With the Toronto Maple Leafs having so many good prospects in their system, general manager Kyle Dubas has likely received a few calls from teams trying to pry one of them out of his hands. A few years ago, Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan said that they were going to build this team through the draft, and they have done just that.
With many star players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander having come from the draft, the Leafs know that it’s essential to developing homegrown talent that can help them win now and down the road. Dubas would be silly to trade some of the prospects in the system, as they could make a serious NHL impact down the road. Without further ado, here is who I think the Leafs’ untouchable prospects are.
The first prospect on this list is none other than Nick Robertson. In my opinion, he’s their best prospect. Robertson has already proven to a lot of people that he is on track to become a dynamic NHL player. With the Leafs having drafted him in the second round, 53rd overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, he’s already proven that he is a steal.
What has impressed me the most about Robertson is the way he can put the puck in the back of the net. His instincts and the way he is able to find space in the slot is very impressive. He is always open, and when he receives a pass, he can use his lethal shot to place it in the back of the net with ease. In his brief time playing with the Leafs in the play-in round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he managed to score his first NHL goal and proved that he could handle his own in the NHL.
Robertson is also good on the defensive side of the puck. In the three games that he played against the Blue Jackets, he averaged 2.3 takeaways a game and showed that he could effectively close off passing lanes and break up scoring chances. When he is able to intercept the opponent’s pass, he transitions the puck up the ice quickly. He thinks the game really well and has proven it thus far.
In the future, I think Robertson will be able to a solid contributor in the Leafs’ top six. While the top six doesn’t have many openings at this point, Robertson definitely has the talent to be a go-to player for the Maple Leafs on a nightly basis. I can see him getting some time on the power play, as he averaged 1:02 of power play time in the playoffs. All in all, he is one of the brighter young players the Leafs have in their system at the moment, and I don’t think Dubas would ever think about trading him.
One of the newer Leafs’ prospects, Rodion Amirov has been really impressive all year long. Consistently ranked as one of the better players eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, he was a very solid selection for the Leafs at 15. Currently playing for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), he has scored three goals and added three assists for six points in 19 games.
What is really impressive with Amirov is how good he is with the puck on his stick. In the offensive zone, he uses his skating ability to dart in and out of traffic and is great at being able to spot teammates in the slot for a scoring chance. Another strong asset is his shot. Whether it be in the slot or off a face-off, he is able to handle a pass and can rifle a hard, accurate shot towards the net in an instant. His numbers thus far in the KHL as a 19-year old have been impressive, and he will only get better as time goes on.
While he won’t be ready to make the jump to the NHL for at least a few more years, Salavat Yulaev Ufa has given Amirov a solid role. Averaging 15:30 of ice time a game, his coaches have complete trust in him to go out and play his own game. With the sport having already shifted to a more skilled and fast-paced approach, Amirov has all the qualities that a team wants in a young prospect. While no one knows how the future of a prospect will go, he’s a bright young talent, and Dubas would be making a bad decision if he were to think about trading him.
The oldest player on this list, Rasmus Sandin may no longer be considered a prospect by some, but he is still a young player who has yet to establish himself on the Maple Leafs, so I see no problem including him on this list. Drafted by the Maple Leafs in the first round, 29th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, he’s looked good in his brief time in the NHL.
Having split the 2019-20 season between the Leafs and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, Sandin managed to accumulate eight points in 28 games in the NHL and 15 points in 21 games in the AHL. What has impressed me the most with Sandin is how calm he is with the puck on his stick. Some nights, you may not recognize him on the ice, but that is because he is doing his job properly and rarely turns over the puck.
Sandin makes a great first pass out of the defensive zone to his teammates breaking through the neutral zone. He is a great skater, and when there are no other options, he can skate the puck out of trouble. In the offensive zone, Sandin is great at being able to find teammates in the slot. He is great at walking across the blue line and can get a hard, accurate shot on net in an instant.
With the Leafs’ blue line looking deeper than it has in years, Sandin will have a tough time making the Leafs out of training camp this year. As much as I think he is ready for the NHL, another year playing big minutes for the Marlies would not hurt. He is going to be an important piece of the Leafs’ blue line in the future, and there is no need to rush him into a big-time role at this moment.
Although the Leafs’ prospect pipeline is not what it used to be, they still have talent at every position. There are certain prospects, such as those highlighted above, that should be untouchable. All of these players are integral parts of the Leafs’ future, and finding cheap talent is a must for Dubas, given the cap constraints that this team is under.
All stats were provided by InStat Hockey.
My name is Mathieu Sheridan. I am a writer here at THW who covers the OHL and prospects in general.