Dmitriy Ovchinnikov, Toronto Maple Leafs' fifth round draft choice
Dmitriy Ovchinnikov, Toronto Maple Leafs' fifth-round draft choice in 2020

We all need to distract ourselves from the struggles of the big club right now, and what better way to do it than to check in on what positives have been happening on the farm as of late?

Let’s dive right into it.

Ovchinnikov Scores First KHL Goal

One of the more frustrating parts of this season for Leafs Prospect nerds like myself has been following the Dmitri Ovchinnikov situation throughout this season.

The talented young forward ended last year up in the KHL with Sibir Novosibrinsk after a very productive season in the Russian junior circuit. He proceeded to make the big club out of camp this fall, a positive sign for the talented young forward.

However, Ovchinnikov’s gotten virtually no opportunity to produce so far this season. Per the KHL’s website, the forward has gotten into just eight games this season and is averaging under four minutes of ice time per game. This is especially frustrating considering Ovchinnikov’s a talented player known for his ability to generate offense and his team is last in the league in goals for.

With all of that being said, there has been a positive development in the Ovchinnikov situation this past week. Sibir decided to give actually Ovchinnikov more than five minutes of ice time — 5:19 to be exact — and he rewarded them for their decision by scoring his first-ever KHL goal:

And here’s Ovchinnikov with his first goal puck:

The positives kept on coming for Ovchinnikov all week. On Tuesday, Sibir made the decision to send the young forward down to the Russian junior league to get some game action in — something they’ve done every once and a while this season to get him on the ice — and he responded by scoring two goals:

He’s too good to stay in this league long term, but it’s still nice to get him on the ice. Playing big minutes in the MHL when possible is certainly not a bad thing for him.

Ovchinnikov was called back up for Sibir’s games this weekend. On Friday, he played a season-high 6:22. On Sunday, his ice time was raised again, this time to 9:28.

It’s still not much, but it’s an improvement.

Here’s hoping that the positives keep on rolling and the ice time keeps coming for Ovchinnikov.

Knies and Koster have an up-and-down weekend

It was an up-and-down weekend for the University of Minnesota Men’s Hockey Team and their Leafs prospects, Mike Koster and Matthew Knies.

Knies and Koster were able to contribute early on in the weekend, as both scored goals on Friday against Minnesota Duluth.

Koster unleashed a bomb from the point to cut the opposition’s lead in half, which you can see here:

Knies scored later in the game to make it 4-2 off a backhand shot from in front of the net:

Unfortunately, that’s where the positives ended.

Not only did Minnesota lose the game on Friday, but they lost Leafs prospect Mike Koster to an injury, which you can see here:

Koster didn’t return after taking this hit, and he didn’t plan in Saturday’s game, either, which ended up being another loss.

Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for Koster, and that Minnesota can get back on track.

Loponen throws the monkey off his back

Leafs D prospect Kalle Loponen found the back of the net for the first time in his Liiga career on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old blueliner had yet to score through 14 games before his long-range point shot found its way through a crowd to give him his first of the season:

Loponen took a page out of William Nylander’s book, throwing the monkey off of his back after finally scoring his goal:

Loponen fired five shots on net over the course of that game. If you’ve ever watched him play, you’ll know that he has a bomb of a shot that he’ll use at basically any opportunity.

The seventh-round pick now has two points in 17 games. This is the Finn’s first full professional season.

Other News and Notes

  • Fifth rounder F Ty Voit continued his hot start to the season with an assist on Friday:

  • F Roni Hirvonen has gotten off to a slow start to his season offensively, with just one goal and four assists through 14 games. He did have a pair of assists on Saturday, so hopefully, that will help build some momentum.

  • F Joe Miller was named the first star of the game in a Chicago Steel victory on Saturday night. He scored a goal on the power play to open the scoring in the game.

  • The Newfoundland Growlers have started their season ringing off three wins in three nights spanning from Thursday to Saturday. Some noteworthy performances: F Bobby McMann lead the team with four points in three games, G Keith Petruzzelli posted a .972 save percentage in his first ECHL start, F Gordie Green and F Ryan Chyzowski have three points through three games, D Noel Hoefenmayer has a goal and an assist, and D Brennan Kapcheck scored his first ECHL goal.

That’s all for this week, folks. Thanks for reading. Let’s hope that the Maple Leafs can turn things around and that their prospects keep up the good work.