June 22 2012 10:00PM
PITTSBURGH — The Maple Leafs' director of amateur scouting Dave Morrison didn't necessarily confirm Brian Burke's assertion that number five overall pick Morgan Rielly was the highest player ranked on the Leafs' board, but admitted that "we had him pretty high."
"We went for a high-end skill talent. We wanted a guy that can be a core player," said Morrison. "He skates really fast and his hockey sense is very very good. He's a potential impact player. He's got a very high ceiling."
The first four picks, at least according to Burke, played out as the Leafs' expected. Morrison noted that Alex Galchenyuk was coming off a similar injury this season, an ACL problem that restricted the forward to eight games. But a leg injury doesn't necessarily affect offensive instincts, Galchenyuk's chief talent, the same way that Rielly's skating could potentially be hampered by a rough knee sprain.
"Our doctors were telling me that the ACL, they go in and operate on that and it's not a big deal," said Morrison. "As long as, medically, that was our big thing. We wanted to make sure that he had recovered, and was healthy and nothing untoward was going to keep him from reaching his potential."
Leafs brass correctly nailed down the action preceding the Rielly selection, meaning the Leafs got the guy they expected. Nail Yakupov went first to Edmonton, Columbus followed suit with Ryan Murray, Montreal with Galchenyuk, and it was only the New York Islanders that had stumped the Leafs. Burke said that he didn't know who the Islanders were taking, but knew it wasn't Rielly.
"We had it planned exactly, the scenarios, we went through a bunch of different ones," said Morrison about the process on the floor in the first round prior to the pick. The weather in Pittsburgh on Friday night was warm and muggy, and everything in the building it seemed displayed some beads of sweat. On the floor, the only lighted part of the facility and under the spotlight, the time spent between picks must have felt like an eternity. "You're just thinking. Thinking in overdrive, until you know exactly what you're going to do."
The second day is a more casual atmosphere. The Leafs select five times on Saturday, but four of them are late-round selections. Earlier on, Burke gets a crack at #35, and there is still some decent talent left on the board.
The best players available, according to Corey Pronman's list:
LW Pontus Aberg, Djurgarden (SEL)
RW Sebastian Collberg, Frolunda (SEL)
LW Anton Slepyshev, Novokuznetsk (KHL)
D Ludvig Bystrom, Modo (SEL)
C Nikolai Prokhorin, CKSA (MHL)
LW Tim Bozon, Kamloops (WHL)
LW Nicolas Kerlides, USA U-18 (USHL)
RW Danill Zharkov, Belleville (OHL)
D Ville Polka, Karpat (SM-Liiga)
D Michael Matheson, Dubuque (USHL)
The Leafs will have a crack at one of these picks. Burke stressed earlier in the day the importance of drafting for the best player available over organizational need.