Welcome back to another Maple Leafs prospect update.

Let’s get into this week’s top performers followed by a couple of prospect notes.

Matthew Knies

What a freshman season so far for the Leafs‘ 2021 second-round draft choice, Matthew Knies. The American forward enjoyed another terrific week for the Golden Gophers, starting with a three-point performance (one goal, two assists) on Monday.

He started his night by scoring a goal off of his own rebound, which you can watch below. The key to this play is Knies waiting up high in the zone after his initial shot and then quietly drifting into open space in the slot. These types of off-puck reads have been regular occurrences for Knies this season, propelling him to a 0.5 goal per game clip in his freshman season.

Knies was involved in front of the net yet again later in the game. While his attempt was denied, teammate Jaxon Nelson finished the rebound to put the Golden Gophers in front:

His third point of the night — another primary assist off of his own rebound — came off a puck-battle win, a nice move around a D, and a drive to the net:

These three clips offer a nice glimpse at what makes Knies so effective: his willingness to drive to the net, his soft hands, and his ability to find open ice.

Knies didn’t stop there; he followed up Friday night’s performance with a power-play goal and an assist on Minnesota’s empty netter to wrap up his weekend.

The freshman is now up to a point-per-game in his freshman season, with seven goals and seven assists through 14 games. His 14 points have him inside the top 10 in U20 scoring in the entire NCAA. Not too shabby for a late second-round draft pick.

Ty Voit

Speaking of 2021 draft picks off to great starts this season, Ty Voit is off to a scorching hot start for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. He just turned in another solid week with five points in four games. Let’s take a look at some of the clips.

On Tuesday, Voit registered a beauty assist that showed off his patience, vision, and skill. Watch how he patiently travels down the wall and threads the needle through a seam onto his teammate’s tape:

Earlier in the game, Voit showed off his high-end speed and elite work ethic to come all the way back to save a goal:

The Sting forward followed up that performance with a goal and an assist against the London Knights on Friday:

He added another assist off of a terrific cross-ice pass on Saturday:

Voit’s ridiculous effort led to one of the more intense empty-net tallies you’ll ever see on his eighth shot of the night:

The fifth-round draft pick is up to 20 points in 15 games now and has been centering his team’s top line as of late. He has an interesting mix of speed, puck skill, deception, and vision, so it’s not surprising to see him lighting it up at this level.

Voit will need to continue to bulk up, and it remains to be seen how much of his exciting offensive talent translates to the next level, but he’s certainly a fun prospect to watch — one with considerable upside if everything breaks right.

Braeden Kessler

Undrafted free-agent signing Braeden Kressler put on two strong performances bookending one forgettable game during a three-in-three this weekend.

The forward started the weekend with a goal and an assist while going nine for 12 in the face-off dot on Friday against the Erie Otters. His goal was featured as the OHL’s play of the night, although the heavy lifting was done by his teammate on this play, with Kressler the beneficiary of a beautiful pass from behind the net:

Kressler’s assist — a primary helper — came earlier in the game, with the Leafs prospect poking the puck with one hand over to red hot Rangers first-rounder Brennan Othmann to open the scoring:

Saturday was less kind to Kressler. The forward went minus-four in a 7-0 loss to the Windsor Spitfires. Plus-minus certainly isn’t the most important stat, but being on the ice for four goals against and none for in one game rarely makes for a strong performance. What’s more is that Kressler was outshot 25-5 while he was on the ice per Instat Hockey, which equates to a 16.67% Corsi For percentage. Saturday was definitely not a night to remember for Kressler or his teammates.

The 18-year-old enjoyed a better outing on Sunday, registering an assist in Flint’s high-scoring 7-6 shootout loss. His assist was a fun one, with Kressler battling his way through the middle of the night for a scoring chance. He didn’t score, but the aforementioned Brennan Othmann did, rewarding Kressler with an assist for his efforts:

It’s nice to see Kressler get back on the scoresheet a few times this weekend after going without a point in five straight prior to Friday. It will be interesting to track his progress in the coming years given that the Leafs were confident enough to sign him to an entry-level contract despite watching him go undrafted in 2021.

Topi Niemela and Axel Rindell

Karpat defenders Topi Niemela and Axel Rindell both played strong games on Thursday in a 10-1 route of JYP Jyvaskyla. Niemela notched a goal and an assist, while Rindell registered a hat trick of assists to go along with six shots on goal.

Niemela, who at the conclusion of this game led the entire league in scoring, opened the scoring in the game with a heavy wrist shot from the right point:

His assist — a secondary assist on the power play — is one that I want to go into greater detail on:

Watch how Niemela, after passing the puck to his teammate, activates into the high slot. This makes Karpat’s power play so much more dangerous by leaving the penalty killer with a choice: leave Niemela wide open for the one-timer, or cheat over towards Niemela and potentially open up a passing lane. The JYP penalty killer decides to cheat over toward Niemela, opening the lane to the Karpat player on the left, leading to the goal.

Niemela’s such a clever player without the puck, and that’s just the latest glimpse of it there.

As for Rindell, his three assists were all off of terrific feeds. He’s got a great “hip pocket,” allowing him to show as both a passer and a shooter while carrying the puck, adding an element of deception into his game as a puck carrier. When you combine this with his vision and puck skill, you’ve got a dangerous playmaker.

You can watch all three assists here:

That’s now eight points in five games for Rindell since the move to Karpat. One would think it helps bid for an entry-level contract with the Leafs.

Joe Miller

I continue to highlight Joe Miller in these weekly prospect updates — for good reason. The 2020 sixth-round pick, who only managed 18 points through 40 games last season with the USHL Chicago Steel, has already eclipsed his point total from last year and more than doubled his point-per-game rate.

Miller racked up four points through two games this week, highlighted by a four-point (one goal, three assists) outing on Saturday.

His goal was a tap-in that came off a really nice passing play from the Steel. Miller was all alone, in the right place at the right time, and made no mistake:

His first assist came off a pass across the ice to Adam Fantilli:

His second assist also came off a pass to… you guessed it, Adam Fantilli:

Miller’s last point of the night came off a really nice backhand chip pass while working the give-and-go with Leafs development camp invite and undrafted defenseman Lukas Gustafsson:

Miller, who is slated to join Matthew Knies and Mike Koster at the University of Minnesota next season, is up to 21 points in 19 USHL games on the season and is tied for second in the league in assists. If you read previous prospect updates of mine, you’ll know I was optimistic about the possibility of a breakout year for Miller given that he was slated to play a much larger role this season after a number of Chicago’s top players left for the NCAA.

So far, that prediction has come to fruition.

Pontus Holmberg

Pontus Holmberg registered a goal and two assists over the course of the week.

His goal came off of an absolute bomb of a slapshot from long range in a game against Skelleftea on Thursday afternoon:

In nearly 20 minutes of ice time, Holmberg’s team outshot the opposition 16-11 with him on the ice over the course of the game.

That was followed up by a two-assist outing on Saturday against Frolunda. His first assist came off a stretch pass which sent Emil Forslund in alone:

His second came off a deceptive pass from the half-wall on the power play:

15 points in 20 games for Holmberg so far this season — a 0.75 point-per-game rate — is the best points pace of his SHL career thus far.

William Villeneuve

The beat goes on for William Villeneuve, who was also highlighted for his strong play in last week’s prospect update. The defender tallied three points — a goal and two assists — to go along with five shots on goal on Saturday. He was named the game’s first star for his efforts despite his team losing the game in the shootout.

It’s nice to see Villeneuve string together a couple of hot weeks after starting the season off slow. He’s now up to 12 points through 18 contests despite shooting just 2.5% on 40 shots — not bad for a defender who only mustered one point in his first eight games of the year. That’s now eight points in his last five games for Villeneuve.

Other News and Notes

  • Ryan Tverberg may have finally had his goal streak snapped this week, but some news regarding his World Juniors eligibility status surfaced this weekend from prospect analyst Chris Peters in his Hockey Sense substack newsletter: “An under-the-radar player that might be worth keeping a closer eye on at the moment is UConn’s Ryan Tverberg (TOR). He has goals in five straight games, which included tough matchups against Boston College and Providence. Tverberg is a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and sources have indicated he’s getting a bit of a push to be part of Team USA’s camp. The question, however, is if he has been in the U.S. long enough to meet citizenship requirements as he spent most of the last several years in Canada before moving to the U.S. to play for UConn. Tverberg represented Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge two years ago, but that is not a binding event. It’s interesting, nonetheless. The 19-year-old sophomore had seven points in 14 games last season, but is already up to nine goals and 15 points in just 11 games in his second collegiate campaign.”
  • G Erik Kallgren is, unfortunately, going to miss some time with a concussion. You can see the incident below:

That’s all for this week, folks. Thanks for tuning in!