The Leafs aren’t in an ideal situation heading into the draft

The running theme of the next month when it comes to our draft coverage is the Leafs lack of a first round pick. I’d argue that this is likely going to change at some point, or at least they might add an additional 2nd or some thirds along the way, but a team in salary cap hell that has a GM committed to maintaining a talent pipeline is going to explore some options here, if for no other reason than knowing that steady flow of entry level contracts exceeding their value is the only way to be competitive in the NHL.

Reminder of where everyone sits when it comes to draft position

Here’s our starting point. The actual draft order. It should go without saying that pick one is better than pick two, and so on down the line, but it’s interesting to see how much better. Using Michael Schucker’s draft pick values pick eight is already half as valuable as the first overall pick. This is good news for everyone who is happy to see Edmonton stop getting (and ruining) nice things.

So with values starting at 1000 (Auston Matthews) we slowly dwindle down to the 30 at 210th pick mark (Andreas Johnsson territory). So potentially you can have 33 Andreas Johnsson’s for the price of one Auston Matthews, as long you ignore the fact that most of the time you aren’t finding Andreas Johnsson in the 7th round.

Here are the values associated with the Leafs picks

Draft Pick Draft Pick Value
2nd Round- 53rd Overall 121
3rd Round- 84th Overall 72
4th Round- 115th Overall 55
4th Round- (between 121-124th Overall acquired from Blues) 52
5th Round- 146th Overall 46
7th Round- 204th Overall (acquired from Stars) 34
7th Round- 208th Overall 31

If you total them all together you have a combined draft pick value of 411. If you traded them all together that value would be in between the 10th and 11th overall picks, although that’s a bit like trading seven Toyota Corollas for a BMW. Presumably most people would just rather have the BMW.

Perhaps that isn’t the best comparison, maybe it’s more like trading 7 lottery tickets were you could win $100 for $50 cash. Depending on the odds on the ticket (the odds aren’t that good) you’re probably better off being risk averse and taking the cash.

For argument’s sake, what is combined draft pick value per team this year?

Team Total 1sts Total Picks Draft Pick Value
New Jersey Devils 1 10 1731
New York Rangers 2 9 1685
Colorado Avalanche 2 8 1489
Los Angeles Kings 2 10 1358
Detroit Red Wings 1 10 1310
Chicago Blackhawks 1 7 1182
Buffalo Sabres 2 8 1003
Philadelphia Flyers 1 10 987
Montreal Canadiens 1 10 962
Anaheim Ducks 2 7 956
Vancouver Canucks 1 9 931
Florida Panthers 1 9 881
Minnesota Wild 1 9 873
Vegas Golden Knights 1 9 867
Edmonton Oilers 1 6 862
Carolina Hurricanes 1 10 838
Arizona Coyotes 1 8 827
Ottawa Senators 1 7 801
Calgary Flames 1 6 479
Washington Capitals 1 6 471
Nashville Predators 1 6 452
Dallas Stars 1 4 441
Pittsburgh Penguins 1 5 424
Toronto Maple Leafs 0 7 411
Tampa Bay Lightning 1 6 389
New York Islanders 1 4 320
Boston Bruins 1 4 299
St. Louis Blues 0 4 251
Winnipeg Jets 0 3 229
San Jose Sharks 0 4 182
Columbus Blue Jackets 0 2 105

I guess we can take comfort in the fact that of the teams that dumped their first round pick, the Leafs have the best draft pick value total. Also of the playoff teams this season only the Hurricanes, Avalanche, and Golden Knights had a draft pick value total over 500.

In fact the difference between the 31st overall pick in the 1st round and the 53rd overall pick where the Leafs will select is only 33, which is equal to the value of the 207th overall pick. I can’t imagine any team is taking that deal, but it should at least illustrate it wouldn’t be an alarmingly high cost to trade up into the first round if Dubas so desired (nothing in recent history says he will so desire to.)

Draft Pick Value isn’t etched in stone

The obvious thoughts that need to be expressed to a certain degree is that not all drafts are created equal and this is the trend of decades worth of drafts. Are Hughes and Kakko closer in abilities and possibly more skilled than the Nial Yakupov draft? I’m going to say yes. The top picks certainly seem to be more valuable this year. Is the drop off going to be the same as we move down the draft? I mean it’s not going to follow the curve of the draft pick value graph perfectly, but yeah, there’s going to be drop off and greater risk as we move on down the list and when we consider that draft pick value is assessed on games played, there is a lot of variance that can go into what those games look like. Rolling the dice on a high scoring forward in junior who is a swing for the fences pick still makes more sense than the guy who will definitely play 100 games a fourth line faceoff specialist (no offense to Freddie Gauthier).

The second piece that needs some acknowledgement is how bad some teams are at drafting and a draft pick likely holds less value when it’s Brian Burke chasing size in the first round and trying address specific roster needs than when a competent GM drafts the best skilled player available.

Finally if you’re looking at draft pick value it probably makes sense to map that draft pick value to prospect rankings. Last Friday we posted the consolidated draft rankings and this provides us with a little bit of context for what trading up could look like.

The Leafs 53rd and 84th overall picks have a combined draft pick value of 193. The closest single draft pick value is the 24th overall pick at 191. Using the consolidated draft rankings the Leafs would potentially be giving up Patrik Puistola and Oleg Zaitsev for Moritz Seider.

Seider is certainly held in a higher regard and has a good chance of being a NHL player, but Puistola and Zaitsev are solid prospects as well, who could be better swing for the fences options than going with the safe bet on the right handed defenseman the Leafs need more at the moment.

Judging by what we’ve seen from Dubas so far it’s unlikely that he’s going to move up, and seeing the price that would be paid for a modest improvement in prospect, I’m a convert to his approach. Moving up only seems to have value if it’s a small jump or if you are ready to pay a steep price to get into the top of the draft, but it’s hard to imagine teams are interested in a deal involving a top 15 pick unless a roster player is included to reduce the risk.

Converting NHL players into Draft Pick Value

That’s the next step that probably needs to be taken and I’m not sure that there is enough history of trades made after draft order has been established to really make a true conversion of that. You can’t just simple say that Phil Kessel was valued by Burke as being with the 2nd overall, 8th overall, and 32nd overall picks because at the time he made the deal, he was dealing with generalized 1st overall picks. You’d have to look at what Lou Lamoriello paid for Cory Schneider on the day of the draft or what Calgary paid for Dougie Hamilton as the pick was locked into a certain value. Ottawa never intended to give up the 4th overall pick for Matt Duchene, but arguably that still seems somewhat fair and was nowhere need as bad as what Brian Burke paid for Kessel.

Where Leafs fans should be interested in this is that it’s likely that players like Kapanen, Johnsson, Kadri, and Brown are going to be somewhat available at the draft, and an improved understanding of what the return for these players could be would help us come to terms with a trade. It seem easy to make a case for Kapanen and Kadri being worth first round picks, but establishing where in the first round is debatable. Does Johnsson warrant some discussion as an asset worth a late first round pick? Is Connor Brown worth a second or third round pick?

Generally speaking at this point draft pick value is an interesting discussion topic, but not as tangibly applied as it is in other sports, especially football, but even as a tool that provides a layer of context to the draft I find it helpful in understanding that the Leafs aren’t in a particularly strong position, but shouldn’t use their current picks as the means in which they try to improve that situation.

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  • Lonely end of the rink.

    Id move out Brown for a 2nd. Id be tempted to move Kap as well if he isnt keen on the Brown or Hyman type deal. One last point I would entertain offers on both Zait and Muzzin but would be looking at getting cost certian or younger D assets back. I believe we have young guys almost ready in Sandin and Lily.

  • Irish Cedar

    Yes, this will be an interesting draft. Dubas could conceivably load up on picks and prospects in order to fix the current year salary cap situation, which is really just a 1 year “crisis” because of the Marleau contract, and the bonuses owed a number of players from this year. 2020-2021 the salary situation is far more manageable; even Horton comes off LTIR which gives the team more flexibility too.

    One thing the organization has this year is quite a number of available NHL contract spots to offer Free Agents. Obviously, these free agents are not going to be high-priced. They are all going to have to be players below $1M and borderline Leaf/Marlie players. There are a number of RFAs they might choose not to qualify (e.g. McAdam, Baptiste, Gagne, Subban + Ozhiganov is already gone) who can be replaced with replacement level NHL UFA players on 1 year deals; try to land the best of the best of that category of player. This would give Babcock a large selection of available players to choose from between prospects like Korshkov, Mikhayev, Carcone, Marchment, Bracco, Marchment, Engvall, Petan, Moore, Sandin, Liljegren, Hollowell, Holl, Sparks, Rosen, Borgman etc.) plus a larger than normal bunch of $1M level NHL vets to choose from, for 1 year.

    It’s not the most sexy approach, and it may not lead to a Stanley Cup roster next year, but it averts the current year’s salary issue and re-situates the team going forward. It’s almost like a tiny rebuild on the fly.

    • Irish Cedar

      I forgot to mention that they also traded away Nielsen which was obviously intended as a contract dump for this year too. They netted Gagne in return, and they obviously are not going to qualify him, thereby offering 1 extra contract spot this year. They just need to decide what to do with Kaskisou next; he is making it tough.