For my own amusement I decided to take a look at how the Leafs have been constructed. How many players have they acquired through free agency, how many via trade, and how many through the draft. And most importantly, what round were they drafted in. The result is the graph below…
These are the 22 roster players (either under contract or RFA) that make up the Leafs roster at the moment. Of those 22 players, 10 of them have been drafted by the Leafs. Another 3 were signed as free agents by the Leafs without prior NHL experience, meaning the Leafs have found 59% of their roster through either amateur or European scouting. The Leafs have 2 other players signed as free agents on their roster, Tavares and Holl and they probably could not be more different stories. The remaining seven players came to the Leafs via trade, including both of their goaltenders.
It’s also interesting that 8 players on the Leafs roster are first round selections, and another 4 were selected in the 2nd round. Given that makes up the majority of the roster that makes a strong case for the Leafs hanging on to their first and second round picks this year.
When it comes to the players the Leafs have acquired via trade, only Campbell falls into that former 1st or 2nd round pick category, and instead the Leafs have gone with mid round hits of other organizations to fill out their team.
Well, what can we takeaway from any of this? Not really a whole lot. There’s certainly a lesson here that the first couple rounds of the draft are incredibly important, but we already knew that.
We can acknowledge that the Leafs have become much better at developing their own talent, although the talent they’ve developed was generally considered to have high potential, and Engvall and Johnsson are the only outliers. Perhaps the lesson is that in the 7th round the Leafs need to stick to Sweden.
The fact that only Tavares and Holl are on the Leafs as free agents (maybe Spezza will return too) speaks to Dubas chasing the big fish in free agency, and that likely speaks to Pietrangelo being the only real target for the Leafs at the moment. Holl as a free agent ignores that he was brought onto the Marlies on an AHL deal and the Leafs organization developed him into being signed to a NHL deal. He’s much more closely compared to Lehtonen, Barabanov, and Mikheyev than he is to Tavares, both in skill and how acquired, but he does also speak to that Dubas will use free agency to fill out his roster with cheap free agent talent as well, but as short term solutions.
Another lesson is that the Leafs don’t really seem to develop goaltenders. The fact that there was a brief blip of Reimer being decent, and then a long stretch back until Felix Potvin as the organizations success stories for goaltenders might speak to the Leafs need to always accept that goaltenders will need to come in externally as a solution or overhaul what they’ve been doing.
The fact the Leafs core seems to be built around high drafted talent and committed to long term certainly makes the Leafs look like they know what they are doing, and the fact that they’ve now got homegrown players and late round finds to speak to and having success with their first rounders (if you look post Schenn, Biggs, Percy, and Gauthier) the team appears better off than any other point in the past decade. This is a strength given the need to optimize affordable entry level contracts and cheaper RFA years.
The European free agents, Hyman, and Holl also speak to the organization getting better at finding and developing talent.
The process Kyle Dubas uses for assembling his team seems to be taking Toronto in the right direction, but perhaps just not as fast as we would like. It will be interesting to see if a sense of urgency will be applied in the coming weeks and how different this group will look shortly.