It’s draft week, and with the Leafs not scheduled to pick until the late second round there’s a good chance you’re greeting the draft with an aggressive “meh”. That’s fair. What’s also fair is that you are more interested about the transactions the Leafs will be completing because of the draft and free agency being a catalyst for movement, and the Leafs have Marleau, Zaitsev, Kadri, Brown, and Sparks being heavily (but quietly) shopped at the moment, and additionally some sense needs to be made of the Marner, Kapanen, and Johnsson contracts, the latter two having a particular sense of urgency leading into July 1st when they can be offer sheeted for a low compensation pick.
A lot is going to happen, but we probably shouldn’t lose sight of a few things.
- Those eight names have the potential to yield the Leafs another draft pick somewhere along the way and if that pick falls somewhere in the first two rounds knowing who the Leafs should pick should be of interest.
- A late second round pick still has the potential to yield a fairly decent player. And history has shown there is always a strong possibility of a projected first round player sliding that far.
Before you commit to the Leafs just opting for Cole MacKay as the highest rated Soo Greyhound, I’d suggest taking an exploration of some of the draft materials the internet has to offer up. I’d like to suggest starting with Scouching.ca. The draft prospect tracker and video series was a big part of the rankings that I produced here.
I admit to not watching nearly as much junior hockey this year as past years. I’ll put the blame squarely on my infant son for that, but also the reduced amount of junior hockey on the TV now that Shaw doesn’t broadcast WHL games. Because of that, my rankings are based on stats, as well as the consolidated rankings of the more knowledgeable draft rankers of the world. My rankings are two fold as you will see below. The first number I produced is the formula ranking, and that’s based on adjusted NHL equivalency, the percentage of goals the player was involved in, and percentage of the goals the player scored for their team, as well as the consolidated draft rankings of others. I then adjusted the number by height, scoring players who are under 5’10 at 90% of the score. I also adjusted by position scoring centers at 100%, defensemen at 95%, and wingers at 90%. For the purpose of sanity I left goaltenders out of this, although we could see more goaltenders go in the first two rounds than we’ve seen in previous seasons. I also adjusted the score for overagers, scoring overagers at 75% of first time eligible players. This spat out a value that I generally could live with for most players, but still warranted me looking at the numbers again to make some tweaks to my final rankings.
My final rankings are those adjustments. I couldn’t live with Kaapo Kakko being 8th on my rankings, so I adjusted him to 2nd. I think the NHLe, even when adjusted tends to be a little hard on the US National Team Development Program, so I bumped up some of their guys. More defensive defensemen certainly don’t do well with the formula I used so I adjusted them too. At the end of the day, I’ve produced rankings that should be disagreeable to everyone and that’s fine with me.
10 Thoughts on my list:
- I probably should have watched more junior this year. Despite weighting in the eyes of the “experts, I am monumentally reaching on a player like Nolan Foote, and understating the value of a player like Nils Hoglander.
- The outputs from my rankings did make me want to take a closer look at Alex Newhook, and I was reluctant to slide him any lower than seventh because I want to believe there’s something there. An offensive talent is going to have more ridiculous numbers in the BCHL and NHLe isn’t going to completely correct that, but Newhook will be joining a solid Boston College program next fall, and when a player’s biggest strength is skating and he’s got the outputs, I’m certainly intrigued.
- Like I mentioned above goaltenders weren’t included in this, but I feel I at least need to play the where does Spencer Knight slot into this game. I can’t imagine him being a target for the Leafs, nor do I think he’d fall to 53, but he seems like he’d be fair game anywhere in the 20-40 range, and with the number of picks that Carolina has in that range, I can’t imagine he’d make it much further than their latest pick.
- As much as I’m not a fan of the QMJHL, I think I’d be very comfortable with the Leafs selecting Jordan Spence at 53 if this list was 100% accurate to what actual happens (spoiler alert: it won’t be.) The Leafs have done well with developing defensemen, and the second round and a steady pipeline of affordable defensemen is not the worst thing Toronto could implement.
- If there are players I have ranked in the first round that I have some hope for being available when the Leafs select, it’s probably Albin Grewe, Nolan Foote, Brayden Tracey, and Nathan Legare. A winger might not be the most exciting pick from a positional need standpoint, but there is definitely a need to add some scoring back to the prospect pool, and these players would do that.
- Some players like Ryder Donovan might be more reasonable to consider in the third round than even the second, but as much as taking a high school player is a complete crapshoot, and a 6’3 center is going to dominate against that competition, Donovan would be a very interesting project, and the Leafs have definitely upped their midwestern US scouting game in the past couple of years. They could do worse than looking at Donovan.
- I can’t stop thinking that Ilya Nikolayev might be the best option for the Leafs. An offensive center, already playing against men in Russia, and likely to be in the KHL next season. The Leafs are becoming one of the better teams in the league when it comes to having a pipeline to Russia, as much as we want to joke about Ozhiganov, Soshnikov, Zaitsev, and Korshkov. The Leafs are looking at Russia a lot and bringing over what they need. Nikolayev might be an opportunity to do that on a larger scale.
- Michal Teply is a player I can’t shake my interest in, probably too a fault. I think he’s worth the gamble, but if the Leafs I may want to hedge their bets a bit by picking up another 2nd round pick somehow to test him out.
- Living in Edmonton the team I watch the most of is the Edmonton Oil Kings. Matthew Robertson who is consistently ranked in the first round on most draft lists isn’t in my first two rounds. I hope this means something to you. He’ll still go in the first, because of course he will. If he goes ahead of Moritz Seider that’s insanity.
- He didn’t make my top 62, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want the Leafs to find a way to draft Danil Antropov.
These lists are usually more for the person who put them together than to truly inform. A couple of years from now I’ll be able to search back and be able to say that I was the guy who was right on Alex Newhook, or I’ll have to wear the shame of Nolan Foote not panning out. Especially from a Leafs perspective I’d say that the depth and wide openness of this draft are encouraging for the second and third round picks, and with the need for the Leafs to dump shed some salary, dumping Connor Brown in favour of a pick in the 2nd/3rd round range seems like a savvy way to restock the prospect cupboard.
None of this changes that the real excitement for the Leafs over the next few weeks will be with internal signings, and potentially with trades, but perhaps I’m just trying to state the obvious, and that is that you shouldn’t sleep on the draft picks.