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31 in 31

Top prospects for Toronto Maple Leafs

Kapanen, Aaltonen likely to join young, talented group in NHL this season

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the deepest group of prospects in the NHL. Several young players could be ready to make the jump to the NHL this season, but there will not be enough roster spots for everyone on a team that returns seven players 23 or younger who played in more than 20 games last season.

"The beauty of our program now is we have too many good players for the 23 spots," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's going to make training camp ultra-competitive. That to me is a sign of going in the right direction and a real positive for our group."

 

[MAPLE LEAFS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

Here are the Maple Leafs' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

 

1. Kasperi Kapanen, RW

How acquired: Trade from Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1, 2015

Last season: Toronto (NHL): 8 GP, 1-0-1; Toronto (AHL): 43 GP, 18-25-43

Kapanen, 21, has elite skating ability and offensive upside in addition to being an effective penalty-killer. He spent most of last season with Toronto of the American Hockey League and made his NHL season debut March 28. He averaged 10:41 of ice time in eight games, and then found a comfort level in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kapanen (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) scored two goals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, the second coming in overtime.

"He's a real good player," Babcock said. "He's capable of playing in the NHL."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm2: Kapanen tallies winner in double OT

 

2. Miro Aaltonen, C

How acquired: Signed as free agent March 17

Last season: Vityaz Podolsk (KHL): 59 GP, 19-25-44

Prior to last season, he had 119 points (56 goals, 63 assists) in 233 games for Blues in Liiga, Finland's top professional league. Aaltonen (5-11, 176) skates well but lacks strength and a physical component to his game.

"We think he's a real good player," Babcock said of the 24-year-old. "He'll add good competition and we think that's important. We felt we were real short at center last year, we didn't have enough guys who could play center. We wanted to make sure we were in a better spot that way."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

3. Travis Dermott, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 34 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Toronto (AHL): 59 GP, 5-19-24

Dermott, 20, skates well with the puck, has shown strong defensive awareness, and limits mistakes by avoiding unnecessary risks. He also projects as a player capable of contributing on the power play. Last season, Dermott (5-11, 207) had eight power-play points (one goal, seven assists) in the AHL.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Calle Rosen, D

How acquired: Signed as free agent May 16

Last season: Vaxjo (SWE): 41 GP, 6-13-19

The 23-year-old is a strong skater, can handle the puck effectively, and is comfortable in all three zones. Rosen (6-foot, 174) also has a powerful shot.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

5. Timothy Liljegren, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 17 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Rogle (SWE): 19 GP, 1-4-5

Liljegren, 18, has elite skating ability and can handle the puck at top speed. He is an effective passer and projects to be a point-producing defenseman. Liljegren (6-0, 191) has said he admires the style of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and tries to emulate his type of game. He likely would have been selected higher in the draft, but he was diagnosed with mononucleosis in September and took half the season to return to form.

"His skill set is set up for him to have a lot of success," Babcock said. "Now his drive train has to take over and he's got to do the work so he can be the player he's capable of being. He has a lot of God-given talent, he passes the puck, shoots the puck, skates, has good hockey sense, and plays within himself. I like his game a lot, but that's just a platform to build off of. He's got a lot of work to do yet."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Maple Leafs draft D Timothy Liljegren No. 17

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