A ton of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect news has surfaced over the past seven days, both in North America and overseas.
Let’s start with an older prospect who is rejoining the organization.
Denis Malgin returns to Toronto
We have some news regarding the immediate future of F Denis Malgin courtesy of the outlet Swiss Hockey News.
According to a recent report, Malgin is currently in Toronto, presumably undergoing his mandatory quarantine before reporting to the Marlies. He was added to the Marlies roster on Sunday, per the AHL transactions log.
The same article also shares the information that Sven Leuenberger, who runs the Zurich Lions in the National League, has been in contact with Malgin. Given the nature of the quote, it is safe to assume that the Lions have interest in acquiring Malgin’s services.
Malgin was part of the Lions’ organization as a junior player — he was even teammates with a young, draft-eligible Auston Matthews back in 2015-16.
“He is currently in Toronto. But yes, I am also in contact with him. He is, after all, a former junior player of ours,” Sven Leuenberger tells the Tages-Anzeiger when asked whether Malgin would be an option for the ZSC Lions.
If Pius Suter stays in North America next season, the Lions will definitely play with five import players, unless they are able to acquire another top Swiss player – like Denis Malgin.”
Because Malgin is currently in Toronto, it seems as though priority number one for him is to attempt to remain in the NHL for the foreseeable future. However, the Leafs are deep up front, and if Malgin can’t find a home on the Leafs‘ roster (or any NHL roster) next season, it makes sense for him to keep the door open to a possible return to Switzerland, where he can play in a strong league in his home country. I imagine that this would be a better alternative for him as opposed to playing in the AHL full-time next season.
I’m still a believer in Malgin’s NHL potential. He’s been a fine depth player over the course of his young career, and one could definitely make the argument that he was rushed to the NHL in 2016 — after all, he cracked the Panthers’ lineup just two seasons after being selected in the fourth round.
Malgin has been playing professional hockey full-time since he turned 18. Aside from a few very short AHL stints in 2016-17 and 2017-18, he has never really had a chance to play top-line minutes. I could imagine that would hinder a player’s development — spending most of your time focusing on just trying to hang in there and keep your spot in the lineup.
Maybe getting the chance to play a full season while playing big minutes for a good team in 2020-21 is exactly what he needs.
Artur Akhtyamov re-signs with Ak Bars
G Artur Akhtyamov, a fourth-round pick out of Russia in 2020, has re-signed in the KHL with Ak Bars Kazan. The contract is a two-year pact.
Artur Akhtyamov has extended his KHL contract until the end of 2022/23. #LeafsForever
— Russian Prospects (@RUSProspects) May 1, 2021
Akhtyamov split time between all three major levels of Russian hockey this past season — the MHL (junior league), VHL (second-tier pro), and KHL (big league).
As of right now, the door is open for Akhtyamov to potentially become the backup netminder for the KHL club next season. G Adam Reideborn, who was one of Bars’ goalies this season, is testing KHL free agency and will not return to the organization.
We learned today that G Amir Miftakhov, a Tampa Bay draft pick who was also in Bars’ system, has signed with the Lightning and is likely to cross the pond over to North America next season. Miftakhov was the team’s #3 goalie last season.
It is possible that Ak Bars goes out and grabs another goalie between now and the start of the season, but at the very least, it seems like Akhtyamov will have some more responsibility next year, whether that is a bigger role in the VHL or a backup role in the KHL.
Filip Hallander scores in his first game with the Swedish National Team
Filip Hallander is playing for the Swedish National Team right now, as I mentioned in last week’s post. In his first and only game so far with them, he suited up on the top line:
— Josh Simpson (@joshsimpson77) April 28, 2021
Hallander performed well in the game, tallying this goal as well as an assist:
— Anton (@antonj85) April 28, 2021
If Hallander keeps performing like this, he’ll undoubtedly crack the final World Championships roster.
Mikhail Abramov scores series-winner
F Mikhail Abramov and the Victoriaville Tigres are through to the second round of the QMJHL playoffs after sweeping the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies thanks in no small part to Abramov himself.
The Leafs prospect tallied an astounding eight points in just three games, including the series-clinching overtime winner in Game 3:
— Josh Simpson (@joshsimpson77) April 27, 2021
Abramov and the Tigres are currently waiting to find out the identity of their next opponent.
Pontus Holmberg advances to round three, scores GWG in series opener
F Pontus Holmberg and the Vaxjo Lakers eliminated Orebro in Game 5 on Thursday, moving on to the third round. Holmberg was held pointless in the series-clinching 3-1 win.
He was not, however, held pointless in the opening game of the first round against Rogle BK, as the 2018 sixth-round draft choice tallied a goal in the latter half of the third period:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Pontus Holmberg scores AGAIN in the #SHL playoffs!!
— Josh Simpson (@joshsimpson77) May 1, 2021
The goal held up as the game-winner, giving Holmberg an impressive eight points in 10 SHL playoff games. He and his linemates Frederik Karlstrom and Marcus Sylvegard have been integral parts in what has been an exciting playoff run for the Lakers thus far. They’re all young players, but they play really solid hockey as a reliable checking line.
Four prospects make AHL debuts with Marlies
Four prospects debuted for the Toronto Marlies this weekend.
On Saturday, the AHL contracted F Pavel Gogolev finally made his first AHL appearance in the Marlies‘ return to the ice. You have to feel for Gogolev — the poor guy has had to sit through two quarantines already since joining the Marlies organization and hadn’t gotten to play a single game for them all season.
The winger was on the third line for the Marlies with Tyler Gaudet and Gordie Green and also featured on the second power-play unit. He went pointless, but overall, he showed pretty well:
#Marlies head coach, Greg Moore on Pavel Gogolev:
"For a first look at this level, in this league, he should feel really good about his effort and what he was able to do today."
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) May 1, 2021
Gogolev actually came close to scoring an important goal in his debut, ringing a shot off the iron in the third period:
Pavel Gogolev puts one off the post. pic.twitter.com/T5fsKU421R
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) May 1, 2021
On Sunday, three additional prospects made their AHL debuts for Toronto.
G Veini Vehvilainen finally made his first start with the Leafs organization. Acquired in exchange for D Mikko Lehtonen a couple of months ago, the 24-year-old has been mostly with the Leafs on their taxi squad thanks to multiple injuries in the Leafs’ crease.
The Finnish goaltender ended up allowing four goals on 28 shots, but he was forced to make a couple of big saves, including this one:
Veini Vehviläinen with a big save after Martin Marincin gives the puck away in front. pic.twitter.com/fHtqO3RLvZ
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) May 2, 2021
A pair of blue liners, D Mikko Kokkonen and D Brennan Kapcheck, made their Marlies debuts on Sunday as well. Kokkonen, a third-round pick of Toronto’s in 2019, lined up on the team’s top pair with Martin Marincin to his right. Kapcheck, who signed an AHL contract with the Marlies after his collegiate career came to an end this season played to the right of Calle Rosen on the second pair.
Kokkonen got off to a rocky start to the game, but he improved as the afternoon progressed:
Marlies head coach Greg Moore on Kokkonen's AHL debut: "His presence on the ice is really strong…you could tell he has the vision on the ice. It won't take long for him to adjust." https://t.co/1HeJp0d9O5
— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) May 2, 2021
I’m interested to see how Kokkonen develops with the Marlies over their last stretch of games here. He’s got the potential to be a solid depth depender in the future, but his skating needs work.
Ian Scott, Riley McCourt loaned to Wichita Thunder (ECHL)
In other Marlies-related news, the team loaned G Ian Scott, who was a fourth-rounder in 2017, and D Riley McCourt to the Wichita Thunder in the ECHL.
The Leafs/Marlies appear to be using Wichita almost as their own ECHL affiliate with the Growlers not playing this season. If you recall, all of Bobby McMann, Noel Hoefenmayer, Gordie Green, and Jeremy McKenna started their seasons on loan with Wichita while the Marlies waited for the approval of the provincial government to begin play.
The bottom line is that Scott needs ice time. He missed the whole season last season and the first half of this season due to injuries. As a result, he’s only played one game all season.
The Marlies are also crowded in the crease — they’ll want G Joseph Woll and Vehvilainen to get the bulk of the ice time from here on out, and they still have Andrew D’Agostini and Angus Redmond around for insurance. Sending Scott to the ECHL will allow him to get more games in before the end of the season.
In McCourt’s case, the Marlies are just so crowded on the backend. They had a lot of bodies even before the additions of Kral, Kokkonen, and Kapcheck. Now that they’re all ready to play, there is even less ice time available for McCourt (and others). By loaning McCourt out, he’ll get to play more consistently and the Marlies will have one less body to worry about.
Scott and McCourt made appearances for Wichita on Sunday, with Scott serving as the backup goalie and McCourt as the 7th D:
Tonight's projected Thunder lines 👇 pic.twitter.com/K3rANHV02j
— Wichita Thunder (@Wichita_Thunder) May 2, 2021
Other News and Notes
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) May 1, 2021
- I wanted to start off this part of the article by highlighting that ridiculous goal by D Joseph Duszak. Yes, you read that right — he is a defenseman! I’ve really enjoyed watching him play this year.
- I thought D Timothy Liljegren looked great in his NHL season debut. He really defended the rush quite well, killing play after play in the neutral zone. He’s going to play on the second pairing with Jake Muzzin in Toronto’s next game, which will be lots of fun to watch
- I wonder if the Marlies loan out anybody else before the season ends. They still have lots of bodies. D Sergei Sapego has played just two games all season — why not give him a chance to play elsewhere?
- C Joe Miller and his Chicago Steel are up 2-0 in their first-round playoff series in the USHL.
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 Rodion Amirov – KHL/VHL/MHL
- 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 Topi Niemela – Liiga
- D Eemeli Rasanen – Liiga
- D Kalle Loponen – Jr. A SM Liiga
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Check back next Monday for another Leafs prospect update.