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Toronto Maple Leafs have struck gold with latest third round pick

Published December 18, 2023 at 11:20
BY JULIEN TREKKER
     

Maple Leafs and Kyle Dubas Made a Steal With Third Round Pick in 2020



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In the 2020 NHL draft, Topi Niemela was chosen 64th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Back then, critics questioned Kyle Dubas' decision, as the Leafs already had small, puck-moving defensemen like Niemela.

However, with Rasmus Sandin's trade at the last deadline and the Leafs having several free-agent defensemen on their roster this season, Niemela could join the team as soon as next season.


Niemela already had one professional season with Karpat in the SM-Liiga under his belt when he was drafted. He went on to play three more seasons with Karpat before moving his career to North America and joining the Marlies in the AHL this season. In 21 games, he has scored 15 points, including 5 goals.

According to The Leafs Nation's prospect specialist, Nick Richard, the defenseman has considerably grown and adapted to North American hockey.

"Topi Niemelä's offensive output has increased in recent weeks, and he extended his goal-scoring streak to three games with the overtime winner against Hartford on Sunday. With a pair of goals over the weekend, Niemelä is up to five goals and 10 assists in just 21 games.

He has adjusted well to the North American game and is looking more comfortable with each passing game. The 2020 third-rounder will have to continue to add strength to hold up against bigger, stronger opponents, but his defensive instincts and offensive skill have him trending toward becoming an NHL blueliner in the coming years."

Niemela to be NHL Ready Next Season?



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The 22-year-old Finnish prospect is currently tied for 18th place in scoring among all AHL defensemen. Many players ahead of him have played four or five more games.

It would be surprising to see him in the NHL this year, considering the strong performances of Simon Benoit, William Lagesson, and Maxime Lajoie. But Niemela has certainly thrown his hat into the ring for a spot with the big club next season.


As seen on Maple Leafs Daily - Leafs appear to have hit a homerun with former 3rd round pick
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December 18   |   433 answers
Toronto Maple Leafs have struck gold with latest third round pick

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