Fraser Minten, Matthew Knies, Topi Niemela, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs’ Top 3 Untouchable Prospects for 2023-24

The Toronto Maple Leafs have not been afraid to mix things up at the trade deadline these last few seasons. It is understandable, as they are consistently among the NHL’s top regular-season teams, and this is something that should carry over to 2023-24. As a result, the Maple Leafs could have a very busy deadline and move out some prospects and/or draft picks this campaign. Yet, they have three specific untouchable prospects who should stay put. Let’s discuss them now.

Matthew Knies

The most obvious prospect who will not be traded during this season is Maple Leafs’ top prospect Matthew Knies. The 21-year-old winger is in his first full season with the club and is expected to be a long-term part of their core. The Arizona native has all the tools to emerge as a top-six power forward at the NHL level, and we have already seen glimpses of that during his short NHL career.

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After a solid postseason with the Maple Leafs, Knies has been impressive so far this campaign. Although he was held off the scoresheet in his first four games, he notably posted two goals and an assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 21. As he continues to adjust to the NHL level, these kinds of performances should happen more often during his first full professional season.

Matthew Knies Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthew Knies, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs have been looking for a skilled winger with size and grit for quite some time, and now they have that with Knies. Thus, he is easily the Maple Leafs’ top untouchable prospect for this campaign.

Fraser Minten

Fraser Minten raised his value due to his impressive preseason. After making a big impact with his preseason play, the 19-year-old was a surprise addition to the Maple Leafs’ opening night roster. Although he has not recorded a point in four regular-season games with the Maple Leafs and seems likely to head back to junior, there’s no denying that he is emerging as a key prospect in Toronto’s system. Due to this, the Maple Leafs should not consider dealing him in any circumstances this season.

Fraser Minten Toronto Maple Leafs
Fraser Minten, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

If Minten ends up being sent back to the Western Hockey League (WHL), he should be in for a big season after playing against NHL competition. The Vancouver native also had an excellent season with the Kamloops Blazers in 2022-23, posting 31 goals and 67 points in 57 games.

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It will be intriguing to see what the Maple Leafs do with Minten in the short term. Yet, given his rise as a prospect, he should be a part of Toronto’s long-term future.

Topi Niemela

Topi Niemela is another notable prospect whom the Maple Leafs should not consider trading under any circumstances. The right side of the Maple Leafs’ defence needs improvement, and Niemela could be a long-term solution for it in the near future. This is because the 21-year-old has the potential to become a top-four offensive defenceman at the NHL level. Due to this, he is easily the Maple Leafs’ top prospect on defence.

Topi Niemelä Team Finland
Topi Niemelä, Team Finland (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Niemela played in seven postseason games with the Marlies last season, where he had two goals and five points. He is now beginning his first full professional season in North America this campaign with the Marlies. In four American Hockey League (AHL) games so far this campaign, he has one goal and three points. Overall, he has performed well while adjusting to the AHL level, and he has the potential to get some NHL reps this season when injuries inevitably occur because of it.

With the Maple Leafs not possessing the strongest of defences, moving out their top prospect defenceman would not be a smart idea. Due to this and Niemela’s upside, it is fair to say that he is among the Maple Leafs’ untouchable prospects in this campaign.

Another prospect whom the Maple Leafs are likely to keep this season is 2023 first-round pick Easton Cowan. The 18-year-old showed promise during training camp, and he should have a bright future ahead of him at the NHL level. In six games this season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he has four goals, nine points, and 15 penalty minutes.

Nevertheless, it will be fun to see what trades the Maple Leafs inevitably make this season to try to strengthen their roster before the playoffs. However, no matter what they do, we should not expect to see Knies, Minten, or Niemela among the prospects moved.

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