Most Toronto Maple Leafs fans know well the names Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin and Rodion Amirov. These are just three of the higher-end prospects who look flashy in the headlines because they get lots of attention by Toronto-based media and fan boards. Most believe these are players that will make a dent on the Maple Leafs roster at some point, all of which could become impactful stars. But, for every bigger-name prospect, there are three or four lesser-known names that tend to go undiscussed until they turn out to be on the verge of NHL duty.
In Toronto, there are a few prospects like that. Some are young pups just fresh out of the NHL draft. Others are older players who have been playing overseas and could be called upon sooner than later. These are players who might have been drafted later or chose the Leafs over a few other options as free agents, but could still turn out to be something in the NHL.
There are many, but here are three:
Mikhail Abramov, Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL
Abramov is currently on his way to join Russia’s World Junior camp where he is expected to be a big part of their team. He’s the Maple Leafs’ fourth-round 115th overall 2019 draft pick.
He’s improved steadily since coming to North America and joining the QMJHL and if there was one prospect to really watch that isn’t in the top three or four, he may be it. In his rookie season he scored 54 points in 62 games and that got him noticed by the Maple Leafs. He’s played well since, posting 76 points in 63 games Victoriaville Tigres team last season. He was named captain of the team.
He’s fast, has strong play-making abilities and he could centre Amirov on a line at the World Junior Championships. This is player that if you’re watching Amirov (as many Leafs fans will), you might hear about often.
Alexander Barabanov, KHL, St. Petersburg SKA
Barabanov projects as bottom-six well-rounded winger for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has been producing at a steady pace in the KHL over the past seven seasons. At the age of 26, he’s not a young draft choice like the other two players on our list, but there is a lot of hope in Toronto that he can come over an make an impact as a depth winger a la Ilya Mikheyev.
Barabanov chose Toronto from a field of more than 20 interested NHL teams and signed a one-year, entry-level deal in April. Sheldon Keefe said of his potential impact, “He just checks a lot of the boxes that you’re always looking for when you’re adding a player that you fully expect to step in and be an important part of your team.”
KHL reporter Igor Eronko writes, “Barabanov’s definitely got what it takes to be a full-time NHL player.” He added, “He won’t be a star, but he could become a great third-line player with ability to move up to replace injured guys.”
Nick Abruzzese, Harvard University, NCAA
A 2019 NHL Draft selection for the Maple Leafs (selected 124th overall), this year has been tough with Ivy League sports being cancelled and especially trying for Nick Abruzzese who was doing his best recovering from hip surgery when he got that news on Nov. 12. Still, he’s someone to watch, even if his impact won’t come for some time.
Even though he’s smaller — 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds — Abruszzese had a phenomenal freshman year and last season, he was named the ECAC rookie of the year after recording 44 points in 31 games. That immediately put him in the conversation as a prospect to watch.
He hasn’t played in a game since March 7, and he won’t play for a while so he may slip to the back of people’s minds, but his final game was memorable as he had three assists in a 7-1 Harvard playoff win against visiting St. Lawrence.
There are others we left out and this list certainly doesn’t reflect the order of prospects or their potential impact at any given point in time. These are just three players we thought it might be worth keeping an eye on.
Who would you add that isn’t here?
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