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
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
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
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…
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)
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
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.
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.