Every month throughout the NHL season we’ll be updating you on the development of key Maple Leafs prospects with up-to-date stats, videos and analysis.
If February is any indication, things are starting to look up for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A number of prospects got the opportunity to audition for the big-club, and outside a few rookie mistakes didn’t look out of place. There could be more opportunities on the horizon with the Leafs expected to ship out a few more bodies by the trade deadline.
Although these are just the first steps of a lengthy process, the bigger picture is beginning to come into focus.
Josh Leivo LW/RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL/NHL), No. 14/32
Drafted: Third round, 86th overall, 2011
Season to date:
AHL: 38 GP | 13 G | 25 A | 38 P | +14
NHL: 9 GP | 4 G | 0 A | 4 P | +3
Josh Leivo has made the most of his NHL tryout with the Maple Leafs.
Leivo has shown off his lethal shot and strong cycle game during his stint with the big club and had goals in four straight games -- a team high this season.
Coach Mike Babcock said the 23-year-old needs to get stronger over the summer, which is true, but goals are the hardest thing to come by in the NHL and Leivo has shown he can find the back of the net.
Brendan Leipsic: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL/NHL), No. 19/49
Drafted: Third round, 89th overall, 2012 (Nashville)
Season to date:
AHL: 49 GP | 16 G | 21 A | 37 P | +15
NHL: 4 GP | 1 G | 1 A | 2 P | E
It was a whirlwind month for Brendan Leipsic.
The 21-year-old forward scored in his NHL debut, went back down to the Marlies and had a two-goal game and then rejoined the Leafs and played on the first line against the team that drafted him.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 20, 2016
Leipsic has made a favourable impression on coach Mike Babcock, who has praised the "greasy little guy" for his skill, fearlessness and work ethic.
William Nylander: C, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 62
Drafted: First round, eighth overall, 2014
Season to date: 37 GP | 18 G | 27 A | 45 P | +8
It didn't take long for William Nylander get up to speed after returning from injury.
Toronto's top prospect had six points in his first three games back with the Marlies and showed no ill effects from a concussion that kept him out of action for a month.
Nylander has once again been above a point-a-game player in February with 10 points in nine games, including this slick goal against Rochester on Saturday.
This might be the last we see of Nylander with the Marlies in the regular season, as he was recalled to the Maple Leafs Monday morning.
In the meantime, here's him showing off his footy skills...
Zach Hyman: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 11
Drafted: Fifth round, 123rd overall, 2010 (Florida)
Season to date: 54 GP | 13 G | 20 A | 33 P | +28
Zach Hyman has been one of the Marlies' more reliable players this season.
The rookie winger has good size (6-1, 205), plays a solid two-way game and kills penalties. He also leads all AHL forwards with a plus-28 -- four points ahead of the next closest Marlies forward -- and short-handed goals (4).
Hyman also has an offensive side.
Playing on a line with Detroit Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin last season, he was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist after leading Michigan in scoring. In his short stint on the top line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen this month, Hyman has shown he can keep up offensively -- punctuated by his three primary assist-performance against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Here's his assist on Nylander's game-winning goal.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 20, 2016
He currently has seven points in nine games this month.
Rinat Valiev: D, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 61
Drafted: Third round, 68th overall, 2014
Season to date: 50 GP | 3 G | 17 A | 20 P | +33
Rinat Valiev might never be a top-end defenceman, but he's certainly opened some eyes in his first pro season.
Not only is he second among Marlies defencemen with 20 points, Valiev has played well defensively on a shutdown pairing with captain Andrew Campbell. Plus-minus isn't the most telling stat, but when you are third in the league in that category you're doing something right.
Connor Brown: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 29
Drafted: Sixth round, 156th overall, 2012
Season to date: 21 GP | 6 G | 9 A | 15 P | +6
After catching fire to close out January, Connor Brown cooled off in February.
The Toronto native, who missed nearly three months with a broken ankle, scored a pair of power-play goals and added three helpers in nine games in February. Brown was a force at times, but there were also stretches when he wasn't much of a factor.
With that being said, Brown has had a point in nine of the 13 games he's played since returning from injury -- pretty impressive considering all the time he missed.
Kasperi Kapanen: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 42
Drafted: First round, 22nd overall, 2014 (Pittsburgh)
Season to date: 32 GP | 8 G | 14 A | 22 P | +7
Kasperi Kapanen kicked off the month on a five-game point streak and appears to be hitting his stride in the second half of his rookie season.
It helps that he has seen regular time on the top line alongside Nylander, as the two have developed some good chemistry on and off the ice.
— AHL (@TheAHL) February 6, 2016
Tobias Lindberg: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 20
Drafted: Fourth round, 102nd overall, 2013 (Ottawa)
Season to date: 41 GP | 5 G | 19 A | 24 P | +11
The Maple Leafs added another quality prospect this month when they acquired Tobias Lindberg as part of the trade that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds Lindberg brings some needed size to Toronto's crop of prospects, along with good speed and offensive instincts.
Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, who saw plenty of Lindberg as coach of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, had this to say about his new winger: “Bigger guy. Big and strong. Has ability to go real heavy on the puck on the offensive zone. Really, there’s a lot to like there,” Keefe told Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet The Fan 590 Tuesday. “I certainly believe he’s on the path to be an NHL player.”
Keefe isn't the only member of the Maple Leafs organization familiar with Lindberg. Lindberg won a Memorial Cup with Leafs assistant D.J. Smith in Oshawa last season, while Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas have deep ties to the OHL.
In seven games with the Marlies so far, the 20-year-old Lindberg has two assists and 22 shots on goal.
Mitch Marner: C/RW, London Knights (OHL), No. 93
Drafted: First round, fourth overall, 2015
Season to date: 48 GP | 38 G | 63 A | 101 P | +39
Mitch Marner has given the Maple Leads plenty of reasons to be excited this season, but he really outdid himself in February.
The highly-touted prospect made headlines and highlight reels across North America after scoring one of the prettiest goals you'll see all year.
But it didn't end there, as Marner had another ridiculous month with a season-best 10 goals and 28 points in 12 games.
Even Snoop Dogg is buying into Marner Mania.
Jeremy Bracco: RW, Kitchener Rangers, No. 97
Drafted: Second round, 61st overall, 2015
Season to date: 42 GP | 18 G | 37 A | 55 P | +14
Jeremy Bracco saw limited action in February after being handed a five-game suspension for a high cross-check on Erie's Haydn Hopkins.
In his first game back Friday night, Bracco had a goal and two assists to give him three goals and seven points in seven games in February.
Travis Dermott: D, Erie Otters, No. 44
Drafted: Second round, 34th overall, 2015
Season to date: 44 GP | 5 G | 34 A | 38 P | +31
Travis Dermott also had some disciplinary issues in February.
The OHL suspended Dermott five games for "hitting an unsuspecting player." He sat out two games while the league was reviewing the play.
Dermott only appeared in five games as a result, but the impact of his absence was felt.
— Victor Fernandes (@GoErieHockey) February 21, 2016
Like Bracco, Dermott made an immediate impact upon returning, finishing with two assists in Erie's 4-0 win over North Bay Friday.
Dmytro Timashov: LW, Shawinigan Cataractes, No. 88
Drafted: Fifth round, 125th overall, 2015
Season to date: 50 GP | 20 G | 58 A | 78 P | +25
February wasn't the best month for Dmytro Timashov and the Shawinigan Cataractes.
After going off upon arriving in Shawinigan in January Timashov hit a lull this month with one goal and nine points in 12 games. Those aren't horrible numbers, but they are well below his season average of 1.56 points per game.
Timashov only has two goals in 21 games since joining the Cataractes, who despite being second overall in the QMJHL fired their coach and benched their top scorer last week.
The Ukrainian-born Swede is still having a stellar season, but the Cataractes need him to be more involved come playoff time.
Andrew Nielsen: D, Lethbridge Hurricanes, No. 6
Drafted: Third round, 65th overall, 2015
Season to date: 62 GP | 16 G |48 A | 64 P | +28
With only 10 games remaining in the season, Andrew Nielsen continues to lead all defencemen in scoring.
Nielsen had another solid month for the East-leading Lethbridge Hurricanes with four goals and 12 points in 13 games. His big-time shot is a major reason why for his offensive success this season.
Andreas Johnson: LW, Frolunda (SHL), No. 88
Drafted: Seventh round, 202nd overall, 2013
Season to date: 48 GP | 19 G | 22 A | 41 P | +7
There's no need to bury the lede on this one: just look at this pass.
— Daniel Moritz (@moritzdaniel) February 23, 2016
Besides dishing up the sauciest saucer pass that ever sauced, Johnson also had another solid month for Frolunda.
The 21-year-old winger has six points in eight games after scoring twice on Wednesday to end an eight-game drought. Despite the cold streak, Johnson remains two goals back of the league leader and sits fifth in points.