Dave Morrison’s draft tendencies

With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft less than a week away, we’re going to take a few minutes to profile not one of the draft eligible players, but the man who’s running the show for the Leafs – Dave Morrison.

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An old hand from the John Ferguson Jr. era, Morrison was promoted to Director of Amateur Scouting in 2006. 

In 2013, it’s fair to say that Morrison’s first few shots at the draft were successful, despite lacking a number of early round picks. How successful? Read on… 

The 2006 Draft was perhaps most impressive, with Jiri Tlusty, Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Korbinian Holzer, Viktor Stalberg and Leo Komarov all eventually contributing at the NHL level. In fact, only sixth round pick Tyler Ruegsegger hasn’t reached the NHL (he’s currently in the AHL). 

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In 2007, and without a first or second round pick, Morrison and Co. selected two NHLers in Matt Frattin (now with Los Angeles, if you hadn’t heard) and Carl Gunnarson.

It’s at the 2008 Draft that we have to reserve judgment, as a number of these players are still too young to properly label as gem or bust. Of note, Luke Schenn was drafted 5th overall (meh!), and was later traded to Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk (yay!).

Looking ahead to the 2013 Draft, the Leafs are in unfamiliar territory. Picking in the latter half of the first round with their own pick? That still doesn’t seem like a real thing.

We’ll take a look at Morrison’s full draft record to see if we can find any trends and identify some possible first round draft targets.

The Big Picture

In seven years at the helm, Morrison has drafted an even 50 players (which makes my job of turning numbers into percentages really simple). Of those, 30 have been forwards, 17 have been defenders, and 3 have been goaltenders.

There certainly isn’t anything out of the ordinary with these numbers. In fact, it breaks down nicely if you consider an NHL hockey team ices 13 forwards, 7 defencemen, and 3 goaltenders.

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We will note that only 10 of the 30 forwards drafted were registered as centres. This might explain why the NHL club is currently considered weak down the middle – Nazem Kadri and the recently departed Leo Komarov are the only Morrison-drafted pivots who have contributed at the NHL level.

College free agents have played a large role in patching up positional holes not address by the draft. For example, Tyler Bozak and Ben Scrivens have filled in at centre and in net, in lieu of drafted players. 

First Round Picks

Unfortunately, we’re beginning our analysis with a pure toss-up. Morrison has drafted three forwards (Tlusty, Kadri, Tyler Biggs) and three defencemen (Schenn, Stuart Percy, Morgan Rielly) in the first round.

Within this group, we’re looking at six very different players. Tlusty and Kadri are skilled NHL forwards, while Biggs projects as more of a power forward with limited offensive upside. On the backend, Schenn, Percy, and Rielly are generally considered defensive, two-way, and offensive defencemen respectively.

At best, we can suggest that Morrison feels more comfortable selecting North Americans in the first round. Tlusty is the only European (Czech) player of the group, Biggs the only American, and the rest Canadian.

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Sticking with nationality, the Leafs have selected 24 Canadians and 12 Americans in the past seven drafts. 

That’s 36 North Americans, plus six Swedes, two Germans, and a handful of other players all from different European nations.

It’s worth noting that Sweden appears to be the Leafs’ European nation of choice, likely thanks to the presence of the much-respected Thommie Bergman on their European scouting staff.

Leaning towards North Americans isn’t a shock – they make up the vast majority of draft eligible players, after all. It’s worth mentioning if only because I have the data and we can safely expect this trend to continue.

Amateur Leagues

This is pretty similar to nationality, but since amateur leagues aren’t exclusively comprised of homegrown talent, we’ll quickly run through the numbers.

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Morrison and the Leafs certainly feel most comfortable selecting players out of the Canadian amateur leagues. 22 of their 50 selections during Morrison’s tenure came out of the CHL (OHL, WHL or QMJHL), while another four came from either the BCHL or AJHL.

Beyond that, five players have come from the USHL and the USA Hockey National Development Program. Another five came from US High Schools.

Body Type

This probably won’t come as a huge surprise, but the Leafs have gravitated towards big, strong players in recent drafts. 22 of 50 players drafted in the past seven years have stood 6’2 or taller, while 21 have weighed in at 200 lbs. or more.

A little context… the average 2012 Draftee was just over 6’0" tall and weighed approximately 187 lbs. 

Who Would Dave Morrison Like?

I’m certain the answer is ‘best player available’, but knowing what we know about Morrison’s trends, we might be able to pinpoint a few likely candidates. 

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Would it be too easy to say "a big-bodied Canadian positional player"?

It’s likely the Leafs have players like Ottawa’s Sean Monahan, London’s Bo Horvat or Max Domi, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Darnell Nurse high on their list, but the likelihood of any of them being available at 21 is highly improbable. 

Instead, you’ll likely see Morrison and his Leafs scouting staff take a more realistic look at players such as Windsor’s Kerby Rychel, Val d’Or’s Anthony Mantha, Quebec’s Adam Erne, or Prince Albert’s Joshua Morrissey.


Total Drafted 50    
Position 30 Forward 60%
  10 (Center) 20%
  20 (Winger) 40%
  17 Defence 34%
  3 Goalie 6%
Nationality 24 Canada 48%
  12 USA 24%
  6 Sweden 12%
  2 Germany 4%
  1 Estonia 2%
  1 Belarus 2%
  1 Czech Republic 2%
  1 Norway 2%
  1 Russia 2%
  1 Slovakia 2%
Amateur League 14 OHL 28%
  5 WHL 10%
  5 USHL/USDP 10%
  5 US-HS 10%
  4 Canadian Major Jr. 8%
  3 Sweden Jr. 6%
  3 QMJHL 6%
  3 Sweden 6%
  2 Germany 4%
  1 NCAA 2%
  1 Sweden-2 2%
  1 Slovakia 2%
  1 Russia 2%
  1 Finland 2%
  1 Czech 2%
  22 CHL 44%
  4 Canadian Jr. A 8%
  11 US Leagues 22%
  13 European Leagues 26%
Body 22 6’2 or Over 44%
  21 200lbs or Over 42%

Click here to get this chart in useable Google Spreadsheet form

The 2013 NHL Entry Draft will take place on Sunday, June 30th. Be sure to come back often for further coverage as the week goes on.

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