Fresh off of their best season in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs stand poised to accomplish something special in 2018-19.
Now boasting John Tavares, the Leafs will enjoy an immense level of depth this coming season — depth which should propel the franchise to a deep postseason run. With a bevy of capable scorers and two-way forwards, Toronto could develop into an unstoppable force if able to receive consistent contributions from their defence as well as goaltenders.
Although new prospects won’t play a crucial role for the Leafs this season, depth contributions from the likes of Andreas Johnsson, Pierre Engvall, and Calle Rosen could push the team over the top. And, with even more young talent en route, the Leafs are poised for sustained success.
Stanley Cups: 13
2017-18 Record: 49-26-7; 105 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Mitch Marner; 22G, 47A, 69PTS
Farm System Grade: B+
Top 10 Prospects:
- Andreas Johnsson
- Carl Grundstrom
- Timothy Liljegren
- Calle Rosen
- Rasmus Sandin
- Pierre Engvall
- Dmytro Timashov
- Jeremy Bracco
- Eemeli Rasanen
- Joseph Woll
The State of the Leafs’ Farm System
Much like their NHL roster, Toronto boasts a whack of depth within their farm system.
Up front, the Leafs own a slew of highly talented and slippery forwards capable of altering the outcome of a game in the blink of an eye. Although they may not play a role at the NHL-level for some time, Dmytro Timashov, Jeremy Bracco, and Trevor Moore have shown well of late and could push for time with the big club in the coming years.
In addition to these creative danglers, the Leafs also hold a handful of players known for their strong and professional-style of play. Of note are Andreas Johnsson, Carl Grundstrom and Pierre Engvall — three prospects who could very well earn time with Toronto at the NHL-level this season.
Of the lot, Johnsson is surely the most potent and promising, as his tireless drive, work-ethic, and innate offensive skills have long made him a prospect of significant interest. As a former SHL Rookie of the Year, Johnsson has played well since his full-time arrival in North America — his 24 playoff points last season led the Marlies to an AHL Championship while securing AHL Playoff MVP honours in the process.
Moreover, on defence, Toronto holds a number of talented youngsters who could make an impact sooner than later owing to their elite hockey sense and creativity. With Timothy Liljegren already developing well, the Leafs added Rasmus Sandin in the 2018 NHL Draft — a mobile, puck-moving defender whose game is eerily similar to that of Liljegren’s.
Then, as if these two youngsters were not enough, Toronto also holds two rugged and intimidating defenders in Eemeli Rasanen and Andrew Nielsen. Although these two will still require a great deal of development and experience at the professional-level, either of which could nab a depth role on the Leafs’ roster in the near future.
Further, with an elite goaltending prospect in Joseph Woll on the way, Toronto’s current success could quite easily be sustained for years to come.
One Leafs Prospect to Watch
The Leafs boast a number of highly promising prospects, so discussing just one is no easy task.
So, for the purpose of this feature, let’s take a closer look at one of the franchise’s more overlooked prospects.
In reality, it’s next to impossible to overlook defender Eemeli Rasanen — the native of Joensuu, Finland stands 6-foot-7 tall and weighs in at 210-pounds. Nabbed by Toronto with the 57th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Rasanen played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL the past two seasons and was an intimidating force throughout his tenure.
Using his size to his advantage, Rasanen dominates opposing forwards within his own zone and causes a ton of turnovers owing to his active stick and tactile play. Capable of smothering attacking players, Rasanen can secure the puck and transition it to his teammates with relative ease. And, although he doesn’t join the rush too often, Rasanen can collect his fair share of points given his playmaking nature and ability to man the blue line with confidence and poise.
For the 2018-19 season, Rasanen has headed home to Finland in order to continue his personal development. Skating for Jokerit in the KHL, Rasanen will garner a great deal of professional experience this coming season playing against more physically mature competition. Signed to a two-year deal, Rasanen could return to North America following the 2019-20 campaign, at which point he could be ready to seize a depth role within the Leafs’ defence-core.