It’s finally draft day, so the question to our writers is quite straight-forward:
“Who (within reason) would you like to see the Leafs select at 17th overall tonight? Give us three names.”
Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL) – This is the obvious choice for many Leafs fans, as he projects to be exactly what the Leafs are looking for. A smooth skating, offensively capable, defensively responsible 3/4 D. He’s a perfect candidate to bolster a defensive prospect pool that is mediocre at best.
Kailer Yamamoto, F, Spokane (WHL) – This kid is electrifying offensively and knows how to fill the net. He’s a little on the small side, but I think his impact in the NHL will be enough to risk it. Offensive talent like his doesn’t come along every day.
Conor Timmins, F, SSM (OHL) – It’s hard to let a big, near-point-per-game defenseman slip by unnoticed. After Brannstrom, Timmins would be the next defenseman I’d be giving a good look at. Coming out of the Soo program Dubas and Keefe left behind, Timmins is a good option to add to the Leafs pool.
Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle BK (SHL) – If someone told you a few months back that Toronto would be able to snag Timothy Liljegren in the first round, you’d think the Leafs would have finished in the bottom-5. There are a number of parallels here with Jacob Chychrun, and we know how that seems to have worked out for Arizona. Liljegren dealt with mono through much of the season which no doubt hurt his play. Still, he has all the tools to be an elite NHLer and Toronto would be lucky to have him fall to 17.
Nick Suzuki, F, Owen Sound (OHL) – We know the NHL has a size bias, which is why I think Owen Sound’s Nick Suzuki might be available when the Leafs pick at 17. At 5’11, many teams will pass on the centre despite his elite point production and hockey smarts. Suzuki seems like one of those guys teams will be kicking themselves for passing on.
Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL) – I know drafting for need is not usually the best strategy, but if Erik Brannstrom is on the board (and Liljegren isn’t) at 17, the Leafs may want to look at the Swedish d-man. He’s a human highlight reel. He’s immensely skilled and has the tools to be an elite puck-mover at the NHL level. However, he is undersized for a defenseman, standing just 5’10, 180 lbs. Something tells me that he’ll be just fine, though.
Jason Robertson, F, Kingston (OHL) – Gotta give some love to the Kingston prospect. Kingston was dreadful offensively as they only scored 179 goals, but Robertson hit 42 of them. He’s projected to go in the later end of the first round, but if the leafs are going all in on the run and gun model, maybe it’s not to crazy to add another proven scorer.
Owen Tippett, F, Mississauga (OHL) – Inside the top 10 just about everywhere (but #22 on hockeyprospect.com), Tippett probably isn’t around when the Leafs are picking. However, if he’s that low somewhere maybe there’s an off chance he slips off 16 draft boards and to the Leafs. The Mississauga Steelhead hit 44 goals this season, followed by 10 in 20 playoff games. He doesn’t rack up the assists, but another pure scorer could look nice on Auston or Nazem’s wing in a year or two.
Jeff Veillette, F, Toronto (???) – Wait, this guy learned to skate at like age 21 or something and never played organized hockey? Screw it, I’ve seen his ball hockey videos and he describes himself as being able to do everything NHLers can do, just at a much slower rate. One season with Babcock and he’ll be clapping bombs from the right side in no time.
Nick Suzuki, F, Owen Sound (OHL) – I’ve seen scouting reports that speak to Suzuki having “elite hockey IQ” and that’s obviously a big reason for his absurd offensive numbers as a pivot with Owen Sound this past season. He’s considered slightly undersized at 5’11, but as a really late birthday (August ’99) I give him the edge over some other comparable forwards in this range.
Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL) – Corey Pronman described Liljegren as such: “When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic offensive defencemen of the past few draft classes” Sign me up. The Nation Network had this kid ranked 6th in their prospect profiles. At 17th it would seem this is a no-brainer selection.
Eeli Tolvanen, F, Sioux City (USHL) – Big-time scorer at every level, and out of my three, probably the most likely to be at 17 when the Leafs hit the podium. Tolvanen is the top USHL product in this draft. Another prospect considered somewhat small at 5’10, but Toronto should swing for the fences here on someone who can fill the net.
Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (SHL) – The Leafs couldn’t tank for him, so he tanked for them. I really hope he falls to 17; he’s an incredibly dynamic, smart, and creative player, fits the beloved right-handed defenceman need, and is only really slipping because he spent a chunk of the year battling mono.
Kailer Yamamoto, F, Spokane (WHL) – “We already have too many small forwards!” don’t care. This one scored 99 points in 65 games in his draft year. He’s strong on his feet he produces everywhere he goes. Toronto is going to need to keep drafting high-upside players to replace the ones that will have to move on on in the cap crunch years. I’ll take my chances on Kailer.
Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (SHL) – Don’t really know enough about him. Mostly just know that he’s become the sexy “youtube highlight reel” pick and while that’s no guarantee for superstardom, the coke machines don’t usually have their own And-1 mixtapes. He’s progressed pretty well over the years and he’s one of the youngest defencemen in the draft. He’s the biggest risk of the flashy options in Toronto’s range, but I’d strongly consider him.