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31 in 31

Top prospects for Toronto Maple Leafs

Sandin heads group of players who could get opportunity in NHL this season

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

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

 

[Maple Leafs 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Rasmus Sandin, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 29 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: Toronto (AHL): 44 GP, 6-22-28

An excellent skater, the 19-year-old impressed in his first professional season, playing with poise that helped him earn top-pair minutes with Toronto during the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Playoffs, when he had 10 assists in 13 games.  

With defenseman Travis Dermott expected to miss at least the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, a strong showing at training camp could earn Sandin (6-foot, 184 pounds) an opportunity to start the season with the Maple Leafs. 

"He's one of those very unique players who has the ability to (slow down the game)," Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said. "He's in such control of his body and control of the game; he can bring it down to a pace where he can be in complete control, with and without the puck. He certainly showed attributes that he is going to be an NHL player."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: Maple Leafs draft D Rasmus Sandin No. 29

 

2. Ilya Mikheyev, F

How acquired: Signed as free agent on May 6

Last season: Omsk Avangard (KHL): 62 GP, 23-22-45

The 24-year old played the past four seasons for Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League and had 122 points (62 goals, 60 assists) in 224 games. Mikheyev (6-2, 194) had four points (three goals, one assist) in eight games for Russia at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.

Coach Mike Babcock was influential in the recruitment of Mikheyev, who attracted interest from other NHL teams. With forward Zach Hyman expected to miss at least the first month of the season recovering from ACL surgery and forwards Patrick Marleau and Tyler Ennis no longer with the team, Mikheyev is expected to compete for a spot on the opening night roster.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: 31 in 31: Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 season preview

 

3. Timothy Liljegren, D

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

Last season: Toronto (AHL): 43 GP, 3-12-15

After searching for consistency throughout his first professional season in 2017-18, Liljegren (6-0, 192) found it during the second half of last season, when the 20-year-old became one of the the Marlies' most reliable defensive players.

"He was drafted as an offensive player and he certainly has those abilities, but his biggest progression was defensively," Keefe said. "Coming through the neutral zone and killing rushes early and having great positioning, he was as good a player as we had in our lineup in terms of those areas."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Jeremy Bracco, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 61 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Toronto (AHL): 75 GP, 22-57-79

The 22-year-old was second in scoring in the AHL last season, increasing his production by 16 goals and 31 assists from his rookie season in 2017-18. Bracco (5-11, 181) had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 13 Calder Cup Playoff games. 

"The skill set and production was there, he was just better prepared for more opportunity and took advantage of that," Keefe said. "He showed progression in all areas and he is going to have to continue that, but what he displayed was that he has a special skill set. His vision and ability to execute on the power play is elite."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: TOR@OTT: Bracco goes five-hole on McKenna

 

5. Joseph Woll, G

How acquired: Selected with No. 62 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston College (NCAA): 37 GP, 12-21-3, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%

The 21-year-old is expected to make his professional debut in the AHL this season after playing as a junior at Boston College last season. Woll (6-3, 200) helped the United States win the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and finish third at the 2018 World Juniors.

"I think everyone is aiming to play for the Maple Leafs, and that's my end goal, to make an impact for the team and the city, but I understand, however it goes, I have to control what I can and show them my best if that's with the Marlies this season," Woll said.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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