Topi Niemelä has been on a steady climb towards the top of the Leafs’ prospect pool ever since he was selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
When he was drafted, he profiled as a modern-day defensive defenseman and the organization raved about his off-puck instincts. In the two seasons since then, Niemelä’s offensive game has progressed in a big way and he is now considered among the best young blueliners playing outside the NHL.
His coming out party was the 2021 World Junior Championships, where he tallied eight points in seven games on his way to being named the tournament’s top defenseman, and he has only continued to build off of that performance. He is currently representing Finland once again at the World Juniors reboot in Alberta and, as of this writing, has four assists through four games.
Climbing two spots from number five on last summer’s list, Niemelä is now the top-ranked defensive prospect in the Leafs’ system after Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren both graduated to the NHL full-time last season.
D | Kärpät (Liiga) | Age: 20 | 5-foot-11 | 170 lbs | Shoots: RAcquired: 2020 3rd Round, 64th Overall | 2021 Ranking: 5
Niemelä had a massively productive 2021-22 season. In fact, his 32 points were the most ever by a U20 defenseman in Liiga …
Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation