Image via Mark Staffieri at Ice Hockey Wiki
There’s going to be a lack of Toronto Maple Leafs-related news until the conclusion of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This week I’m focusing much of my time tracking zone entries for the Memorial Cup (work will be published over at Yahoo’s Buzzing the Net) and only doing so because there is an absolute glut of prospects at the event.
Three of them, Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, will be well out of reach by the time the Toronto Maple Leafs pick, which could land anywhere between 19 and 22nd, depending on how the second round of the playoffs shakes out. If New York, Ottawa, Detroit and San Jose were all to win their series… that would bump Toronto up to 19th. While that’s a possibility, it won’t put Toronto high enough up to put them into Drouin territory.
However, there’s a familiar name at the Memorial Cup familiar to Leafs fans.
What do we think about Max Domi?
If Max had any other last name other than “Clark” “Gilmour” or “McDonald”, it’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be pencilling his name next to the Leafs’ spot on the draft board.
It’s an excellent fit. Max is the son of Tie, naturally, but the younger Domi isn’t a pugilist or an energy player by any means. He’s a skilled forward that scored 39 goals this season and 87 points—leading his team in both categories.
There’s another prospect on the London Knights to consider: Bo Horvat, who had 33 goals on the season and another 16 in the playoffs to lead the league. A lot of opinions will be formed this week about which one the Leafs should take should either fall to Toronto’s spot. Horvat is 15th in CSS and Domi is 19th, which makes them about where the Leafs would be picking.
I don’t have enough statistical data comparing the two, which makes me glad that the Saskatoon Blades beat Halifax last night, meaning that we’re guaranteed a tiebreaker at this tournament and an extra game to compare and contrast players from different leagues. A four-or-five game tournament is too small a sample to base anything off of goals or assists or points or wins and losses, so I’m looking at zone entries as a bit of a performance indicator throughout the event.
The only conclusion I’ve determined so far is that “Nathan MacKinnon is pretty good”. Working on others.
A name that may be familiar to Leafs fans watching the tournament is Saskatoon’s Josh Nicholls, a former 7th round pick of Toronto. While Nicholls has looked adept in all three zones in both the Blades’ games, the truth is that you should expect that out of an overage player. I doubt Nicholls has an NHL future, or would be a player to get crazy excited about if he were still Leafs property. They picked him in 2010, left him un-signed and now he’s back in junior for the overage season and looks predictably, pretty good. But so to Brenden Walker and Michael Ferland, the Blades’ other overage players.
It’s difficult to project hockey player futures based on watching juniors. The best NHL players often aren’t the best in junior, because they leave before they can really dominate the league. This year is a bit different at the Memorial Cup because three of the four teams have key, key players that are draft-eligible. London has Domi and Horvat and defenceman Nikita Zadorov, Halifax has MacKinnon, Drouin and goaltender Zachary Fucale, while Portland has top-ranked Seth Jones, 33rd-ranked Nicolas Petan and 36th-ranked Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Any of those forwards sound pleasant. The Leafs have a good collection of mobile defencemen in the prospect ranks, but lack a real game-breaking forward under the age of 22 in the system. I’d like to see the Leafs spend as many of their picks as possible on forwards and try and hit a home run with one of them. Leave the safe picks to other teams.
Thoughts on the tournament? On Domi? On Horvat? Open thread, we’ll see a few of these in the next few weeks until we get into some draft and free agency analysis…