We are now just a day away from the draft, and while the attention is always focused on the surefire first round prospects, every GM knows that finding NHL players beyond the first round is key to sustaining a successful organization. Over the last few weeks, the team at The Leafs Nation has been previewing potential options for the 15th overall pick but the Leafs have an opportunity to add another high end prospect to their system with the 44th pick as well.
Keep in mind that Toronto drafted Nick Robertson – arguably the top prospect in the organization – with the 53rd pick just last year, and he is already looking poised to be a contributor on the Leafs roster. Now, we shouldn’t expect every second round pick to break into the NHL so quickly but there should be plenty of talent and potential left on the board when it’s the Leafs’ turn to make their selection in the second round.
Many of the names on this list could be gone before the Leafs pick, but players slide down draft boards for a variety of reasons every year. Let’s take a look at some players ranked in the middle of the second round, and a few that could fall into that range.
Marat Khusnutdinov – C – 5’9″, 165lbs – SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
The chances of Khusnutdinov falling all the way to the middle of the second round are slim at best, but it wouldn’t be the first time that an undersized offensive talent slid further than he should. The young Russian is a spark plug who brings energy all over the ice, using his high end puck skills to beat defenders on the rush. He is an excellent skater with good vision, and he’s a puck hound in all three zones.
— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) June 5, 2020
Ryan O’Rourke – LHD – 6’2″, 181lbs – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Kyle Dubas loves his Soo Greyhounds, and there is lots to love about the way O’Rourke plays the game. He is a big, physical defender who has decent speed and agility. There isn’t a lot of flash to his game but there aren’t many holes either. He does almost everything well, on and off the ice, and earned the honour of being named captain of the Greyhounds at just 17 years of age.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) September 27, 2019
Ridly Greig – LW – 5’9″, 159lbs – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Despite his small stature Greig is one of the most physical players in the draft, playing on the edge and sometimes going over it. He loves getting under his opponent’s skin with his speed allowing him to play aggressively and pressure puck carriers at all times. He has decent hands and passing ability, and while there is some offensive upside, he projects as more of an energy player on an NHL third line.
Ridly Greig takes off Reece Vitelli’s head behind the net and a full on scrum follows. Greig receives a 2-minute minor for the hit. https://t.co/wqXqaV0QNE pic.twitter.com/vJMdBoiXuG
— Jeff D’Andrea (@Jeff_paNOW) March 7, 2020
Brock Faber – RHD – 6’0″, 194lbs – U.S National U18 Team (USDP)
Faber is an excellent skater who can transport the puck as well as any defenceman in this draft. His agile feet allow him to move well laterally and maintain a tight gap when defending the rush. He has yet to make a real impact offensively but he passes the puck well and makes smart plays at both blue lines, projecting as a reliable two-way defenceman at the pro level.
Brock Faber shows his speed with the nifty exit and entry. He gets around the defense, but loses control behind the net.
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) October 20, 2019
Ty Tullio – C/RW – 5’9″, 161lbs – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Another small but feisty forward, Tullio has the versatility and tool kit to play up and down an NHL lineup. He’s aggressive on the forecheck and has enough offensive creativity to find teammates for scoring opportunities when he gains possession. He has quick hands that allow him to excel in puck battles and dig out loose pucks around the net. Likely ends up as a winger at the NHL level due to his smaller frame.
Tyler Tullio (’20) picks up the loose puck, skates up the ice and completes a cross ice pass to Brett Harrison (’21). Harrison with a backhand shot goal. pic.twitter.com/vKb3UGGHJR
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 25, 2020
Helge Grans – RHD – 6’3″, 192lbs – Malmo Redhawks (SHL)
Grans has the highly valued combination of size and speed, and though the production wasn’t there in the SHL, he played at a point per game pace at the J20 level. He skates very well for his size and loves to jump into the play at the offensive end. He is a good puck mover and while his defensive game is still a work in progress, the raw tools Grans possesses are enticing and a team could take a swing on him anywhere after the top half of the first round.
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) October 3, 2020
Jan Mysak – C/LW – 6’0″, 181lbs – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Highly intelligent two-way forward with good speed and a strong transition game. He reads the play well at both ends, taking good routes on the forecheck and getting into passing lanes on the defensive side. He is a skilled puck handler with a hard shot who began to find his offensive game after transitioning from the Czech men’s league to the OHL.
Big solo effort from Jan Mysak (#19)
Controlled zone exit/entry, drives to the net to get a scoring chance while fighting off Marco Rossi and Noel Hoefenmayer.
— Mathis Desjardins (@m_desjardins00) April 25, 2020
Daniel Torgersson – LW/RW – 6’3″, 205lbs – Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
Torgersson is a big kid who is strong on the puck and gets around the ice well. He plays a power game but handles the puck well in tight spaces, making him an effective net front presence. The young Swede is also a reliable defender, projecting as a solid middle six winger who can be a weapon on the power play.
— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) December 8, 2019
Justin Barron – RHD – 6’2″, 198lbs – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Touted as a consensus first round pick going into his draft year, Barron has seen his stock drop due to injuries and inconsistency. The Halifax blue liner has had issues with blood clots, causing some level of uncertainty around his future. When healthy, Barron is a physical two-way defender who distributes the puck well in transition. He has the potential to be a steal at this point of the draft if he can put his health concerns behind him.
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) August 3, 2019
Jean-Luc Foudy – C – 5’11”, 168lbs – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Foudy is one of the best transition players in the draft. He is an excellent skater with elite edges who effortlessly weaves through the neutral zone with the puck on his stick. He is a high end passer but needs to become more aggressive in attacking the middle of the ice. There are questions about his NHL certainty but he has a lot of high end tools to work with.
When Jean-Luc Foudy is flying and attacking the slot like this, he is one a hell of a player!
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) March 1, 2020
Topi Niemela – RHD – 6’0″, 163lbs – Karpat (Liiga)
Niemela is a steady, quiet blue liner who moves the puck with ease. He has good hockey sense, doesn’t force anything, and does a good job of making the safe play when a better option isn’t available. Niemela did a good job of handling older, more physically mature competition in Finland’s top professional league. He will need to add strength to his frame as he develops but he has the potential to be a defensively minded puck mover in the NHL.
Solid hit from Topi Niemela.. Hugo Styf was not styf enough.
*I still like Hugo Styf. He had a few very solid games when I was watching Wallinder. One of the youngest player in the draft too. Could be a decent late 3rd, 4th round pick. pic.twitter.com/jHxEBpH6gp
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) February 8, 2020
Daniil Gushchin – RW – 5’8″, 161lbs – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Gushchin is a highly skilled dual offensive threat who can beat defenders with his puck handling or his high end vision and passing ability. He is quick and elusive with the puck on his stick but needs to show the same level of commitment on the defensive side of the puck. There is risk involved but the offensive tools could be difficult to pass up.
#WJAC: First the acceleration, then the release. My goodness what a goal from Daniil Gushchin to increase Russia’s lead over the Czech Republic to 5-0. Second of the game for the Muskegon Lumberjack.@MuskegonJacks @USHL @russiahockey_en @russiahockey pic.twitter.com/giCQM9Pjck
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) December 15, 2019
William Wallinder – LHD – 6’4″, 192lbs – MODO (HockeyAllsvenskan)
Another big, smooth skating defender out of Sweden. Wallinder has a long powerful stride and likes to carry the puck up ice but needs to improve his reads in the offensive end, as well as the defensive end. He is a project but 6’4″ defencemen with that kind of skating ability don’t exactly grow on trees and the potential is there for him to grow into an effective puck mover at the NHL level.
If you draft William Wallinder (#5 in red doing stuff) expecting him to dump pucks for line changes in his first game against men above the Swedish Division 1, you would be making a booboo. pic.twitter.com/842nZn346r
— Will Scouch (@Scouching) December 17, 2019
Tyson Foerster – C – 6’1″, 194lbs – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Foerster is a smart, goal scoring center who does well finding space in the offensive zone to unleash his rocket of a shot while maintaining his defensive responsibilites. He doesn’t have many other skills that standout but he is a decent skater who can transport the puck and his heavy one-timer will make him a big time threat on the powerplay in the NHL.
The chemistry continues between Vierling and Foerster.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) March 7, 2020
Emil Andrae – LHD – 5’9″, 183lbs – HV71 (SHL)
Don’t let his size fool you. Andrae plays a hard nosed, physical style of defence while excelling in the offensive end as well. He’s smart at the offensive blue line with the puck on his stick, walking the line to open up passing and shooting lanes. Andrae failed to get onto the scoresheet in his 10 SHL contests but put up 38 points in 40 games at the J20 level. He isn’t the greatest skater for a smaller player but it doesn’t prevent him from playing a tight gap and closing on puck carriers. If he were a few inches taller, he’d probably be a first rounder.
Emil Andrae, 5-foot-9 Smol King defenceman for HV71, playing in the SHL, against men, just lowering the boom like that on a pinch. We really do love to see it,,,, pic.twitter.com/PiSycB1DQB
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) May 15, 2020
Tristen Robins – RW – 5’11”, 183lbs – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Robins is a gritty winger who is elusive with the puck on his stick. He can change direction quickly to evade defenders before finding a teammate with a pass or taking the puck to a shooting area himself. A bit of a late riser in his draft year, Robins has the ability to complement more skilled players but likely projects as a play driving middle six winger.
I’m not sure how or why Tristen Robins was ranked as the 86th best NA skater by CSS, but he deserves to be much higher than that.
He has become a dominant force in the WHL. Far and away Saskatoon’s best player, his agility and puck handling combination is deadly. pic.twitter.com/Rnqwt9NzOs
— Ben Misfeldt (@BBMHockey) May 4, 2020
Theodor Niederbach – C/RW – 5’11”, 172lbs – Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
Niederbach is a dynamic offensive player who sees the ice very well. He can control the puck and create passing lanes where he consistently finds his teammates for scoring opportunities. His defensive play isn’t a huge weakness but he will need to improve that part of his game as he matures physically.
Here’s an outstanding play by the Swedes at the #5Nations against Finland’s U18 team.
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) February 7, 2020
Kasper Simontaival – RW – 5’9″, 172lbs – Tappara U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
Simontaival is a small winger with exciting offensive tools and upside. He isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas and plays a responsible defensive game as well. He is equally dangerous as a playmaker and a goal scorer but needs to improve his quickness as he climbs up the professional hockey ladder. Simontaival has some boom or bust potential but he boasts the kind of raw offensive talent that is worth swinging on in the second round.
Kasper Simontaival is one of those great examples of the value of a wide base and sneaky strength. Always does such a good job protecting the puck. Doesn’t play like he’s 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds. Big fan. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/mzbtcLBiWw
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) October 16, 2019
Jaromir Pytlik – C – 6’3″, 201lbs – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Another product of Kyle Dubas’ old stomping grounds, Pytlik fits the mould of a strong two-way center. He has good top speed and controls the puck well in the offensive end, but his smarts and effort make him effective as a defensive player as well. It remains to be seen how his offensive game will translate to the NHL but he should be able to carve out a career as a third line center regardless.
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 26, 2019
Joel Blomqvist – G – 6’1″, 205lbs – Karpat U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
If the Leafs miss out on Yaroslav Askarov and are determined to add a high end goalie prospect to their system, Blomqvist is the next best option. He is a solid positional goalie who anticipates the play well, and has solid recovery skills. Blomqvist is quiet in his crease and looks in full control more often than not. He has legitimate NHL starter potential.
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) March 11, 2020
Consensus rankings start to go out the window after the first 20 picks in the draft, and even more so once the second round gets underway, as different organizations value different attributes in their players. There are prospects who are ranked in the first round by various publications who will be available well into the second round and the Leafs could go any number of directions with the 44th pick, but these are some of the names that Kyle Dubas and his scouting staff are likely to be discussing when day two of the draft begins.
*all listed player statistics are from 2019-2020
(Statistics from eliteprospects.com)