With the 2020 NHL Draft looming, TSN Hockey provides a draft primer for each of the seven Canadian NHL clubs. Today, we continue with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nick Robertson had a sensational 2019-20 in the OHL – scoring 55 goals in 46 games for Peterborough and earning a four-game postseason audition (collecting his first NHL goal) with the Leafs. At pick No. 53, Robertson may be remembered as the steal of the 2019 draft. Nick Abruzzese led the USHL in points in 2018-19, was chosen 124th overall by the Leafs and went to Harvard where he led all NCAA freshman in 2019-20 points (44 in 31 games).
GRADING THE LAST 5 DRAFTS
The Leafs have assembled A-level talent over the past five years – Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Rasmus Sandin and Nick Robertson – with an eye for skill that has ranged from the obvious (Matthews and Marner) to the not as obvious (Sandin and Robertson).
MAPLE LEAF STORYLINES
Fourteen of 23 (61%) skaters Toronto has selected in three years with Kyle Dubas running or co-running the draft have been under six feet in height. Only one of 16 (6%) selected in two drafts under Lou Lamoriello were under six feet. Toronto didn’t pick a single Canadian in 2019 for the second time in franchise history. The only other time was in 2014. The Leafs have chosen a non-Canadian with its first pick (no matter how high or low) in the last four drafts.
TOP 10 TORONTO PROSPECTS: GRADE B
This comes as no surprise, but the Leafs have assembled a prospect list with a premium on skill. Robertson became the first CHL player since Erie’s Alex DeBrincat in 2016-17 to average more than a goal per game. Sandin was named best defenceman at the 2020 World Junior Championship. Abruzzese tied for third in NCAA scoring. TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button assigns Toronto a B grade for its group of top prospects. Not included on the Leafs’ list but connected with the organization is CHL defenceman of the year Noel Hoefenmayer, the 21-year-old who signed a contract with the AHL Marlies after piling up 26 goals and 82 points in 58 games with the Ottawa 67’s.
Last off-season, Toronto traded away its first pick to Carolina (No. 13) for the Hurricanes to take Patrick Marleau’s contract off its hands. This off-season, the Leafs traded Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh for the Penguins’ first pick (No. 15). Toronto has loaded up on late-round picks with three in each of the sixth and seventh rounds; those six picks represent the highest such number in the league. Two members of the current Leafs were selected in the seventh round, Andreas Johnsson (2013) and Pierre Engvall (2014).
DRAFT POLL RESULTS
Button identifies Toronto’s primary need as right defencemen. The last time Toronto drafted a right rearguard who became a bona fide NHLer was Luke Schenn in 2008 (No. 5). Timothy Liljegren was picked in 2017 (No. 17), but has yet to establish himself as a major leaguer. Which of the following group of defencemen – all from the Canadian Hockey League – would you select for the Leafs at No. 15?
Who should the Leafs select with the No. 15 pick in the 2020 Draft?
Schneider, a competitive No. 3-4 right shot defenceman in the mould of Jacob Trouba, who was named to the WHL Eastern Conference first all-star team. If the Leafs decide to not go for a d-man, edgy two-way Brandon centre Ridly Greig would be a good fit. His comparable? Ex-Leaf Nazem Kadri.
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