4 Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects to Watch in Traverse City

Vyacheslav Peksa (No.35) of Russia U20 (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Vyacheslav Peksa (No.35) of Russia U20 (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /
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No. 2: Topi Niemela

If Niemela isn’t the best defenseman in this entire event, I’ll be shocked, so he’s definitely one to watch this weekend.

Drafted in the third round in 2020, Niemela is set for a full-time role with the Toronto Marlies, however I’d say there’s a slight chance he gets playing time with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

Certainly their blue-line is desperate for anyone with upside, and certainly the Leafs would love to have an impact player on an entry-level deal on their roster.

The reason I believe Niemela truly has a chance at making the Leafs roster is because of just how poor their current defensive group is.

Typically, I wouldn’t love the idea of bringing in a 21-year-old defenseman to fill a gap within a veteran group, but Niemela has a chance to become a top-four player before we know it.

He’s not only a talented player defensively, but the biggest thing to watch will be his offensive potential, in terms of rushing the puck and creating scoring opportunities.

If Niemela plays well here, expect him to get a serious look during training camp for the last defensive roster spot.