A few Maple Leafs prospects enjoyed very productive weeks, while one key prospect finally returned to the lineup after a long-term injury.

Today’s edition of my Leafs Prospect Updates post covers all that happened from April 12th to April 18th.

Let’s get into it!

Niemela Finally Returns From Injury

D Topi Niemela, Toronto’s third-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, finally returned to the lineup for Karpat in the SM-Liiga on Tuesday. The defender missed exactly two months of game action after sustaining an injury in a game on February 18th.

The defender skated just 10:46 in his return, but it is important to remember that this was his first game back after a long layoff, and it was a playoff game. Karpat couldn’t really afford to have a potentially rusty Niemela playing big minutes.

Karpat went on to win the wildcard round-clinching game 3-1 over Vasaan Sport and will begin their next playoff series against IFK Helsinki on Monday, April 19th.

Villeneuve Heating Up

2020 fourth-round pick, D William Villeneuve, put together a tremendously productive week for the St. John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL with a goal and four assists in three games. Here was his goal — a nice snipe on the power play after drifting towards the net to improve his shooting location:

Highlighting his week was a three-assist performance against the Acadie Bathurst Titan. You can see all three of his helpers here:

The 19-year-old defender, who scored at nearly a point-per-game clip as a draft-eligible last season, was off to a bit of a slow start to his offensively, so it’s encouraging to see him start to heat up and add to his point totals.

The Beat Goes On For Pontus Holmberg

What a playoff it’s been for 2018 sixth-rounder C Pontus Holmberg.

I made mention of his hot start to the postseason in last week’s update. He responded by scoring a goal and two assists in the series-clincher on Wednesday as Vaxjo swept Farjestad 4-0.

On his first point of the afternoon, Holmberg let go a blast from the point on the power play:

His third point of the game was the most important, though — an assist on the overtime-winner that put Vaxjo through to the second round:

That goal was the second time Stars prospect Fredrik Karlstrom and the aforementioned Holmberg hooked up on an overtime winner in the series.

In going back over Holmberg’s shifts, I was impressed with the play of the Leafs prospect and his line with Karlstrom and Marcus Sylvegard. They combined to make quite an effective checking line for Vaxjo. Their ability to forecheck, defend, and cycle the puck down low has been responsible for much of their offensive output and overall effectiveness.

I really think the Leafs might have an effective depth player in the future with Holmberg. His versatility, speed, puck protection, relentless forechecking, and aggressive on-puck defending make him a useful player who can play in any situation. He’s got enough skill, too. I envision him as a depth center/winger who drives puck possession and posts strong defensive results.

Malgin Injured in NL Playoffs

Everything was looking up for F Denis Malgin during Game 1 of the NL playoffs.

Not only did he pick up an assist on Lausanne’s first goal of the playoffs — a blast from the top of the circle by former Habs F Charles Hudon — he also went on to score a beautiful goal to win the game in overtime:

Then, Game 2 happened. Lausanne fell 5-0 and also lost Malgin after the Leafs prospect(?) was on the receiving end of a big hit:

You can see in that clip that the ZSC Lions player’s shoulder makes direct contact with the helmet of Malgin, who proceeded to grab his head immediately after he hit the ground.

Malgin left the game and did not suit up for Game 3 — another shutout loss for Lausanne, who dropped the game 3-0.

The good news is that, according to Swiss Hockey News, Malgin skated on Sunday and could return on Monday:

“Denis Malgin was part of Lausanne HC‘s optional morning skate today. After missing last night versus the ZSC Lions, the 24-year-old may be back for Monday’s Game 4 of the series”

Hopefully, Malgin is healthy and returns from injury when he is ready and it is safe to do so.

Given Lausanne is currently down 2-1 in their series, Leafs fans should keep an eye on this series. If Lausanne is eliminated, Malgin will cross the pond and rejoin the Leafs organization soon.

Other News and Notes

  • As I’m sure you know by now, the Leafs signed F Rodion Amirov to his entry-level contract and the Marlies signed D Mikko Kokkonen to an ATO this week. I did not cover that in this article as I already wrote about it here.
  • LW Filip Hallander has been held pointless in his last three SHL playoff contests, but he and his club are one victory away from advancing to round two past Par Lindholm, Petter Grandberg, and Skelleftea AIK.
  • The Liiga regular season is over. That means Kokkonen, D Eemeli Rasanen, D Axel Rindell, and F Roni Hirvonen‘s seasons are over. Rindell and Rasanen have contracts in the Liiga for next season, as does Kokkonen, who we know is coming over to join the Marlies. There is no update yet on F Roni Hirvonen’s situation. The 2020 second-round pick doesn’t have a contract anywhere for next season.
  • D Rasmus Sandin and D Timothy Liljegren were recently called up to the Maple Leafs. They’re skating with the NHL club right now while the Marlies are on a COVID-19-induced pause.

Eliminated/Out For Season: 

  • F Nick Abruzzese – NCAA
  • F Veeti Miettinen – 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
  • G Artur Akhtyamov – VHL/MHL
  • F Fabrice Herzog – NL
  • F Roni Hirvonen – Liiga
  • D Axel Rindell – Liiga
  • D Eemeli Rasanen – Liiga
  • D Kalle Loponen – Jr. A SM Liiga

That’s all for this week. As always, thanks for reading, and check back next Monday for another Leafs prospect update!