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.
As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to languish near the bottom of the league, things couldn’t be going better on the farm.
The Toronto Marlies remain the class of the American Hockey League, and by a fair margin. With a 12-1-1 record in their past 14, the Marlies have improved to 36-8-3 on the season and hold a 14-point lead over the next closest club. They also lead the league with 182 goals scored.
Although AHL success doesn’t always translate to NHL success, what makes this run by the Marlies so special is that they are doing it with the kids playing a leading role.
They should be even stronger heading into February with Connor Brown's broken ankle finally healed and William Nylander back from injury.
Connor Brown: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 29
Drafted: Sixth round, 156th overall, 2012
Season to date: 12 GP | 4 G | 6 A | 10 P | +6
It didn't take long for Connor Brown to make an impact upon his return from injury.
Brown, who led the Marlies in scoring last season, showed no ill effects from the fractured ankle that forced him to miss 34 games, scoring two goals and finishing with a game-high seven shots in Toronto's 7-1 win over the Utica Comets last Sunday.
He followed that up by scoring his third goal of the year in his second game back against Grand Rapids, and closed out the month with a two-point performance against Binghamton on Saturday.
William Nylander: C, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 62
Drafted: First round, eighth overall, 2014
Season to date: 28 GP | 14 G | 21 A | 35 P | +6
William Nylander returned Friday night from what many expected was a concussion suffered at the world juniors, but apparently that was only part of the story.
In his first game back, Nylander centred a line with Brown and Brett Findlay and finished with one assist after setting up T.J. Brennan with a nice pass.
Brendan Leipsic: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 19
Drafted: Third round, 89th overall, 2012 (Nashville)
Season to date: 45 GP | 14 G | 18 A | 32 P | +13
Brendan Leipsic continues to get it done for the Toronto Marlies.
The 21-year-old forward was once again one of Toronto's most productive players, chipping in six goals and 10 points in 11 games. His impressive numbers in January were bolstered by a three-goal, four-point night against St. John's, but his best moment was this incredible overtime winner against Syracuse a few games later.
The Marlies have received big contributions from a number of players this year, but Leipsic's play over the last few months has really stood out.
Kasperi Kapanen: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 42
Drafted: First round, 22nd overall, 2014 (Pittsburgh)
Season to date: 23 GP | 6 G | 9 A | 15 P | +5
Fresh off his golden goal for Finland at the world juniors, Kasperi Kapanen returned to Toronto and put together a nice stretch of hockey for the Marlies.
Kapanen went pointless in his first game back but picked up five points in his next four games while snapping a 10-game goalless drought.
Although Kapanen leaves you wanting more at times, especially when he does stuff like below, it's important to remember he's only 19 and has had his season interrupted numerous times by injury, illness and the world juniors. That is the case once again as he is currently day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment.
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Nikita Soshnikov: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 90
Season to date: 41 GP | 15 G | 8 A | 23 P | +218
Nikita Soshnikov arrived in Toronto as an unknown commodity, but he has played his way into a legitimate NHL prospect.
The gritty Russian winger was once again a catalyst for the Marlies in January, stringing together a four-game goal streak as part of a five-goal, eight-point month.
Soshnikov is now third on the team with 15 goals, with 13 of those coming at even strength or short-handed.
Josh Leivo: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL), No. 14
Drafted: Third round, 86th overall, 2011
Season to date: 33 GP | 13 G | 21 A | 34 P | +12
Josh Leivo didn't have a point in four games with the Maple Leafs, but he also didn't look out of place.
The power forward had some chances offensively, moved the puck out of his own end efficiently and made an effort to play through traffic and go to the tough areas of the ice.
If it wasn't for Scott Darling's remarkable save on Brad Boyes, Leivo would have picked up a nice assist in his second game with the big club.
After returning to the Marlies last week, Leivo had a monster game with two goals and two assists on Saturday before heading off to partake in the AHL All-Star festivities.
Mitch Marner: C/RW, London Knights (OHL), No. 93
Drafted: First round, fourth overall, 2015
Season to date: 36 GP | 28 G | 45 A | 73 P | +25
Given the standards he has set for himself this season, Mitch Marner had a "down" month in January.
Marner had six goals and nine assists in 11 games in January -- his lowest monthly total of the season, excluding a three-game December -- but it's not like it was for a lack of trying as he surpassed his season high in shots on goal with 49.
Marner also had a tough month on the physical side of things, taking a nasty cross check to the jaw and receiving a two-handed slash that he's still feeling the effects of.
Not to worry, the Leafs' top pick last summer still sits third in league scoring and points per game (2.03).
Jeremy Bracco: RW, Kitchener Rangers, No. 97
Drafted: Second round, 61st overall, 2015
Season to date: 36 GP | 15 G | 33 A | 47 P | +19
No Maple Leafs prospect had a better month than Kitchener Rangers winger Jeremy Bracco.
The talented playmaker has gotten better every month and took his game to another level in January, racking up seven goals and 19 points in 14 games. It's not just the points that are impressive, but how he's doing it. Here's just one example:
Travis Dermott: D, Erie Otters, No. 44
Drafted: Second round, 34th overall, 2015
Season to date: 39 GP | 4 G | 32 A | 36 P | +28
Travis Dermott played a supporting role for Canada at the world juniors, but he made his presence felt immediately upon returning to Erie.
In his second game back Dermott scored both Erie goals, including the OT winner, against the Greyhounds and followed that up with three assists over his next two games.
The minute-munching blue-liner had nine points in 10 games this month, including a two-assist performance on Sunday in which he had a game-high eight shots on goal. He currently sits fourth among defenceman in scoring.
Dmytro Timashov: LW, Shawinigan Cataractes, No. 88
Drafted: Fifth round, 125th overall, 2015
Season to date: 38 GP | 20 G | 49 A | 69 P | +18
Dmytro Timashov sure knows how to make a good first impression.
The flashy forward was dealt from Quebec to Shawinigan following the world juniors and wasted no time showing his new team what he brings to the table.
Timashov chipped in four assists in his Shawinigan debut and added a goal and two assists in his encore performance.
With another 16 points in January, Timashov is tied for eighth in league scoring but is second behind Conor Garland in points per game (1.82).
Martins Dzierkals: RW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, No. 10
Drafted: Third round, 68th overall, 2015
Season to date: 40 GP | 20 G | 27 A | 47 P | +12
Martins Dzierkals has had a decent month for the high-powered Huskies.
In nine games, Dzierklas has scored twice and added seven assists while continuing to flash the tremendous skill that makes him such an intriguing prospect.
Andrew Nielsen: D, Lethbridge Hurricanes, No. 6
Drafted: Third round, 65th overall, 2015
Season to date: 49 GP | 12 G |40 A | 52 P | +31
Andrew Nielsen isn't going to give up the defencemen scoring title without a fight.
With another three goals and 12 points in 11 games, the Red Deer, Alta., native continues to lead all defencemen in scoring and is six points ahead of the next highest-scoring blue-liner.
Andreas Johnson: LW, Frolunda (SHL), No. 88
Drafted: Seventh round, 202nd overall, 2013
Season to date: 39 GP | 17 G | 18 A | 35 P | +8
It's pretty impressive what Andreas Johnson is accomplishing in Sweden this season.
Johnson is currently one goal back of the league leader with 17, and trails the overall scoring leader, teammate and former Marlie Ryan Lasch, by six points. He has also managed to maintain this pace in spite of his age -- he is one of two players under the age of 21 in the top 25 in scoring -- and playing fewer minutes than those ahead of him.
A good chunk of Johnson's production in January came during a four-game point streak in which he had three goals (the nicest one is below) and three assists, but he closed out the month strong with back-to-back two point performances.