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.
While all eyes are on the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs currently skating with the big club, there are still a number of prospects making noise in the system.
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly are undoubtedly the most important players for the Maple Leafs in the near future but depth is critical to sustained success in the NHL, and if you can develop it yourself rather than pay for it in free agency, all the better.
So while there is no marquee prospect in the system this year, there is plenty of talent and a number of players who could one day make an impact with the Maple Leafs.
Here’s a look at how some of them have performed in October.
Brendan Leipsic, 22, LW
Drafted: Third round, 89th overall, 2012 (Nashville)
Season to date: 8 GP | 3 G | 10 A | 13 P | +6
Brendan Leipsic has not only been the best offensive player on the Marlies but also the best in the entire AHL.
The league’s leading scorer with 13 points, Leipsic has been on a tear to start the season with points in six of Toronto’s first seven games, including a four-point performance in the season opener. Here’s a few examples of the play that earned Leipsic AHL player of the month honours for October.
This one didn’t result in a goal, but it’s an impressive heads-up play nonetheless.
Leipsic drew good reviews from Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock last season, and with his performance so far, it might not be long before he gets another look with the big club.
Kasperi Kapanen, 20, RW
Drafted: First round, 22nd overall, 2014 (Pittsburgh)
Season to date: 8 GP | 4 G | 5 A | 9 P | +3
After a choppy start to his pro career last season, Kasperi Kapanen has taken a big step forward early in his sophomore campaign.
The speedy winger is right up there among the top scorers with four goals and nine points through eight games after finishing with only nine goals and 25 points in 44 games last season. But more importantly, Kapanen looks much more confident in his second season and has been one of the team’s most noticeable players night in and night out.
As a result of his hot start, Kapanen was named the AHL’s first player of the week for 2016-17.
Andrew Nielsen, 19, LD
Drafted: Third round, 65th overall, 2015
Season to date: 8 GP | 3 G | 4 A | 7 P | +4
Andrew Nielsen was one of the more surprising prospects last year when he finished third among WHL defencemen in scoring despite entering the year with few expectations.
He has carried that over to the AHL, where he currently sits tied for second among defencemen in goals and seventh in points while playing on the first pair alongside captain Andrew Campbell.
With a heavy and accurate shot from the point, Nielsen has been particularly effective on the power play, where he has generated five of his seven points.
Travis Dermott, 19, LD
Drafted: Second round, 34th overall, 2015
Season to date: 8 GP | 0 G | 5 A | 5 P | +6
Travis Dermott hasn’t looked out of place during his first taste of pro hockey.
There’s a steep learning curve when making the jump from junior to the AHL, particularly for defencemen, but Dermott hasn’t looked overwhelmed matching up against bigger, faster, and more experienced competition. The early offensive production is just a bonus at this stage.
Unfortunately it looks like Dermott will be sidelined for a little while after leaving last Saturday’s game against Albany with an undisclosed injury.
Andreas Johnsson, 21, RW
Drafted: Seventh round, 202nd overall, 2013
Season to date: 8 GP | 3 G | 1 A | 4 P | +1
Andreas Johnsson’s North American career got off to an unfortunate start last season when he suffered a concussion on a nasty hit in just his second game with the Marlies.
But things have gone much smoother this time around.
The 21-year-old winger got off to a quick start this year with three goals in his first two games, all via the power play. Johnsson’s success with the man advantage isn’t much of a surprise, as he finished second among all players with nine power-play goals in the SHL last season.
Although his production has slowed of late (one assist in his last six games), he’s still been generating chances while adjusting to the nuances of the North American game.
Antoine Bibeau, 22, G
Drafted: Sixth round, 172nd overall, 2013
Season to date: 5-0-2 | 1.64 GAA | .944 SV% | 2 SO
Joining Leipsic and Kapanen, Antoine Bibeau was also recognized by the AHL for his hot start by earning goaltender of the month honours.
After backing up Garrett Sparks in the opener, Bibeau has been red hot since taking over the Marlies crease, posting two shutouts with a .944 save percentage over his first six games.
It’s been a much different start for Bibeau this season after he struggled out of the gate last year.
Jeremy Bracco, 19, RW, Kitchener Rangers
Drafted: Second round, 61st overall, 2015
Season to date: 13 GP | 9 G | 17 A | 26 P | +3
The Kitchener Rangers have been one of the best teams in the OHL this season, and Jeremy Bracco has been a huge factor.
In his second OHL season, Bracco has emerged as one of the premiere offensive players in the league and sits sixth in scoring with 26 points in 13 games. A big chunk of that production came in a three-goal, five-point night against Guelph.
Bracco hasn’t been held off the score sheet yet this season and has six multi-point games.
Nikita Korostelev, 19, RW, Sarnia Sting
Drafted: Seventh round, 185th overall, 2015
Season to date: 15 GP | 14 G | 9 A | 23 P | -3
Nikita Korostelev’s post-draft year did not go well but he’s been much better to start his fourth season with the Sarnia Sting.
The hard-shooting Russian has 14 goals in his first 15 games, good for third in the league.
And some of them have been absolutely filthy.
Martins Dzierkals, 19, RW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted: Third round, 68th overall, 2015
Season to date: 15 GP | 10 G | 12 A | 22 P | +14
Martins Dzierkals made a strong first impression in the QMJHL last season and he’s picked up where he left off.
With 22 points in 15 games, Dzierkals is one of the offensive leaders for the top-ranked Huskies and, if you’re into that kind of thing, sits fourth in the league in plus-minus.
Adam Brooks, 20, C, Regina Pats
Drafted: Fourth round, 92nd overall, 2016
Season to date: 9 GP | 6 G | 13 A | 19 P | +14
It’s going to be difficult for Adam Brooks to top his league-leading 120-point campaign from last season, but despite missing Regina’s first six games, he’s right on track.
Since returning to the Pats’ lineup Oct. 12, Brooks has produced six goals and 19 points in nine games to rank second in the WHL with 2.11 points per game. In his breakout season a year ago, the Pats captain finished with 1.67 points per game.
The over-age centre is also riding a nine-game point streak to start the year while the juggernaut Pats have won eight of nine since his return.
Yegor Korshkov, 20, RW, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv
Drafted: Second round, 31st overall, 2016
Season to date: 25 GP | 4 G | 10 A | 14 P | +1
There was a lot of head scratching when the Maple Leafs drafted Yegor Korshkov with the first pick of the second round in June.
But he’s showed a glimpse of why the Leafs coveted him. In October, the rangy Russian winger racked up seven points in 11 games. Despite playing only 13:28 per game on a low-scoring, defence-first team, Korshkov has already surpassed his points total (12) from last season, while his 14 points rank second among KHL players aged 20 and under.
Carl Grundstrom, 18, RW, Frolunda
Drafted: Second round, 57th overall, 2016
Season to date: 15 GP | 6 G | 1 A | 7 P | +2
The Maple Leafs’ other second-round pick from 2016, Carl Grundstrom, has been scorching hot over the last two weeks.
Grundstrom has five goals and seven points in his last six games, including the first hat trick scored in the SHL this season.
Grundstrom, who is tied for most points among under-20 players in the SHL, is now one goal away from matching his total from last season.
J.D. Greenway, 18, LD, University of Wisconsin
Drafted: Third round, 72nd overall, 2016
Season to date: 7 GP | 1 G | 3 A | 4 P | +3
J.D. Greenway is a raw defenceman with a lot of size (6’5″, 210 lbs.), good mobility, and some offensive upside.
And although he’s experienced some common growing pains in his freshman season at Wisconsin, the Maple Leafs’ third-rounder has made a good impression with head coach Tony Granato.
“The D, he’s made a big impact on that blue line, he’s done a lot of things for us,” Granato told USCHO.com after Wisconsin’s win over St. Lawrence last week. “He’s a big body, and I think that alone has really helped us, but he skates well. He’s been really good. You expect young guys to make mistakes and be a little inconsistent, but as the season goes on, we’ll get more and more out of him.”
Joseph Woll, 18, G, Boston College
Drafted: Third round, 62nd overall, 2016
Season to date: 5-2-1 | 1.99 GAA | .933 SV% | 0 SO
Joe Woll had some big pads to to fill at Boston College.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko was the NCAA’s top goalie last season and provided Boston College with stability between the pipes for three years, but Woll has filled in admirably in relief.
Woll has posted Demko-like numbers, albeit in a very small sample, with a .933 save percentage and 1.99 GAA while allowing two goals or fewer in six of his eight starts.