Young Toronto Maple Leafs prospects simply keep winning awards. In yesterday’s post, I reported that Nick Abruzzese had been named the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) rookie of the year after scoring 44 points (14 goals and 30 assists) in 31 games. He’s a youngster on the rise.
Today’s post carries news of more success of other rising Maple Leafs’ prospects – Nick Robertson and Noel Hoefenmayer.
Item One: No Surprise, Nick Robertson Names 1st Team All-Star
When you’re Robertson, it seems as if every week is Christmas because you keep opening gifts. This week was no different. On June 12, Robertson was named an OHL First Team All-Star. Really, that’s no surprise. However, it does highlight just how great a season it was for the diminutive warrior.
During a COVID-19-shortened season, Robertson led the OHL in goals with 55 goals and 86 points in 46 games. During the past two weeks he received both the OHL and the CHL Sportsman of the Year Awards. He was also recently invited by the Maple Leafs to be on its postseason roster.
And, perhaps this too was a given, but Robertson was voted the MVP of his own Peterborough Petes by the players he lines up with. That’s a nice gesture, which shows that respect for Robertson extends both outward throughout the OHL and is also held by his own teammates. It says something that everyone likes this young guy, including the players on his own team.
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We have no idea what’s coming for Robertson, but we do know he’ll be one of the Maple Leafs’ Black Aces for the postseason. So, will the next news be something generated on the Maple Leafs roster?
Item Two: Noel Hoefenmayer Wins the CHL Defenseman of the Year Award
Robertson was not the only Maple Leafs prospect who garnered an award this past week. Toronto Marlies’ signee Noel Hoefenmayer was named the Defenseman of the Year in the CHL. The Toronto-area native scored in 46 of his 58 games during the 2019-20 season, including 24 multiple-point games.
Offensively, Hoefenmayer’s in good company. The 82 points he scored were the most by an Ottawa 67’s defenseman since Brian Campbell scored 87 points in 1998-99, and Campbell enjoyed a long NHL career playing 18 seasons with four different clubs. As well, Hoefenmayer’s 26 goals were the most by a 67’s defenseman since Bruce Cassidy scored 27 during the 1983-84 season.
It must have been fun for 67’s fans to watch this youngster grow as a player. During Hoefenmayer’s five-year career with the 67’s, he played in 298 career games and scored 65 goals. His 222 points rank sixth on the team’s all-time list. However, he didn’t experience immediate offensive success.
During Hoefenmayer’s first season with the club, he scored only five points (with two goals) in 45 games. But he just kept getting better. During the 2018-19 season, he scored 16 goals and 46 assists (62 points) in 68 games. This season he jumped to 26 goals and 56 assists (82 points) in only 58 games – which is almost an assist per game.
Given his scoring prowess, it was a surprise when the 2017 fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes wasn’t signed by the Coyotes but instead inked an AHL contract with the Marlies. Given Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas’ history of giving AHL signees a shot with the Maple Leafs – think Justin Holl – there’s a chance that if Hoefenmayer’s growing into as good a player as he seems, perhaps he’s another young player Maple Leafs fans could soon get excited about.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Although it’s still a long-time coming, one question the Maple Leafs organization has is what to do with Kasperi Kapanen. He’s a young player with an excellent skill set, but he simply doesn’t seem to have found his place on the team.
Last season, he simply didn’t show well playing with linemates John Tavares or Mitch Marner on the left-wing; and, with Marner and the getting-better William Nylander on the right-wing in front of him, he’s a third-liner.
What happens to him is a question for the offseason, whenever that comes. In the meantime, there might be hockey to play.