It is no surprise that the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect system is not as strong as it used to be. With prospects graduating to the NHL or going unsigned, it is normal to see certain players leave behind the ‘Leafs prospect’ moniker.
With that being said, it is also normal to see new players join the system and show off their great potential. With the Maple Leafs being in a cap crunch for the foreseeable future, it has never been a more important time to find options within the organization. As many people will probably wish to know how prospects are developing, what better time is there than now to see how some future Leafs are faring in their respective leagues?
While Yegor Korshkov is 24 years old, he has shown that he has the chance to be a solid NHL player in the future. Originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round, 31st overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, he has the makings of a potential power forward.
Having been loaned to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the 2020-21 season, he has managed to score two goals and add an assist for three points in five games. Over the course of his six-year KHL career, he has tallied 26 goals and added 42 assists for 68 points in 177 games.
What impresses me the most about Korshkov’s game is his ability to do a little bit of everything. He uses his size to gain positioning in front of the net and battles hard for loose rebounds. With the puck on his stick, he can spot teammates in the slot and create scoring chances when he pleases. When the puck transitions the other way, he makes sure to come back and uses his stick to break up plays in the defensive zone.
In the future, I believe he can become a solid bottom-six option for the Maple Leafs. In his only NHL game, he scored his first goal and proved he belonged. He has proven that he can play with almost anyone and I could see him being a solid addition to Alex Kerfoot’s wing in a few seasons.
While Mikko Kokkonen hasn’t signed with the Maple Leafs yet, there is still no denying how good he would fit on the team. Originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the third round, 84th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, he has the chance to become a solid puck-moving defenseman.
Having been loaned to Jukurit U20 of the U20 SM-sarja for the start of the 2020-21 season, he has collected two assists in two games so far. He is also expected to play some games for Jukurit in the Liiga but their season hasn’t started yet. Over parts of five years playing in the U20 SM-sarja, he has tallied eight goals and added 30 assists for 38 points in 64 games.
Kokkonen has the ability to make plays even with the opposition draped on his back. He uses his strength to outmuscle opponents and makes a great pass to his forwards in the slot. He is more than capable of jumping into the rush as he can use his skating ability to come back and defend.
While it is unknown whether or not he will sign with the Maple Leafs, it will still be exciting to see how Kokkonen develops. When he comes overseas, he will need to spend a few seasons in the AHL but he has the chance to be a solid bottom-four defenseman for the Leafs in the future.
Another unsigned draft pick, Kalle Loponen has been steadily improving over the past few seasons. Having been selected by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round, 204th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, he has shown that he deserves to be given a shot.
Loponen has started this season playing for Karpat U20 of the U20 SM-sarja where he has scored one goal and added two assists for three points in four games. He spent last season playing for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League where he tallied six goals and added 18 assists for 24 points in 56 games.
What impresses me about Loponen’s game is his ability to get involved in the action. Whether that be battling down low for pucks or setting up a teammate for a scoring chance, he is seemingly always involved in the play. He is great at getting a hard, accurate shot on net and can pick his spot given time and space.
Loponen, with continued development, could be a solid player down the road. He makes plays when he is on the ice and knows when it is safe to jump into the rush. If he signs with the Leafs, I see him playing a few seasons with the Marlies before making the jump to the NHL but he could be a solid fifth or sixth defenseman in the lineup.
Great Start to Respective Seasons
While this is only the start of the 2020-21 campaign for everyone, each prospect highlighted has shown that they are ready for the grind of the new season. Each has managed to put up solid numbers and, I imagine, has made some Toronto fans pretty excited. The future of the Maple Leafs is certainly promising.