In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to focus on recent news that might help Maple Leafs’ fans keep more up-to-date about the organization’s prospects. In the post today, I’ll share news about Mikhail Abramov and Erik Kallgren.
Item One: Mikhail Abramov Captains Victoriaville Tigres to QMJHL Championship
In the fourth round 4 (115th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs drafted a young Russian center named Mikhail Abramov from the Victoriaville Tigres. After his draft, Abramov continued to play with the QMJHL Tigres and this season his team hit the jackpot – or more truthfully “earned” the jackpot – when he captained his Victoriaville team to a quite remarkable championship that included upsets of the top two regular-season QMJHL teams.
The pandemic created a crazy QMJHL season. The Charlottetown Islanders played 40 games and compiled a record of 35-5-0. The Val d’Or Foreurs played 36 games and complied a record of 29-3-2. In sixth place in the league was Victoriaville, a team that only played 26 games and compiled a 16-9-1 record.
Given the regular-season records, few thought Victoriaville stood a chance in the playoffs. However, the Tigres beat both Charlottetown and Val-d’Or in back-to-back series to take home the championship. Talk about showing up; the Tigres’ captain Abramov led the way with 24 points in 19 games. That scoring was not much of a surprise because he had scored 30 points in his 25 games this season.
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More remarkable perhaps was last season’s breakout. In 2019-20 season, the Tigres were a so-so team with a 26-28-9 record. Abramov scored 76 points during the season to lead his team. But the real story is that the next highest scoring Tigres’ player only record 41 points. That’s a difference of 35 points – almost double the points for Abramov. He obviously can carry a team by himself.
During the team’s championship playoff run, Abramov scored game-winners, set up overtime goals, took key face-offs, and – according to reports – simply had “moments where he looked like he just decided he wasn’t going to be stopped.”
That bodes well for the Maple Leafs’ organization. Now, at 20 years old, Abramov is eligible to join the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. But what a junior career. He was the Tigres’ team captain, leading scorer, and now a QMJHL champion. By the way, Abramov is thought to have been the first European captain in QMJHL (or even CHL) history to win a league championship.
Item Two: Maple Leafs Sign Erik Kallgren
During his postseason media interviews, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas noted that the organization had signed Erik Kallgren in net to complement Jack Campbell, Michael Hutchinson, and Ian Scott. That begs the question: Who’s Erik Kallgren?
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Here’s a bit of Kallgren’s background. In mid-May, the Maple Leafs signed the young goalie to a two-year, two-way contract. At the NHL level, the contract is worth an AAV of $750,000.
Kallgren was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh round (183rd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In 2019, he moved to North America and played five games in the AHL and ECHL. However, because the Coyotes had such strong goaltending depth in their organization, they believed Kallgren wasn’t in the organizational mix and unconditionally released him.
Kallgren decided to return home to play in Sweden instead of staying in North America. In Sweden his game started to come together. This season with Vaxjo HC, his record was 12-9-0 with a goals-against-average of 2.37 and a save percentage .911. However, it was in the playoffs where he really shone. He put up a record was 7-3-0 with a goals-against-average of 1.74 and a save percentage .937.
What probably also makes Kallgren interesting to the Maple Leafs is that he plays with Vaxjo, which is also Pontus Holmberg’s team. Holmberg is the young center the Maple Leafs drafted late in the sixth round (156th overall) during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Maple Leafs’ fans might know that Holmberg had a breakout SHL playoffs and helped lead his team to the championship. In fact, the Maple Leafs signed Holmberg to an entry level contract last week.
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Kallgren might be a nice addition to the Maple Leafs’ prospect pool. He’ll probably join the Newfoundland Growlers or the Marlies next season. It will be interesting to see how well Holmberg can translate his recent success to North American ice.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Although there are likely many things going on in the background, there also likely be a dearth of news emerging from the Maple Leafs about signings. Fans will likely be in the dark until after the Seattle Kraken expansion draft scheduled for July 21, 2021. Until then, things will likely remain quiet and negotiations will be informal and behind the scenes.
But Maple Leafs’ fans, be ready for the last week of July.