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31 in 31

Top prospects for Toronto Maple Leafs

Robertson expected to play in NHL this season; Sandin, Liljegren on cusp

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the top five prospects for the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to NHL.com.

 

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

 

1. Nicholas Robertson, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 53 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Peterborough (OHL): 46 GP, 55-31-86

The 19-year-old left wing will be given the opportunity to earn a regular spot with the Maple Leafs in training camp. Toronto was impressed by his professional debut during its five-game loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season, when he played four games and scored his first goal in the NHL.

"The puck doesn't come off the stick like that for too many players of his size and age," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. 

Toronto wants Robertson (5-foot-9, 164 pounds) to work on his strength and add weight. He was one of 29 players invited to the United States selection camp for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, scheduled for Dec. 25-Jan. 5, but decided to remain in Toronto to be available for the start of NHL training camp.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm3: Robertson buries one-time goal

 

2. Rasmus Sandin, D

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

2019-20 season: Toronto (NHL): 28 GP, 1-7-8; Toronto (AHL): 21 GP, 2-13-15

Although Sandin (5-11, 183) had a strong showing for Sweden at the 2020 WJC (10 points in seven games), the offseason addition of TJ Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Mikko Lehtonen to a defenseman group that already included Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, Justin Holl and Travis Dermott means jobs will be hard to come by. The Maple Leafs could use a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen, something the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning did frequently instead of the conventional lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen, and that could create an opportunity for the 20-year-old.

"Whether it's Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren, they can be worked in," general manager Kyle Dubas said. "The flexes up front and on defense are certainly intriguing and, as shown (by the Lightning), it certainly works."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: TOR@NSH: Sandin fires home first NHL goal

 

3. Timothy Liljegren, D

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

2019-20 season: Toronto (NHL): 11 GP, 0-1-1; Toronto (AHL): 40 GP, 5-25-30

Liljegren (6-0, 198) has plenty of upside, but it could be hard to find playing time. The 21-year-old struggled at times during his 11-game NHL debut last season, but the Maple Leafs are encouraged by his 0.75 points-per-game average with Toronto of the American Hockey League in 2019-20 and his improvement in the defensive zone.

"He was billed as a high-octane offensive defenseman," said Keefe, who was Liljegren's AHL coach from 2017-19. "And while I certainly think he has those abilities and we're going to continue to work at that, the nice thing that's happened is that now he has a foundation on his defensive play."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

4. Rodion Amirov, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 15 pick in 2020 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL): 21 GP, 0-2-2; Toros Neftekamsk (VHL): 5 GP, 1-2-3; Tolpar Ufa (MHL): 17 GP, 10-12-22

The 19-year-old left wing, who has elite offensive skills, was named to the Russia selection camp for the 2021 WJC. Toronto, which has been tracking his progress for several years, would like Amirov (6-0, 167) to work on his strength and add weight.

"He tracks back hard and is a very good skater," director of amateur scouting John Lilley said.

Projected NHL arrival: 2022-23

Video: Toronto Maple Leafs select F Rodion Amirov No. 15

 

5. Mikhail Abramov, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 115 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

2019-20 season: Victoriaville (QMJHL): 63 GP, 35-41-76

Abramov (6-0, 160) was named to the Russia selection camp for the 2021 WJC and could find himself on a line with Amirov, a possible glimpse into Toronto's future. The 19-year-old center is the captain in his third season with Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"Very skilled, works hard, great playmaker," Lilley said.

Projected NHL arrival: 2022-23

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