The Leafs can easily trade up in the draft, but for who?

In the next few days we’ll start taking a look at who the Leafs might target after Auston in the draft next month. We’re all aware the team holds a barrel of picks, including two that will fall close to each other at the end of the first round and beginning of the second. There will be plenty of intriguing options right there for Mark Hunter to consider at 27-30 and 31, but there are also a few players that could be worth moving up for, and if Lamoriello wants to swing something to get into the early 20s or even late teens, it’s likely quite doable.

Making the climb

Something I’ve recognized in the last week or so is just how much I was previously overestimating the cost to jump up a few spots in the draft. As it stands, the worst case scenario would have the Leafs picking 30th with the Penguins’ pick (assuming they win the Cup), and then 31st with their own. 

If, for example, Toronto wanted to move up five places from 30th to 25th, the price to do so wouldn’t be high. If we rewind to last summer, the Leafs themselves made two moves of this sort, just from the other side of the coin. The cost of the Flyers moving up to 24th to take Travis Konecny ran them the 29th and 61st overall picks. Then, when Toronto moved down again from 29th, Columbus sent over the 34th and 68th selections. Assuming the Leafs wanted to simply better their position with the Pittsburgh pick by five places, they could likely get up into the 22-25 range by packaging that selection with their own 3rd-rounder (61st overall) or the Washington pick from the Winnik deal (56th). 

If the Leafs are willing to part with both the late first and 31st overall to move up, they could really make a play at something in the middle of the first round. Besides that, moving both the Washington 2nd-rounder and their own third with one of those earlier picks presents another option. 

Either way, you get the idea. Moving into the low twenties or even mid-to-late teens is easily achievable for the Leafs if we base the pick market loosely off last year’s.

But is there a target that makes sense to move up for?

A few options

There are some interesting prospects that are slated to go in the mid-first, but we know the draft won’t shake out as predicted. I’ve taken a look at a few names that present as high upside prospects and have seen their rankings bounce around a little in the range where the Leafs could realistically move into. Their rankings from Pronman, Future Considerations, Sportsnet, and the International Scouting Service are listed.

Luke Kunin (C/W) – Wisconsin (NCAA)

kunin

Kunin was Wisconsin’s best player this season as a freshman, and generated insane shot totals for a player in his first season, nearly hitting the 4.0 mark per game. He’s such an easy player to admire, because he’s such a well-rounded player. Kunin’s speed is above-average, and on occasion I’ve seen him touch a real separation gear as well. He plays with skill and intensity, showing the ability to go around and through defenders.

That was a quick snip from Corey Pronman’s rundown on Kunin in his final May rankings. Most publications have Kunin in the 16-20 range, and by many accounts it seems quite unlikely he’ll fall below there. His production as a draft-eligible (32 points in 34 games) in the NCAA is obviously hard to turn away from.

Kiefer Bellows (W) – U-18 (USHL)

bellows

Listed at 6’1 and nearly 200 pounds, Bellows is billed as a power forward who, like Kunin, peppers the net with a ton of shots. He scored 45 goals in 55 games for the US under-18 team this past season, but his skating and defensive game have been talked about as weaknesses. Still, his physical frame, offensive tools, and that obscene rate of output make him an intriguing option, especially considering he won’t even turn 18 until next month.

Max Jones (W) – London (OHL)

jones

I had a chance to take in London here when they visited the 67s, and was surprised by how much Jones stood out from his peers. His boxcars have been slightly underwhelming (52 points in 63 games) considering he entered the season as a projected top ten (or even top five) prospect, but he did play behind the Knights’ big line of Tkachuk-Dvorak-Marner, so that needs to be taken into consideration. Given the Leafs’ connection with London, he’s been talked about as a target for Toronto a few times in the past, and personally I’d be ecstatic to see them leave the first round with a haul of him and Matthews.

Jones’ place in rankings has been more all-over-the-place than anyone else I’ve listed. His draft-plus-one season will be very interesting to keep an eye on.

Jake Bean (D) – Calgary (WHL)

bean

We’re probably getting out of range of the Leafs’ trade-up potential here, but hey, we can dream. Bean’s eye-popping totals from this season have him well up the list on a lot of scouting services’ draft previews, and rightfully so, given his 64 points in 68 games for the Hitmen this past season. On top of that, he’s a June birthday, making his offensive numbers even more impressive. Unsurprisingly his biggest strengths all lean to the offensive side of the puck, his natural talent and intelligence being propped up as major assets. Sounds like the type of guy you want to take in the first round, perhaps even reach for.

  • Justin.PI

    I think if they do decide to trade up, they’ll want to focus on D. They already have a lot of forwards who are projects right now, and could use a more immediately ready D prospect

    • I agree that defense is the way to go if trading up. There aren’t many high-end defense prospects in the Leafs system besides Dermott. Moving up for someone like Dante Fabbro or Charles McAvoy would make sense, especially since they are right handed defensemen.

  • CMpuck

    Every year hero GMs go off the board, look at Sweeny (how is he not a bigger punch line than Benning), Kylington feel deep, they’ll be some obvious gems at 30/31. Shocked if we can’t at least get Debrincat there.

    • CMpuck

      1) Those picks by Sweeny last year are probably worse than what Benning has done. The only difference is Benning spread his bad moves out over time.

      2) Debrincat looks like he would be a steal but there is some buyer beware there. He had 31 goals in his first 25 games and dropped off to 20 goals in his last 35 games.

      Overall, 51 goals is a great season but since he scored at a rate of 0.57 goals per game for 58% of his season – it might be more realistic to expect less from him.

    • magesticRAGE

      Last year was for the purpose of aquiri more picks while still getting the player they desired.
      The Leaf’s have all the picks they need, so they could just focus on getting the player they want, BPA. There is such a thing as too many picks.

  • On the other hand i think its possible we could move way up in the draft if we use our 30th* pick and add in a forward like Bozak or Holland and/or a defencman like percy.

    gets you a higher first round pick, you get to keep all your other picks, and you create some roster space for the younger players to step into the lineup. its a win win.

    • magesticRAGE

      I like the trade idea, but having Bozak there ….I think he would be amazing in the room for the young guys….lol…not that Boz I not a young guy ! ! but when you hear him in interviews during 1st or 2nd intermissions….there is principal, a drive, an attitude and intelligence that these young kids will heed….along with Komarov, Laich, JVR and Parenteau

    • CMpuck

      Chyrchrun will go top 10 no doubt. He is at worst the third best dman in the draft and there are so many teams in need of help on defense. Edmonton, buffalo, arizona, colorado to name the obvious.

  • CMpuck

    If it’s ‘D’, go for Mikhail Sergachev, [best in this draft, IMO], he may be too high up, though. Charlie McAvoy, good size, good skater, shoots Right, too high ?
    Logan Stanley, 6′ 7″, 225, …. , I thought he played better than Chychrun at the Under 18 Worlds. Up front, I absolutely love, Tyson Jost. German Rubtsov is the full package and Kieffer Bellows has the blood lines, a heavy shot and he plays with an edge. Big Max Jones, [London, OHL], is another gamer who competes very hard. Brett Howden and Tyler Benson, [some past injuries], both have plenty of skill & they’re further down in R # 1.
    Into R # 2, Libor Hajek, [on ‘D’], is an excellent skater with size for a shutdown guy.

  • Capt.Jay

    They need to use one of those picks (27th or 31st) to pick the best goalie available. Maybe package one of those picks along with mid grade prospect (Leivo, Lypsic, Kappenen, Percy, etc) to move up. We have so many fringe prospects it would be nice to package a bunch for a higher end pick.

    Would Edmonton want Carrick and Percy and our Pittsburg pick for their forth? Draft chycrun? Would they? What else does it take? They are desperate for Dmen.

    • giproc

      Percy and Carrick and a late 1st won’t be nearly enough for the 4th overall. It’s quite possible that Percy and Carrick become career AHLers and late first round picks are notoriously unpredictable.

      Then again, we’re talking Edmonton…but no, not even Edmonton would make that deal I don’t think.

    • Harte of a Lion

      The only way to separate the Oilers from that 4th pick would be Rielly going back the other way in a multi player/pick trade.

      Is the 4th overall pick worth a package of Gardiner, Dermott/Neilson and Pittsburg’s pick? The Oilers need D that can play next year.

      Im not certain Hunter/Babcock/Lamoriello/Shanahan would be inclined to tear the Leafs defence apart for that pick. I believe this year will be Gardiner’s coming out party playing with Zaitzev.

      • magesticRAGE

        The Oilers need defense now, not 19 year old prospects. Leafs can maybe offer the rights to Percy, Harrington, and the Pens pick. Sam Carrick and a 6th could be thrown in if they need more.

        Oh, Rielly isn’t going anywhere. He maybe a career Leaf.

  • giproc

    I like the idea of moving up for a Dman, but to get one of the best 6 available you’ll need a top 15 pick.

    Might as well swing for the fences and sweeten a deal with pics & prospects to get into the top 10 to get the dman we covet rather than the one whose left over in the middle of the first.

  • Capt.Jay

    Does JVR fit into our plans? He’s great and all but by the time this team is ready to compete his best years will be behind him and his contract will be pricey. His value is the highest it’ll probably get because of his contract amount. Pittsburgh first and JVR for what? Top 10? Top 7? Just for fun