In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll focus on some of the young prospects in the organization. Currently, the Maple Leafs are holding their annual development camp led by Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser, the head of the Maple Leafs’ player development area. I’ll share some of the news from the camp.
The first player I will note is young defenseman, William Villeneuve. Second, I’ll share information about newly-drafted Swedish goalie Dennis Hildeby, who was chosen in the fourth round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Third, I’ll share the news that former goalie prospect Ian Scott has decided to call it quits. Finally, I will make a quick note about a prospect who’s yet to make an impact on the Maple Leafs’ lineup, but might this season. That’s Joey Anderson.
Item One: William Villeneuve Keeps Matthew Knies in Check
William Villeneuve is a 20-year-old, right-shot defenseman who was a 2020 fourth-round pick (122nd overall) of the Maple Leafs. Although that’s a pretty low draft choice, sometimes defensemen are tough to project. If his 2022 Maple Leafs development camp continues well, he’ll be a strong addition to the Toronto Marlies’ defense and, perhaps eventually, to the Maple Leafs’ blue line.
Last season, he was part of the Saint John Sea Dogs Memorial Cup championship team. With the Sea Dogs, he scored eight goals and added 48 assists (for 56 points) in 64 games. He also registered one assist in five games as they won the Memorial Cup. (from “ Villeneuve gains a boost of confidence in keeping Knies in check at Leafs’ development camp,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 19/07/2022).
Villeneuve is hoping to earn a spot on the Marlies’ roster this season, but he’s already earning the respect of the development camp organizers. One of his claims to fame thus far is that he’s done a good job checking one of the Maple Leafs’ top prospects. That’s Matthew Knies.
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When the two players went face-to-face in their first scrimmage earlier in the week, Villeneuve was able to keep up with the increasing pace and held his own against Knies. After the scrimmage, Villeneuve noted that Knies is “a great player, he’s a big guy too.”
Villeneuve seems ready for the challenge. He shared that “I think you always want to compare yourself to the best players out there. It makes me better every day. We had a couple of good battles and it was really fun.”
Item Two: Goalie Dennis Hildeby Looks Both Tall and Good
Speaking about Maple Leafs’ prospects, one player that’s hard to miss in the development camp is Swedish goaltender Dennis Hildeby. Hildeby is 6-foot-6. The goalies have been, for the most part, separated from the skaters and only meet up during the scrimmages.
As Maple Leafs Head of Player Development and Assistant General Manager Hayley Wickenheiser noted, the management has decided to put the goalies “on a different sheet and really give them one-on-one attentiveness.”
So far, Wickenheiser has reported, all the goalies have looked good during the scrimmages. However, newly-drafted and signed goalie prospect Hildeby has looked especially good. Hildeby uses his size well and stays square to the puck while moving around the crease. Again, it was reported that Hildeby is doing remarkably well considering he’s recovering from surgeries on both of his hips last year.
Growing up in Sweden, Hildeby was a huge Henrik Lundqvist fan. He especially liked Lundqvist’s compete level.
Item Three: Young Goalie Ian Scott Retires at 23 Years Old
Not everyone recovers from injuries as well as Hildeby. There’s sad news on a personal level for young goalie Ian Scott. His injuries have forced him to decide that it’s wisest to end his playing career. Scott has suffered and has been battling injuries for the last couple of years. Ultimately, he decided that it was just time to move on at the age of 23.
The Maple Leafs’ goaltending prospect showed great promise after his draft season when he was a surprise addition to the Canadian World Junior Team and part of the Prince Albert Raiders’ WHL Championship. During that season, he put together an absolutely great record of 38-8-2, with a goals-against-average of 1.83, and a save percentage of .932.
Scott, who was chosen in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs, played just eight professional games in four years. He released the news of his retirement in a touchingly personal Instagram post that began “No athlete wants to make this kind of post but I have decided to step away from playing hockey,” Scott wrote in the post.
Good luck to Scott as he pursues other opportunities.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Joey Anderson has been kicking around the Maple Leafs organization since he came back in a trade on October 10, 2020, with the New Jersey Devils for Andreas Johnsson. He’s now 24, but he might have his best shot at some regular playing time with the Maple Leafs this season.
He seems to have skills that would make him a strong bottom-six player, and he might have a good chance this season. It depends on how the team deploys its young players.
As I’ve noted, I’d love to see a crash and bang fourth line made up of young players auditioning for space in the Maple Leafs’ top three lines.