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How would an early June draft affect the Leafs?

Throughout the past two weeks there has been an idea floated that the NHL will move up it’s draft and hold it in early June instead of either late June (assuming they cancel the season and the offseason stays on schedule) or following whatever bizarre conclusion we receive for a playoffs this year, assuming they manage to pull it off (for the record, it seems logistically impossible to do, but I admire their moxie in trying to believe it can.)

The appeal of the early draft is that it can somewhat emulate the success of the NFL draft, giving the NHL as many willing sports viewing eyes as possible before other more appealing things start returning and limiting their potential audience. Once you accept the fact that the NHL is not the NFL, and they won’t get 15 million viewers, it is reasonable to thing they’d get somewhat of a bump up, and might draw casual hockey fans into the draft who would have previously rather spent a summer’s night grilling, watching baseball, or doing absolutely anything other than watching boring old dudes call out the names of teenagers, have them walk to the stage and put on a new shirt. Then not seeing that teenager in that shirt for another three years.

I get why they are doing it, but it seems to be coming at the expense of some of what makes the draft interesting, and that’s the potential for trades. It’s abandoning a lot of agreed upon methodology when determining who picks were, and wrecks havoc on conditional picks. Depending on where you sit, the chaos may be a selling point, but the suggested return to the previous draft lottery format would mean that there’s an 82% chance that the top 3 picks will be playing in the Atlantic Division, and there’s a 100% chance that 3 out of the top 4 picks will be in the Leafs division. Not ideal, but the Red Wings and Senators loading up in this draft was going to happen regardless of when the draft was held, they are just getting a few additional certainties in this process.

The idea of holding a draft and then playing the playoffs and possibly some season games puts an absolute damper on the potential for significant trades, and perhaps this is one of the perceived ways in which the Leafs will be most affected. The assumption of Leafs fans is that heading into the draft that there are “For Sale” signs on Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Alex Kerfoot, and possibly one of the left shooting defensemen. With the potential goal being for the Leafs to shed salary, the draft would be the ideal time to move these players, but when it comes to what we’ve heard from or speculated about regarding the Leafs, there is absolutely no certainty that Leafs want to move anyone, and could be wanting to keep this group together for the 2020-21 season before deciding on what changes need to be made.

Below is a list of trades either immediately preceding the draft or taking place at it involving the Leafs. The Dubas run drafts are highlighted in blue:

Year Leafs Trade To For
2019 Patrick Marleau Hurricanes 2020 6th Rd
2020 1st Rd (Top 10 protected) The ability to overpay Mitch Marner
2020 7th Rd
2018 2018 1st Rd 25th overall (Bokk) Blues 2018 1st Rd 29th overall (Sandin)
2018 3rd Rd (Der-Arguchintsev)
2018 2019 6th Rd (G. Berglund) Sabres 2018 6th Rd (Holmberg)
2017 No Trades
2016 2016 1st Rd 30th overall (Steel) Ducks Freddie Andersen
2017 2nd Rd (Comtois)
2016 Scott Harrington Blue Jackets Kerby Rychel
2015 Greg McKegg Panthers Zach Hyman
2015 2015 1st Rd  24th overall(Konecny) Flyers 2015 1st Rd 29th overall (Traded)
2015 2nd Rd (Bracco)
2015 2015 1st Rd 29th overall (Carlsson) Blue Jackets 2015 2nd Rd (Dermott)
2015 3rd Rd (Dzierkals)
2015 Brad Ross Oilers Martin Marincin
2015 4th Rd (Wolanin)

I guess in comparison to Lou, Dubas is a bit more active, but moving significant roster pieces at the draft hasn’t been his calling card anyway. His two most significant offseason trades, the Kadri deal and the Kessel deal took place after the draft, and if you look at that McKegg for Hyman deal, and the Marleau trade, they just happened to occur around draft time, and there wasn’t any connection to draft picks in that year.

What we seem to be clinging to is the excitement of the Brad Ross for Martin Marincin trade, and while a good trade, it’s not really something I’m worried we won’t get this year.

Obviously, things could have changed, but reality is, Dubas is probably going to be Dubas, and that means using what he has at his disposal, and that’s…

Pick Projected Overall Spot
Maple Leafs 2nd Round Pick 50
Maple Leafs 4th Round Pick 112
Golden Knights 4th Round Pick 117
Golden Knights 5th Round Pick 148
Maple Leafs 6th Round Pick 174
Hurricanes 6th Round Pick 178
Avalanche 6th Round Pick 184
Sharks 7th Round Pick 189
Jets 7th Round Pick 198
Blues 7th Round Pick 216

I guess there’s a couple of ways to look at this, and that’s:

A) This probably isn’t the year to be too invested in the draft anyway.

B) If there was a year that Dubas was going to trade a roster player for a pick in the top 100, this is probably it.

If you are in group A, you probably don’t care too much when the draft is and will tune in to watch teams waste first round picks on 7’0 defensemen who can’t skate and watch 150 lb Russians slide down the draft board.

If you are in group B, well, you were setting yourself up for disappointment no matter what, but of course you can still hold out hope that something might happen.

I wouldn’t rule out that we see a number of trades involving 2021 draft picks for 2020 picks, that upon the completion of the playoffs see players dealt for the return of those draft picks. Not to mention the Leafs might just trade a 2021 1st (likely with a kicker) for a 2020 1st, with the optimism that they will be able to recoup that 1st round pick over the next 12 months.

It will be interesting to see if there’s any level of creativity in the trades, or if we just straight up see more swapped picks this year.

The Leafs also find themselves in a beneficial position due to the size of their scouting staff, the connections of the organization, and the strength of their analytics department. In a year without junior hockey playoffs, a U-18 tournament, or draft combine, the Leafs might be in great shape to score big on those late round picks. This would likely hold true in June or whenever the draft is held, but I felt like you could all use another silver lining after looking at that draft pick list.

An early draft would interesting and different, two things the NHL normally isn’t. I don’t doubt they will respond by being incredibly risk averse and not showing a drop of personality on the broadcast, but even the league taking a chance and failing is an improvement over the status quo.

And selfishly, I’d love to have a concrete NHL event on my calendar to look forward to.