Leafs at The Draft: Player Size

nylander
Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a fair amount of debate over how good the Leafs have performed at the draft under Dave Morrison, who’s held a position in the scouting department since the 2004 lockout, obviously most recently as the director of amateur scouting. Yesterday we took a look at some of his favourite fishing holes, and today we’ll see how the team has picked since then in regards to player size. 

Using the always-convenient Draft Tool compiled by TLN’s own Justin Fisher, we can easily dig in and see what trends, if any, exist when it comes to the Leafs’ draft record and the value they place on stature.

For the purpose of this piece we’re only going to take a look at the Leafs’ draft record since the 2004 lockout. So, 2005 up to and including 2014. That also more or less falls in line with the entirety of Morrison’s tenure with the team. It should be noted he moved into his more prominent role starting with the 2006 draft, however.

The Giants

Since the 2004 lockout, the Leafs have used a total of 67 draft picks, which of course is some sort of sick joke. But anyway, out of those 67, they’ve gone with what I would consider giant players ten times. I decided my definition of “giant” would be any prospect who was 6’4″ or above when drafted. If there’s such thing as undersized prospects, these guys would almost be oversized, if you will.

Here’s the list:

Year Round     Overall     Name Height     Weight    Amateur League   
2014      7 188 Pierre Engvall 6′ 4″ 191 Sweden Jr.
2013 1 21 Frederik Gauthier     6′ 4″ 214 QMJHL
2009 3 68 Jamie Devane 6′ 5″ 217 OHL
2009 5 128 Eric Knodel 6′ 6″ 216 USMAAA
2009 7 188 Barron Smith 6′ 4″ 191 OHL
2008 2 60 Jimmy Hayes 6′ 5″ 210 USHL
2008 5 129 Joel Champagne 6′ 4″ 210 QMJHL
2008 6 158 Grant Rollheiser 6′ 4″ 195 BCHL
2007 5 134 Juraj Mikus 6′ 4″ 185 Slovakia
2005 3 82 Phil Oreskovic 6′ 4″ 217 OHL

Definitely not much to write home about here. Jimmy Hayes is an NHL regular but no one else has turned out, or at least not yet in the case of more recent selections. Most of these picks occurred in the later rounds, with Gauthier being the exception as a first rounder in 2013. 

At a glance, it really doesn’t appear the Leafs are size-crazy or anything, and especially not with their early selections. 

If we look a little deeper, the Leafs have used 15% of their picks on players 6’4″ or taller, but how does that stack up with other teams? Well, for comparison’s sake, I took a quick look at the last five franchises to win the Stanley Cup to see how they drafted in that same size range.

Total Picks        6’4″ +       %    
TOR       67 10 15
BOS 62 6 10
LAK 80 7 9
CHI 89 10 11
PIT 62 6 10
DET 71 8 11

As you can see, the Leafs have drafted a slightly higher-percentage of vertically-advanced prospects than the other teams on this list, but I’m not sure if it’s enough be considered notable.

The Big Fellas

Next we’re looking at the 6’2″ to 6’3″ guys, players whose size is often considered a plus, but they’re not mammoths like the ones we’ve already mentioned. They certainly have tallness in their favour, but it isn’t their main attribute.

Again, from 2005 up to and including the 2014 draft.

Year        Round     Overall    Name Height       Weight     Amateur League    
2013 5 142 Fabrice Herzog 6′ 2″ 176 Switzerland Jr.
2013 6 172 Antoine Bibeau 6′ 2″ 207 QMJHL
2011 1 22 Tyler Biggs 6′ 2″ 205 USHL
2011 6 152 David Broll 6′ 2″ 216 OHL
2011 7 190 Garret Sparks 6′ 2″ 200 OHL
2010 3 79 Sondre Olden 6′ 3″ 172 Sweden Jr.
2010 4 116 Petter Granberg 6′ 3″ 200 Sweden Jr.
2010 7 182 Josh Nicholls 6′ 2″ 174 WHL
2008 1 5 Luke Schenn 6′ 2″ 229 WHL
2008 4 98 Mikhail Stefanovich      6′ 2″ 202 QMJHL
2008 5 128 Greg Pateryn 6′ 2″ 212 USHL
2008 5 130 Jerome Flaake 6′ 2″ 187 Germany
2008 7 188 Andrew MacWilliam 6′ 2″ 214 AJHL
2007 7 194 Carl Gunnarsson 6′ 2″ 196 Sweden
2006 4 99 James Reimer 6′ 2″ 208 WHL
2006 4 111 Korbinian Holzer 6′ 3″ 205 Germany
2006 6 161 Viktor Stalberg 6′ 3″ 210 Sweden
2005 1 21 Tuukka Rask 6′ 3″ 169 Finland Jr.
2005 5 153 Alex Berry 6′ 2″ 218 EJHL
2005 6 173 Johan Dahlberg 6′ 2″ 194 Sweden Jr.

In this category, where does this leave Toronto among the teams we mentioned earlier?

Total Picks    6’2 to 6’3    %    
TOR      67 20 30
BOS 62 17 27
LAK 80 22 28
CHI 89 30 34
PIT 62 20 32
DET 71 24 34

Based on the overall picture, it looks like the Leafs fall right in line with the Cup winners in this regard. Again, nothing really to suggest they lean heavily one way or the other.

Regular Joes

This group makes up the biggest chunk of the draft, for the Leafs and league-wide.

Year      Round     Overall      Name Height      Weight      Amateur League
2014 1 8 William Nylander 5′ 11″ 169 Sweden
2014 3 68 Rinat Valiev 6′ 1″ 205 WHL
2014 4 103 John Piccinich 5′ 11″ 190 USHL
2014 5 128 Dakota Joshua 6′ 1″ 182 USHL
2014 6 158 Nolan Vesey 5′ 11″ 198 USPHL PRE.
2013 3 82 Carter Verhaeghe 6′ 1″ 181 OHL
2012 1 5 Morgan Rielly 6′ 0″ 200 WHL
2012 2 35 Matthew Finn 6′ 0″ 199 OHL
2012 5 126 Dominic Toninato 6′ 0″ 165 Minnesota
2012 7 209 Viktor Loov 6′ 1″ 187 Sweden D2
2011 1 25 Stuart Percy 6′ 1″ 187 OHL
2011 3 86 Josh Leivo 6′ 1″ 173 OHL
2011 4 100 Tom Nilsson 6′ 0″ 176 Sweden Jr.
2011 6 173 Dennis Robertson 6′ 0″ 195 ECAC
2011 7 203 Max Everson 6′ 1″ 184 Minnesota
2010 2 43 Brad Ross 6′ 0″ 175 WHL
2010 3 62 Greg McKegg 6′ 0″ 191 OHL
2010 5 144 Sam Carrick 6′ 0″ 188 OHL
2010 5 146 Daniel Brodin 6′ 1″ 172 Sweden
2009 1 7 Nazem Kadri 6′ 0″ 188 OHL
2009 2 50 Kenny Ryan 6′ 0″ 204 USDP
2009 2 58 Jesse Blacker 6′ 1″ 190 OHL
2009 6 158 Jerry D’Amigo 5′ 11″ 208 USDP
2007 4 99 Matt Frattin 5′ 11″ 187 AJHL
2007 4 104 Ben Winnett 6′ 0″ 173 BCHL
2007 6 164 Christopher
DiDomenico
5′ 11″ 165 QMJHL
2006 1 13 Jiri Tlusty 6′ 0″ 209 Czech Republic
2006 2 44 Nikolai Kulemin 6′ 1″ 225 Russia
2006 6 166 Tyler Ruegsegger 5′ 11″ 170 USHSW
2005 7 216 Anton Stralman 5′ 11″ 193 Sweden D2
2005 7 228 Chad Rau 5′ 11″ 175 USHL

This is the most common size category from where the Leafs make their picks, and obviously they’re not the only ones.

Total Picks     5’11” to 6’1″       %
TOR     67 31 46    
BOS 62 29 47
LAK 80 42 53
CHI 89 38 43
PIT 62 34 55
DET 71 35 49

At 46% the Leafs are the second-lowest on this list but it doesn’t appear to be anything to draw conclusions from. 

“Undersized”

Here’s where you find the Marchands or Gallaghers or, dare I say, Connor Browns of the draft. I considered anyone listed 5’10” or below at draft time to fit this category.

Year      Round    Overall      Name Height    Weight    Amateur League  
2013 7 202 Andreas Johnson 5′ 10″ 183 Sweden Jr.
2012 6 156 Connor Brown 5′ 10″ 160 OHL
2012 6 157 Ryan Rupert 5′ 8″ 186 OHL
2011 5 130 Tony Cameranesi      5′ 9″ 162 Minnesota
2007 3 74 Dale Mitchell 5′ 9″ 200 OHL
2006 6 180 Leo Komarov 5′ 10″ 187 Finland

Much like the giants on the other end of the spectrum, the Leafs were limited in their selections here (and mainly pushed them to the later rounds), which seems typical. Let’s see how the other teams selected in this category.

Total Picks        5’10 or below       %
TOR       67 6 9
BOS 62 10 16    
LAK 80 9 11
CHI 89 11 12
PIT 62 2 3
DET 71 4 6

Of course the sample isn’t huge, but among these teams the Leafs are about middle of the pack. 

It’s funny to note though, the Bruins – a team with a reputation for wanting to be tough and big and scary – drafted the highest percentage of undersized kids in this group. Detroit, on the other hand – perhaps known best for their ability to churn out skill regardless of size – have only taken four of these smaller prospects in the last decade.

Conclusions

Looking through these lists, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence the Leafs put too much of a premium on size, at least compared to some of their peers (most notably the winning ones). They haven’t had a Gallagher or Tyler Johnson come all the way through their system in the past decade, so it’s probably easy to assume they stay away from undersized prospects, but that doesn’t appear to be the case based on the numbers above. 

We can – and likely will – dive into this further over the summer to see how the Leafs picked based on size, round-by-round, in comparison to the entire league, but that’ll be a bigger project and much longer post. For the purposes of the draft this Friday though, I think it’s fair to say, given the Leafs’ recent history, there shouldn’t be any worries about them shying away from a player deemed a little undersized if they feel the upside is there.


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  • SEER

    Wendel Clarke – 5’11” (and I REALLY doubt he is that tall).. more like 5’9″

    Doug Gilmour – 5’11” (and I REALLY doubt he is that tall) ..more like 5’8″

    Theron Fluery – 5′ 6″

    Tie Domi – 5’10” ..and again .. (and I REALLY doubt he is that tall)..
    more like 5’8″

    Dave Keon – 5’9″ (and I REALLY doubt he is/was that tall)

    ..add Leo.. (as you mentioned) and many, many more really talented players who have great speed, points..(Tie had his own talents, as we know, with much larger opponents) and still were tough for most of the opposition to play against..

    With the drop in the amount of fighting in the League.. and even more so in the near future, skill and speed is much more important than height..

    Also.. If you watch the Marlies and zero in on guys like Brendan Leipsic, (5’10”) .., it’s pretty obvious that size doesn’t affect him very much…

    My second pick in the draft for the Leafs (if he is even still available) would be Nick Merkley .. (also listed at 5’11”.., but I really doubt it’s correct).. He has no problem laying good, solid hits on guys much bigger (see my video for him) and putting up points…

    It’s more about the size of the “heart”, than the size of the body, to me… If you have half and half on the team, you should be okay..

  • silentbob

    These types of trends are going to change as the front office and coaching staff changes. Just look at the “giant’s” list – 60% of those players were picked in 08 and 09, the year Fletcher was setting the table for Burke, and Burkes first draft here.

    I think more important then what the Leafs have done the last 10 years is how Shanahan & Babcock value size, since I think those two are the guys now mainly responsible for setting the tone, style and culture of the Leafs.

    From what I can tell of Babcock – look at the Wings draft record and his version of Team Canada – I would expect size to be a factor for the Leafs. I don’t think he’ll want to trade away players like Nylander or Rielly or Brown simply because they aren’t huge, but I think he’ll want to add more size to the roster moving forward and have some of those players be the smaller players on the team rather then the Leafs be a smaller team. I get the sense he’d rather try to “hit a home run” on a Benn then a St Louis.