Up and down weekend for Knies, Abruzzese stay hot for Marlies: Leafs Prospect Roundup

Up and down weekend for Knies, Abruzzese stay hot for Marlies: Leafs Prospect Roundup

We’re now just over a month away from the NHL’s trade deadline, and much of the talk surrounding the Leafs has focused on how they can improve their current roster before March 3rd.

Speculation about potential trade targets naturally leads to discussion of exactly what the Leafs have in terms of trade assets and what they are willing to move. The Leafs will almost certainly have their 2023 and 2024 first-round picks on the table, but would they be willing to part with the organization’s top prospect in Matthew Nighe if it takes landing an impact player for a crucial playoff run? What about other highly regarded youngsters like Nick Robertson, Topi Niemela or Fraser Minten?

What the Leafs have working in their favor is that despite not having a high draft pick in recent years, they have depth in their prospect pool and their recent picks have performed well enough to raise their stock, just not in their eyes. Leafs but also among other NHL organizations. Will other teams have some interest in the Leafs’ mid-level prospects like Ty Voight or Nick Moldenhauer, who are both having impressive seasons together?

I recently published one Leafs’ organization’s top prospect rankings series If you’re looking for a more holistic view of what could be offered to sellers before the deadline, as trade talks heat up around the league, let’s take a look at what the Leafs have done lately.

Knies and the #2 ranked Gophers win at #8 Michigan, and it’s a tale of two games for Knies and his linemates. The trio of Neese, Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snaggerud led the charge in Friday night’s win. They opened the scoring on the man advantage when Nice took a puck in front of the net and Snuggerud was there to clear it. Nice got into the goal column shortly after with great power from Rush, and after Minnesota tied it late, would cap off a great performance by pouncing on a loose puck in the crease to secure the overtime winner.

Things weren’t nearly as good for the Gophers’ top line in Saturday’s rematch, with the trio going a combined -9 and Cooley registering a lone assist in a losing effort. Snaggerud was also assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head late in the second period, capping a disappointing night for the team.

Even with Saturday’s disappointing display, Nice have been hot of late. In his last 13 games, he has eight goals and eight assists, tying for the BIG10 goal-scoring lead with 15 on the season. His numbers haven’t taken a huge leap this season, but he’s become an even bigger focal point for Minnesota in his second season, and he’s done nothing to lose his spot as the Leafs’ top prospect. You can bet his name will be the first to come up from the opposition in any trade discussion, but it would take a huge return for the Leafs to move away their most valuable prospect.

Abruzzi took some time to find his footing in pro hockey in his first full season, but he has been on fire with the Marlies as of late. With a pair of goals in Saturday’s shootout win over Laval, he extended his point streak to seven games, with five goals and seven assists in that span.

Now with 13 goals and 18 assists through 39 games, Abruzzi finds himself just one point shy of Sammy Walker for the AHL rookie scoring lead. He’s growing more confident with each passing game, and the offensive skills and intelligence that were evident in his two seasons with Harvard are beginning to show more consistently in the AHL.

Abruzzi is tough to crack the Leafs’ lineup by stretching, especially with the recent rise of Bobby McMann, who is a better theoretical fit in a bottom-six role. Never mind that the Leafs could make an addition to their forward group before the deadline. With his recent improvement in production and his becoming a more mature player at the age of 23, Abruzzi could be part of the solution in another area as a player who may be interested in rebuilding teams with openings in their forward group at the deadline. Either way, the Leafs have to be impressed with how Abruzzi has progressed this season.

  • Another tough season for Nick Robertson came to an unceremonious end when the Leafs announced last week that he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. It’s another devastating blow for a young player whose development path has been disrupted at virtually every turn, and another blow to his value on the trade market. Teams will likely still ask about the young sniper in trade talks, but it seems the Leafs will be short-sold on any move involving Robertson at this point.
  • He still hasn’t popped up on the scoresheet like he did last season, but the points have started to come more frequently for Topi Niemela in recent weeks. He had a goal and an assist in last Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Jukurit and now has six goals and six assists in 39 games. The Leafs aren’t getting much behind Niemelä on the blue line so they’ll be hesitant to move him, but he could be their best trade asset if they don’t really want to move Knies.
  • Kamloops has been loaded in recent weeks, and Fraser Minten has been pushed down the lineup a bit, but he still managed to find a way to be productive on the weekend. He had a goal and an assist as the Blazers split a two-game set with Tri-City and now has 14 points in his last 10 games. Minten has been productive this season with 41 points in 32 games, and his combination of size and skill is sure to draw interest from sellers leading up to the trade deadline.
  • After going scoreless a few weeks ago, Nick Moldenhauer got back on the board last weekend. He had a pair of assists in Friday’s losing effort against Waterloo and scored his 15th goal of the season in Saturday’s win over Des Moines. For the season, he’s up to 38 points in 29 games.
  • Ty Voit has slowed down a bit lately but “slow down” for Voit means 12 points in his last 10 games. He had a goal in Saturday’s win over Kitchener and an assist against Erie on Friday, 12 goals and 52 assists in 41 games. Voit still leads the OHL in scoring, but that lead has shrunk to just three, with Ottawa’s Logan Morrison nipping at his heels.
  • Semyon Der-Arguchinsev had a two-assist game last Wednesday in a shootout win over Belleville. He went 11 games without scoring a goal but had seven assists in that span, still doing his part to generate offense for a streaking Marlies team.
  • Alex Steves also picked up a few points over the weekend, scoring his 13th goal of the season against Belleville on Friday before adding an assist against Laval on Saturday. He has 33 points in 38 games and could be the next in line to watch in Toronto’s bottom-six if Bobby McMahon can’t stick.
  • Joseph Woll just keeps winning games, even with a couple of subpar outings last week. He has given up eight goals in his last two appearances but won both contests, and currently owns an 11-0-0 record along with a 2.55 GAA and .925 SV%. One has to believe he’s surpassed Erik Kahlgren on the depth chart and will be next in line when injuries strike the Leafs’ crease.
  • It’s been a quiet January for Ryan Tarberg, but after going without a point in the first three games of the month, he led UConn to a 3-1 win over UMass on Saturday with a goal and an assist in the contest. Tverberg leads the Huskies in scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists in 25 games. All the focus is on Matthew Nigh, but Tarberg also has a chance to turn pro once his college season is over.
  • Nikita Grebyonkin led the scoring among U20 players in the KHL with 17 points in 33 games, with a pair of assists in last Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Admirals. He was given an opportunity on a first-season loan at Amur, and he has taken full advantage of it so far. Producing at a half-point-per-game pace in the KHL as a teenager is impressive, and the Leafs should be thrilled to have their 2022 fifth-rounder back early.
  • Brandon Lisowski broke a three-game scoreless streak on Friday and followed that up with another streak on Saturday. The 2022 seventh-round pick is putting together a solid season with Saskatoon, already with 23 goals and 20 assists in 39 games.
  • Artur Akhtyamov had a light schedule in January and had a poor outing in his last game but rebounded by stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 5-1 victory on Sunday. On the season, he posted a .944 SV% in 32 games.
  • Vyacheslav Peksa posted a pair of strong performances last week, stopping 46 of 50 shots in Thursday’s losing effort after stopping 20 of 21 in a 5-1 win on Tuesday. After a bit of a dip in December, Peksa has been solid of late with a .924 SV% over his last five games.

(Stats from EliteProspects.com and TheAHL.com)

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