Leafs Draft Preview: Forward Thinking

Justin Fisher
June 28 2013 08:08AM


via windsorspitfires.com

On Tuesday, we took a look at Dave Morrison's draft record in hopes of finding some pattern that might help us identify some potential draft targets in this coming Sunday's NHL Entry Draft. While we were able to see the Leafs favour North American players, little else could be pulled from the numbers.

Morrison has selected three forwards and three defencemen with six first round picks in the past seven drafts. Goalies have been snubbed, which many would argue is a good thing. In fact, Morrison has only drafted three goaltenders in the past seven years, with the highest drafted being a 4th rounder (James Reimer, 2006).

Today, we'll take a look at the forwards who the Leafs might find attractive at 21st overall... 

Kerby Rychel - Left Wing - Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Kerby Rychel is the kind of big, gritty, hardworking winger that Dave Morrison likes. That'll make a lot of Leafs fans cringe, as that sounds an awful lot like the much maligned Tyler Biggs.

The difference? Rychel has scored 40 goals in back to back years and put up 87 points in 68 games this past season. Those are some mighty encouraging numbers, and often are attributed to players ranked higher than he is on most pre-draft rankings. 

The knock on Rychel is his skating - he's not going to trudge all over the ice, but there's room for improvement. Still, the offense is there to be a top six forward, and should some of that offense not translate, the smarts and physicality are there to play an effective bottom six role.

Anthony Mantha - Right Wing - Val d'Or (QMJHL)

It's true that the Leafs have largely steered clear of QMJHL players in recent years (they've only drafted three in the past seven drafts), but it may prove too difficult to pass on a 6'3, 200lb winger who was the league's only 50 goal scorer last season.

Despite all the goals, many see a lack of commitment and consistency in Mantha's game. Perhaps he's so talented, he just gets bored. Perhaps it's a laziness that will plague him for his entire career. Either way, Mantha has boom-or-bust potential.

If he's still available at 21, Mantha might be the kind of risk Leafs fans are willing to take for a potential impact player. It all depends on if Leafs management feels the same way.

Adam Erne - Left Wing - Quebec (QMJHL)

Yes, another QMJHL player - but this one is American so we're ok!

I considered copying and pasting the Kerby Rychel description aboive into this spot, but I know Leafs Nation readers are smart and handsome folks so I dared not test my luck. 

Like Rychel, Adam Erne is a big, physical body with a nice scoring touch. Unlike Rychel, Erne has some good wheels too. All of that added up to 28 goals and 72 points in 68 games this past year for the Remparts

How likely it is that Erne continues scoring at the pro level is another issue altogether. There's a chance that Erne can develop into a top six powerfoward, but there's also a chance that we're looking at another future third liner who can get by with strong physical play but can't quite seem to put puck in net.

Ryan Hartman - Centre/Right Wing - Plymouth (OHL)

Despite standing 5'11 and weighing 187lbs, Ryan Hartman plays a relentlessly hard and physical game. Scouts like how Hartman never misses and shift and is often the hardest working player on the ice, willing to help out in both ends of the rink.

Of course, and as is the situation with most players who aren't picked in the top ten and play a two-way game, there's questions on whether the offence will translate at the pro level. This season, Hartman scored 23 goals and 60 points in 56 games, while also amassing 120 penalty minutes. 

Like each of the forwards we've profiled so far, Hartman looks like he has a future in the NHL. Whether he's a top six or bottom six forward is the question Leafs brass will have to wrestle with. One thing's for sure, Hartman has more snarl than the majority of his peers, which for some reason is always lauded come draft time. 

Honourable Mentions:

  • Jimmy Lodge - Centre - Saginaw (OHL)
  • Morgan Klimchuk - Left Wing - Regina Pats (WHL)
  • Zach Nastasiuk - Right Wing - Owen Sound (OHL)
  • Frederik Gauthier - Centre - Rimouski (QMJHL)

Recent Forwards Taken 21st Overall:

  • Mark Jankowski (Calgary, 2012)
  • Stefan Noesen (Ottawa, 2011)
  • Riley Sheahan (Detroit, 2010)
  • Anton Gustafsson (Washington, 2008)
  • Riley Nash (Edmonton, 2007)
  • Wojtek Wolski (Colorado, 2004)
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Justin Fisher is a Toronto-based writer of sorts. He likes hockey and comic books and sriracha sauce. He doesn't like Don Cherry. Follow him on Twitter: @thejustinfisher
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