Toronto Maple Leafs Top 10 Prospects at the Start of the 2021-22 Season

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 13: Nick Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on April 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Flames defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 13: Nick Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on April 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Flames defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 30: Topi Niemela #7, Roni Hirvonen #22, Anton Lundell #15 and Kasper Simontaival #29 of Finland Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

4. Topi Niemela

Age: 19

Height/Weight: 5′ 11″ 165 lbs

Position: Defense

Shoots: Right

Draft: 3rd Round, 64th Overall 2020

After the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him in the 3rd round, Niemela immediately went out and won the Best Defenseman award at the World Juniors.

Like almost every prospect the Leafs have, Niemela is an offensively skilled player with high hockey IQ.  Corey Pronman called him a “smart puck mover…with good mobility and skill, but his brain drives his value.”   That’s high praise.

Niemela now ranks ahead of Liljegren on the prospect charts because he’s got a better chance of being an impact player in the NHL.  The Leafs obviously have a type (smart puck moving defenseman) and Niemela is a walking example of it.

Niemela is currently back in Finland playing for Karpa in the SM-liiga but will probably sign a contract with the Leafs and finish out the year with the Marlies after their season ends.

He may not be playing for the Leafs this year, but he likely will be a candidate to make the team beginning next season.