It’s a strange time in the hockey world, with several leagues entering the mid points of their seasons while other leagues have been put on hold or cancelled altogether. The Leafs have several prospects that are projected to represent their respective countries at the upcoming World Juniors in Edmonton, and that should help provide some sense of normalcy for hockey fans if even for a couple of weeks. There are a number of other prospects, however, who still don’t know what the immediate future has in store for them.

There’s plenty to talk about with the Leafs prospect system this week, so let’s get to it.

Rodion Amirov – LW/RW – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Rodion Amirov led off the Prospect Roundup last week after a strong first game representing Russia at the Karjala Cup. He carried that strong play through the rest of the tournament, scoring a goal in each game plus another in a shootout, and was named the tournament’s best forward as Russia went undefeated to claim the title. He was a key player in all situations for a Russian squad that was the only team in the tournament made up entirely of U20 players, and he took advantage of the opportunity. Amirov will surely look to build off of his strong showing at the Karjala Cup as he heads into the World Juniors and the stretch drive of the KHL season.

Mikhail Abramov – C – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)

Abramov was off to an impressive start this season but it quickly came to a halt after just four games due to rising Covid numbers in Quebec. He and the Tigres have not played a single game since October 10th but the QMJHL announced last week that they are introducing a temporary bubble environment to help get some of these teams caught up on games missed. Seven teams, including Victoriaville, will enter a bubble from November 17th to November 27th with each team playing six games in that time. Abramov will be anxious to return to action and get some games under his belt as he will be leaving for Russia’s World Junior camp upon completion of Victoriaville’s six games in the bubble. He is expected to play a key role on the Russian squad at the annual holiday tournament.

Mikko Kokkonen – LHD – Jukurit (Liiga)

The Leafs’ third round pick from the 2019 draft has been Jukurit’s number one defenceman all season but the team has struggled in the early part of the year – especially when Kokkonen isn’t on the ice. Josh Simpson (formerly known as @51Leafs on twitter) put together a good breakdown on how Kokkonen has been so effective, despite his lack of offensive production on a poor team. Check it out to get a better understanding of the finer details in Kokkonen’s game.

William Villeneuve – RHD – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

When we last checked in with Villeneuve, he wasn’t having the start to the season that he or Leafs fans had hoped for after being selected in the fourth round of the NHL draft. After leading QMJHL defencemen in scoring with 58 points in 2019-2020, he had managed just a single assist through Saint John’s first six games of the season but has added a goal and three assists in the six games since. Villeneuve is an important part of the Sea Dogs and it’s encouraging to see him starting to turn the corner after a slow start.

Nicholas Abruzzese – C/LW – Harvard (NCAA)

Like countless other prospects, Nicholas Abruzzese has been waiting for news regarding when he might be able to play hockey again. Unfortunately, that news came last night and it wasn’t what anybody was hoping to hear. The Ivy League, which is the conference that Harvard plays in, announced on Thursday that they have canceled winter sports for the year. It’s an understandable step to take and I’m sure it won’t be the last announcement like this that we see (Sweden recently shut down their U20 and U18 leagues until the New Year) but it is disappointing for these young men all the same. It remains to be seen when and where Abruzzese will finally get to play competitive hockey again, but the Leafs will be anxious to find a solution in hopes that he can build off of his dazzling freshman campaign at Harvard. He led all freshmen with 44 points in 31 games last season, and racked up a number of other accolades including NCAA ECAC Rookie of the Year.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov – C/RW – Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL)

Ovchinnikov has been dominant at the MHL level this season and he was recently rewarded by being named the MHL Forward of the Week. He just keeps scoring, and he is now up to nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points in just 14 games with Novosibirsk. There isn’t a whole lot of strong defensive play in the MHL, and it will be interesting to see how Ovchinnikov might adjust to being asked to do more against tougher competition in the VHL or KHL if he’s able to earn another opportunity at the next level.

Topi Niemela – RHD – Karpat (Liiga)

Minutes have been tough to come by for the Leafs’ most recent third round draft selection, having appeared in just his fourth Liiga game of the season on Wednesday. He picked up his second assist in as many games, playing just 11:33 in a 2-1 victory and is averaging just 12:50 per game. Niemela has fared extremely well in limited action however, with his 63.5CF% ranking first amongst all Karpat players who have played at least 2 games. He will likely be in a fight for ice time all season on a deep Karpat team, but he should be key cog on the Finnish blue line at the upcoming World Juniors along with Mikko Kokkonen.


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