5 potential first-round targets for the Leafs at the U18 World Championships

The 2022 IIHF U18 Men’s World Championships are set to begin this weekend in Germany for one of the premier pre-NHL draft events on the calendar.
Due to the international ban on Belarus and Russia, eight teams rather than the usual 10 will be competing in this year’s tournament. Canada, Czechia, Germany, and the United States comprise Group A, while Finland, Latvia, Sweden, and Switzerland make up Group B.
Not all top prospects for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be at the event. As a U18 tournament, players born in 2004 and later are eligible. 2003-born top prospects for the 2022 draft such as David Jiricek and Brad Lambert are too old to play. Additionally, the Canadian Hockey League playoffs have only just begun and numerous top prospects have not been made available due to their respective team commitments.
Still, there is plenty of 2022 draft talent on display in Germany over the next week and a half, in addition to the exciting mix of 2023 and even 2024 top prospects as well.
This year’s U18 tournament has plenty of interest for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they currently hold a first-round pick for the 2022 draft. With the tournament beginning on Saturday, here are five prospects to keep an e …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Abruzzese signs, Knies leads Gophers to Frozen Four, Robertson gets hot

It has been a busy week in the world of Leafs prospects. The NCAA Tournament is well underway, European leagues are now into their playoffs, and one of the most exciting prospects in the organization had a big week for the Marlies.
I won’t waste your valuable time with any more preamble so let’s get to it.
Nick Abruzzese | W | Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
For the last several weeks, the expectation was that Abruzzese would turn pro whenever Harvard’s season came to an end. After they were eliminated at the hands of Minnesota State on Thursday, I heard from sources on Friday that he was indeed in the process of finalizing his entry level contract with the Leafs and the deal was officially announced on Saturday.

We’ve signed forward Nick Abruzzese to a two-year, entry-level contract for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons#LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 26, 2022

Drafted by the Leafs in the fourth round of the 2019 draft as an overaged player, Abruzzese has established himself as a legitimate NHL prospect in his two seasons at Harvard.
He racked up 14 goals and 30 assists in just 31 games during his freshman season in 2019-20, and earned plenty of accolades in the process. Abruzzese was the ECAC’s leading scorer, earned the conference’s rookie of the year award, was named a first team all-star for both the ECAC and Ivy League, and was named a second-team All-American for the Eastern region.
Abruzzese’s freshman year went about as well as anyone could have hoped but his development – along with pretty much everything else in the world – was put on hold in 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, Harvard announced the cancellation of their winter sports programs for the season and Abruzzese went under the knife to repair a lingering …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays News Dump: Post game, Teoscar Rumours, Arbitration and Prospects

A lot happened in the Blue Jays world, including rumours, arbitration dealings and a smacking of the Yankees.

Jays smack the Yankees 9-2
Dear Yankee fans:
Is this the team you believe will finish at the top of the division? Yes, it’s Spring Training and the Yankees only had a few starters, but Jordan Montgomery didn’t look good at all. You know who did look good though? The Jays pitchers.
After a rough first inning, Yusei Kikuchi absolutely bullied the Yankees batters in the second inning of the game, striking out the side. He finished his afternoon with 2 IP, 4 K and 1 BB. Ross Stripling took over for the new signee, pitching 3 IP, allowing a run and striking out two.

Yusei Kikuchi, Nasty 82mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/8q9vo0XK9s
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 22, 2022

 
My #15 prospect, Kyle Johnston, also pitched in the bottom of the ninth, striking out one and walking another batter.
The Jays bats also did quite well.

He’s considered one of the weaker bats in that new Blue Jays starting 9.
Imagine if he gets it going … pic.twitter.com/7LqrSFPbdW
— Christian Rauh (@RauhReport) March 22, 2022

George Springer went 2-3 in his Spring Training debut and Bo Bichette also went 2-3. Vlad Jr went 3-3 while Cavan Biggio went 2-2. Randal Grichuk also hit a grand slam which begs the question, has he finally figured it out. No, it’s a façade. Here’s an A+ meme by everybody’s favourite Blue Jays memester.

The Randal Grichuk experience starts soon pic.twitter.com/aSD9177ksG
— spencer” (@Spenred) March 22, 2022

 
Danny Jansen also threw out his second runner of Spring Training, which is interesting to see because he’s not really known for a strong arm. Alejandro Kirk, who also had a questionable arn, threw out a runner in Monday’s game. Sadly, Chapman was spiked by the runner trying to steal third.
He was replaced by my #13 Jays prospect, Sebastian Espino, who went 1-2 after replacing Chapman. Fortunately, Chapman was pulled for precautionary reasons, and he won’t need stitches. Here is the play in question.

Matt Chapman left the game with a laceration to his left forearm. No stitches required #bluejays
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) March 22, 2022

 
He and Teoscar (sprained wrist) are considered day to day. Which, speaking of Hernandez…
Speaking of Teoscar:
According to the Miami Herald https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article259612989.html, the Blue Jays engaged in talks with the Miami Marlins about trading Teoscar Hernandez. When my editor sent this to me, it came as a shock. While I don’t believe the 29-year-old slugger is untouchable, I found it hard to believe that they’d be interested in moving him.
The authors, Ba …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Leafs Prospect Roundup: World Juniors cut short, Niemelä contract news, Miettinen finding his form

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After a few months of the hockey world starting to feel normal again, 2021 ended on a sour note as another wave of COVID brought things to a screeching halt. Despite the NHL instituing a league-wide shutdown just before Christmas, the IIHF decided to go forward with the World Juniors in Edmonton and Red Deer but were forced to cancel the tournament just a couple of days in as positive cases continued to cause disruptions and forfeited games. It was a disappointing conclusion to the annual holiday tournament but there is hope that it will eventually be played sometime in the spring or summer.
Leafs fans were still treated to a glimpse of a few of the organization’s top prospects, however brief. 2021 second rounder Matthew Knies scored the opening goal in Team USA’s only game of the tournament and had an impactful performance overall, showing signs of being a dominant player at the junior level. Finland managed to get a pair of games in, with Topi Niemelä and Roni Hirvonen each picking up a point in the process. It wasn’t the showcase everyone was hoping for but all of Knies, Niemelä, and Hirvonen provided …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

New Toronto Raptors big man DJ Wilson should be here to stay

New Toronto Raptors big man DJ Wilson should be here to stay

There’s not much to be happy about right now in the world of Toronto Raptors fandom.  The Omicron variant has crippled the team, forcing them to call up minor-league players just to get by. As much as we love Yuta Watanabe, having him as the number one option is a little sad. One of the […]
New Toronto Raptors big man DJ Wilson should be here to stay – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Avishai Sol / Raptors HQ

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Knies, Hirvonen, and Niemelä underway at World Juniors, Amirov back in action

The World Juniors are underway and holiday league breaks are slowly coming to an end on this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect roundup. There may not have been many games to recap over the past week, we do have some very important ones to get to.
Matthew Knies | LW | Team USA
Matthew Knies wasted no time finding the back of the net for Team USA in his World Juniors debut, scoring the opening goal in USA’s tournament-opening victory over Slovakia on Sunday night.

USA cashes in to score their first of the tournament pic.twitter.com/VM4pIdHmxg
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 27, 2021

Knies converted on a 5-on-3 powerplay to open the scoring off of a feed from 2022 draft-eligible Logan Cooley. Listed on the second line with Cooley and Detroit prospect Carter Mazur at even strength, Knies played 15:17 in the game.
It was a solid debut for Knies in what was certainly a special night for himself and his family. Not only was this the first major event he has appeared at for the USA, Knies did so facing off against the country in which his family comes from. Matthew’s parents are from Slovakia, even his older …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Happy World Junior Day, let’s talk Leafs prospects

Happy World Junior Day, let’s talk Leafs prospects

Admittedly in my family the World Juniors haven’t caught on as a family tradition yet. My Father will always watch whatever sport I put in front of him, but it’s not required viewing. My mother can have her arm twisted to watch a gold medal game, but round robins are out. My wife doesn’t care for sports, and my kids are just now beginning to enjoy playing sports, but the concept of watching sports on TV is still a little ways off. In short, our holiday traditions for Boxing Day are much more based in sluggishly eating leftovers, and watching whatever movie the kids want to watch. That doesn’t mean I don’t envy those of you taking in a whole lot of great junior hockey today.
In the spirit of the World Juniors, and continuing on with our TLN roundtables, I thought I’d ask the TLN crew to reassess who the top prospect is the Leafs organization, now that Liljegren and Sandin are most definitely Leafs and we’ve got a prospect centric tournament to look at.
Here are the responses…
Michael Mazzei
Does Josh Ho-Sang count as a prospect? He is long overdue …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Down the Stretch They Come

As play began on August 13, Jays World was feeling pretty good about the prospect of watching our heroes make the playoffs in October. Toronto was 16-10 since the break, 29-17 over the previous (almost) eight weeks – the best record in the AL over that period – and George Springer had come back just as that turnaround was beginning and was as hot as any hitter in the game.

Looking ahead, it was easy to be excited about a schedule that promised as much as 10 wins in 15 even before you get to beat up on Baltimore. They were a mere 2 games out of the second Wild Card slot, and a half-game away from passing the Hated Yankees. It was a great time to make hay and a horrible time to go cold, and yet…here we are.
The Yankees went on a ridiculous 13 game win streak while the Jays stumbled to only six wins in that 15 with a barely-there offense most nights even though the starting pitching mostly delivered. Toronto lost EIGHT GAMES in the standings vs the Yankees in little more than two weeks. This little ill-time slumped has moved the Jays from the heart of the wild card race to …

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Author: Tammy Rainey / Blue Jays Nation

SPOILER ALERT: The Kraken appear to be taking Alex Kerfoot from the Leafs

God I love the internet (sometimes).
While living in a world where everything is recorded can be a nuisance sometimes, it also yields moments like this…

Seattle Kraken have selected forward Alex Kerfoot from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the expansion draft. @spittinchiclets @TheHockeyNews @PierreVLeBrun @SeattleKraken pic.twitter.com/dMkCw5t8rl
— Jack Carroll (@Jcarroll11_) July 20, 2021

(In case that tweet gets deleted, here’s the video again)


For those wondering what is going on there, that is film of Kevin Weekes helping to announce the Kraken’s selection from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and him listing Alexander Kerfoot as the selection. We do not know if they have done multiple takes, but it seems unlikely and we can probably lower our stress levels about worrying about the newly acquired Jared McCann.
While this is far from a guarantee, this is certainly strong evidence in how the expansion draft will play out for Toronto. And of course we have no knowledge of if there was a side deal involved. We assume that information was on another fish.

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Report from the Rock: Drama in St. John’s

While the entire hockey world locks its eyes on the looming Seattle Kraken expansion draft, a situation is brewing in St. John’s, Newfoundland that could have serious repercussions on the Toronto Maple Leafs minor league development system if it boils over.
But first, since is the first Report from the Rock in several weeks, we have some news and notes to cover before we get into a deep dive on the ongoing dispute between the Newfoundland Growlers ownership group and St. John’s City Council.
First up, a quick mention here that the Leafs recently hired Ryan Hardy as Senior Director of Minor League Operations.

We’ve hired Ryan Hardy as Senior Director of Minor League Operations. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) June 25, 2021

In essence, Hardy will be the GM of the Growlers, more on him and what this means for the Leafs organization as a whole here.
Another minor piece of news, but a cool one to see nonetheless, after three years of existence, the Growlers Twitter account was verified.

Round of applause for our new checkmark
#Verified pic.twitter.com/Y19m7Btsiy
— Newfoundland Growlers (@NLGrowlers) July 13, 2021

Now that they’re certified as a real and legitimate …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation