Mikko Kokkonen is the Leafs 8th ranked prospect

I guess we’ll stick with the theme from yesterday and keep on talking about Finnish defensemen. A lot of the same things can be said about Niemela and Kokkonen, so excuse me if it looks like I plagiarized Nick Richard’s article, but that doesn’t change that like Niemela, Kokkonen is smooth skating defenseman with a good head on his shoulders that isn’t overly flashy and the Leafs were fortunate that he slid to the 3rd round of the draft.

RANK
GRADE
Time until NHL ready

8
C
2-4 YEARS

Position: Defense
Height: 5’11
Weight: 198lbs
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2019 3rd Round, 84th Overall
What kind of player is he?
I’m going to jump straight to a player comparison. Player comparisons are generally terrible, and never accurate, but that’s not going to stop me from repeatedly going back to that well, and say the kind of player that the Leafs will get in Mikko Kokkonen is a player who plays a very Carl Gunnarsson style of hockey. That’s not to say he’ll be as good or as bad as Gunnarsson, depending on your opinion of Gunnarsson, but simply it speaks to Kokkonen being a steady kind …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs’ worst contract is actually Phil Kessel’s retained salary

Although it feels weird to say this in November, we are well into the dog days of the NHL offseason. Meaning we rarely see much news regarding transactions and announcements (with a few notable exceptions) while waiting for the return of hockey on XX/XX/2021.
It also means sports talk radio shows will look to find any sort of content to keep viewer interest up, leading to stuff like this:

Tavares’ contract might be the Leafs’ worst, unless they win.@OverDrive1050 discusses: https://t.co/ndTbopnJGA pic.twitter.com/0hgHaEfvi5
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 25, 2020

Even if it were true that the Leafs did indeed overspend on John Tavares, he was a free agent back in 2018 and could have easily accepted the San Jose Sharks’ offer of $13 million per season but instead took less to play for his hometown team. We don’t even need to get into whether or not the Leafs overpaid Mitch Marner on his extension.
Instead of responding with anger and fury over this take from the OverDrive team, I would like to instead present a counter-argument. As the title of this post outlines, the actual worst contract on the Leafs is Phil Kessel’s retained salary.


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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

It looks like the Leafs might be playing in an All-Canadian Divison after all

The dog days of the offseason are well underway, with the caveat being that we’re in the middle of November with no clear sign of when the 2020-21 season will start and how it will look.
It appears we have gotten better clarity on both of these Thursday as Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic provided updates with an NHL Board of Governors meeting set to be held later today.

Both the NHL and NHLPA continue to maintain a Jan. 1 target date for opening night, which means mid-Dec opening of camps (and 7 days before that for the 7 non-RTP teams from last summer). But that’s not written in stone yet. Could change. (con’t)
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 12, 2020

And finally, given the continued border restrictions, looking more and more like a 2020-21 season begins with an all-Canadian division at least until they can figure out how to cross the border later in the season… so that should be fun. But again, nothing decided for sure yet
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 12, 2020

It’s worth mentioning that the Return to Play Committee (which includes Zach Hyman and former Leaf Ron Hainsey has been a major driving force in these talks for the state of …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

FanGraphs has lofty projections for the 2021 Blue Jays

Looking for reasons to feel optimistic? Well, here you go!

Over at FanGraphs, the Steamer projections for the 2021 season have been released and they’re quite bullish on the Blue Jays.
For those who are asking ‘what’s a Steamer?’ it’s FanGraphs’ projection system based on past performance and typical ageing trends. Obviously, Steamer projections don’t all necessarily come true, but it’s widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry.
Steamer has 10 (!!!) different Blue Jays with a wRC+ higher than 100 (meaning 10 hitters are projected to be above average). Some interesting notes…

Steamer really believes in Vladdy. He’s projected to slash a .299/.373/.528 line and his projected 144 wRC+ is seventh in baseball, tied with Ronald Acuna Jr. and right behind Freddie Freeman. That kind of breakout from Vladdy would be fantastic.
Though Vladdy is projected to be Toronto’s most productive hitter, Bo Bichette is being projected as their best all-around player. Steamer has Bo producing a nice 119 wRC+ while also being a plus defender, coming out at a team-high 4.1 wins above replacement.
Steamer has also bought into the Alejandro Kirk hype. It’s projecting Kirk will produce a 123 wRC+ over 52 games. It also …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Grading Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ free agency

Grading Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ free agency

The Toronto Maple Leafs did, well, a lot this free agency. Kyle Dubas filled in the holes in the roster with good, serviceable players. Old and young, the Toronto Maple Leafs are definitely a tougher team to play against.
With the additions of @T.J. Brodie, Joe Thornton, Joey Anderson, Jimmy Vesey and Zach Bogosian; the Maple Leafs are touted to be one of the top teams in the NHL. But how good was Dubas’ free agency?
Well, here are the grades that I, and some of Leafs Twitter have given him:

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

A productive first day of free agency shouldn’t mark the end of the Leafs moves

Well, the Leafs were certainly active in free agency. Kyle Dubas managed to bring in fan favourite, Wayne Simmonds sharply at noon and followed up with a defensive upgrade later in the day by adding T.J. Brodie to the Leafs blueline. Two solid players that certainly provide an upgrade from Tyson Barrie and Kyle Clifford. Calling them mere replacements wouldn’t be fair, but neither would saying the Leafs are done because of these transactions.
To be fair, I don’t think Kyle Dubas would say that either. He’s very aware of the realities of his team. And aware of the salary cap. Carrying the bare minimum 20 man roster the Leafs would find themselves approximately $500k over the top of the cap ceiling and that’s before signing Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott. The Leafs will likely need to shed around $4M to make room for these players, and a bit more to address the current overage and desire for a reserve player. This probably puts all of Johnsson, Kerfoot, Holl, Dermott, Mikheyev, and Andersen at risk for finding new homes in the coming weeks.

Dubas: “Brandon [Pridham] has carved out a number of ways that we can …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs select Topi Niemela with the 64th overall pick

Through a well calculated move to trade down from the 44th pick, Kyle Dubas added an early third round pick which he used to select Finnish defenceman Topi Niemela. The right handed defender was ranked in the middle of the second round by most major scouting outlets, with some listing him at the back end of the first round. Niemela played 43 games for Karpat in Liiga last season, picking up one goal and six assists as a 17 year old blue liner in Finland’s top professional league.

Solid hit from Topi Niemela.. Hugo Styf was not styf enough.
*I still like Hugo Styf. He had a few very solid games when I was watching Wallinder. One of the youngest player in the draft too. Could be a decent late 3rd, 4th round pick. pic.twitter.com/jHxEBpH6gp
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) February 8, 2020

Niemela is an outstanding skater who plays a very mature defensive game for his age and makes smart plays with the puck on his stick. He has good edges, as well as top speed, allowing him to maintain tight gaps and attack opposing puck carriers. Niemela isn’t a flashy player but he does a great job of …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Who will be back in 2020-21? – The defense and goalies

The Leafs are well into their offseason, and while there’s still hockey to be played, the Leafs focuses are on next season and what improvements they can make to the roster to finally put them over the hump.
The good news for Kyle Dubas is that this will be, to some extent, his easiest offseason. He doesn’t have to pull all-nighters to win over John Tavares, he doesn’t need to go down to the wire to extend William Nylander, and he certainly doesn’t have to deal with Darren Ferris. But, he does need to address the holes the Leafs have on defense, whether it be through trade, free agency, or internally, and also continue to add prospect depth to the organization, something we’ve been lacking due to the disasters that were the 2016 and 2017 drafts. We might be looking at a similar team as last year, or a completely overhauled roster, as Dubas appears to not be letting any emotions get in the way of his moves so far.
So, let’s look at the team from top to bottom, and figure out who will be back. I will throw …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Who will be back in 2020-21? – The forwards

The Leafs are well into their offseason, and while there’s still hockey to be played, the Leafs focuses are on next season and what improvements they can make to the roster to finally put them over the hump.
The good news for Kyle Dubas is that this will be, to some extent, his easiest offseason. He doesn’t have to pull all-nighters to win over John Tavares, he doesn’t need to go down to the wire to extend William Nylander, and he certainly doesn’t have to deal with Darren Ferris. But, he does need to address the holes the Leafs have on defense, whether it be through trade, free agency, or internally, and also continue to add prospect depth to the organization, something we’ve been lacking due to the disasters that were the 2016 and 2017 drafts. We might be looking at a similar team as last year, or a completely overhauled roster, as Dubas appears to not be letting any emotions get in the way of his moves so far.
So, let’s look at the team from top to bottom, and figure out who will be back. I will throw …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays patch holes with a trade deadline reminiscent of moves made in 2016

Chugging along with a playoff berth well within sight, the Blue Jays were one of the most active teams ahead of this year’s trade deadline.

They approached Monday’s deadline with two fairly glaring needs — starting pitching depth and a veteran middle infielder — and both holes got patched up. The team added Daniel Vogelbach and Taijuan Walker in two separate deals with the Seattle Mariners and then they added Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, and Jonathan Villar.
A key to this year’s deadline was also not selling the farm in order to make these improvements. When it was all said and done, Ross Atkins noted that he was walking the tightrope of improving the team for this year’s run while also not mortgaging too much of the future.
“We had two main goals,” Atkins said on a Zoom call with reporters Monday evening. “One eye on now and one eye on the future and making sure we balance that. And we feel like we balance the future by not parting ways with our upper-echelon prospects and we balance the present by bolstering our major-league roster.
“There were other …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation