Why the Leafs Trading Down at the Draft is a Good (or Bad) Idea

There are few notions less popular in Leafs land than the
idea of trading down in the draft. Toronto is a team that is starved for high
end high skill prospects, and the idea of grabbing an elite talent after
suffering through a horrible season offers some consolation. Of course, the
draft is still over a month away, and we have plenty of time to consider every
possibility so let’s dive into what trading down could look like.

The Fourth Overall
Pick

There has only been one instance in recent years where
someone holding a Top Five pick traded down on draft day, and that’s when Cliff
Fletcher dealt the Leafs seventh overall, plus a second, and a third to move up
two spots and select Luke Schenn in 2008. Before that it was 2004 when the
Hurricanes dealt their 8th overall pick plus 59th overall
to Columbus so they could select Andrew Ladd 4th overall. The reward
is pretty minimal when typically there is a steep drop off after the top five
in most drafts, but in 2004 it was a two player draft (Ovechkin, Malkin), and
2008 it was a regarded as being Stamkos than the four pack of defencemen
(Doughty, Pietrangelo, Bogosian, and Schenn) which may have warranted the
additional pick being added.

If the Leafs were to choose to drop down from fourth in
draft it’s likely the only acceptable option is to 5th, to ensure
that one of Hanifin, Strome, and Marner still winds up a Leaf. Possibly dropping
one spot further if they’ve seen Arizona go off the board with the third pick
or if they value Barzal as much as Strome or Marner. It would essentially give
the Leafs a player they value just as much, but could add something as
significant as a second round pick, but much more likely something along the
lines of a third round pick for such a small drop.

In conclusion, pick at 4 and don’t give Leafs fans a heart
attack.

The 24th Overall Pick (Preds Pick)

The 24th Overall pick is a little more
interesting because it’s now in that wide open third tier of the first round.
Gone on the elites of the top five, and by now even players who may have slid
from the top ten are gone too, what seems to exist is a wide open group of
prospects who there seems to be little consensus on and have been ranked
anywhere from the mid first to the late second depending on the rankers
personal preferences.

Now if the Leafs management team have someone they see as a
clear cut above the rest of the group, again it’s simple, make the pick.

If they’ve got a few guys that they could be equally happy
with drafting, I refer you to the table below…

tradingdown

What we begin to see is the there recently has been plenty
of opportunity to stockpile picks in the second and third round by being
willing to fall a little in the draft order. History has shown being willing to
move around five spots down can often land you an additional second round pick
in the process if you’re moving a pick in the mid to late first round. For a
team like the Leafs that is short on prospects this certainly helps stockpile,
with potentially little risk.

Allow me to build a straw man for you. Using the
MyNHLDraft.com consensus listing
, the 23-27 ranked prospects are Jakob
Zboril (D), Brandon Carlo (D), Jeremy Bracco (F), Brock Boesner (F), and Paul
Bittner (F). Assuming these are the best prospects on the board, do you feel
strongly enough that one of them will make your team significantly better than
one of them you value the least, plus a second round pick?

If the answer is no, then why not trade down? The
International Scouting Service ranked a point per game winger as the 60th
best prospect, that’s not a bad consolation prize for waiting five (or so)
extra picks.

The Extreme Option

While it certainly doesn’t directly translate to hockey,
there is something admirable about what the New England Patriots do on the
draft floor. Bill Bellichick almost certainly has a player targeted that he
truly wants, and if he’s not available trading down is likely to occur. Those
few picks will pass, and if the Patriots still aren’t ready to make a move,
trading down is again an option, again accumulating further draft picks.

Now, the fun thing about the NFL is that the player you’re
going to select in the fourth round still stands a pretty good chance of being
in your lineup. In hockey, the odds of a player making the NHL at all fall off
a cliff as early as the late first round. If you view the Predators pick as
already being in that crapshoot to make the NHL territory the Leafs could
potentially acquire numerous picks within the top 100 simply by progressively
moving down the queue.

Seeing out this idea using some of the past trading down
instances of the past, let’s see how this could play out for the Leafs.

Using our own worst nightmare of when the Leafs traded the
30th (Rakell) overall and 39th overall (Gibson) to
Anaheim to select Tyler Biggs 22nd overall, let’s say the Leafs are
able to get the same return for the 24th in this a much deeper
draft.

The Leafs now own the 30th and 39th
pick. Let’s say the Leafs want to still use the 30th pick as to not
upset their fans who were excited for two first round picks, and decide to
trade down with the 39th.

Twice I 39th overall pick was traded down, once 5
spots, and another 3 spots. Let’s go with the average and say they fall 4 spots
to 43rd picking up a 3rd round pick in the process. Let’s
also say they still don’t want to pick 43rd.

The Leafs fall an additional six spots to 49th,
picking up another 3rd in the process. For arguments sake let’s say
the Leafs acquire 30 goal scorer Ryan Gropp who is ranked 50th by ISS.
They complete the draft having selected twice in the first, once in the second,
and three times in the third. (which will still have very good prospects
available.)A net gain of a 2nd and 2 3rd round picks for
six spots in the draft.

Conclusion

I fully acknowledge the extreme option is unlikely to
happen. I’m not even sure it’s worth entertaining unless an additional first
can be acquired by the Leafs that they can begin to play fast and loose with
the idea of chasing high end prospects. The reality of the draft is that it is
deep. Not so much that you are gambling on trading down a top five pick or not
salivating at the idea that someone great is going to slide all the way down to
the Preds pick, but it is deep enough that the more picks within the top 75 (or
so) the better. 

  • FlareKnight

    I fully agree with the thinking of not touching that 4th pick and just using it. There is a ton of extremely good talent there, take one of them.

    I’d probably prefer just sitting up with the 24th as well, but if there is overpaying in the air then look into moving around with that a little. Getting more shots at the board is a good thing within reason.

  • STAN

    I think who they take with the 4th overall pick isn’t so cut and dried as most people think. In an interview he did a month or so ago Mark Hunter raved about Barzal saying basically that if it wasn’t for his major knee injury he would be a top 5 guy in the draft and he still views him in the same category as Marner and Strome. So don’t count out the possibility that the leafs draft Barzal.

  • Dan

    I agree with Flarenight and Adam. I’m definitely cool with holding onto the fourth pick, but Barzal is a player I could maybe see the Leafs trading down for. An interesting obstacle I see in this “Trade down” option, however, is that to get Barzal, it’d require trading with a unappealing trade partner – New Jersey. They have arguably the least appealing prospect pool/young guns in the league. I highly doubt they’d be able to put together a package that would be worth it (maybe something that includes Larsson??). Getting pick #7 or below would not guarantee Barzal and I’d have a hard time imagining the Leafs trading down to snag anyone other than him. For these reasons I think it makes most sense to stay put with the 4th overall pick. The 24th however…

  • SEER

    Good read… thanks..!

    I’m a newbie here, but was on the official Leafs board for years, until it shut down a couple of months ago..

    I’d be pretty hyped if we could land Dylan Strome for our first pick.. and grab Nick Merkley (Rockets.. Just won the WHL..) I have videos made for both of them, if this site allows me to post my videos here..? Hope this isn’t being too forward in here..

    DYLAN STROME

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmgV3CWiT8w

    NICK MERKLEY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhAdo0aFg_0

  • SEER

    I think that we may be able to hold onto what we already have.. and then possibly snag one or two more picks, with some pre-draft trading.. (or am I wrong about trades being allowed at this time..?)

    Is there no forum in here..?

    As far as what you suggested, I am not saying that it is unreasonable, if the right players/picks were available.., but I really like the two picks I posted above… and both might be available to us.. I haven’t even seen many people talking about Merkley, but he will be in the Memorial Tournie this year, so they will start soon.. Kid has incredible thinking, for his age..

  • Gary Empey

    Trading down is too much of a gamble for me. Trading up now that is a different kettle of fish.
    ————
    Anyone have a pipeline to Arizona Coyotes. Like the Leafs, they need both a first line centre and a top defenseman. They also need a top winger. Rumor has it they have already decided on Dylan Strome. If that is true, who is the best fit for the Leafs, Hanifin or Marner? I expect Nylander to crack the lineup this year.

  • STAN

    Is there absolutely NO possibility that A.S. (Anointed Saviour) Shanahan can trade UP an snag 3, 2 or 1?

    Highly unlikely, I’ll admit. But then, we’re not talking about some bum, run-of-the-mill GM such as Bowman or Holland, we’re talking SHANAHAN.

    The miraculous starts in June. In Florida.