Madison Bowey & Joshua Morrissey (Photo: www.raiderhockey.com)
If teams drafted for need, this article would have never been written. Just last year, Toronto used the fifth overall pick on future repeat Norris winner Morgan Rielly, building upon an already impressive group of defensive prospects including Jesse Blacker, Stuart Percy, Matt Finn, and Petter Granberg.
Luckily for me, it’s generally considered best practice to draft for best player available. And by the time the 21st pick comes up, it’s entirely possible that the Leafs’ best player available is a blueliner.
Here’s a few defencemen that could be pulling a Leafs jersey over their head on Sunday afternoon…
Madison Bowey – Kelowna (WHL)
The last time the Leafs went a-draftin’ in Kelowna, they selected Luke Schenn 5th overall in 2008. This time around, it would be the smooth skating Madison Bowey.
Standing at 6’1, 200lbs, most scouting reports I’ve seen list Bowey as a great skater. His mobility allows him to play a sound positional game when on the defensive, and just as easily transition the play and quickly move the puck up the ice.
In 69 games this season, Bowey scored 12 goals and added 18 assists for 30 points.
While he certainly has a solid frame, it sounds as if scouts wish there was a little more physicality in his game. Still, Bowey does a little bit of everything and all the talk around him reminds me of Matt Finn from last year – an all around defender with top four upside.
Robert Hagg – MODO (SEL)
Another two-way defender, Robert Hagg seems to frustrate scouts. On one hand, Hagg has the size and skill to be one of the top defencemen in the draft. On the other, there are questions regarding his intensity and consistency.
At 6’2, 205lbs, Hagg already has an NHL frame, and has experience playing with men in Sweden’s top league. Just ignore his Elitserien stat line, though – one assist in 27 games doesn’t excite anyone, but it’s common for young players to see little ice time with the big club.
Instead, consider that Hagg scored 11 goals and 24 points in 28 games for MODO’s junior club, a team for which he wore the ‘C’.
Leadership! Intangibles! A boom or bust option at 21!
Samuel Morin – Rimouski (QMJHL)
Every year, it seems there’s a defender or two that garners attention based solely on their size. For 6’7, 200lb Samuel Morin, there’s a fair amount of skill to go along with that impressive frame.
Morin, who scored 4 goals and 12 assists in 46 regular season games last season for the Oceanic (plus 7 points in 6 playoff appearances), likely won’t become much of a point producer at the pro level.
An aggressive, defence-first blueliner, Morin has above average mobility for such a large body. Still, there are warts in his game – a 6’7 defender would go much earlier than 21 if there was no room to improve.
Morin is a bit of a project pick, but may very well be worth the risk if he’s still available when the Leafs pick. It’s not everyday you can find a big, mobile defenceman, let alone one who’s as massive as Morin.
Joshua Morissey – Prince Albert (WHL)
Joshua Morrisey is the prototypical offensive defenceman of the group, scoring 15 goals and 47 points in 70 games for Prince Albert this past season.
Morrisey uses his quick feet to both rush the puck and keep himself in good position in his own end, and owns a strong, accurate pass that can quickly turn move the play up the ice.
The knock on Morrisey’s game is his strength. He’s nott exactly a small guy at 6’0, 185lbs, and he doesn’t shy away from physical play, but against larger opponents Morrisey can be overpowered.
There’s a lot to like about Morrisey’s skill set if he’s still available at 21, even if a puck moving defender is the last thing the Leafs organization needs. With players like Gardiner, Franson, Liles, and Rielly already in the Leafs organization (for now), Morrisey would be a redundant pick, but still may very well be the Leafs’ best player available.
Chris Bigras – Owen Sound (OHL)
Shea Theodore – Seattle (WHL)
Mirco Mueller – Everett (WHL)
Ian McCoshen – Waterloo (USHL)
Recent Defencemen Taken 21st Overall:
John Moore (Columbus, 2009)
Bobby Sanguinetti (New York Rangers, 2006)
Mark Stuart (Boston, 2003)
Anton Babchuk (Chicago, 2002)