The best Maple Leafs prospect no one is talking about

NHL insider Luke Fox joins SN Today to discuss some of the highs and lows of the Maple Leafs most recent drafts, keying in on the Mitch Marner year, and how they ended up getting Zach Hyman via trade.

Nick Robertson is not the only Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who seemingly scored at will in the junior ranks this season.

Mikhail Abramov: Remember the name.

Maybe it’s because the Moscow-born Abramov didn’t migrate west until last season. Maybe it’s because the baby-faced 18-year-old is undersized (5-foot-11, 162 pounds) and still adjusting to English and North American rink dimensions. Or maybe it’s because he wasn’t selected until the fourth round (115th overall) of the 2019 draft.

Whatever the reason, the playmaking, net-filling Russian centreman could just be the best Maple Leafs prospect you haven’t heard of.

With the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announcing an early end to its regular season this week, Abramov goes into the books as the Victoriaville Tigres’ 2019-20 leading scorer — by a landslide.

Pulling the junior version of a Nathan MacKinnon, Abramov’s 35 goals and 41 assists (76 points) over 63 games gave him a 16-goal, 35-point cushion over the Tigres’ next-most-productive player, defenceman Jerome Gravel (41 points).

And good reason for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to jump and ink Abramov to his three-year, entry-level contract 10 days ago. (Among the Leafs’ 2019 draft class, Robertson is the only other player to have put pen to paper.)

Regarded by amateur scouts as an intelligent playmaker with elite vision and a pass-first reputation, Abramov improved his shot and began flipping the script this season, his second on this side of the pond.

In his 2018-19 freshaman campaign in the Q, Abramov registered more than twice as many assists (38) as goals (16), prompting Tigres coach Louis Robitaille to — in conversation with The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler — compare Abramov to a developing Nicklas Backstrom.

“He’s always going to be a guy with more assists than goals,” Robitaille said.

Abramov was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team in 2018-19 and starred for bronze-medal-winning Russia at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

But confidence and accuracy in his shot catapulted to another level over the winter. Abramov’s shooting percentage leapt from 9.6 in 2018-19 to 14.3 in 2019-20, and he pulled the trigger 77 more times. Further, only eight of the kid’s 35 goals came on the power-play.

Yes, Abramov’s weaknesses fall into the same category of so many Dubas picks. He’ll need to pack on some muscle and strengthen his two-way game.

But the innate talent is there, the shot is coming around, and Abramov will celebrate his 19th birthday next week. There’s time to grow.

Whenever hockey returns, Mikhail Abramov is one to keep an eye on.

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