You’ve probably heard people say the Toronto Maple Leafs have the best prospects in the NHL. You also might have heard about the Toronto Marlies putting up a ridiculous 54-16-5 record in the AHL last season.
Many of last season’s Marlies have graduated to the Leafs this year – William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Connor Carrick, and Josh Leivo for the time being.
So who’s left?
There are too many Leafs prospects to talk about properly in just one post so let’s focus on five players in the Leafs’ system you should keep an eye on.
Kapanen was often an afterthought on last season’s high-octane Marlies, fighting for attention with the likes of Nylander, Brown, Hyman, and more. Many other Marlies forwards were older, better, or both.
This, along with what seemed like the notion that he could compete harder, earned Kapanen a scratch in Game 1 of the AHL playoffs last spring. Pretty disappointing for a player who was an NHL call-up about a month prior. When Kapanen was brought back into the lineup for Game 2, he emerged as one of the Marlies’ most dangerous forwards for the rest of the playoffs.
How will Kapanen perform this season? He scored five points in his first two games of the season, earning him AHL Player of the Week honours.
Now it’ll be about consistency from the 20-year-old.
Another young player who fell victim to the numbers game at times last season, playoffs included, Leipsic should have a chance to really emerge in the AHL this season.
Kapanen earned Player of the Week honours for scoring five points in two games, but Leipsic also earned five points in those same two games!
At just 21-years-old last season, Leipsic scored 54 points in 65 games. I’ve seen people compare him to Brendan Gallagher because he’s both pesky and smallish (listed at 5’9″ and 181 lbs). What that comparison fails to acknowledge is that Gallagher is also a legitimate offensive threat, which Leipsic can be, as well.
If you go to any Marlies games this season, pay attention to how Leipsic skates and carries the puck. Watch how he creates the play on this Zach Hyman goal from this past spring’s AHL playoffs.
Leipsic is a real candidate for the first call-up if the Leafs need him.
A heart-breaking story from last season. After tearing up Europe offensively for several years, Johnsson looked impressive in his AHL debut with the Marlies during their playoff run. He quickly earned himself some time on fellow Swede William Nylander’s line. Then this happened:
Dan Kelly got 10 games for that and Johnsson was out for the playoffs.
How will he bounce back this season? He already has three goals in two games. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the NHL later this season at all.
This will be a fascinating season for Soshnikov.
He electrified fans in his brief NHL stint last season but had that cut short due to injury. Then his Marlies playoff run was hampered due to injury. Then he comes into camp, he has an outside shot at making the team, and that was cut short – wait for it – because of injury.
Soshnikov just turned 23-years-old. If you can believe it, only four Marlies forwards who have played so far this season are older than that (Colin Greening, Rich Clune, Marc-Andre Cliche, and Byron Froese). That isn’t to say this season is make-or-break for Soshnikov, but he certainly can’t afford to take a step backwards with the forwards the Leafs have in waiting.
He scored in the only game he has played so far, saw time on special teams, and was vocal on the ice. If he stays healthy, produces, and shows that patented Sosh flair, Soshnikov is another Leafs candidate this season.
Watch his shot – so lethal.
Watch this kid.
Here’s the quick story of Andrew Nielsen, who I profiled in the spring: He scored 24 points in 59 games as a defender in the WHL. The Leafs picked in him the 3rd round of the 2015 draft. The following season he scored 70 points in 71 WHL games.
Now in what is his first full professional season, he has three points through two games, including the Marlies’ first goal on home ice this season.
The Leafs organization is flush with talented young forwards but their defensive future doesn’t seem quite as bright. Maybe it’s because the pool isn’t that deep but Andrew Nielsen may be quietly becoming the Leafs’ best defensive prospect. He has a knack for finding open lanes, he has an accurate shot he isn’t afraid to use, he has a 6’3″, 220 lb frame with a bit of a nasty streak, and he doesn’t even turn 20 until November 13th.
We’ll see how he lasts over the course of an entire season but it’s hard not to be excited about Andrew Nielsen.
Let’s talk about one more Marlies player for some bonus material…
Greening was acquired from the Ottawa Senators last season as somewhat of a “cap dump” in the Dion Phaneuf deal.
To many’s surprise, he put up a very respectable 15 points in just 30 games with the Leafs down the stretch last season. Imagine if the Leafs didn’t get Matthews because they didn’t finish last?
Greening will get paid $3.2 million to play for the Marlies this season. It’s obvious he can still play but the price tag is too rich for the Leafs, not to mention the other teams who had a chance to claim him on the waiver wire.
I think there’s a real chance the Leafs may try to call him up if the need arises. The better Greening plays, the better his chances are.
Who on the Marlies would you like me to write about next? Leave a comment down below or tweet me.