top pro league. He and his club, HC Lausanne, have qualified for the postseason, but upon elimination, it is expected that Malgin will return to Toronto. He’s had a solid season, putting up 41 points in 44 games in a strong league.
- D Filip Kral is joining the Marlies following the end of his season in the Czech Republic, which I covered in last week’s update on my substack. After he undergoes quarantine protocols, he’ll be eligible to play AHL games.
- The Marlies dipped into the college free-agent market this week, inking D Brennan Kapcheck to a PTO + a two-year AHL contract. He is a 24-year-old RHD who posted 18 points in 19 NCAA games while captaining American International College. He’s quite undersized at 5’9, but the organization clearly likes him. They had him at two development camps in the past before eventually adding him to the organization on Friday.
- AHL contracted prospects D Sergei Sapego and RW Gordie Green made their AHL debuts on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. F Pavel Gogolev, who should be nearing the end of his quarantine (if not done already) is the only Marlies skater who hasn’t played a game for the team yet (aside from Kral and Kapcheck, who obviously were both just added to the roster and have to quarantine before they can play).
- The Liiga season ends in just 10 days. I’ll talk about this more in-depth in next week’s update as we get closer to the date, but there are quite a few Leafs prospect implications here. C Roni Hirvonen, D Mikko Kokkonen, D Axel Rindell, and D Eemeli Rasanen all look like they’re going to miss the playoffs, and the first two are both unsigned for next season. I wonder if either intends on signing with the Leafs soon.
- Speaking of Leafs prospects in the Liiga, on April 8th — this Thursday — it’ll have been seven weeks since D Topi Niemela was injured in a game against TPS Turku. The initial timeframe for his return was six-to-eight weeks. Assuming he’s progressed as expected, it’s probable he’s going to be back pretty soon — maybe even before the playoffs get underway.
- C Joe Miller, a sixth-round pick in 2020, had his first two-goal game in the USHL in Chicago’s playoff-clinching victory. They have an extremely well-run organization over there, and they look like a contender to win it all this year (which is no different from any other year for them, really). Here’s a clip of Miller’s second of the night – nice shot!
— Josh Simpson (@joshsimpson77) April 4, 2021
List of Eliminated Prospects
As the season winds down, I’m going to include a list of the Leafs prospects who’ve had their seasons come to an end at the end of these articles from now on, so you can keep track of who and who isn’t still playing.
Eliminated/Out For Season:
- F Nick Abruzzese – NCAA
- F Ryan Tverberg – NCAA
- F Alex Steeves – NCAA
- D Mike Koster – NCAA
- D JD Greenway – NCAA
- D Ryan O’Connell – NCAA
- F Dmitri Ovchinnikov – KHL/MHL
- F Semyon Kizimov – KHL/VHL
- F Vladislav Kara – KHL/VHL
- F Vladimir Bobylyov – KHL/VHL
- F Nikolai Chebykin – VHL
That’s all for this week, folks! Thanks a lot for reading. Make sure to check back next week for another update! For real-time updates on what’s going on with Leafs prospects, you can follow me on Twitter at @joshsimpson77.