2024 NHL Draft: Projecting all of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ selections

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Steven Ellis
23 days ago
It’s draft day, baby.
It’s been a long grind to the 2024 NHL Draft in Vegas, with Toronto set to pick 23rd overall this year. The Maple Leafs seem to find themselves trading a pick on the draft floor quite often, but for now, they’ve still got their first-rounder – and they desperately need to add some oomph to their pipeline.
With just a few hours to go before the festivities, we decided to have some fun projecting all of Toronto’s picks over the next two days. The team doesn’t have a lot of selections, but they’ve got enough to make things interesting.
One big need for them is a big, right-handed defenceman. Both EJ Emery and Charlie Elick fit the bill, and seem likely to still be around by the time their first pick is in play. They could also use some goaltending depth, which is why we went with two selections in this draft. Even with all the guys they’ve got, you can’t have enough goaltenders.
So, here’s a look at what Toronto’s haul could look like on Friday and Saturday in Vegas:

Round 1

No. 23: EJ Emery, RHD (USNTDP)

Emery has the size and strength to make himself useful in the NHL one day, and he’d be a fantastic pickup for the Leafs. He skates well for a 6-foot-3 defender and does a tremendous job of cutting off angles, even on the bigger ice in international tournaments. In terms of pure defensive play, I don’t know if there’s a better option outside of the top 10 in this draft, and I think his overall play style would be popular for a fanbase that craves toughness and speed on the blueline. The North Dakota commit isn’t too active on the scoresheet – he didn’t score a single goal in a game that counted – but that’s not his game. He’s a perfect bottom-four option who can eat minutes if needed.
Also considered: Charlie Elick, RHD (Brandon, WHL), Aron Kiviharju, LHD (HIFK, Liiga), Nikita Artamonov, RW (Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, KHL)

Round 4

Nick Kempf (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)

No. 120: Nick Kempf, G (USNTDP)

Kempf is fresh off an excellent showing at the U-18 World Championship, where he was one of the top goaltenders en route to a silver medal with the United States. He is the fourth-ranked goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Kempf’s numbers don’t look great, but the USNTDP juggles play in a variety of different competitions, including against NCAA teams. So you have to take that with a grain of salt, but he has stood out whenever he has played internationally. He’s very athletic and is never caught watching the puck from the crease. Kempf never quits on a chance, and his quick reads allow him to make some huge stops. I think he’s better than the raw stats suggest and could be a decent long-term option.
Also considered: Kirill Zarubin, G (AKM Tula, MHL), Ethan Procyszyn, C (North Bay, OHL), Daniil Ustinkov, LHD (Zurich, NL)

Round 5

John Whipple (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)

No. 151: Anthony Romani, RW (North Bay, OHL)

The first thing that stands out about Romani’s game is his hockey IQ. Even last year, that was something that popped, and the results followed with a 68-point increase to 111 this year in his third campaign with North Bay. That all but assured he’d get drafted, with many scouts happy to see him finally live up to expectations after being a strong minor hockey star in the GTHL. He had to deal with playing catch-up after losing his OHL Draft year, where he was expected to challenge for the scoring lead. He has a remarkable shot and his skating continues to get better, but he needs to work on his defensive game still. But as an overage player, Romani is closer to being an NHLer than some others.

No. 152: Matyas Melovsky, C (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)

The playmaker had a monster performance at the World Juniors, registering 10 assists and 11 points en route to a bronze medal with Czechia. It helped highlight an otherwise great season for the second-year QMJHL forward, who showed promise as one of the more dynamic passers. Few overage guys can move the puck and find his teammates in open space like Melovsky – especially on the man advantage. I don’t love him at 5-on-5 all the time because I feel like he can be caught floating a bit too much, but he’s a good project guy who can potentially fill a third-line role if he can round out his game and show more intensity.

No. 157: John Whipple, LHD (USNTDP)

Whipple is best when you’re not worrying about him, and I think he’s underrated. The 6-foot-1 defender is a steady presence for the run-and-gun style the Americans liked to play this year. He’s a fluid skater who can pivot well and get to where he needs swiftly, and he loves separating a player from the puck. I think his lack of offensive ability will hurt him at the next level, but he’s a hard worker who moves well enough to potentially carve out a bottom-pairing role. I think he’s better than some others think, but I like Whipple.
Also considered: Yegor Graf, C (SKA St. Petersburg, MHL), Austin Burnevik, RW (Madison, USHL), Adam Hesselvall, RW (Sodertalje, Sweden U-20)

Round 7

Axel Nyman (Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)

No. 200: Axel Nyman, G (Rogle, Sweden U-20)

Another goalie? Absolutely. He’s actually an extremely intriguing option at 6-foot-,5 and someone scouts think might be much better than the stats suggest. He was a busy soul with Rogle’s U-20 team and even saw some U-18 national team action in Michigan earlier this year. Nyman has excellent footwork and does a tremendous job of staying positionally sequenced in the net, and he really doesn’t have many stylistic flaws. Maybe the Leafs bank on his size here, just like they did with Dennis Hildeby.

No. 216: Joona Saarelainen, C (Kalpa, Finland U-20)

Saarelainen might be the most skilled player of this bunch. He works so hard to win battles, which he had to do often as a 5-foot-9 winger. Saarelainen didn’t put up explosive numbers at the U-18s, but he rarely had an off period and was the one that most often brought the energy on the top line. Obviously, the small frame won’t do him many favours, but as a seventh-rounder, you can do a lot worse than a guy who continuously found ways to impress against his peers this year.
Other Notables: Miroslav Satan Jr., C (Bratislava, Slovakia U-20), Austin Baker, LW (USNTDP), Stephen Peck, G (Bismarck, NAHL)

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