Toronto Maple Leafs have small group of prospects playing in college and Europe

By Chris Roberts

Teemu Hartikainen - Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo: Forward Teemu Hartikainen was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade on January 31st, 2014. Hartikainen spent the 2013-14 season in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. (courtesy of ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/AFP/Getty Images)

For the greater part of the last decade, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been reluctant to draft outside of the CHL in the first round. Sure, they selected NCAA-bound Tyler Biggs in 2011, but just a season later he was playing for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

The team has not held back when drafting in the later rounds, however, dipping both into Europe and Junior A hockey leagues in North America. Out of seven prospects playing either overseas or in the NCAA, defenseman Tom Nilsson is the highest drafted player, selected 100th overall in 2011.

Europe

Andreas Johnson, RW, Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 202nd overall, 2013

Outside of OHL's top scorer Connor Brown, Andreas Johnson's performance has been the most pleasant surprise among Leaf prospects this season. A quick-moving winger with an electric shot, the 5'10, 176 pound Swede made the seamless jump to Frolunda's big-league team after spending 2012-13 in their J20 program. Playing in 44 games this season, he scored 15 goals, which was third most on the team, behind only Magnus Kahnberg and Alexander Wennberg (CBJ). He scored once in seven playoff games. Johnson had a particularly good first three months of the season, which landed him on Sweden's World Junior squad. In seven games for his country, Johnson displayed his quick hands and above-average shot, scoring three goals and adding three assists.

Teemu Hartikainen, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Trade with Edmonton Oilers, January 31st, 2014

Once a fairly promising Oilers prospect, Hartikainen was sent to the Maple Leafs earlier this season in a trade that netted Edmonton Mark Fraser. Still 23-years-old, he has the offensive skill to be an effective NHL forward, but lacks the all-around game many teams look for. He signed a one-year contract with Ufa of the KHL during the 2013 off-season and had a productive regular season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 30 points in 47 games. He is an intriguing option for the Leafs this off-season, but perhaps not likely the type of forward the organization will be looking to add.

Tom Nilsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2011

Tom Nilsson scored two goals and added two assists this season, his first with Frolunda, though it is not his offense that he is known for. The 6'0, 183 pound blueliner has a propensity to deliver momentum-changing, open-ice hits and often looks for them. He plays a relatively clean game however, recording just 22 penalty minutes in 50 regular season contests. Recently signed to an entry-level contract, he will likely join the Toronto Marlies next season.

Viktor Loov, D, Modo (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 209th overall, 2012

Viktor Loov's game took a big step forward this season; playing his first season in Sweden's highest pro league, Loov contributed at both ends of the ice for Modo. The 6'3 mobile rearguard played 42 games, collecting five goals and seven assists, while maintaining a positive plus/minus rating. Impressive numbers considering he is a 21-year-old playing in a league dominated by grown men. He is signed for one more year with Modo.

NCAA

Tony Cameranesi, C, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 130th overall, 2011

An undersized center at 5'10 and 180 pounds, Tony Cameranesi's sophomore season did not quite live up to the near point-per-game pace he established as a freshman in 2012-13. Still, the Minnesota native had a productive season; in 36 games he scored seven goals and added 14 assists, finishing fifth in team scoring. Cameranesi is a strong skater, but needs to improve his upper body strength over the course of his final two years at Minnesota-Duluth.

Dominic Toninato, C, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 126th overall, 2012

Dominic Toninato was a regular contributor for the Bulldogs this season, scoring 15 points in 35 games as a freshman. The 6'1 pivot has better-than-average speed and mobility and should only improve offensively as he gains more confidence adjusting to the NCAA game. He has bulked up some since being drafted two years ago – now sitting at 180 pounds – and was on the United States' World Junior watch list this past season, though was unable to crack the roster.

Max Everson, D, Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 203rd overall, 2011

By all means a project pick, Harvard's Max Everson, now in his third NCAA season, has yet to find the back of the net. Through 64 career NCAA games, Everson has just 11 assists for the Crimson. His strengths are his active stick in the defensive zone and his ability to shut down the opposition without spending too much time in the sin bin as a result – he has just 32 penalty minutes through his three seasons. Limited by his offensive capabilities, however, he will likely need a breakthrough season next year to earn a contract from the Maple Leafs. 

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