In the days leading up to the draft lottery that saw the Leafs walk away with the top pick come June, there was additional talk about the number one selection and just how much of a lock Auston Matthews is to go there.
We know that since the World Junior tournament in December there’s been the emergence of Patrik Laine as somewhat of a contender to Matthews, but if you’ve been following the draft year-to-year, you probably realize networks and scouting services do this sort of thing to drum up some controversy and create a buzz. Often the picks are never actually that close.
For these reasons, it’s probably smart to take Laine’s apparent rise with a grain of salt. Matthews is, and always has been the guy in about 99% of rankings to this point.
But this following little tidbit from Bob McKenzie over the weekend is certainly worth noting, and as you’ll see below, it raises some questions about where the Leafs are at right now in their evaluations, and where they could be headed.
Know for fact at least 1 lottery team, and maybe more, have Laine at No. 1. So, if that team were to win lottery… https://t.co/D0dvtRC6Vu
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 30, 2016
I didn’t really care about this news much when I assumed the Leafs would be picking fourth, but now that I want to get a Matthews jersey on pre-order, this whole Laine thing is going to creep into my brain.
Then this, from Frank Seravalli of TSN, didn’t really help:
It’s believed a consensus was reached on an early draft list, but that doesn’t mean it was unanimous. Maple Leafs director of European scouting Ari Vuori may have made a strong case for Toronto to select Finnish sniper Patrik Laine ahead of Matthews… Vuori, 53, came over to the Maple Leafs last year from the Detroit Red Wings with Mike Babcock. He was instrumental in drafting Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles along with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Teemu Pulkkinen, among others, in Detroit. Since Matthews played in Switzerland this season, European scouts like Vuori have been able to make a better comparison to Laine than any normal year with him in their backyard.
Now this is a little more serious.
Make no mistake, in the rest of the article Seravalli is clear that most signs seem to point to the Leafs taking Matthews. But it does imply one voice in the room could be pushing for the big Finn.
Most of the fanbase would be floored if talks of the Leafs leaning toward Laine started to pick up, and obviously we can’t stress enough that it’s highly, highly doubt that will be the case. But I’ve seen 12 Angry Men, so this at least puts the tiniest question mark in the back of my mind about how this draft pans out. I guess it can never be too easy.