By Tom Hunter (@)
Over the past 18 months, the Toronto Maple Leafs have started to look like that guy on Hoarders – only with draft picks instead of newspapers dating back to 1973.
The Leafs enter next week’s draft in possession of more draft picks that any team in history – since it was reduced to 7 rounds. The focus of the re-build has clearly been on building through the draft and accumulating as much young talent in the organization as possible.
As of right now, the team holds 12 draft picks but the odds that the Leafs leave the draft next weekend with 12 new prospects seems very low. With the way this team operates, there are far too many scenarios at play that would result in the Leafs draft landscape looking far different at the end of the draft than it does now.
There is the possibility of packaging a few picks – maybe with roster players – to move up, or even for some more NHL ready talent. I have a feeling a pick or two could be moved out in exchange for ones in the 2017 draft. Plus there’s still the possibility that the Leafs relinquish one – or both – of the picks they owe as compensation for head coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello.
That said, it’s fun to speculate on who your team will select on draft day. Here are the players I would select with the Maple Leafs 12 draft picks.
1. Auston Matthews – C – ZSC Lions, NLA
This one is a no-brainer. Auston Matthews is the best prospect in the draft and will fill the void that has been empty since Mats Sundin left Toronto. He’s a big, strong, smart center that has the skill to be a franchise cornerstone for two decades.
30. Boris Katchouk – LW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL
Katchouk is currently ranked as high as 22, but he is in the 30 range of most draft lists. He is a do-everything forward that may not be elite at any one aspect of the game but is above average at just about everything. He is a candidate to be a draft +1 breakout next season as his growth has been on an upward trajectory. He probably played the best hockey of his life in the first round upset of the Sarnia Sting this past April. He’s a late birth date and might take a little longer to develop than some others drafted around him but if he falls to 30, it’s hard to see the Leafs passing on Katchouk
Katchouk might have an insider pushing for him with the Leafs as Kyle Dubas made him an integral part of his final draft class with the Greyhounds.
31. Kale Clague – D – Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
As I wrote in my draft day targets post earlier in the week, I think Clague is the kind of risk the Leafs should be taking on draft day. Clague is a guy who started the year being viewed as a top-10 player in the draft but has fallen to the 30-45 range after an underwhelming season.
He had a terrible first half of the year in Brandon but after Christmas turned into the player many scouts were expecting. Clague is a great skater, a tremendous passer and has the kind of vision you want to see from a defender leading the rush.
Clague would instantly become the Leafs top defensive prospect and a guy that would look great as an elite second pair guy on a very good team.
57. Dillon Dube – F – Kelowna, WHL
Going to the WHL with both second round picks – weird I know eh?. Dube is a highly skilled forward that is ranked all over the map. I have a feeling his draft day experience could be a lot like Jeremy Bracco’s last year. Falling to the end of the 2nd while people ask why.
Dube is an explosive player that looks great playing an up-tempo game and has the ability to create offense for himself at high speeds. He has great mobility and instincts that lets him create space for himself against bigger defenders.
His biggest negative is that he often tries too much, forcing plays that aren’t there. He turns the puck over through mental mistakes and is knocked off the puck a little too easily. He’s got the skill to succeed and fits perfectly into the drafting philosophy that we saw from the Leafs last year.
62. Jordan Sambrook – D – Erie, OHL
He’s got ideal size for a defender and skates very well. That said, Sambrook’s biggest asset is his intelligence. He has quick hands and a good reach that allows him to create turnovers in his own end.
Sambrook will make his share of mistakes but usually as a result of trying to do too much. As he simplifies his game, he shows a very solid two-way game. The point total won’t wow you, but it’s something that could see a big boost with a bigger role in Erie next season.
He is a right-handed shot and while that’s not something to base a draft pick on, it’s an added bonus. Sambrook has a bit of an ‘it’ factor. When you see him play, you see a defender that will end up in the NHL.
72. Joseph Woll – G – USNDT
Woll is a very young, very raw goalie who is destined for Boston College in the fall. He has the ‘perfect frame’ for a goalie. His tracking and rebound control needs some work, but those are things that proper development will hone. He moves well and uses his size when it comes to positioning in the crease.
Plus the Oshawa Generals hold his CHL rights and that’s never a bad thing.
92. Riley Stillman – D – Oshawa Generals
Stillman took off in the second half of the season. He was given first pairing minutes and excelled as probably the Generals best defender down the stretch. He’s not overly big but he plays with a physical edge.
As well as being able to play against the opposition’s top line defensively, Stillman is a very good puck mover that will lead the breakout and transition to offense. Good foot speed and sound decision making gives Stillman the ability to contribute in all three zones.
Stillman reminds me a lot of Travis Dermott.
101. Jonathan Ang – F – Peterborough, OHL
The first thing you notice about Ang is his speed. After Mike McLeod he may be the fastest OHLer in the draft. He uses his great skating to go right at defenders in an attempt to create offensive chances for his team. He gains the zone well but has shown hesitation when it comes to driving deep or going to the net. He’s not the biggest fan of contact and plays a little more on the perimeter than you’d like to see.
He has the talent that some would project as a top-6 forward but if he doesn’t learn to accept contact and physical play he’ll never reach his potential.
122. Jack Lafontaine – G – Janesville, NAHL
Another NCAA bound goaltender, Lafontaine is set to play for the University of Michigan next season. He is an athletic and positionally sound goaltender. He controls rebounds well but has some trouble when it comes to making the second or third save.
The big question will be how Lafontaine meets the challenge of a huge step up in competition. He’s a very interesting project that would add needed depth to the Leafs system.
152. Tobias Eder – C – Germany
He’s a player that caught a few eyes at the U18s. He’s a guy you’d be taking a shot on based on less knowledge than others, but this late in the draft that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
From limited viewings he almost seems like a German Leo Komarov. He’s a smart player that forechecks hard and has good offensive instincts. He plays hard in all three zones and could be a true diamond in the rough coming out of the German junior leagues.
179. Alan Lyszczarzcyk – C – Sudbury, OHL
I went to see the Sudbury wolves play to check out Dmitri Sokolov but left the arena more impressed with Lyszczarzcyk. He’s a speedy, skilled forward that was a little inconsistent in Sudbury but was absolutely dominant for Poland at the U18 Div2 tournament – as you would hope.
He likes to lead the rush with the puck on his stick but has the vision to find his linemates when they are in scoring position. Playing for the Wolves is hard on prospects as they are not a good team and do not play with a ton of structure.
Lyszczarzcyk has a long way to go in his play without the puck but he has shown the skill that makes him worth of being selected late in the draft.
182. Otto Koivula – W – Ilves, Finland
Koivula is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, but despite his age, he stands at a hulking 6’4 220lbs.
He’s raw, very raw but is the kind of player you can afford to take a chance on this late in the draft. He’s got good offensive instincts but like many guys his size he needs to improve his skating drastically. There will be a team that feels the youngester can be molded into an NHLer and the Leafs likely have the faith in their development team to think it can be them.