Friday Future Stars: The 2020 Draft and the Leafs

It just doesn’t seem like June unless we’re talking about the draft. Normally by this time of year our site would be rotten with prospect rankings, profiles, mock drafts, arguments for the Leafs trading up or down in the draft, and the several dozen trade rumours of Leafs dumping players for picks which never materialize but give us the false hope and content we love to keep us interested in what is usually a pretty straight forward and bland process.

That brings us to this year and the mountain of question marks surrounding the draft.

The Draft Lottery

We know it will be held on June 26th, but alas, we might not know who the winner is until the play-in rounds of the rebooted playoffs are completed.

This could potentially be a consolation prize for the Leafs if they are booted in the play-in round by the Blue Jackets.

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The format this year is as follows (via NBC Sports)

There will be three different draws. The first will be for the No. 1 overall pick; the second for the No. 2 pick; and a third for the No. 3 selection.

The seven teams done for the year were ranked in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the NHL pause.

1. Red Wings – 18.5%
2. Senators – 13.5%
3. Senators – 11.5%
4. Kings – 9.5%
5. Ducks – 8.5%
6. Devils – 7.5%
7. Sabres – 6.5%
8. Team A – 6%
9. Team B – 5%
10. Team C – 3.5%
11. Team D – 3%
12. Team E – 2.5%
13. Team F – 2%
14. Team G – 1.5%
15. Team H – 1%

So the Leafs being eliminated in the play-in and then having their point percentage standing aligning with a winning lottery spot could result in a high draft pick. Additionally, if the Leafs are eliminated in the play-ins and the Leafs have one of the three worst seasonal point percentages they’d be eligible for top ten pick.

All of this makes the draft lottery a little interesting and makes June 26th a date worth circling on your calendar, but in reality the lottery will be a pretty unfortunate experience for Leafs fans as the odds heavily favour the Red Wings, Senators, and Sabres getting the chance to load up on top talent.

Wait, the Leafs don’t have a first, why does this matter?

Listen, if you’re reading a Leafs blog you probably already know this, but we’ll spell it out for the casual fans who found this page through a google search. The draft pick the Leafs traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for them taking the last year of Marleau’s contract is top ten pick protected and instead the Canes would get the Leafs pick in 2021. While the odds are strongly against this circumstance playing out, in a bounced by Columbus situation this is the hope we’d need to cling to after that unfortunate outcome. There are no words for how much I hate that the Leafs sent a first out to dump salary.

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If the play-in teams win the draft lottery, should the Leafs tank the play-in?

God no. The Leafs are not going to tank the play-in and again, I’m just really mentioning this for the sake of clarity. The players having to come back in the middle of summer aren’t going to lay down so the team can draft higher. That’s silly. Also a lot of other stars need to align to make sure the team that loses is also in the position that won the lottery.

Okay, so when is the actual draft?

TBD. The NHL has said it will happen after hockey is done for the year, so that means we’re looking at October at the earliest. An interesting scenario considering that we might see junior, NCAA, and European leagues started up again by that point. Potentially teams will be drafting players they scouted the night before, and there is also a very good chance that players that have been inactive or house bound since March are going to be in very different states of ability than they were when we last saw them play. A team with a strong scouting network can do pretty well in this draft, and perhaps volume of picks will trump having high picks, although I’m going to say the top players are probably committed enough that they would remain the top players in most cases.

What picks do the Leafs have?

  • 2nd Round
  • 4th Round
  • 4th Round (Vegas)
  • 5th Round (Vegas)
  • 6th Round
  • 6th Round (Carolina)
  • 6th Round (Colorado)
  • 7th Round (San Jose)
  • 7th Round (St. Louis)
  • 7th Round (Winnipeg)

The draft round order is also still very much up in the air, and frankly by the 4th round it doesn’t really matter too much so we’re just really trying to learn what the Leafs might have with that second round pick, but it looks like it would be at or around the 50th overall range unless the Leafs move beyond the first two rounds of the playoffs.

How crappy is this for the players in the draft this year?

Very. I honestly feel for these kids. They’ve been waiting their whole lives for this moment, and now all they know is that it’s TBD. Some of the players selected aren’t going to have an opportunity to attend NHL camps due to ongoing seasons and transfer agreements. There isn’t really a scenario where a rookie camp seems likely, and then the lack of a World Juniors tournament to showcase themselves is another kick in the teeth. The development of this draft class isn’t going to be ideal, and I guess for the Leafs it’s not a bad year to sit out the first round.

Additionally it doesn’t seem too ideal for the 2021 draft class either, as they will have a lot of question marks about how much they will be scouted, how much they’ll get to play in their draft year, and the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament has already been cancelled as well. Maybe there is something to the Cliff Fletcher, “draft schmaft” philosophy for the time being or at least not prioritizing it for the short term.

Final Thoughts

The Leafs seem to be situated comfortably for this, as the low investment in needing high end talent from the draft isn’t there for them and the team has the resources to draft well even in these unusual circumstances. The proximity to so many teams in Ontario, the expansive network that has scouts covering all European leagues, and a leading player development department that knows how to work with what they get should have the Leafs do well whenever the draft gets around to happening.

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As for who the Leafs should draft, that’s easy. Carter Savoie no matter what.