The Toronto Maple Leafs have the right to the potential of a superstar with stellar potential. At the end of the season, his stock was never higher.
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Topi Niemelä in the third round, ranked 64th overall, in the 2020 NHL entry draft. While the organization loved his game at the time, he must love it now. It is by far their most exciting possibility.
Niemelä’s season ended when his club team, Oulun Kärpät, was eliminated at Finish Liiga in the quarter-finals by Ilves. He only scored one pass in the six matches he played after that. However, in the regular season, Niemelä left. In 48 matches, he scored 10 goals and 22 assists for a total of 32 points.
It was good enough to be the fourth highest sum on the team.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Toby Nimmella
For those unfamiliar with Niemelä, by reading these numbers, they are likely to imagine that it is either a center or a ward. In fact, he is a defensive man. Also, for those who don’t watch the matches, they would expect that most of his points came in powerplay. In fact, he scored only one of his goals this season.
Niemelä has taken his attacking game to the next level since being picked by the Leafs at the age of 18. Back then, after leaving his first year with professional Kärpät, he managed to score just seven points with a goal and six assists in 43 competitions. . When he was younger, he showed in small samples that he has this attacking ability, even winning the award for best defensive man at the IIHF World Hockey Championship 2021 after collecting eight points in seven matches. Even with this experience, the degree to which Niemelä currently performs comes as a surprise to even seasoned scouts.
For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs who are not yet impressed with the production of these little blue stripes, they just need to take a look at what one of his teammates has managed to achieve. Former NHL left winger Jussi Jokinen also plays on Kärpät. After 951 games in the National Hockey League, in which he scored 191 goals and 372 assists, Jokinen went on to continue his career in Finland. Now, at the age of 37, he finished the season with 26 points. In 51 matches, he scored 9 goals and 17 assists, giving him six points less than Niemelä.
What makes Niemelä special is not only his attack and the way he masterfully joins the dash but also how he can defend. It creates difficulty for its opponents thanks to its ability to accelerate at high speeds, and to move forward and backward. Combined with game play with positional sound and good stick handling, Niemelä’s coach, Lauri Marjamäki, never needs to worry about putting the young defender on the ice.
If Niemelä keeps improving his playing style, he won’t tell us what he will be able to achieve. The evolution the Leafs have seen so far is exciting, with the potential to see their future become a star once they take their game to North America.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not yet signed with Nimila, which may worry some. Do not panic. His rights belong to Toronto until June 1, 2024. There is still plenty of time for The Leafs to bring Niemelä to Toronto.