TLN Prospect Rankings: Which “no vote” player could surprise us?

When I look back on all the years we’ve been doing prospect rankings at TLN, the name that sticks out the most as a player we were consistently wrong on was Pierre Engvall. The first four years Engvall was with the Leafs organization he didn’t crack our top 20 before finally jumping straight to #9 on the rankings in 2018 after a strong debut with the Marlies and an impressive year in the SHL. Some players are late bloomers, projects, or simply are being developed towards a niche role that might not show up well in their early days.
So it’s in that spirit I’ve asked the group which of the players that went unranked by all of us this year do we have some excitement about? Who could be a sleeper for the top 20 next year?
Nick Barden: Pavel Gogolev
I’m going to have to say Pavel Gogolev. He began his tenure in the organization back in February of 2021 and really burst onto the scene. Scoring 12 points in 13 games during his first …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

How Rich Clune cemented his legacy in the Maple Leafs organization

When Rich Clune returned home to join the Maple Leafs organization, I’m not sure he’d understand the footprint he’d leave behind seven years later.
15 seasons, eight professional teams, 624 AHL games, 143 in the NHL — the 35-year-old is entering retirement with a legacy that’s going to be remembered forever.
We could say it began in 2015 when Clune returned to play for his hometown team in Toronto, but really, it started long before that. From the ages of 15-24, he faced the toughest battle of his life against alcohol and substance use disorder.
“I was such a mess that I was either going to wind up dead or kill somebody else.” Clune wrote in a Players Tribune article back in 2015.
He openly told his story — something that’s incredibly hard to do — to help others. Clune called it “The Battle”.
“As a hockey player, you’re constantly worried about what the boys think. What coach thinks. We have been taught to view words like “disease” as a weakness. I am an alcoholic. I have a disease. But I am stronger than I have ever been.” Clune wrote. “I blame nobody but myself for my past, and I realize that every day I wake up to a choice: How do I want to live? I still go out with my teammates. I go to weddings. I go to the beach. I dance and laugh and part …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: #14 Mikhail Abramov

When Mikhail Abramov entered the Maple Leafs organization full time, there were plenty of question marks.
The 21-year-old seemed like the perfect pick for Toronto in the fourth round back in 2019. A six-foot tall centreman who was able to be dominant with the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL — he was someone the Maple Leafs needed to pounce on.
One of the unfortunate parts for him, and for plenty of other NHL prospects, was the pandemic which slowed his development down. In his final season in the QMJHL, Abramov was the captain in Victoriaville but only wore the ‘C’ for 25 games.
And now, the 21-year-old is in the AHL, where plenty hope his game will evolve.
Mikhail Abramov
C | Toronto (AHL) | Age: 21 | 6-foot-0 | 161 lbs | Shoots: LAcquired: 2019 4th Round, 115th Overall | 2021 Ranking: 9
At the beginning of his first AHL season, many had question marks about whether Abramov would fit in the AHL right away. Obviously, he had the skillset, but did he have the ability to deal with the physicality of the AHL?
Short answer — yes. Long answer, we’ll see.
It was mostly an up and down season for the 21-year-old. When entering your first season of pro after having spent a few years in junior, there’s a lo …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: #20 Max Ellis

When you lack draft capital as the Toronto Maple Leafs have over the past two seasons, making just eight selections over that span, one way to supplement the prospect pool is to dip into the undrafted free agent market.
Enter Max Ellis, the lone undrafted NCAA signing for Toronto this spring.
Ellis makes his debut on the TLN Prospect Rankings just inside the Top 20 after his impressive breakout season at Notre Dame. While his team-leading 16 goals and 28 points would suggest a straightforward, productive season for the 22-year-old winger, there is a lot more to Ellis’ season that makes him a fascinating new entry to the prospect pool.
Max Ellis
RW | Notre Dame (Big-10) | Age: 22 | 5-foot-9 | 165 lbs | Shoots: RAcquired: UDFA Signing, 4/8/22 | 2021 Ranking: N/A
Entering the 2021-22 season, Max Ellis had an opportunity to earn a spot on Notre Dame’s top line. The Fighting Irish were in need of a new top contributor following the departure of Alex Steeves, funnily enough to the Maple Leafs organization. Ellis had a good year in 2020-21, scoring 16 points in 24 games in his first full year of NCAA action after being limited to just eight games as a freshman, but was mainly used in a secondary role.
With Steeves moving on and no notable freshm …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Leaflets: Teams with money to burn, the Marlies factor, and the case for keeping Holl

Optimism is a dangerous thing when it comes to the Leafs. I went into the playoffs optimistic, after all, how much a fight would Tampa put up when they’ve played more hockey than anyone else in the past three years? Similarly, I went into this offseason optimistic, sure I was a bit realistic too knowing that great goaltenders wouldn’t be available and Kyle Dubas would be running back the majority of the lineup, but admittedly I expected a noteworthy draft and something resembling an impact skater once free agency opened, and that optimism hasn’t been rewarded. In fact for all the criticism, the goaltending related moves are what stands out as the success story for Kyle Dubas this summer. Of course, I mean the summer so far. Free agency hasn’t even been open for a week, and while I’d expect Kyle Dubas to be on vacation as soon as the Leafs development camp wraps up, there is still some time to wow those of us who want to be wowed. Maybe that’s still optimism. I really need to learn.
The remaining big spenders
When it comes to teams with money to burn in the NHL, there are few of them who still have that money left. Teams like the Coyo …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Why Masai Ujiri, Raptors have leverage in Kevin Durant talks

Why Masai Ujiri, Raptors have leverage in Kevin Durant talks

The Toronto Raptors may not end up with Kevin Durant when all of the dust settles after his trade request, but it won’t be from a lack of trying. Masai Ujiri has ensured that Toronto is consistently mentioned as a landing spot as the trade saga rages on. Toronto’s chances, however slim they may be, […]
Why Masai Ujiri, Raptors have leverage in Kevin Durant talks – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Value to be found in non-tendered free agents once again for Maple Leafs

When you’re a team that operates near the salary cap ceiling, free agency is a time to try to bring in undervalued talent rather than throw money at the big fish.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, this is the situation they’ve found themselves in for a few seasons now. While the flat cap world has hurt Toronto by keeping them near the salary cap without the anticipated growth of the cap over the past couple of years, there is a bit of a silver lining to be found.
As every team has to deal with the ramifications of a stagnant salary cap, it has resulted in teams becoming much warier of arbitration for their restricted free agents. For another year in a row, this has resulted in multiple intriguing mid-20s players becoming available on the open market due to team’s non-tendering their restricted free agents either due to a qualifying offer that is too high or an arbitration case they want no part of.
Last summer, GM Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs dipped into the non-tendered UFA market quite a bit. David Kampf, one of their best signings, was one of these players, having been non-tendered by Chicago. Ondrej Kase was another, who was let go by Boston due …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Why the NHL Free Agent Market is Ripe for Deals

You know when the “buckle up” light comes on in a plane? That’s what this post is. We’re about to hit some turbulence.
Folks, we’re 36 hours away from Free Agency, capital FA. I don’t have time to explain things as well as I should, so you’re getting pure, unadulterated Earl brain. Here’s what I know; when the 2020 MOU was signed, high escrow in the first two seasons incentivized players to take shorter term contracts. The flat cap doubled down on that, as teams didn’t have the cap space to sign players to long term extensions. Well, 2022-23 is the third season of the MOU. Escrow is (relatively) low, those short term contracts are coming due, and the cap has still barely budged, just $1m in 4 seasons.
Teams didn’t stop giving elite players raises. In the past 5 seasons, the average of the top 100 cap hits jumped from 9% to 10% of the upper limit. There is already more players making $7.5m+ than ever before, and there are still some big names on the market. Like, massive names. Gaudreau, Kadri, Giroux, Burakovsky, Malkin, and Klingberg could all join that group. Some …

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Author: Earl Schwartz / The Leafs Nation

The case for the Leafs to go the “safe” route with their first-round pick

To say that Kyle Dubas’ reputation preceded him when he was appointed Leafs GM would be an understatement. Climbing the ranks from the Soo Greyhounds to what ultimately equated to an apprenticeship under the highly respected and revered Lou Lamoriello, Dubas made a name for himself as someone who put a greater emphasis on the analytical side of player evaluation, valuing raw skill above all else.
It was a welcomed change for Leafs fans who hungered for a new voice with a fresh perspective – especially at the draft table following three years of mostly fruitless drafts guided by former assistant general manager Mark Hunter, whom Dubas beat out for the GM job after the departure of Lamoriello.
Not only did those drafts produce little in the way of NHL contributors for the Leafs over time, but it was obvious almost immediately that many of the players they selected beyond the first round – where they nabbed stars like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews with high picks and pounced on a sliding Timothy Liljegren – lacked much in the way of upside or high-end potential. More often than not, they opted for big, physically mature players rather than taking swings on smaller, more skilled players w …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation