William Villeneuve, Toronto Maple Leafs' fourth round draft choice
William Villeneuve, Toronto Maple Leafs' fourth-round draft choice in 2020

Plenty of Maple Leafs prospects from all over the globe found the scoresheet this past week.

Many found success while representing their home country at international tournaments. Let’s dive right into it in the latest edition of the Leafs Prospect Update.

Five Leafs prospects participating in international tournaments

Topi Niemela and Roni Hirvonen

D Topi Niemela and F Roni Hirvonen are competing for Finland at a U20 tournament called the Four Nations tournament right now. This tournament often offers a sneak peek into who could be playing what role at the World Juniors this holiday season. Hirvonen is the captain of the team and has lined up on the left side of the first line throughout the tournament, while Niemela has been playing on Finland’s top defense pairing.

Finland lost 6-3 to Russia in a friendly on November 12th before winning 3-0 against Sweden on the 13th. Hirvonen dropped three points against the Swedes — two goals (one of which was an empty netter) and an assist — which you can see here:

Remember when the Leafs traded down in the second round to acquire the picks used on Niemela and Hirvonen? The early returns look terrific.

Pontus Holmberg

As mentioned in last week’s update, F Pontus Holmberg was competing for Sweden at the Karjala Cup in Finland this past week. It was a successful tournament for the Leafs prospect — he finished the tournament with a goal and an assist through three games and Team Sweden swept the tournament with a record of 3-0.

Both of Holmberg’s points came in Sweden’s first game of the tournament, a 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic. His goal was a thing of beauty. Holmberg made his way to the net, waved over the puck to add in some deception, and then shoveled a backhand past the Czech goaltender:

His assist, which made the game 4-0 in favour of the Swedes, came after winning a puck battle in the corner:

Holmberg will now return to Sweden to resume his SHL season with the Vaxjo Lakers. This likely won’t be the last time we see him suit up for his country this season, as the forward should receive the chance to play in his second World Championships for Sweden after the SHL season is over.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov and Artur Akhtyamov

Elsewhere, 2020 draft picks Dmitri Ovchinnikov and Arthur Akhtyamov are representing Russia at a tournament called the Deutschland Cup. As you may be able to guess from the name, this is a yearly international tournament that takes place in Germany. The tournament consists of Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, and a Russian squad which is referred to as their “B team.” The Russian team is mostly made up of U25 players including multiple NHL drafted prospects, while other teams bring players of all ages. Some former NHLers competing in the tournament include Tobias Rieder and Yannick Weber.

Ovchinnikov has tallied one point through two games, a primary assist to set up the game’s opening goal in a contest against Slovakia. You can see his assist below:

Ovchinnikov has been centering the team’s fourth line so far throughout the tournament. Akhtyamov hasn’t played yet, taking on the role as the team’s third-string goaltender.

Villeneuve bumps scoring slump

D William Villeneuve, an offensive defender who has struggled to hit the scoresheet this year since signing his entry-level contract with the Leafs, was finally able to bump the slump this week. The right-shot blue liner notched three assists on Friday and was named the game’s second star for his efforts.

His first assist of the night came just 33 seconds into the game. It started with a nice defensive play, where Villeneuve lifted his opponent’s stick, stripped him of the puck, and then sent it up the wall while being hauled down to start a rush:

It didn’t end up mattering, but I like how Villeneuve got back to his feet and sprinted up ice to create an odd-man rush. If Burns didn’t score, maybe there would’ve been a rebound opportunity there.

Villeneuve’s second assist of the night was another where he started the play in his own zone, this time with a heads-up stretch pass:

A lot of defenders will chip that puck up the wall into a crowd, but Villeneuve had the vision to see his teammate across the ice.

His third assist of the night was another impressive display of offensive sense:

Villeneuve set up two scoring chances on this play. Watch how he shoulder checks behind him upon entering the zone, allowing him to spot the trailer. I also like how he took two defenders to the perimeter, which opened up space in the middle for his teammate. The Sea Dogs were unable to score on this initial opportunity, but it didn’t matter as the puck came back to Villeneuve at the point, where he found Dufour right in front of the net for the goal.

The scoring didn’t stop there for Villeneuve this weekend; he also picked up a primary assist on Saturday. Check out the deception as he looks like he’s going to shoot all the way before hitting Sapelnikov with the pass:

All in all, those are some high-end habits shown by Villeneuve this week in the offensive zone. Glad to see him finally rewarded with some points on the scoresheet.

Other Noteworthy Performances

Miller nearing the point-per-game mark

2020 sixth-rounder Joe Miller dished out four assists and added a goal of his own in USHL play this weekend.

Friday’s matchup against the Fighting Saints saw Miller score a power-play goal and add two assists.

Below is assist number one. Miller gains the zone, stops up, waits for help, and sets up Adam Fantilli to open to scoring with time winding down in the first period:

Assist number two of the night also came on a Fantilli marker. After Miller delayed while Fantilli burst into open space behind the defender, the Leafs prospect made no mistake threading the needle:

To cap off the night, Miller scored a one-timer from the high slot on the man advantage:

Miller also put up two assists Saturday. Can you guess who scored both goals?

It certainly seems like Miller enjoys playing with Adam Fantilli, a projected top pick in 2023.

That is now 16 points in 17 USHL games for Miller this season. He’s starting to heat up after what was a tough year for him last season.

Tverberg extends goal streak to five

Will Ryan Tverberg ever go a game without scoring a goal again? If you’ve been watching his last five games, you might be asking yourself the question.

On Saturday, Tverberg used his speed, strength, and puck-protection ability to skate around the perimeter and power himself to the net front before burying his eighth of the year:

On Sunday, Tverberg was able to sneak towards the front of the net in behind a pair of defenders before jamming in his ninth of the season:

Tverberg’s breakout season has been something to behold. He’s now more than doubled his point and goal totals from last season. As a right-shot winger with speed, power, and knack for finding open space in the slot, it’s hard not to be a little reminded of Zach Hyman when you watch some of these clips.

I’m not saying that is what he’s going to turn into, but if Tverberg can manage to become even half the player Hyman was for the Leafs, the Leafs have a seventh-round steal on their hands.

Miettinen breaks through

Right winger Veeti Miettinen snapped a seven-game goalless drought in emphatic fashion on Friday, scoring twice and adding an assist. His first goal came from in tight:

While his second was a snipe from a distance:

Miettinen is now at eight points through 12 games, which is still a little behind the 0.77 point-per-game pace he scored at last year, although it’s nothing one more big game can’t fix.

Voit drops three assists vs Saginaw

After going pointless in a game for the first time this season on Friday, Voit responded with three assists on Saturday against the Saginaw Spirit.

The one assist that really caught the eye was his first of the game. Check out this wicked hook pass:

The hook pass is such a deceptive tactic. Voit brings the skill level, deception, and creativity to pull off plays like this regularly at the OHL level. He’s a fun watch.

Peksa shuts the door despite being peppered with shots

Peksa was under fire this week, facing 94 shots over two MHL games. He stopped 40 of 42 on Tuesday, and 50 of 52 on Wednesday.

Stopping 90 of 94 is  an impressive feat no matter what, but the fact that this happened on a back-to-back set of games in which Peksa played the entirety of both is very impressive.

Here are some of Peksa’s highlights from the second game. 22 of the 52 shots Peksa faced came from the home-plate area (either from the slot or the net front):

Peksa’s team is lucky to come away from this week with a 1-0-1 record. It would’ve been much worse without some strong goaltending from the Leafs prospect.

Other News and Notes

  • Noel Hoefenmaker picked up a pair of assists in his first AHL game of the season with the Toronto Marlies. He started the year with ECHL Newfoundland with seven points in his first seven games.
  • Semyon Der-Arguchintsev finally has his first AHL goal 16 games into his AHL career. The diminutive playmaker is up to six points in 10 AHL games this season:

  • Fringe prospect Vladislav Kara has finally signed a contract. The forward inked a deal with Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk in the VHL this week. A free agent all season, he has yet to appear in any game action.

That’s all for this week, folks. Thanks again for reading, and check back again next week for another prospect update!