A lot of criticism on the currently constructed Maple Leafs falls on their lack of size and physicality in their forward group. Sure, John Tavares adds some grit to the first line, and Zach Hyman’s presence exceeds his stature, but if the Leafs want more size look no further than their minor league roster.
The Leafs offseason international addition, Ilya Mikheyev, was a pretty solid compromise between Dubas and Babcock ideology. Babcock craves size and physicality, while Dubas wants value for scoring ability, this Russian winger provides both for a sub-million dollar contract.
As for his application, look for Mikheyev to start the season on the big league roster. He is 6’2″ which, as Babcock would say, can’t be taught. Outside of that, Mikheyev has played at Omsk Avangard in the KHL for the past four seasons, maturing at age 24 and adding solid playoff experience as well.
His last season saw him exceed his games played and points total. He played 62 games and put up 45 points during the campaign. He also seemingly found another gear in the playoffs, chipping in 11 points in 13 games.
Next season I could see him playing alongside Alexander Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen/Trevor Moore for what could be a terrifyingly effective and offensive third unit. If he can transition to the NHL game with ease I could also see him step into the second PP unit as a net-front presence.
Yegor Korshkov made TML headlines last season when he was recalled to join the Marlies for their playoff run as some added reinforcements. He did see action in nine games but only had one goal in this period of time. The 23-year-old right-winger will almost certainly start the season as a Marlie, as right-wing is deep for the Leafs, and it’s fitting as he has some development to due.
He is 6’4″ and a reported 180lbs so he has some bulking up to do as well, but don’t count him out as a shutdown depth Leaf in the future. Korshkov can also chip in offensively, as he did in his last full season (2017-19) with 26 points in 52 games played. Being a former Leafs draft pick at 31 overall, Korshkov may have some leniency from management, but the clock is ticking.
Pierre Engvall is a lot of Leafs fans pick for a Marlies big man to make the transition sooner rather than later. First, Engvall comes in at 6’5″ and doesn’t fall victim to the “big man can’t skate” issue that affects a lot of 6’+ NHLers.
Engvall’s smooth skating combined with his size makes him an attractive player and fit for the high octane offense the Maple Leafs boast. Last season Engvall chipped in 32 points in 70 games, and also added seven points in 13 playoff games in the Marlies deep Calder Cup run.
The Swedish core of the Leafs also makes Engvall a solid fit with Nylander and Johnsson leading the way. Engvall could easily become a fan favorite as the big brutes tend to be, but he’ll win over fans with offensive output over hitting and fighting as any solid modern-day NHLer should.
Maybe the most under the radar player on this list, Mason Marchment is a massively impressive prospect currently on the Marlies and should attract more attention come training camp this season. The Leafs are spoiled for options on the wings currently, but Marchment could force their hand sooner rather than later on players like Kenny Agostino and Nic Petan.
The 24-year-old, Uxbridge native, undrafted left-winger comes in at 6’4″, 200lbs. In his past two seasons with the Marlies, he has played in 44 games each, scoring 26 and 25 points respectively. His 60 penalty minutes last season, a stark increase over his season prior or any other season in his career, also suggests he’ll mix it up with his opponents.
With lesser offensive output than Mikheyev or Engvall, Marchment may actually be a better fit for the Leafs. His forecasted position would be a left-winger in the bottom-6, and as shown last season Mike Babcock isn’t afraid to scratch and move around his bottom units to generate more offense. Look out for this kid to replace Kadri as the key agitator for the Leafs in the near future.