According to a report from Dhiren Mahiban of the Canadian Press, the Toronto Maple Leafs will NOT extend a contract offer to prospect Keaton Middleton before the June 1st, 2018 deadline. This means that the 20 year old Middleton will re-enter the NHL Entry Draft and become available to any other NHL team.
#Leafs pick Keaton Middleton will not be getting an ELC from Toronto prior to the June 1 deadline. I’m told he will go back into the #NHLDraft.
Essentially, the Leafs have decided to toss away his rights and cut ties with him completely, less than two years after selecting him in the 4th round (101st overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The giant 6’5”, 235 pound blue liner put up four goals and 24 points in 64 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Saginaw Spirit this past season.
The native of Stratford, Ontario has now finished his junior eligibility and looked to be on track to join the Leafs’ AHL or ECHL affiliates in the upcoming 2018-19 season, but this latest development means that he’ll have to see employment elsewhere. If he goes undrafted in June, he’ll officially become a free agent.
Leafs blogger Jeff Veillette describes Middleton as a prototypical stay at home defenceman with suspect skating ability and lower than average offensive skills. That may be the case, but when you’re 6’5”, 235 pounds and you’re not afraid to use your size to your advantage, you’re going to gain the interest of scouts. I mean… just look at what this kid can do:
To be fair, Middleton and his coaches in Saginaw this season worked hard to develop some offense and puck possession to his game, transforming him from a dump it in, dump it out type defenseman into a breakout defender with a decent first pass ability. Whether or not he can continue to develop these skills and one day earn himself a spot in the NHL however, remains to be seen. At the very least, the Leafs are giving up on a potential project player in Middleton.
Are the Leafs letting one get away with Middleton? Or is this just a case of nothing gained and nothing lost?