Super Sunday for TWO Leafs prospects’ career games

No Leafs hockey on Sunday? No problem! The prospect camp had all the excitement you could need with two up-and-comers lighting the lamp repetitively and filling the boxscore at a relentless pace.

Nick Robertson – Peterborough Pete’s

The latest high Leafs prospect has followed up a great World Juniors tournament with team USA by continuing to light the OHL on fire! The 18-year-old left-winger netted a hattrick on Sunday against the Barrie Colts, scoring three goals in differing situations in the game.

His third goal of the game, a shorthanded tally off of some point pressure, was his 50th of the season. He’s managed this feat in just 43 games, bringing him to 76 points on the season. As shown above, his 50th of the season was a result of high-pressing penalty-killing much like how Mitch Marner plays for the Leafs now, finished with a quick release.

With Sandin and Liljegren up with the big boys and Jeremy Bracco away on personal leave from the Marlies, just one year after getting drafted, Nick Robertson is the Leafs crowning jewel in their prospect system. Exciting times lie ahead for this kid and the Leafs!

Justin Brazeau – Newfoundland Growlers

The over-ager the Leafs scooped up at the end of last OHL season, Justin Brazeau, was an absolute goal-scoring machine in the minors. His last season of OHL play saw him net 61 goals and 113 points in 68 games, so the contract made a lot of sense for the Leafs, could he translate it to different levels though?

Showing up Nick Robertson by a goal, Brazeau netted four in this routing of the Jacksonville Icemen. The Newfoundland Growlers have been uber-competitive since their inaugural season, and as reigning champs are doing everything in their power to run it back for the 2019/20 season, as well, with Brazeau stepping up huge for the team.

His 25 goals and 26 assists in 53 games this season show that the elite scorer is able to share the puck as well as smash it home. At 22 he’s adapting just fine to the ECHL level of play and looks primed to step up to the AHL hopefully next year. Much like Ilya Mikheyev who made an impact as a 24-year-old rookie, it may be a little while yet before Brazeau steps up to the big club, but if and when he does, his natural goal-scoring ability should take care of him.

Three lesser-known Leafs Prospects TEARING up the ECHL

The use of the ECHL as a depth league for player development has really been embraced by Kyle Dubas’ Leafs team. The success of the team shows the usefulness of this team and has a few hidden gems to get excited about, too!

For reference, the Newfoundland Growlers are currently 35-11-0-1 on the season, including a huge home winning streak in this, their ECHL Championship season after toppling the opposition in pretty ridiculous fashion last season. Here are three young, exciting prospects to get hyped about:

Angus Redmond – Goalie

The Langley BC Native has strung together quite the season for the Growlers, stepping up from behind the more well-known Maksim Zhukov to steal some starts. Of his fourteen appearances this season, twelve have been starts and Redmond is 12-0 on the year.

His growing sample size put some meat behind his ridiculous stats. Currently, Redmond is sitting at a .916 S% with a 2.41 GAA. Those aren’t necessarily Vezina winning numbers, but in the ECHL the skill level varies massively, and with it, the scores generally are a little inflated. Redmond’s ability to backstop the Growlers to wins (exclusively) is nothing to shake a stick at.

The 25-year-old is proving the adage about goaltender development is still right – goalies generally need more time to develop. That being said, the three-year ECHL goaltender is finding his stride in the well-structured Newfoundland Growlers organization.

Aaron Luchuk – Forward, C

Possibly recognizable as an asset acquired in the Nikita Zaitsev – Cody Ceci trade, Aaron Luchuk is proving to be A LOT more than just an add-in piece to an NHL deal. The point-producing center has always been able to generate offense in his minor league career, scoring 50+ points in four consecutive seasons in the OHL split between Windsor and Barrie.

He managed 22 points in 32 games for the Brampton Beast (ECHL) last season but has exploded on the Newfoundland scene this year. With 47 points in 41 games, 18 goals and 29 assists, Luchuk has a 1.15 ppg. At just 22-years-old, it’s clear Luchuk has a role within the Leafs system and will likely graduate to the Marlies either this season for the playoff push or in the near future.

With center depth lacking organizationally but not a massive need on the Leafs current roster, Luchuk has the systematic support to marinade and develop at a natural and unrushed pace, which should help him develop, hopefully, into an NHL player.

Justin Brazeau – Forward, RW

Maybe the most well-known prospect on the Growlers’ team, Justin Brazeau was signed to a two-year deal last season as an over-ager coming out of the North Bay Battalion in the OHL. Last year, Brazeau had 113 points in 68 games, a strong follow to his 75 point season a year prior.

Brazeau has kept up his goal-scoring abilities in the ECHL with 40 points in 44 games played, giving him a .91 ppg. Of his 40 points, Brazeau is spreading the puck around well, too, with 18 goals and 22 assists splitting his production.

There is no question that Brazeau can put the puck in the net, but the criticism on Brazeau is his skating ability. Playing against older prospects and players in the ECHL, Brazeau can develop this and push forward to the Marlies eventually. At just 22-years-old, Brazeau has plenty of time to focus on his player development and grow into a more complete player.

 

The Maple Leafs just stole a massive OHL talent in Justin Brazeau

While some teams prioritized winning over NCAA players, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed the OHL’s goal-scoring leader in an absolute steal of a pickup. Let’s get to know Justin Brazeau:

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed North Bay Battalion Captain and OHL goal-scoring leader Justin Brazeau in a remarkably quiet coup on Thursday. The Leafs, who are going to need scoring depth from cheap wingers, will send Brazeau to the Marlies on a two-year deal ahead of their Calder Cup run in a smart, sensible, and complain-proof move.

This season…

Brazeau has been simply electric, lighting up the OHL. The 21-year-old has managed 61 goals in 68 games this season, adding 52 assists over the season as well. His 61 goals is good enough for first in the OHL this season, and his 113 points left him in second place for overall points.

His biggest asset appears to be a more-than-solid shot that is responsible for his terrific season this year. Outside of his wrister, Brazeau appears to have good hockey sense and gets himself in good goalscoring positions. His shot helps him finish, but positioning is massive for him.

Previous seasons…

Undrafted and back in the OHL to continue his pursuit of the NHL dream, Brazeau has steadily and exponentially improved over his four seasons of junior hockey.

His first season saw him play 65 games with the Battalion tallying just 6 goals, 7 assists, and 13 points. It’s a far cry from his 2018/19 season but shows why he didn’t attract too many headlines immediately.

His second season in 16/17 saw him more than double up his freshman point total with 22 goals and 15 goals, good for 37 points. Brazeau continued to grow in 17/18 with another doubling of points. He totaled 39 goals and 36 assists for 75 points.

The outlook…

If Brazeau’s story shows us anything, it’s that forecasting skill and player development can be a craps shoot sometimes. As for the Leafs, Brazeau offers two massive boosts to future Leafs’ teams: size and scoring ability.

As good as his shot is, Brazeau tips the scales at 226 lbs and measures a whopping 6’6″. As Mike Babcock says, ‘you can’t teach size.’ He would offer the Leafs some potential grit and physicality with his size alone, although don’t be expecting Brazeau to skate around gooning the opposition – goals are his first priority.

His skating is apparently the weakest aspect of his game, but he has continued to focus on improving it and much like his points totals, has done just that. Comparables are hard at this level but you’d hope a player with his size and goalscoring could emulate the likes of a Rick Nash, albeit highly unlikely with how awesome Nash was.

Don’t buy into the Gauthier comparisons though. The lazy lines being drawn between the two players are based on size alone and skating, not on play style, draft class, or anything of substance. I mean, the players don’t even play the same position!

Regardless, Brazeau will slot in with the Marlies for a Calder Cup run and will get a chance to win a spot on the Leafs team come September. No complaints here on this move, just praise for Dubas intelligently adding to the team depth!