Leafs’ Hunter: ‘Sky’s the limit’ for prospect Timashov

NHL on Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston joins HC at Noon to discuss the Leafs season thus far, the good stretch of play against the Western Conference and playing with low expectations.

The Toronto Maple Leafs might have found themselves a gem in the late rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Dmytro Timashov, selected 125th overall this past June, has raised some eyebrows in the club’s front office with his play at the world junior hockey championship while playing for Team Sweden.

“I think people have noticed how good he is,” said Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter during a conference call Tuesday. “I mean, I don’t think he was getting his due recognition and now I think people have seen that he’s a good prospect for the Leafs.

“The sky’s the limit and he’s got more room to grow as a player, but he sure showed his ability and talent in this tournament.”

Hunter was speaking moments after Timashov’s tournament ended with an 8-3 loss to the United States in the bronze medal game.

Timashov finished third on his team in tournament scoring with seven points (two goals and five assists), behind only Adrian Kempe and Alexander Nylander.

“I just think he’s a superb passer. I think he made some elite passes during that tournament where you stand back and go, ‘Wow, that was pretty special,'” said Hunter. “I thought consistently he was one of the better players for Sweden the whole tournament.”

The Ukrainian-born Timashov plays for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. He put up 90 points (19 goals, 71 assists) in 66 games last year, and already has 53 points (18 goals) this year.

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Mitch Marner, whom the Leafs selected fourth overall in 2015, finished the tournament with four goals and two assists, in what was a disappointing showing for Team Canada. His play in the third period of Canada’s quarter-final loss to Finland, where he scored two power-play goals, caught Hunter’e eye.

“The third period of the last game he was at another level and he was where it should have been the whole game,” said Hunter. “He’s got to make sure he can get it going right from the get-go, or be more patient during the game where he’s not trying to get something done when there’s nothing happening.

“I thought he pushed it some times and then he got himself into problems with longer shifts, and a few things that showed some immaturity in his game, but I thought when the game was on the line, he brought another level and was very good.

“So [from] that standpoint we’re excited about him of course because of what he can do in big games.”

Marner’s Canadian teammate and fellow Leaf pick Travis Dermott had himself a “good” tournament according to Hunter.

“Travis has got to make sure he just keeps his pace going and keep improving and making sure he’s doing things faster,” said Hunter. “I mean, it’s so fast in the National Hockey League and it’s fast in the American League so I think Travis and all young players have to work at it.”

Kasperi Kapanen, whose Finnish squad has made the gold medal game against Russia, has spent the season playing for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Hunter has been happy with the 19-year-old’s performance playing in his home country.

“I think him playing against older players I think it advanced his play here and it helped him out to be more ready for this tournament, and I think he’s showing that where he had a good game the last game and had two assists and was an integral part of that team winning.”