Pontus Holmberg, 2021 SHL champion, Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: idrottensaffarer.se

Most Leafs prospects have finished their seasons with their respective club teams, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t news to cover.

Let’s get right into what happened over the past week.

Pontus Holmberg crowned SHL champion and Playoff MVP

If you’ve been keeping up with these Leafs prospect updates, you’re well aware by now that 2018 sixth-round pick C Pontus Holmberg was having a breakout playoff in the Swedish Hockey League.

On Monday, Holmberg and his Vaxjo Lakers took on Rogle BK in the fourth game of the SHL Finals. Vaxjo went into this game with a 3-1 series lead.

The Lakers were down 1-0 late in the first and in need of a response in order to spark a potential comeback. That spark came from none other than their leading scorer, Pontus Holmberg, off of a powerful move to the net while on the man advantage:

The second-period marker was the start of a rally for Vaxjo, as Stars draft pick Frederik Karlstrom and Hurricanes second-rounder Jack Drury each scored to put Vaxjo ahead by two in the third period. After Rogle pulled their goalie, Holmberg found the score sheet once more, this time notching a primary assist on Marcus Sylvegard’s tally:

Holmberg wasn’t done there. In the dying minutes of the game, he was able to pad his stats, adding his second goal of the afternoon to make it 6-1:

Vaxjo won the game in dominating fashion, and Holmberg finished the playoffs averaging a point per game having led the entire league on goals, assists, and points.

Holmberg was named the Most Valuable Player of the SHL Playoffs — rightfully so — and was awarded the Stefan Liv Memorial trophy, the SHL’s version of the Conne Smythe:

This is even more impressive when one considers the type of player that Holmberg is — Pontus has never been a point-producing offensive style of player but more of a trustworthy two-way forward who can play in any situation.

It was an incredibly impressive run for Holmberg, who looks like he just might be another late-round Swedish gem for Toronto. His season isn’t over yet, either, as we will get to in the next section.

Five Leafs Prospects Headed to World Championships in Latvia

Five Leafs prospects will continue their season as they will all compete for their country in Latvia at this year’s IIHF World Championships. Let’s go through each one.

Team Sweden – LW Filip Hallander & Pontus Holmberg

Team Sweden announced their roster on Sunday morning, and both LW Filip Hallander and the aforementioned Holmberg made the cut. Here’s a look at their entire roster:

Hallander, who was acquired by the Maple Leafs in the Kasperi Kapanen trade, has been playing in a tune-up tournament called the Carlson Games. He’s played well for Sweden with a few points to his name over the past week.

In Sweden’s game against Russia on Wednesday, Hallander put home a loose puck in front of the net to cut Russia’s lead to two:

His goal on Saturday was much prettier — Hallander went end-to-end and sniped one home to make it 2-1:

It is unclear what kind of role Hallander or Holmberg will play for Sweden at the tournament, but given that there are not many NHL players on the team, they could find themselves playing important roles — at least, more important than they would have been in a normal season where more NHLers elect to participate.

Team Finland – Axel Rindell

D Axel Rindell, who the Leafs drafted late in the 2020 draft as an overager, will represent Team Finland at the World Championships.

The offensive defender has also been playing at the Carlson Games as of late, where has been able to find the back of the net for the Finns on multiple occasions.

Both of his goals can be found in this thread:

I’ve always been intrigued by Rindell’s offensive game, and his production at the Liiga level is nothing to scoff at. He’s a flawed player, but he’s fun to watch.

Team Latvia – Kristians Rubins

D Kristians Rubins was loaned to Team Latvia after Wednesday’s Marlies game. He dropped an amazing quote before departure, according to Marlies reporter Nick Barden:

A few days later, Rubins suited up for a tune-up game against Switzerland, logging just over 17 minutes in a 2-1 loss.

The Marlies do have games remaining on their schedule, but the team has a crowded blue anyway. It’ll be a very cool experience for the young blue liner to represent his home country on home ice.

Team Switzerland – Fabrice Herzog

F Fabrice Herzog, who the Leafs drafted all the way back in 2014, is competing for the Swiss at the World Championships. He may not be of typical prospect age at 26 years old, but he is coming off a breakout season in Switzerland and remains on Toronto’s reserve list.

Herzog recently played in three tune-up games for Switzerland, recording one assist in those appearances.

Pavel Gogolev can’t stop scoring

F Pavel Gogolev, who the Marlies signed to a two-year AHL contract this season, is making a case to be the next AHL contracted prospect to earn an NHL deal. The winger is scorching hot through 10 AHL games, with five goals and five assists thus far. Six of those points have come within the past week.

In his first game this week, Gogolev uncorked a bomb of a one-timer on the power play to put the Marlies up 3-1:

On Friday, Gogolev tallied three points, including the eventual game-winning goal:

And finally, Gogolev finished off his week with an overtime winner — his second point of the afternoon — on Saturday:

Gogolev was an average producer in his Peterborough junior days, was never drafted, and had a slow start to his season in Sweden’s second-tier pro league, so one must proceed with caution when drawing conclusions from this particular 10-game sample. The winger is quite skilled with the puck and possesses a great shot, but he’s not the fleetest of foot.

That said, it’s undeniable that Gogolev’s been a great story during the home stretch of an otherwise disappointing season for Toronto’s AHL affiliate. Let’s see if he can keep it up.

Mikhail Abramov advances to the third round of QMJHL playoffs

F Mikhail Abramov and his Victoriaville Tigres are one of the final four teams remaining in the QMJHL playoffs after knocking out Blainville-Boisbriand in five games.

Game 2 of this best-of-5 series took place on Monday, with Victoriaville emerging victorious in overtime after Abramov set up the game-winner in stunning fashion:

Abramov found the scoresheet again in Game 3 — an assist on Victoriaville’s second goal of the game — and he also scored the eventual game-winner late in the third period:

Blainville won Game 4 two days later, forcing a fifth and final matchup. They were not able to complete the comeback, though, as Abramov and the Tigres won 9-3 in the series decider. Abramov racked up three points in the game, giving him six points through five games.

Other News and Notes:

  • Per Marlies Reporter Nick Barden, all of D Joseph Duszak, C Rourke Chartier, D Noel Hoefenmayer, and C Semyon Der-Arguchintsev are dealing with injuries right now, explaining their absences from the lineup as of late.
  • G Joseph Woll has been terrific lately. He’s got a .931 save percentage in his last four appearances, as Mark Rackham noted in the latest Marlies game recap.
  • F Dimitri Ovchinnikov is on Russia U20s camp roster for the Black Sea Cup, an upcoming tournament taking place overseas.
  • D William Villeneuve is finishing his season with the Marlies on an ATO.

Thanks for reading this week’s loaded Leafs prospect update! You can find me on Twitter at @joshsimpson77 for real-time updates, and general hockey talk. Check back next Monday for another update.