The Toronto Maple Leafs came away with a huge haul at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The team came out of the draft being regarded as having one of the best 2020 Draft Classes considering their draft positions.
I’ll take a look at each prospect that the Leafs chose, grading them, as well as giving you the rundown on your newest Toronto Maple Leafs.
If you’re interested in just reading one , or just don’t want to scroll the distance, I made sure there’s a link for every player so that you can get to their report with ease. Check it out!
Just some preliminary notes on this draft class. If you’re a believer that the Leafs should’ve gone for more size, I’ll warn you right now. I’m an avid proponent of the “draft skill, sign grit” ideology. I’ll link some more in-depth threads I wrote on it, but I’ll give the Coles Notes here.
If you’re going to get grit and size, you can generally find them easier than you can stars. You can’t just sign star players whenever you want, no matter what the Leafs’ recent free agent interest history may signal. With supporting cast players who provide grit, you’re better off trading for them or signing for them if you feel as if you need them. Drafting for size early on in the draft just doesn’t go well for the Leafs (Frederik Gauthier, Tyler Biggs), but look at a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pat Maroon was a free agent signing, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow were trade acquisitions (albeit expensive ones).
One more thing. When size-drafted players enter the organization, they’re generally given up on early due to being looked at immediate options, or they just didn’t have the stuff to make the league in general. I noticed when writing my article on unsigned draftees who became free agents this year that a lot of them were solid players with quite some size, they were just given up on early.
The Leafs have done a good job of picking up some guys that fall into that category. My best example is Hudson Elynuik, the 6’5 son of Pat Elynuik was a 3rd round draftee by Carolina, but after going unsigned, the projected power forward has been developing with the Marlies and Growlers (although how far the 22-year-old goes is yet to be seen).
Just some food for thought. Let’s get into the players!
Drafted: Round 1, 15th overall
Age: Turned 19 on October 2nd
Weight: 168 lbs
2019-20 Season: 10g/12a/22p in 17 games with Tolpar Ufa (MHL), 1g/2a/3p in 5 games with Toros Neftekamsk (VHL), 0g/2a/2p in 21 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 1g/1a/2p in 3 games with Toros Neftekamsk (VHL), 3g/2a/5p in 10 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Projected Draft Position: Mid-First Round
Leafs fans, get hyped for Rodion Amirov. This should come as no surprise, this is one of the deepest forward drafts in a while, but the kid is going to be good.
Let’s talk about his offensive game first. Although it’s not his strong point, Rodion Amirov’s shot is something I’ve noticed a lot about him. He has a lot of confidence in his shot, he’s been using it frequently in the KHL. He has a nifty, quick release on his wrist shot, and he knows when to use it. I think that if he works on it more, it could become a useful weapon for him in the NHL. However, it just hasn’t been working at the KHL level, with a lot of his quick wrist shots ending up into low-quality chances.
This beauty from this season is an example of what he can do with his shot.
What has been a weapon for him was shown in his first two KHL goals, both in the same game this season.
Amirov has a brilliant nose for the net, even though he’s not the primary net-front presence on this play, he’s able to properly use his vision and hockey IQ to find the puck and stuff it into the net.
His playmaking skills are great as well. He’s able to effectively move the puck, even at the KHL level at just 19 years of age. He uses his vision and creativity to distribute the puck. Even if he’s not the guy making the flashy play at the pro level yet, he’s still an accurate passer. He does the simple things well, effectively breaking out of his zone, making sharp passes to his teammates, etc.
Sometimes, though, he’s caught just dumping the puck in, or trying to be way more flashy on plays than he should be. That’s a normal part of hockey, but it’s just something Amirov should limit as he makes his way to the NHL.
He’s a great skater, strong on his feet with good acceleration abilities.
His hockey IQ just ties this all together. Offensively, he’s able to create chances. A lot of the time, they’re wrist shots from the circles. However, he’s also used his high hockey IQ to aid him in puck battles in front of the net, something that could make him almost a lethal presence in the future.
Flashy offense isn’t what Amirov is known for, though. Amirov is a 200-foot player, one of the most solid two-way forwards in this draft. That’s where his hockey IQ and vision are a great help as well. He’s able to figure out where he needs to be, and using his skating skills, along with his workhorse play, he rarely leaves a gap on defense.
This combination of skill and effort is what I think will make Amirov a force with the Leafs.
Something I think he needs to work on: Filling that frame out.
What’s interesting, however, is that Amirov’s agent, Dan Milstein, claims that Amirov is already closer to 6’1 and 180 lbs… something to watch out for.
With most players, a lot of muscle gain might hinder their performance, however, I think it’s different with Amirov. In the MHL, he definitely looked like a man amongst kids, but that changed quickly as soon as he got to the pros. While his incredible work ethic still aids him, it’s clear that he gets outmuscled at times. I also think gaining strength will help some of the issues with his shot.
But that all comes with time, and Amirov will likely take his time to develop in Russia.
Amirov projects to be a very solid top-six player. A great complimentary guy on either line. Even before he reaches that, he’ll likely find success on the third line when he does reach the NHL.
Amirov gives the Leafs another piece they can shuffle beside and around their core of Matthews, Nylander, and Marner, who will likely be in their prime when Amirov reaches top-6 level in the NHL.
I think Rodion Amirov is who Jim Rutherford thinks Kasperi Kapanen is. Quick (although not as much as Kapanen), creative, workhorse player who will produce as a complementary player in an NHL team’s top-6 while playing a great 200-foot game.
With his progression at 19 already producing against men, I think he’s closer to the NHL than you’d think.
Amirov is a high-value pick that will reap high rewards for the Leafs. The key to an A+ is out of the Leafs’ hands here. I felt as if only a top-10 steal would warrant an A+.
I think this is a much better pick than picking a defenseman. Amirov will provide more value, whether it’s on the ice or via trade, than what I’d believe a guy like Braden Schneider and Kaiden Guhle would. He’s going to be a key piece of the Leafs’ future, a force to be reckoned with in blue and white.
Drafted: Round 2, 59th overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on January 10th
Weight: 170 lbs
2019-20 Season: 5g/11a/16p in 52 games with Assat (SM-Liiga)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 0g/1a/1p in 3 games with Assat (SM-Liiga)
Projected Draft Position: Late-First Round to Early/Mid-Second Round
Hey, Kyle Dubas, what’s “steal” in Finnish?
Roni Hirvonen is just a fantastic pick for the Leafs. He’s also exactly what comes to mind when you think of a guy who Kyle Dubas would draft.
At 5’9, Roni Hirvonen is undersized, but that hasn’t been an issue for him up to this point.
He’s flashy, he’s skilled, he’s fast, he’s pretty much the prototype of the future NHL star model.
Let’s get into his game.
Offensively, Hirvonen is DYNAMIC. His stickhandling is his greatest asset and it’s on another level. He utilizes his silky, smooth handling skills and his creativity to make plays that no one can expect.
This is a lethal duo along with his skating skills. He’s a very agile player, and he’s able to use his lack in size and abundance of speed to just turn defensemen inside out.
His shot suffers a bit, presumably due to his lack of size and strength, but he doesn’t use it often at the pro level. When he does, it’s when he’s closer to the net.
That’s one interesting part of Hirvonen’s game. You don’t expect a 5’9 guy to get into those spaces, but Hirvonen uses his exceptional speed, deceptiveness, and hockey IQ to get into the right places, making him a finisher to be feared.
Defensively, while he does lack due to lack of strength (and age compared to his peers), he isn’t a liability at all. He makes an effort to get back and make the smart play. He can use his speed and quick decision-making skills to make the right play, usually using his stick effectively. It hasn’t landed him in the penalty box often though, which I think is a helpful skill.
Hirvonen had the opportunity to play with some great players in Finland last season, however, it doesn’t make his performance less impressive. Hirvonen became a full-time Liiga player at the age of 17 this season. Among all U19 SM-Liiga players, Hirvonen, who was 17 for most of the season, finished just second in points and assists behind 10th overall pick Anton Lundell. He was first in points, goals, and assists among U18 SM-Liiga players.
What’s interesting about Hirvonen is his abilities when it comes to battling others for the puck. He doesn’t shy away from contact at all, the definition of a pain in the rear to play with. While he’s generally outmuscled, he’s able to use his smarts to win battles, whether it’s along the boards or in front of the net.
The tricky part thing with Hirvonen is that I’m not actually sure what his next steps are. It’s easy to say that he should bulk up, but then comes the question of how that affects his agility and deceptiveness.
However, I do want to see him gain some more strength, enough for his shot to have more power to it and for him to be able to continue to hold his own against players much bigger and older than him.
The fact that he’s already performing in a high-level professional league is promising, but he’s likely a long-term prospect.
I also feel as if he could benefit from developing the explosiveness you see in many elite-level skaters. If he can develop that, I think it’ll suit his game very well. I also see the concern with the mechanics of his stride, although it doesn’t limit him right now, he should work with the Leafs team (Barb Underhill) to make sure it doesn’t affect him later.
Originally, I had a couple of other targets in mind for this pick, but the more I watch him, the more I love Roni Hirvonen.
Roni Hirvonen comes off as a boom or bust prospect, but I don’t think his “bust” is all that terrible.
He projects to be a middle-six player at the NHL level, but that all depends on how he continues to progress at higher levels. Hirvonen can become a skill player at the NHL level, he’s able to drive play, he isn’t a defensive liability, and he won’t be knocked off the puck easily.
Hirvonen feels like one of those guys who can develop and just come out of nowhere to become a star. That’s the feeling I get from watching him play. A centre during junior, Hirvonen has been a winger since he started playing professionally, and I think that the wing will be his place in the NHL. As of right now, he looks like a good 2nd line LW or a fantastic 3rd line LW.
Drafted: Round 3, 64th overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on March 25th
Weight: 163 lbs
2019-20 Season: 1g/6a/7p in 43 games with Karpat (SM-Liiga), 0g/1a/1p in game with Karpat U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 1g/3a/4p in 4 games with Karpat U20 (U20 SM-Sarja), Set to play with the main club.
Projected Draft Position: Early to Mid-Second Round
Another pick from Finland, for good reason. Getting Topi Niemela in the third round feels like another case of robbery by the Leafs.
Niemela looks like the prototypical defenseman of the future. The slightly undersized defenseman uses his skating and hockey IQ to be a force both offensively and defensively.
Let’s get into his game.
Offensively, Niemela does more than you’d expect from a player of his age, especially as a defenseman. When he does produce shots, he generally shoots from the point with the intent of landing a teammate a rebound/deflection. His shots generally lack power, but what he lacks in strength, he has in smarts. His decision-making abilities allow him to make the right play when needed, and it’s also what allows him to go further up front when needed.
His playmaking abilities are excellent. He’s able to use his vision and hockey IQ to make accurate passes, even at the pro level already.
His skating is good. It allows him to get back into position if he ever decides to go deep into the offensive zone.
However, the defenseman doesn’t sacrifice his defensive game for offense. His mobility and smarts allow him to read plays and stop them quickly. His lack of strength means he’s usually reliant on his stick to break up plays, however, it hasn’t landed him many penalties for doing so.
In 2019-20, Niemela played the most games among U18 defensemen in SM-Liiga, Finland’s highest professional hockey league. Although he’s currently getting games at the junior level, Niemela is set to once again spend a significant amount of time playing among men.
The one thing I really want Niemela to do is build up his strength. He has the smarts defensively, but he struggles to outmuscle and battle guys when needed sometimes (not a shock, he’s a teenager playing against men). I also want him to get more power in his shot. Unless he can more accurately use his shot to set up teammates, his shot is something that lacks at the moment. Even though he knows when to use it, it feels like he finds himself putting muffins on net at times. Hopefully, as he develops, that’s something that is solved by working on his strength.
I really like this pick! He’s a guy that shows loads of potential, and he’s already finding success playing against tough competition.
I see Niemela as a guy who has the potential to become a top-four defenseman in the NHL. I’d project him to become a second-pairing defenseman. He’s built to be a new age defenseman in the NHL, and he doesn’t shy away from physicality at all. I think that as he develops more strength, he’ll definitely be able to become a #4 defenseman in the NHL.
Just an amazing pick for the Leafs, he’s someone who could definitely fit into the Leafs’ future, and I think he’ll be interesting to keep an eye on.
Drafted: Round 4, 104th overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on October 31st
Weight: 170 lbs
2019-20 Season: 26-13-6, .931 SV%, and 1.80 GAA in 46 games played with Irbis Kazan (MHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 3-0-0, .926 SV%, 1.67 GAA in 3 games played with Irbis Kazan (MHL), 2-1-0, .957 SV%, 0.98 GAA in 4 games played with Bars Kazan (VHL)
Projected Draft Position: Outside of Top 100, likely 6-7th round
Born on Halloween 2001, Artur Akhtyamov is a fright for any opponent he faces.
Akhtyamov is a bit of a weird goalie to analyze. He’s not like most goalies where you can generally predict their style. Instead, Akhtyamov is a bigger goalie that relies on his energy and quickness. While he’s usually calm and sound in net, he’s also able to get to pucks with his insane speed. It also aids his recovery.
However, he’s really raw. It’s easy to tell where he lacks in technical abilities, something that could hurt him as he gets to a higher level.
There’s also the difficulty in using stats to evaluate MHL goalies. Although his .931 SV% in 2019-20 looks stellar, it doesn’t put him very high among U19 MHL goalies from that year. He also played for a pretty good defensive team, which brings another problem. The MHL is unbalanced, so teams that are good have no problem dominating the lacking teams.
There’s also the fact that he was being heavily challenged by Vladimir Mosin, someone who’s only a couple of months older than him.
He’s doing really well this season in both leagues, though. There’s also the fact that, well, goalies are voodoo! This is going to look absolutely hilarious when he wins a Vezina or something, he’s built as a goalie who will prove everyone wrong with development, and that’s what the Leafs are banking on here.
However, was it really the best idea to pick him this high?
I don’t think it’s a terrible pick, it’s intriguing, but I thought there were better options on the table (think Zion Nybeck). It still would’ve allowed the Leafs to pick the goalie later, I wouldn’t think that any other team would take him before the Leafs’ abundance of late picks.
Nonetheless, his combination of size and speed makes him a promising prospect. I’m not even going to try and project a goalie, though.
With Joseph Woll preparing to improve on a rookie season that left much to be desired, and Ian Scott preparing for his rookie season after missing a season with hip surgery, Akthyamov becomes an intriguing insurance plan. The Leafs are going to hope he takes his time to develop in the KHL, but I wouldn’t mind him working with a guy like Steve Briere when possible.
He’ll be an afterthought for a while, but it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses in a few years.
Drafted: Round 4, 122nd overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on March 20th
Weight: 181 lbs
2019-20 Season: 9g/49a/58p in 64 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 0g/1a/1p in 2 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs
Projected Draft Position: Late-Second Round to Early-Fourth Round
What. A. Steal.
I had the Leafs pegged to pick William Villeneuve before the draft…
In the second round Before the Leafs traded for a first round pick.
I’m a big fan of Villeneuve, let’s get into his game.
Offensively, even though his league defensemen-leading totals in assists and points could lead you to believe that he’s a pure offensive defenseman, he’s actually a solid two-way guy.
William Villeneuve’s partnership with fellow 2020 draftee Jeremie Poirier was a partnership that benefited both players. Poirier is very notably terrible at defense, but he’s an exceptional offensive player. However, his inabilities in his own end led the Sea Dogs to rely on Villeneuve, who got to develop the defensive side of his game even further. On the other hand, playing with Poirier also helped Villeneuve hit new lengths with his offensive game.
I think his hockey IQ and playmaking skills are his best assets offensively. He’s able to see the ice so well, which makes him so good at moving the puck and setting up dangerous chances. He’s a consistent and accurate passer, he’s able to find his teammates and seek out the higher-quality play.
One way he does create offense is via his shot from the point. He’s just able to deliver these crisp, accurate shots towards the net. He shoots in a way that the chance is dangerous for the goalie alone, but it’s also very likely to be deflected or rebounded. It allows for his net-front teammate to get a great chance off of Villeneuve’s shot.
He’s comfortable with his wrist shot and slapshot. Both, in my opinion, are great assets for him.
He can also get further into the play, but beside a guy like Jeremie Poirier, he just hasn’t needed to very often.
Defensively, Villeneuve is positionally sound. He’s very good at taking away passing lanes, and he’s able to use his 6’1 frame effectively. He’s able to use his decision-making skills and vision very well, rarely making serious lapses in judgement. However, even if he doesn’t make big gaffes in his own end, he does get beat in other ways.
Villeneuve is a strong skater, he’s agile, but he’s not necessarily a good skater. He has a stride that sometimes becomes almost painful to watch. Whether it’s the stride or just Villeneuve in general, he just doesn’t have that acceleration and explosiveness to keep up with his man at times. It makes it more likely for him to get outskated as opposed to outsmarted.
His strength is also an issue. While he uses his height and reach well, he’s still on the skinny side for a 6’1 defenseman. He needs to make sure he doesn’t get outmuscled in the QMJHL because it’ll become an issue as he transitions into the pro level.
Luckily, skating and strength aren’t impossible to fix. His skating looks more like a mechanical issue, so, hopefully, that’s something that someone like Barb Underhill can improve. Strength is probably something that will come with time for the young Villeneuve anyways, so I’m not overly concerned about it.
This pick is very close to an A+ in my eyes. I think that Villeneuve can develop into becoming a top-four defenseman. It’s probably more likely that he becomes an NHL team’s 4th defenseman, which is still amazing value for a late 4th round pick.
Villeneuve has room to improve, but I see this as a safe pick that could come with a lot of upside. We’ll see how he develops in Saint John, but I’m more interested to see what he’d be able to do with the Toronto Marlies or the Newfoundland Growlers, where he’ll likely have to use his size differently.
Definitely someone to look out for, the Leafs have his rights for two years, the lowest among players they picked in this draft, but I’d expect big things from the defenseman.
Drafted: Round 5, 137th overall
Age: Turned 18 on August 19th
Weight: 163 lbs
2019-20 Season: 24g/31a/55p in 54 games with the Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL), 0g/0a/0p in 2 games with Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 5g/5a/10p in 7 games with the Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL), 0g/0a/0p in 3 games with Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
Projected Draft Position: Late-Fourth Round to Late-Sixth Round
Three words. Boom. Or. Bust.
Dmitri Ovchinnikov is such an intriguing prospect, I love this pick from the Leafs. He’s just exactly who you want to pick in the 5th round, someone you can come back to in a few years and he’s suddenly one of your top prospects.
The best word to describe Ovchinnikov is “Potential”.
Let’s dive into his game. Offensively, he’s a STUD. Ovchinnikov is built to be a star, but he’s lightyears away (see what I did there?).
He’s an incredibly quick skater, zooming past the opposing defense. His skating makes him such a difficult skater to watch out for on defense, using his speed and skating ability to deceive his opponent.
This could become lethal paired with his brilliant stickhandling. Even though he’s outmuscled easily, he makes sure to limit that from being an option by just turning opposing defenses inside out. He’s not afraid to drive right to the net, which is where a lot of his goal production comes from.
His wrist shot is surprisingly strong, and he uses it as a weapon when needed. His hockey IQ and vision help a lot there, he’s able to get into open spaces and get a high-quality chance.
His playmaking skills are amazing as well. He’s able to use his speed, vision, and accuracy to find open teammates ready to create a chance.
His lethal toolbox is a problem for any opponent… except for one problem.
He’s just so easy to push away and knock down. Unlike other smaller players the Leafs have drafted, Ovchinnikov really plays like he’s small. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s like you could blow on him and he’ll fall. You can also tell that he’s smart enough to know when he’ll get outmuscled, sometimes hesitating from cutting through too much traffic if he doesn’t think he can slickly maneuver through it.
Defensively, he’s not bad, he’s able to limit offense and also stay ready for when his team has possession. However, his lack of strength limits him here once again. It’s not uncommon for him to get outmuscled.
Now, this creates an enigma for Ovchinnikov and the Leafs. Ovchinnikov plays small, and that’s what makes him such a pain to try stopping. However, if you’re bigger, it isn’t hard to stop Ovchinnikov at all, and that’ll plague him at the pro levels.
How do you make Ovchinnikov stronger without taking away the quick deceptiveness that makes him so special?
Either way, I think Ovchinnikov would actually benefit from gaining strength in his legs/core area. He falls down too easily and, hopefully, it could serve to aid his skating abilities.
There’s also the fact that he’s just not good at faceoffs. That could also be a strength issue, but it’s likely the reason that he no longer plays centre often.
I want to give this pick an A+ so badly, but I feel as if I should be a bit impartial here.
Ovchinnikov is a long way away from the NHL. It’s completely possible that we just never hear about the kid again as he produces in the KHL.
However, if he ever does become good enough to make the NHL, he’ll be a second liner at least, guaranteed in my opinion.
Dmitri Ovchinnikov is the type of guy who just develops in Russia, signs with the Leafs at 24, and wins the Calder.
He plays like a star, I can’t think of a player in the NHL who plays like him and isn’t a star.
The overlying issue is this. If Dmitri Ovchinnikov wants to find success in the NHL, he’s going to have to gain a very significant amount of muscle. I’m not talking about the stuff that’ll come with age and normal training, which is the case with a few other guys on this list. It’s going to take significant effort in the gym for Ovchinnikov to find success in any high-level professional league, that includes the KHL.
Watch out for #97, though. If he puts the effort in, he could become a star.
If I have to project him, I think he has top-six potential in the NHL. More likely to be an energetic forward on the second line, but he has star potential.
An overlooked component for his success: Can he work his way to become a centre in the KHL with added strength? Something that could help him if he does make the NHL.
Drafted: Round 6, 168th overall
Age: Turned 19 on September 20th
Weight: 159 lbs
2019-20 Season: 42g/31a/73p in 52 games with Kiekko-Espoo U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga) 2020-21 Season as of October 7th: Will start season with St. Cloud State University
Projected Draft Position: Late-Second Round to Early-Fourth Round
How do you let a guy like Veeti Miettinen fall so far? That’s probably what Leafs scouts thought when the Finnish winger fell into their lap in the sixth round.
Miettinen led Finland’s top junior hockey league in points this season. He just turned 19, so maybe you could attribute that to age, right? Well, he finished 4th in that league the year prior as a 17-year-old, behind guys who were at least a year older than him.
One thing you’ll notice about Miettinen very quickly: The kid just RIPS it. No regard for any human life whatsoever, he just blasts it to the next dimension. You give him an inch of room and he just absolutely sends it. Right circle, left circle, from the slot, doesn’t matter.
He’s also a great, fast skater. His shot, his speed, and his high effort level became a terrifying team last season.
He’s not afraid to go to the net at all either, he uses his speed and vision to get those net-front goals when needed.
For someone with such a lethal shot, Miettinen is a great playmaker. Some of his assists come from his shots being tipped in or a rebound from his shots, but he’s actually a brilliant puck-mover. When he knows he’s in a tough spot, he’s able to find a teammate in a better area.
This makes him such a difficult player to contain, do you limit the pass or the shot? He can do both!
Defensively, although he lacks in size, his work ethic makes sure that he’s not just a non-factor in his own end. His skating and ability to read the play so well makes him a force on the other end as well.
Still, I do want to see him bulk up. I think that his lack in size is what’s going to limit him at the next level, as opposed to his tools carrying over. Miettinen is set to begin the season with St. Cloud State University, which may be the perfect transition point for him. He’ll have to adjust to NA ice and stronger competition, but it’s not like he’ll be thrown into the water, smaller players have room to succeed in the NCAA.
I finally broke, I’m giving this pick an A+. Miettinen is an amazing value pick for the 6th round, and he has a lot of potential.
He isn’t a “star or nothing” player, but I think how he does in the NHL all depends on how he progresses in the NCAA. He needs to be able to gain strength and muscle without sacrificing his quickness and deceptiveness. If he’s able to, he’s brimming with top-6 potential. If he does reach that point, he’ll likely be a force on the Leafs’ second line. His work ethic and talent just make him such a brilliant bet here.
Drafted: Round 6, 177th overall
Age: Turned 20 on April 23rd
Weight: 176 lbs
2019-20 Season: 3g/5a/8p in 13 games with Jukurit U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 1g/1a/2p in 2 games with Jukurit (SM-Liiga), 0g/1a/1p in 2 games with Jukurit U20 (U20 SM-Sarja)
Projected Draft Position: Sixth Round to Seventh Round
Are the Leafs planning on holding their prospect camp in Helsinki? It might be a good idea because even though he’s their 4th Finnish selection in this draft, Axel Rindell is another solid pick.
Even though he’s an overager, Rindell caught eyes last season in Finland. After solid showings in Junior, the defenseman has been a stud in Finland’s SM-Liiga. His rookie season raised eyebrows, he had the 3rd most points among all U20 SM-Liiga players, first among defensemen.
Rindell is an offensive defenseman. Let’s get into his game.
Rindell knows when to use his shot, and he generally uses it when he has the chance. He was practically built for the power play, he’s able to take one-timers, slapshots, and wrist shots, using his weapons to create a chance for a teammate via a shot.
I also like his playmaking. Rindell has great vision, he’s able to easily seek out a teammate, whether it’s breaking out, or moving the puck around in the offensive zone.
This makes him a great offensive threat, and his ability to apply pressure on offense also makes him a fantastic option to man a powerplay unit.
One problem I have, although it’s not as pronounced as some make it to be: His skating. He just lacks the speed and general skating abilities needed for a defenseman like him to succeed in the NHL. He’ll sometimes get beat too easily by speed, and I’m a bit concerned with his acceleration. The way he plays, I don’t think it’ll be a huge issue in Finland. However, as he progresses to higher levels and has to mould his role, it’s going to become a concern.
His offensive game also means that he’s not always there defensively. However, when the puck is in his own end, he’s able to effectively break the puck out.
Axel Rindell is the type of guy that the Leafs pursue for the Marlies, a high-potential guy who’s a bit older than other prospects and has some fundamentals to work on. I’m thinking of Noel Hoeffenmayer in particular here. Although they aren’t necessarily comparables, they have similar issues to work on, but are both good bets to make the NHL if those issues are fixed.
I think Rindell is the type of guy you pursue after he goes undrafted, however, there are three issues with that here. 1. He’s signed for this season in Finland and has an option for the season after that, 2. There’s no guarantee that he would’ve gone undrafted, and 3. There’s no guarantee that he’d sign with Toronto immediately.
Although I think there were other high-potential bets on the board, I like this pick. At the end of Rindell’s contract in Finland, whether it’s 2021 or 2022, I think he’ll be ready to jump right in with the Marlies, refine his game and get used to NA ice, and become a promising prospect in no time.
If his game does get to the point where he’ll make the NHL, he’s built to be a #4/#5th defenseman who can make an impact on the second powerplay unit.
Drafted: Round 6, 180th overall
Age: Turned 18 on September 15th
Weight: 146 lbs
2019-20 Season: 25g/34a/59p in 25 games with Blake School (USHS-MN), 7g/6a/13p in 17 games with Team TDS Transportation (UMHSEHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: Set to start the season with Chicago Steel (USHL), is committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2020-21 season.
Projected Draft Position: Late Round Shot
When the Leafs picked Joe Miller, I had myself a kick out of looking at his height and weight. Only Kyle Dubas would pick a guy who weighs 146 pounds, right?
Well, Joe Miller actually goes much deeper than that.
Miller is one of the youngest players in this draft, born right on the cutoff date. It’s one of the biggest factors that makes him so intriguing. As the Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting said, “He is a really under-developed young man.”.
The issue is, no one seemed to really know anything about him.
Here’s what I can tell. Three things jump out to me about Miller. His speed, his shot, and his hands.
Joe Miller can skate really well. His size doesn’t look like a major problem for him because he’ll just breeze past the defense.
For a guy with his frame, he can shoot the puck really well. Even with his lacking strength, he’s a goal-scoring threat.
He also has silky smooth hands, a lethal duo with his speed to get past defenders. His hockey IQ allows him to think the game at a high rate, so he’s able to make the right decisions to make the best play, whether it’s breezing past the defensemen, taking the shot, or passing for a better chance.
Defensively, he’s not terrible, but there’s only so far you can go at 146 pounds. He’s agile and is able to think the game well enough for him to make the right play if needed. But how does that translate to the next level?
That’s the biggest question with Joe Miller. He played a singular game in the USHL in his D-1 year, coached by current Marlies coach Greg Moore. How do you figure out what does and doesn’t translate?
Joe Miller is a long-term project. He’s the kind of guy that you let physically mature and develop and then suddenly he’s a Hobey Baker candidate.
The Toronto Maple Leafs own his rights until 2025, which, obviously, is a long time.
High school prospects are difficult enough to predict. However, a guy like Miller, who’s super young, not physically developed, and hasn’t played at a high enough level is almost impossible to predict.
That makes Joe Miller such an intriguing prospect. What is he? That’s a question that’ll take a while to be answered.
This grade could look ridiculous in five years. Either it’ll be way too high or way too low, there’s no in-between.
The Leafs are banking on potential, and Joe Miller is brimming with it. He’s still a senior in high school, he has a lot of time to grow. However, Miller has a lot of developing to do, especially as he grows.
He’ll get to do just that. He’s set to play with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, and then he’ll play NCAA hockey in Minnesota. Miller has time.
I don’t know what Miller will be. Whereas a lot of the Leafs’ prospects in this draft are finding success against grown men, Miller last played hockey against kids coming off of Algebra class (probably).
As of right now, he looks to be a middle-six forward. He plays centre right now, but I seriously doubt that will continue as he reaches college.
Such an interesting prospect, but he’s a name you’ll have to remember long-term.
He also hopes to play beside a player he models his game after… 23-year-old Mitch Marner. Feel old yet?
Drafted: Round 7, 189th overall
Age: Turned 19 on June 13th
Weight: 181 lbs
2019-20 Season: 10g/21a/31p in 24 games with Dexter Southfield School (USHS-Prep)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: Set to start the season with Harvard University (NCAA)
Projected Draft Position: Late Round Shot
After picking Nicholas Abruzzese last year, it seems the Leafs are confident in picking overage players who are set to play at Harvard.
Honestly, I don’t know much about John Fusco.
I do know this, he comes from a hockey family. His father, Mark Fusco, won the Hobey Baker in 1983 and played for the Hartford Whalers. His uncle, Scott, played hockey with Mark at Harvard, won the Hobey Baker in 1986, and they’re both members of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Harvard is a family affair, his cousin Bradley played for Harvard, his brother Matt isn’t old enough yet, but is a Harvard commit, and John Fusco has been attending Harvard Zoom classes this year.
From what I can tell, he’s a smooth-skating defenseman who is mobile and can make plays. However, it’s hard to evaluate how successful he could be, considering that he played high school hockey as a fairly developed 18-year-old.
The Leafs likely believe he has the tools, but they’re looking to see how he performs with Harvard once their season starts. They hope that he can continue the success that his father and uncle had at the university.
Fusco is an intriguing prospect because you never know what a guy like him can do at the next level.
I think there were higher-reward picks available, but Fusco isn’t a terrible pick. I’m just curious about what he can do at the college level.
If he does perform well, I think he could be a solid #5 defenseman in the NHL as his ceiling. He’s a bit of a longshot, but I’m interested to see how a guy like him develops.
Fusco considers himself to be an offensive defenseman with a rugged game but says he’s pretty solid defensively. We’ll see how that carries over to the next level.
Drafted: Round 7, 195th overall
Age: Turned 18 on August 3rd
Weight: 201 lbs
2019-20 Season: 17g/21a/38p in 47 games with the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: Set to start the season with the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL), committed to the University of Denver in 2021.
Projected Draft Position: Fourth Round Pick to Seventh Round Pick
Wyatt Schingoethe is a super solid pick by the Leafs.
As Schingoethe describes himself, he’s a difference-maker. He finished 8th in the USHL last season among all U18 USHL players. Let’s get into his game.
One thing you’ll notice about Wyatt Schingoethe that’s different from other players in this Leafs draft class is that, even though he played the season as a 17-year-old, he’s definitely a strong player for his size.
His wrist shot is strong and accurate, he’s able to make space for himself and let it rip when he needs to. If not, his passing skills come in handy too. His ability to think the game allows him to make the right play, and it helped challenge opponents in the USHL.
He’s not a flashy player, though. A lot of Schingoethe’s production comes in front of the net. He’s able to use his strength to win net battles and get rebounds and deflections.
He’s a strong skater, it allows him to go strong up the middle to get a high-quality chance on net. The winger also has nice hands, he has bright flashes of skill where he’s able to undress the defense and beat the goalie.
Defensively, his strength, hockey IQ, and skating ability make him a threat on the other side as well.
Wyatt Schingoethe did this all at seventeen, he was born just a month before the cutoff for the draft. He’ll spend another season in the USHL, however, I’m eager to see how he can translate his game to the next level.
My only major concern with Schingoethe is the fact that, even though he’s not too tall, he’s still able to use his frame to succeed in the USHL. However, I want to see how he’ll adapt when he gets to the college level.
I actually like this pick a lot more than I did when I first saw it. I can’t really find any major holes in Schingoethe’s game, I think he’s a relatively safe pick. The Leafs will have to wait and see, I’m not sure about what else I’d want to see from him at the USHL level. If anything, I want to see if he can play centre. He’s listed as a centre on some websites and he does well skating up the middle. However, that’s not the role he succeeded in with Waterloo. It’s something I want to see him try at the USHL level, hopefully, it comes in handy later on.
If he does progress as projected, I actually think he’ll be a solid high-energy middle-six forward. In the NHL, he’ll likely play the wing and become a good third liner.
Drafted: Round 7, 213th overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on January 30th
Weight: 174 lbs
2019-20 Season: 26g/25a/51p in 47 games with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: Set to start the season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL), committed to Harvard University in 2021.
Projected Draft Position: Late Round Longshot
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded back into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to select their last player of the draft class. Local boy Ryan Tverberg.
The Leafs love Tverberg, that’s something that’s clear. John Lilley, the Leafs’ Director of Amateur Scouting, said that they had a bunch of guys pushing to pick Tverberg, which is why they traded for one last pick. In particular, he singled out Reid Mitchell, Director of Hockey and Scouting Operations, as someone who wanted him.
A similar message came from the Jr. Canadiens, the team that Tverberg plays for. Their GM, Blake Ricci, said that they saw the Leafs almost every week, and says he doesn’t think they missed a single game of the Jr. Canadiens playoffs.
So, yeah, they like this kid a lot. I took a look at his game, and I mostly agree.
Offensively, Tverberg was a stud in the OJHL, he finished 7th among U18 OJHL players, but he looked even better out there.
His skating is great, he’s able to use his speed to breeze past defensemen and get to the net.
He has a lot of confidence in his shot, which I like. He knows when he should and shouldn’t use it, and it makes for a good weapon. However, his shot isn’t good enough where I think, as it is right now, it’ll be a weapon at a higher level. Hopefully, he’s able to develop it further, I think it has quite a bit of potential.
His vision and hockey IQ is above-average, he’s able to read plays well and find teammates for high-quality chances. His hands are also great, he’s able to use his speed and hands to fool defenders and goalies alike.
Tverberg’s abilities also make him a threat in front of the net and in the corners. He’s able to seek out quality deflections and rebounds when he’s in front of the net, it’s where most of his production comes from. Even though he’s not the biggest, he’s able to win net-front battles or fight off long enough to get a great chance. In the corners, while he can’t always outmuscle the opponent, he’s able to use his speed and hands to get out of tough situations.
I like the heart that he has, he plays with a lot of effort even though he has the ability to make the game look easy. He likes driving to the net on rushes, another area where he finds success.
His skating, smarts, and work ethic are also tools defensively for him, he’s able to strip and help break the puck out.
What the Leafs really liked was something that I can’t scout: His character. After getting to know him very well, the Leafs had him as the last guy on their list that they really thought fit their culture.
My biggest concern with Tverberg is how his game will translate to the next level, which, for him, will be Harvard University. He’s set to spend another season in the OJHL, hopefully, he’s able to refine the finer points of his game.
I want him to improve on his shot, he knows when and how to use it but it’s just not strong enough in my opinion.
Overall, it’s hard to project a guy like Tverberg, however, he looks great at the level he’s at right now.
I think his ceiling puts him as a bottom-six centre. I think he plays with the heart that is needed for that kind of role, he’ll be able to provide offense even lower in the lineup in my opinion. However, it will take a lot of development to get to that level, but the Leafs know that and will give him the time.
Overall, this was an absolutely spectacular draft for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think this is one that could have a huge impact on their team to come, and I’m excited to see how these guys do.
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Maple Leafs’ 2020 NHL Draft Class