William Villeneuve is a skilled young (21 years of age) right-shot defenseman, who was born on March 20, 2002, in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He’s of good height for a blue liner standing an impressive 6-foot-2 and weighing 184 pounds. In the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, he was chosen by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round (122nd overall).

Villeneuve’s journey to the NHL began his with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL during the 2018-19 season, where he contributed with one goal and 18 assists in 55 games. His game continued to evolve in the 2019-20 season, as he scored nine goals and 49 assists (totalling 58 points) in 64 games.

During the 2020-21 season, Villeneuve split his time between the Sea Dogs and the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. In the QMJHL, he put 20 points (with three goals and 17 assists) in 33 games. His 2021-22 season with the Sea Dogs saw him accumulate 56 points, comprised of eight goals and 48 assists. He also accumulated just 28 penalty minutes.

Villeneuve spent the 2022-23 season with the Marlies in the AHL, amassing 25 points (three goals and 22 assists) in 54 games. What’s unique about him is that he has an impressive offensive game but also has the ability to play a responsible defensive game. That makes Villeneuve a promising prospect for the Maple Leafs.

The question is whether he might see NHL ice this season. His trajectory is certainly pointing that way.

Related: Abruzzese & Minten: Maple Leafs Most Underrated Prospects 

Reasons that Villeneuve Has the Chance to Become a Stronger Defensive Player

In the remainder of this post, I’ll share why I believe Villeneuve has a chance to become a strong defensive player for the Maple Leafs in the future.

Reason #1. Villeneuve Has Had Consistent Offensive Output

Villeneuve has been consistent in growing his offensive production throughout his junior career in the QMJHL and during his AHL stints. As a defenseman, his ability to contribute offensively is a game-changer. He just seems to be getting better as he’s maturing.

Reason #2. Villeneuve Had a Strong Junior Season in 2019-20

Villeneuve’s 2019-20 season with the Saint John Sea Dogs was spectacular. He had 58 points in just 64 games. His impressive total of 49 assists proves that he’s a playmaker of great note.

Reason #3. Villeneuve Had a Solid Playoff Performance

If championship moments define a player’s value, Villeneuve delivers under pressure. During the 2020-21 QMJHL playoffs, he stepped up to register an impressive six points in just six games. This ability to produce in the clutch situations is a testament to his potential.

Related: Expect Maple Leafs’ Treliving to Trade for More Blue Line Grit

Reason #4. Villeneuve’s Transition to AHL Was Seamless

Moving from junior hockey to the AHL can be daunting, but Villeneuve took the step in stride. His presence with the Marlies during both the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons speaks volumes about his readiness for professional hockey. If he continues this trajectory, the Maple Leafs have makings of a future star.

Reason #5. Villeneuve’s Defense Is Developing

While Villeneuve is known for his offensive skills, he’s more than that. His development as a defenseman is equally impressive. He never shirks on his defensive responsibilities, making him a well-rounded prospect. The Maple Leafs have a player who can impact play at both ends of the ice.

The Bottom Line

Maple Leafs fans might want to keep their eyes on Villeneuve. He’s continuing to shine at whatever level he plays at. With his consistent offensive output, strong junior season, playoff prowess, AHL transition, and defensive development, he would seem to be a lock – one day – to become a regular on the Maple Leafs’ roster.

He seems to be on his way to the big club soon. Maybe not this year yet, but probably next.

Related: Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Matthews, Marner, Nylander & Knies

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