With the NHL Scouting combine well underway in Buffalo this week, what better time to revisit the various options available to the Toronto Maple Leafs on the 26th of June. Whereas most Leafs draft previews this year have been centred around the 4th overall pick, we will look at the options available to the Leafs at both the top and bottom end of the first round, where the Leafs hold the Nashville Predators’ 1st round pick – 24th overall.
It is an almost nailed-on certainty that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will be drafted 1st and 2nd respectively, barring a bad case of Noah Hanifin tourettes – a lesser known variation of tourettes where officials from within the Buffalo Sabres organisation call out the name of the 3rd ranked skater, thus overlooking a generational talent in Eichel. However with so many talented prospects available to general managers, the order of the rest of the first round is harder to project.
#3 Noah Hanifin – D – Boston College
Until very recently, it was also taken as word that the Arizona Coyotes would pick the Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin 3rd overall, however recent chatter from General Manager Don Maloney gives us other indications. Stating that they have several options available to them, Maloney appears to be leaning towards the Brandon Wheat Kings defensemen Ivan Provorov, who could potentially be a more rounded prospect.
Should Hanifin be available at four, it would take a brave man to turn down a potential franchise defenseman. The only drawback for Toronto in picking Hanifin, is that there are bigger concerns and positions to fill within the organisation.
#4 Dylan Strome – C – Erie Otters
The most likely of destinations for Dylan – younger brother of New York Islanders center Ryan Strome – should he be available would be Toronto, who have been a long term admirer of the Mississauga native.
In the shadow of teammate Connor McDavid for the whole season, Strome has relished the opportunity to just get on with his game without the pressure of expectation on his shoulders, which has led him to be the number 2 scorer in the OHL.
Strome has an excellent offensive upside and a distinct talent with the puck at his stick to find the right pass, or set up the team for an offensive breakout.
A lot has been mentioned about his skating ability, which seems the only question mark on whether Strome will ever cement a top 2 center position long term.
#7 Mitchell Marner – C – London Knights
Much like Strome, the OHL-leading point scorer in 2015 could fill a void within the rebuilding Maple Leafs at center. A lot of the press coming out of the combine has Kyle Dubas (Leafs Assistant GM) talking highly of Marner.
Yes he is small, much like the Leafs’ first pick in 2014 William Nylander, but Marner is giving up a good 40 pounds on Nylander.
In 2015, Marner was the first Knights player to reach 100 points since New York Islanders center John Tavares, so the calibre is there, but work needs to be done on bulk and giving him the best coaching on how to use his size in the NHL.
He is a very shifty player on the puck, which has led to comparisons with Patrick Kane, again a high praise. I just fear that the size is what may be the deciding factor in Marner dropping out of the top 5 on June 26th.
#5 Lawson Crouse – LW – Kingston Frontenacs
Lawson Crouse is a powerful, physically dominant power forward that would offer much of a forechecking presence. Even with this, Crouse has quick hands and a very dangerous shot that could be a very useful weapon.
He’s more of an outside chance, but Crouse is a player that has a lot to like about him.
#21 Jeremy Roy – D – Sherbrooke Phoenix
Currently ranked number 21 overall, having fallen from his initial ranking of 16, Jeremy Roy is a gifted two-way defenceman that plays a high-percentage brand of hockey which enables him to contribute positively in both offensive and defensive zones.
With his initial stock dropping from the midterm rankings to the final rankings, it is hard to imagine that Roy will be available at 24, but should he be available this would be a steal.
#25 Brandan Carlo – D – Tri-City Americans
Following on the theme, another defenceman in the fold is Tri-City’s Brandon Carlo. A very gifted defensive defenceman who is, more times than not, in the right place to make the defensive play for the team.
Carlo had a 25-point season for Tri-City, whilst racking up 90 penalty minutes, due to his power and aggressive nature.
A lot has been said about his lack of offensive prowess, but this is something that can be worked on and should be worked on should the Maple Leafs pick Carlo.
#24 Ryan Pilon – D – Brandon Wheat Kings
The strange thing about Ryan Pilon is that he only appears in the top 100 on the NHL rankings, but is emitted from both the Hockey Futures and ISS top 100 rankings.
Pilon played the last year alongside 2015 draft eligible Ivan Provorov. Pilon is less likely a player to step up into the rush and offer something offensively, leaving that to his partner to great effect.
There is a lot to like about Ryan Pilon, even though others have overlooked. He has been playing in the WHL since he was 16 and year upon year he has strived to improve and add something more to his game. He isn’t a flashy player. He is very stable defensively and very rarely makes a mistake in the defensive zone.
With Pilon’s ability to continually improve, it will be hard to project just where he would sit within a franchise, but he will most definitely be a great addition to any set of defensive prospects.
The first round is stacked, so no matter who the Maple Leafs pick, they will have two excellent prospects to add to the rebuild. Defence is less of a priority than drafting an excellent top 2 potential center to fill much-needed holes.
It could be an excellent opportunity to pick up a defenceman with the 2nd pick and with 3 pretty good prospects there or thereabouts, it is a toss up between the 3 for who will end up in Toronto.
4th overall: Dylan Strome
24th overall: Ryan Pilon
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