PITTSBURGH – Dave Morrison, the Leafs director of amateur scouting, had Dave Poulin, vice-president of hockey operations, at his side.
The two were charting picks at Toronto's draft table as the first round rolled along at Consol Energy Centre on Friday night, aiming to predict which prospect competing teams would select.
"At a certain point, each of us kept going 'Matt Finn with the next pick'," Morrison said.
Retiring to the hotel later that evening, neither expected Finn to be on the board when the organization next picked early the following morning. But there available at 35th overall in the second round of the 2012 draft was Finn, a minute-crunching defenceman for the Guelph Storm.
"We had him as a first rounder," Morrison said of the Toronto native, who led all Storm blueliners with 47 points. "We're pretty happy to get him at 35. I told him that, I said 'We had you a lot higher'. I think he's comparable to a lot of the defencemen that were picked quite a bit earlier.
"That was a great way to start the day."
Ranked 21st overall on the Final Draft Ranking for TSN and 22nd on the Toronto board, Finn – a second cousin of former Leaf and current Blue Carlo Colaiacovo - emerged as a second round surprise for the Leafs, who selected Moose Jaw defenceman Morgan Rielly with the fifth overall pick on Friday.
"He plays a ton of minutes in Guelph," Morrison continued of the six-foot, 195-pound defender. "He's got good offensive numbers. He's smart. He moves the puck very well, he competes, got good size, he's not afraid of physical play – although he's not necessarily a mean defender – but he plays hard, he goes to all the dirty areas, does what he has to. And I think he's probably got more offensive ability than he even displayed this year."
Finn finished sixth among all OHL defencemen in points, totaling 10 goals and 38 assists, but multiple conversations with Storm head coach Scott Walker had Morrison confident that more was in the cards offensively.
"He just said 'I play the kid so much, I don't know how much he has in the tank sometimes to push the offensive envelope'," Morrison recalled. "Needless to say, we're thrilled to get him and we think he's a much better player than where we got him. Time will tell."
"Sitting there was long obviously," Finn concluded of the nervous second round wait. "It's always nice to go that first night, but I'm happy as could be right now and wouldn't have it any other way."