It’s been a long few games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After getting some revenge and defeating the Dallas Stars, the club took on the St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres. They managed a point in an overtime loss to the Blues and allowed three first-period goals to the Sabres en route to a 3-1 loss.
They are still in a wildcard spot and have games in hand on many of their competitors. Despite the losses, the Leafs are still a very exciting team to watch. Loaded with young and explosive talent, they are the talk of the league and are a shining example of how a plan can pay off if you simply have enough patience.
Speaking of young and exciting, the Leafs have a great boatload of upcoming prospects who will be looking to make an impact at the NHL level. A recent Leafs’ draft pick has many people talking.
Putting Up a Brick Woll
Joseph Woll was selected by the Maple Leafs in last year’s draft. He was taken in the third round, 62nd overall and was plucked from the U.S. National Under-18 Team. The Leafs at the time had a very thin stable of men in between the pipes.
Frederik Andersen was the starter with his backup yet to be determined. They also had a pair of Marlies, Garret Sparks and Antonie Bibeau, who were considered the closest thing to NHL ready.
The drafting of Woll was a big move for the organization. Toronto hasn’t had a legitimate goaltending prospect in many years and past examples, such as Andrew Raycroft and Justin Pogge, haven’t translated well into the NHL when they got a chance.
Woll is currently playing in the States for the Boston College Eagles where he’s having a fantastic freshman season. His record stands at 14-9-1 with a goals-against average of 2.60 and a save percentage of .916.
He also has a gold medal to his credit, as he was part of the American squad to win the most recent World Junior tournament.
Woll was ranked fifth by NHL Central Scouting among North American goalies. He’s a big goalie that is able to fill the net and crease. He’s a fast-mover for a bigger netminder and his reaction time and ability to handle pressure in his crease is fantastic.
The Leafs also have a great situation going with Woll. They control his rights for four years and don’t need to offer him a contract at the moment. He can take the entirety of his four years at Boston College before the Leafs sign him. That gives him extra time to develop, which for goaltenders is key. It’s a great situation for the Maple Leafs.
Looking to Russia?
The Maple Leafs have made some interesting moves to scout and sign players from Russia the last couple of years. Two extremely notable examples are both playing for the Leafs this season. Nikita Soshnikov, the young forward, has been a solid presence on the fourth line where his ability to dish out hits has made him very effective at his job.
The other is Nikita Zaitsev, the fluid blueliner, who has found himself on the top pairing. He’s munching big minutes for the Leafs who heavily lean on him and Morgan Rielly to shut down the oppositions top lines. The Leafs were also in the mix for Artemi Panarin, before he signed with Chicago.
The newest Russian on the list is Vladimir Tkachyov. He’s a Russian free agent that is rumored to be signing with the Blue and White when his KHL contract expires at the end of April. Tkachyov would be a valuable asset to have and could give the team a little bit of extra scoring depth at centre, which is an area the Leafs have looked at upgrading.
He’s currently plying his trade for Ak Bars Kazan, where he has 15 goals and 29 points in 56 games. Acquiring the Russian would help round out the bottom six and would give the Leafs the ability to ice four threatening lines on a nightly basis. He’s also solid in the faceoff dot and sits at 52.8% for his career.
Nothing is certain, but his agent has been kicking tires on his client, who he insists is willing to make the jump over to North America. It’s an intriguing option to keep an eye on.