TLN Roundtable: All The Picks

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have draft picks. A lot of them, in fact. Among the most in NHL history, in fact. As the team begins their climb back to the top, they’ll have a dozen picks to invest in Auston Matthews and a bunch of other young players on a sunny June weekend in Buffalo. But is twelve the magic number? Our esteemed panel gives their thoughts.

Shawn Reis

I’d like to see the Leafs sit right around their current mark of 12 draft picks.  For all this talk about the Leafs potentially trading for a top-tier defenseman or goalie (which might very well involve trading away draft picks), the Leafs are still rebuilding and have lots of work to do with their prospect system.  I mean, let’s face it: the Leafs prospect system is deep, yes, but it’s deep with potential third- and fourth-line guys. There are no blue-chip prospects in the system past Matthews*, Marner, and Nylander.  So, think of it this way: assuming Matthews, Marner, and Nylander all play full-time roles with the Leafs next season, the team is in a position where they might not have any blue-chip prospects in the system at all this time next year.  And even the incredibly small amount of Leafs prospects with actually high-ish upside (see: Kapanen and Bracco), are very, very far from a sure thing.

Basically, the Leafs still very much need to supplement their prospect pool in a big way.  The collection of draft picks the Leafs have right now puts them in a good position to do that. It’s also more important that the Leafs look to the long-term future and focus on having young players that can play key roles for the team, rather than go for the immediate satisfaction of adding a player already in their mid-twenties to the present-day lineup.

Look at what the Blackhawks have done.  In 2004 they made 17 picks instead of the standard 9.  By giving themselves as many kicks at the can as they could, they were able to have assets like Cam Barker, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, and Troy Brouwer at their disposal when they were ready to win games.  The team made 12 more picks in 2005 and were able to get Niklas Hjalmarsson in the 4th round.  One of the main reasons Chicago has been able to sustain winning over the last several seasons is because they put themselves in an incredible position depth-wise via accumulating as many draft picks as they could. That’s now put them in an incredible position where, when they can’t afford some of those players anymore, they pawn them off for good young assets.  And when they can’t afford those good young assets anymore, they trade them for more good young assets.  Basically, they’re in an endless cycle that’s allowed them to maintain depth in a salary cap world, and it’s basically because they stockpiled as many draft picks as they could.  That’s exactly what the Leafs should do, and this draft should be paramount in getting that done.

Keegan Tremblay

I think it’s fair to say that most people are expecting as many as five prospects to really challenge for a place on the Maple Leafs roster during training camp this September. Mid-way through the season veterans such as Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tyler Bozak, and Brooks Laich will all likely become available for trade. If one or more of those veterans move on to greener pastures, we could see as many as six or seven former prospects playing for the Leafs in a full-time role. This will put a lot of strain on the Toronto Marlies roster. 

It’s true, the Toronto Maple Leafs have quickly created one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL but that pool will dry up if we don’t continue to replenish it. For this reason, I’m in favour of heading to the draft with as many picks as possible. To drive this idea home, consider the emergence of Conor Sheary in Pittsburgh’s current playoff run. This undersized, undrafted rookie has climbed from the AHL to play alongside Sidney Crosby.  Sheary’s speed is challenging defenders and, most importantly, allowing Crosby to play in top gear.

Would Mark Hunter draft an undersized and overlooked player like Sheary in the 5th or 6th round? Absolutely. Given that the NHL game is trending toward speed, regardless of size, I say use our deep picks on as many overlooked undersized players as we can. In a couple of years what was a 6th round undersized forward could become a Conor Sheary type player that we plug into our lineup or potentially flip to a cup contender for a 3rd or 4th round pick. That ability to create additional value will continue to be key in the salary cap era.  Giving Mark Hunter every opportunity to create that additional value should be the goal for Leafs management.

Ryan Fancey

Because we know the Leafs will walk out of this draft with a franchise player in Matthews, I think that gives them the ability to be a bit safer with their picks rather than accumulating lottery tickets. For that reason I’d be fine with them moving up and thus reducing their overall number of selections. That might sound sort of backwards, since if they’re essentially assured a huge NHL talent in Matthews, then why not just approach the draft the same way they did last year and swing for the fences later down the draft?

I can understand that side of the argument, but I’m looking at it from the angle that with a sure NHLer in hand, making a jump up to get a first round talent like Max Jones would be fine because of that freebie. I mean, there’s a chance in any year where you don’t have one of the top picks that you could be leaving without anyone that will turn into a real pro, but since the Leafs don’t really have to worry about that, I think that gives them the ability to use a pick or two as currency to climb and make a higher probability pick, especially in the first round.

Ryan Hobart

This question has been brought up across many mediums of sports discussion. It seems the mentality has done a complete 180 from the last year and a half, to what we have now. The previously prevailing philosophy was to amass as many picks as possible as a way to combat the randomness that defines the later rounds of the draft. Yet now (seemingly because of the lottery win), this has changed. There has been talks on all my feeds of trading up for interesting prospects, at the cost of our picks.

The draft is just as much of a crapshoot as it was last year. Nothing there has changed. As such, my philosophy remains unchanged. At 12 picks, it seems unnecessary, and yet, it’s the most intelligent form of draft management. My answer is resoundingly that in order to have the best possible draft success, you need as many picks as you can reasonably get your hands on. So if the opportunity is there to get more, I’m getting more.

Jeff Veillette

Draft Matthews and Golyshev and I don’t care beyond that.

But seriously, I can’t see the number swaying much one way or another. I don’t see the team actively trying to grow or shrink it; if picks come and go in trades because they happen to be the commodity, so be it, but I doubt there’s a concrete trade up/down plan, nor does their need to be. Personally, I’d certainly like to have as many cracks at talent as possible, and would welcome the acquisition of more draft picks, but it’s not a priority.

  • Metal thrashin dad

    I totally agree with Jeff, I think it will totally depend on who falls in the draft… If There is somebody still in the board at twenty that hunter really like I can see them trading Pitts 1st and tor 2nd to grab them… On the other hand if they really like somebody that they think will fall into the late 30’s they may trade away 29/30 or 31…. All know is I can’t wait for the draft, 12 ish new prospects, it’s going to be like Christmas morning!

  • Metal thrashin dad

    I think since the Leafs will have both the 30th and 31st pick, why not do something similar as last year, for example – take the 30th and offer it to Calgary for the 35th and 65th.

    Calgary might bite because they have a bunch of other picks in that range anyway, and this gives them a shot at the last player from the 1st round.

    Instead of 30th and 31st, the Leafs would have 31st 35th and 65th. They could even flip one of thoses picks again in a 2 for 1 if they want more picks.

    Also – what do you think about trading JVR for Washingtons 26th and Samsonov (the elite goalie prospect owned by Wash.?) Gives the Leafs another first round pick and helps fill their Goalie prospect depth.

  • Metal thrashin dad

    Unlike other years, the Leafs have a lot of options in the upcoming draft. In last years draft, the Leafs came into the draft with only 8 picks and traded down to accumulate another 2 picks (and later traded a mid round pick to Edmonton for Marincin). The Leafs needed as many picks as possible to try and re-stock the prospect pool with as much talent as possible. This years draft is a bit different for the Leafs as they already have 12 picks, inluding 2 picks in each of the first 4 rounds. They still need to add as much talent as possible but if they identify a player with elite talent they can also trade picks to move up and still be able to stock up with prospects. They could also choose to make all their picks and address many different areas from skill to size to positional needs like goaltending.

  • CMpuck

    If the Leafs have the chance to get one of the top defensive prospects in the first round then I say trade up. Otherwise the more picks the merrier as after the 1st round it really is a crap shoot.

  • Harte of a Lion

    I have no doubt that while Leafs nation anxiously awaits Hunter dealing the draft picks that Lou carefully assembled to move up 10-15 spots, the balloon will pop when he trades down again. He might be inclined to take 2017 or even 2018 picks to make the deals flow easier.

    GM’s get these urges during the draft… Must have D-man NOW…
    So perhaps they trade Pittsburgh’s 29th/ 30th for a 2nd and 3rd in 2018 or a future pick and prospect? I guess a lot has to do with perceived finishes for the next few seasons. The team will continue to amass players of the “high risk/reward where they might find a stud after the first round. They need a kid like Bracco Dzierkals or Timashov to score 40 goals, or Nielson to become our Duncan Kieth… that’s risk/reward…can we say Sean Day???

    The core of the team moving forward is Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Kadri, Rielly, Gardiner, Starter McGoalie… The team has some good prospects to compliment the core, Hyman, Lievo, Soshnikov, Zaitsev, C. Carrick, but they need more great ones and they need them on cheap contracts NOW and in the future.

    I believe Hunter et al with select the BPA at number 31 and 61 and 91 and all our other wonderful selections this June and for many more draft moons to come.

  • Metal thrashin dad

    Good round table discussion. I think Keegan had a solid point about taking a speedy small guy. Now back in the winter, I took in the Bobby Orr v.s. Don Cherry top 40 prospect game. I didn’t really know many of the Ontario or Quebec players. But every third or fourth shift there was this speedy small forward who was flying out there and was named the player of the game.

    Vitali Ambramov really impressed me. His stock has dropped and I seriously hope Lou would be willing to make a deal to move up slightly in the first round to get this kid. I get the fact we have some small sized players about to make the line up but this kid seems to be a potential solid player.

  • Capt.Jay

    I agree that we have plenty of third liners but the blue chip prospect title gets used too loosely. Not many teams have more than three blue chippers and I would go as far as to include MacDermott in the mix as a potential blue chip. He’s only exceeded all expectations and made the OHL all star team as a draft +1. The only undesirable piece to him was his draft position. I have no problem with him, Harrison, Valiev, Loov, Carrick and Percy in our system. They can’t all be puck movers. It’s not fantastic but it’s not as bad as some think it is.

    I say yes to packaging some picks and some roster players to draft further up the line. It would be great to have another top 15 pick in this years draft.

  • Capt.Jay

    I also think we should sign Lucic as we need some muscle to protect the younglings and he can actually play the game. He doesn’t hurt the rebuilt either as long as he isn’t too expensive.

  • magesticRAGE

    I’m more in agreement with Jeff. The number of picks used will be determined by the Leafs player watch list. If there’s a player in the top 10 that they feel the necessity to acquire, they will try and trade up. Last year the opposite happened, and they still got what they wanted. The teams ahead and who they pick will determine the actions of Mark Hunter.

    • Gary Empey

      What do you think the real cost of moving up 20 to 25 places is, in the first round? If you were holding 8th overall, what would you want to swap for 30th overall?

      • Harte of a Lion

        You keep drafting those players because you hope one of those players becomes a Benn or a Datsyuk. The smart teams understand that the farther you get from the top, the bigger the crapshoot it becomes.

        Think of all the OHL GM’s (18) that passed on Marner and then remember that the same guy who selected Marner 19th, is selecting our future team. He knows what he is doing.

        Sit back and enjoy the draft. I understand how difficult it is to remember, with the recent memories of futility and embarrassment, ty Mr. Burke and Nonis, those that currently run the team, Shanahunter and Lamorubas, they won’t be perfect but they are as good as any management team in the NHL.

  • Metal thrashin dad

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  • silentbob

    Like with any trade, it really depends on the cost and asset that comes back.

    The most difficult thing for a rebuilding team to do is make that shift from rebuilding to competing. If Shanahan, Babcock and co. believe they have the future core of a winning team then it is time for then to start adding the pieces they need around that core. If that’s Stamkos, a veteran D-man and a goalie…..then thats the shopping list.

    They shouldn’t make bad trades to get those pieces, and I wouldn;t want to see them trade 10 or 8 or ever 6 or 4 of their 12 picks, but if they can get a good, needed piece or two a couple picks isn’t that high of a price.

    Also, I don’t get the “no blue chip prospect argument”. If your current team is being built on Matthews, Rielly, Nylander and Marner – thats potentially 4 elite/core players (including I’d say two potential franchise players) in 5 years. How many teams can move their top 4 prospects to the NHL and still have blue-chip players in the system? That seems like an unrealistic expectation.