Toronto Maple Leafs prospect report: March

Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says he watches a lot of Leafs games, says they work you to death, and he has no doubt that William Nylander will be an NHL stud.

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.

The youth movement officially arrived in Toronto this month.

Seven players skated in their first NHL game in March, with most showing varying signs they can be part of the long-term solution in Toronto — maybe starting as early as next season.

While it’s too early to make roster predictions, William Nylander, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov seem like safe bets to pencil in for next season, while several others will be knocking on the door.

And given what some of the players in the system accomplished this year, more youth should be on the way soon.


William Nylander: C, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Drafted: First round, eighth overall, 2014

Season to date:

AHL: 37 GP | 18 G | 27 A | 45 P | +8
NHL: 13 GP | 4 G | 3 A | 7 P | +1

The Maple Leafs expect big things from William Nylander, and it's easy to see why.

In 13 games with the Leafs, Nylander has put on display all of the tools that make him an elite prospect: Exceptional speed and acceleration, a heavy, quick and accurate shot and great vision and poise with the puck.

There's plenty the 19-year-old has to improve on at the NHL level, but with his skill set and Mike Babcock guiding his development, it won't be long before Nylander is a star in the league.

In the meantime, Nylander can gain some valuable experience and take that with him back to the Marlies for what should be a lengthy playoff run.

Nikita Soshnikov: RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Drafted: Undrafted

Season to date: 

AHL: 50 GP | 18 G | 10 A | 28 P | +24
NHL: 11 GP | 2 G | 3 A | 5 P | -4

Nikita Soshnikov has endeared himself to fans and management alike in his short time in the NHL.

The energetic winger has earned the praise of coach Babcock for his versatility, tireless work ethic and ability to get under the skin of opponents.

It also helps that he has some skill, as he showed on his first career goal.

Zach Hyman: RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Drafted: Fifth round, 123rd overall, 2010 (Florida)

Season to date:

AHL: 54 GP | 13 G | 20 A | 33 P | +28
NHL: 13 GP | 4 G | 2 A | 6 P | +2

Zach Hyman is another prospect who has played his way into Babcock's good books.

The 23-year-old is strong on the puck and on the boards, and plays a sound defensive game. He is also more than willing to go hard to the net and has been rewarded with four goals as a result.

Even with all the skill the Leafs have coming through the pipeline, there will always be room for a player like Hyman on Babcock's team.

Connor Carrick: D, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Drafted: Fifth round, 137th overall, 2012 (Washington)

Season to date:

AHL: 47 GP | 10 G | 16 A | 26 P | +23
NHL: 16 GP | 2 G | 2 A | 4 P | -4

Connor Carrick has been a nice addition to Toronto's prospect pool.

A forward growing up, Carrick has good offensive tools and, despite his size, plays with some bite. In 12 games this month, he has chipped in two goals and two assists while averaging almost 16 minutes of ice time.

He's still only 21 years old and the fact he is a right-hand shot is a bonus.

Connor Brown: RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Drafted: Sixth round, 156th overall, 2012

Season to date:

AHL: 28 GP | 9 G | 15 A | 24 P | +10
NHL: 4 GP | 1 G | 2 A | 3 P | -1

Before joining the Leafs on March 17, Connor Brown was enjoying one of his best months in the AHL.

He had three-straight multi-point games, including a four-point outing, to pile up nine points in seven games.

It appears Brown carried that confidence with him to the NHL, as he has picked up three points in four games and scored his first career goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.


Frederik Gauthier: C, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Drafted: First round, 21st overall, 2013

Season to date:

AHL: 52 GP | 5 G | 11 A | 16 P | +17
NHL: 2 GP | 0 G | 0 A | 0 P | -1

Considering Frederik Gauthier wasn't even a lock to make the Marlies at the start of the season, it's pretty impressive he already has his first taste of NHL action under his belt.

He didn't look too out of place, either. The six-foot-five, 238-pound centre played deep in both zones and even had a few scoring chances. And while his skating still needs work, he was able to keep pace and move the puck up the ice.

Gauthier was recently sent back to the Marlies, where he has one goal in seven games this month.

Brendan Leipsic: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Drafted: Third round, 89th overall, 2012 (Nashville)

Season to date:

AHL: 57 GP | 18 G | 27 A | 45 P | +16
NHL: 6 GP | 1 G | 2 A | 3 P | -1

Brendan Leipsic has been on a tear since rejoining the Marlies at the beginning of the month.

The 21-year-old had eight points during a five-game point streak after being reassigned to the AHL.

Josh Leivo LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Drafted: Third round, 86th overall, 2011

Season to date:

AHL: 45 GP | 14 G | 26 A | 40 P | +13
NHL: 12 GP | 5 G | 0 A | 5 P | +2

After a strong showing with the Leafs in February, Josh Leivo was reassigned to the Marlies to start the month of March before coming back to the NHL on March 20.

Leivo was a little snakebit during his seven games with the Marlies. He only finished with a goal and an assist, but had a number of good scoring chances that he couldn't capitalize on.

In three games after his call-up to the big club, Leivo had one goal (an empty-netter) and some good moments – a strong cycle play leading to Toronto's first goal versus Anaheim, for example – in limited ice time.

He was sent back to the AHL on Friday.

Kasperi Kapanen: RW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Drafted: First round, 22nd overall, 2014 (Pittsburgh)

Season to date:

AHL: 39 GP | 9 G | 16 A | 25 P | +5
NHL: 4 GP | 0 G | 0 A | 0 P | E

Kasperi Kapanen didn't get on the board during his time with the Leafs, but he definitely stood out.

The 19-year-old showed off his speed, hands and creativity on a number of occasions.

Kapanen was pretty quiet upon returning to the Marlies with only one goal, two assists and nine shots on goal in seven games.

Tobias Lindberg: LW, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Drafted: Fourth round, 102nd overall, 2013 (Ottawa)

Season to date: 51 GP | 10 G | 22 A | 32 P | +13

Tobias Lindberg has stepped up for the Marlies in the absence of the team's top players.

After a slow start to his Toronto career, the 20-year-old power winger turned it up in March with five goals and three assists in 10 games and has been a consistent threat on most nights.


Mitch Marner: C/RW, London Knights (OHL)

Drafted: First round, fourth overall, 2015

Regular Season: 57 GP | 39 G | 77 A | 116 P | +45

Mitch Marner finished the season as one of the top producers in major junior, as was expected of him at the onset of the year.

The slick winger finished third in the OHL in scoring and second in points per game (2.04), just behind teammate Christian Dvorak (2.05). He was only held off the score sheet five times this season, had 16 three-point games, four four-point games and three five-point games.

In March, Marner did what he has been doing all season: making plays and racking up points (13 in nine games).

Marner was also named the Western Conference's best stickhandler and playmaker in the annual OHL coaches poll.

Travis Dermott: D, Erie Otters

Drafted: Second round, 34th overall, 2015

Regular Season: 51 GP | 6 G | 37 A | 43 P | +36

Travis Dermott tailed off after being one of the OHL's top point-producing defencemen early in the season, but he still finished fourth in the league among blueliners with 0.84 points per game.

Almost all of his production in March came in a three-point effort against the Owen Sound Attack as he closed out the final month of the regular season with with four points in seven games.

Dermott also earned praise in the OHL coaches poll, being named the Western Conference's top offensive defenceman.

Stephen Desrocher: D, Kingston Frontenacs

Drafted: Sixth round, 155th overall, 2015

Regular Season: 51 GP | 11 G | 35 A | 46 P | +29

He doesn't have the same ceiling as many of Toronto's prospects, but Stephen Desrocher quietly put together a nice season.

Desrocher, 20, finished fifth in scoring among defencemen with 11 goals and 46 points – a big jump offensively after finishing with only 23 points a year ago.

The six-foot-four blueliner was a big factor on Oshawa's Memorial Cup-winning team in 2015, and he should get another chance to play a similar role for the East-leading Frontenacs this year.

Jeremy Bracco: RW, Kitchener Rangers

Drafted: Second round, 61st overall, 2015

Regular Season: 49 GP | 21 G | 43 A | 64 P | +15

Jeremy Bracco's first season in the OHL was a successful one.

Bracco finished with 1.31 points per game and was one of the top playmakers in the OHL – at least according to coaches, who voted him third-best in the Western Conference. He also finished third in the stickhandling category.

In his final month of the regular season, Bracco had nine points in seven games highlighted by a four-point effort against the Flint Firebirds.


Dmytro Timashov: LW, Shawinigan Cataractes

Drafted: Fifth round, 125th overall, 2015

Regular Season: 57 GP | 22 G | 63 A | 85 P | +27

It was a tale of two seasons for Dmytro Timashov.

In 29 games with the Quebec Remparts, Timashov had 18 goals and 53 points. In 28 games after being shipped to Shawinigan, Timashov came back down to earth with four goals and 32 points, including eight points in seven contests in March.

Still, the talented playmaking winger finished 14th in the league with 85 points and a higher point-per-game average than he did a season ago.

Martins Dzierkals: RW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

Drafted: Third round, 68th overall, 2015

Regular Season: 59 GP | 24 G | 43 A | 67 P | +23

Latvian winger Martins Dzierkals left a good impression in his first season in North America.

Dzierkals, who had nine points in as many games in March, finished second in rookie scoring and third on the top-ranked team in the CHL.


Andrew Nielsen: D, Lethbridge Hurricanes

Drafted: Third round, 65th overall, 2015

Regular Season: 71 GP | 18 G |52 A | 70 P | +30

No Leafs prospect took a bigger step forward this season than Andrew Nielsen

The burly blueliner, who had 24 points in 59 games last year, finished three points back of Ivan Provorov, the WHL's top-scoring defenceman, after leading the way for most of the regular season. His play earned him a spot on the Eastern Conference First All-Star Team.

Nielsen faces a stiff test in the playoffs, as he will be tasked with shutting down WHL-leading scorer Adam Brooks in Lethbridge's first-round series against the Regina Pats.


Andreas Johnson: LW, Frolunda (SHL)

Drafted: Seventh round, 202nd overall, 2013

Regular Season: 52 GP | 19 G | 25 A | 44 P | +7

Andreas Johnson had another quality season for Frolunda.

In his third season in the SHL, Johnson finished sixth in goals, fifth in points and first in power-play points with 24. He finished with nine more points than he did last season with three fewer goals, although his shooting percentage dipped from 14.38 per cent to 10.18 per cent.

Johnson had two goals and an assist in five games to help Frolunda win their first-round playoff series against Djurgarden.