Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltending identified as the Leafs biggest need in the draft

While drafting the best player available is the mantra we all live on, there’s no shortage of debate over which player is the best available at any given moment. And while BPA is the right course of action, especially in the first couple of rounds of the draft, there needs to be some consideration given to what the organization needs more of, and in Corey Pronman’s article in The Athletic, he’s identified goaltending as the Leafs greatest need. 

We’ll keep the summary of why that is behind the paywall, but if we are to spoil it in anyway, it’s that Woll didn’t come as strong out of the gates for the Marlies this year and Ian Scott missed the entire year to injury. While it is early on both of them and giving up on either would be premature, perhaps it’s worth considering someone else capable of pushing them. That seems like a pretty fair assessment, and one that has been embraced for a while by Leafs fans as we continue to hold out hope that Yaroslav Askarov somehow falls to the 15th overall pick.

I’m sure you’ll see a lot more about Askarov on the site in the coming days, so for now I’ll stick with sharing that a goaltender who has been a .920 save percentage goaltender in the Russian junior league, dominated in International play, and has a save percentage above .930 in his one KHL start this year, he clearly warrants some consideration. Unfortunately the Leafs interest in Askarov seems to be coming at a time when most teams around the league are reawakening to the importance of investing in goaltending and expecting him to slide in the draft seems unlikely, even if he is Russian.

That’s why having a Plan B doesn’t hurt, and for me that option would be Nico Daws, an overager playing on the Guelph Storm. Daws is a 6’4 tower who many will remember from the World Juniors. Rocky World Juniors aside, Daws was a .924 Sv% goaltender for Guelph this year, playing in 38 games. While he seems to be projected as a 3rd rounder, a time when the Leafs inconveniently don’t own a pick, it’s not impossible that the Leafs acquire a 3rd, use their 2nd on him, or magically he slides to the 4th round. A lot of that might be wishful thinking, but nevertheless he’s a name worth considering that would address the Leafs need if Askarov is taken before the Leafs pick in the 1st.

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Additionally it doesn’t seem like Jan Bednar (Czech Republic), Joel Blomqvist (Finland), or Drew Commesso (USA) would be bad options for high end goaltending prospects, Bednar being the one most likely available to the Leafs in the fourth round.

Given the hit or miss nature of goaltending prospects, adding another goaltender with the potential to become a starter in the NHL is probably a sound call, and even if Askarov is off the table there seems to be a handful of options that will address the Leafs organizational need.