The Draft, the lottery, and what’s next for the Leafs and Sam Lafferty: Leaflets
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer11 days ago
Let’s start off by saying that this was written before Game 5. I have no idea if the Leafs won or lost and am sitting at a campsite without wifi and lacking the means to edit this post to reflect to properly get a read on the emotions of Leafs fans following the outcome, either positive or negative. That said, I’ll try and touch on a few topics that aren’t overly reliant on the Leafs still being in the playoffs or diving boldly into the offseason either. Wish me luck.
Draft Lottery Fallout
Last weekend I took a look at the worst possible outcomes for the draft lottery. I’m happy to say that the Senators don’t wind up with a pick in the top five, and I’m okayish with the fact that the Canadiens didn’t slide back in the draft because I’m just overjoyed that they didn’t move up.
Unfortunately, the next worst outcome in my mind was the Blackhawks win the lottery. This is largely based on not wanting to see good things happen to bad people but it is worth appreciating that it doesn’t particularly hurt the Leafs in a significant way.
What this does do is change the approach of the Blackhawks. A team that is about to have an influx of solid young prospects and is sitting on a ton of cap space in a desirable landing spot for free agents. The Blackhawks being players in free agency when a couple of the best available players could be Ryan O’Reilly and Michael Bunting is something to note, as well as they have the potential to be the team that drives the prices up on other worthwhile players.
The draft situation also means that we can now assume that Anaheim, Columbus, and San Jose are adding franchise changing players. Anaheim and Columbus might view this as their chance to take giant leaps forward as well, but San Jose is much more in the beginning stages of their rebuild.
Sticking with Draft thoughts… Matvei Michov
I know the draft is a long way off but Michov is easily the most compelling non-Bedard story to accompany it. With Michov under contract in the KHL until 2027 there is little doubt that he is going to slide in the draft. Teams like Montreal and Arizona that are going to want to win sooner rather than later will likely pass on him, and I’m not sure that the new GM for the Flyers is going to start off by saying “Wait four more years before your upgrade comes.”
Realistic landing spots for Michov start emerging when you look at the Capitals, Red Wings, and the Coyotes’ second pick of the first round, but even for those teams there might be some hesitation to gamble on the waiting game, even though the Wild have demonstrated with Kaprizov that waiting for Russians can be worth it.
My point on all of this from a Leafs perspective is that Toronto is a team that can afford to wait and while there is absolutely no way that Michov slides all the way to 28th in the draft, he presents an interesting trade-up scenario depending on the organizational direction of the Leafs at the time.
Sam Lafferty going forward
I’m sure whether we’re in the offseason as you read this or if the offseason has been held off for another day we’ll be talking a lot more about Sam Lafferty and where he fits into the Leafs for next season.
At the time of his acquisition, there was an unfair amount of hype attached to the forward with some ridiculous comparisons to Brandon Hagel being tossed about rather than seeing him as the player who was recently dealt for Alex Nylander and managed to slightly come into his own on a bad Blackhawks team that could offer him playing opportunities can’t or shouldn’t. Given the situation it’s not surprising that he didn’t live up to a lot of expectations and hasn’t been the short term solution the Leafs wanted him to be.
Given that Lafferty is one of the few bottom six forwards under contract with the Leafs for next season and still priced at a reasonable number if he can nudge back in the positive direction, it will be interesting to see what the Leafs can do with Lafferty having a bit more time to figure him out. The speed is there, and the offense is there, but I think some incorrect assumptions were made around skill level and how much support Lafferty needs.
My $.02 on it, Lafferty needs to be put with higher calibre players to get the results the Leafs wanted and that could have been as simple as flipping Acciari with Lafferty and hoping that it worked out in the longer term or potentially slotting him in as a high energy puck retriever on the second line and hoping that he could make more space.
Lafferty with other fourth line talent yields typical fourth line results, but there might be some hope that he can be a complimentary player in the Leafs’ top nine.
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