The NHL entry draft is Friday in Philadelphia. The Leafs hold the eighth choice. Perhaps you’ve heard.
With that in mind, let’s go into this with eight assumptions.
Assumption number one: Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad isn’t a slam dunk for first overall.
Ekblad is not projected as the stand alone prospect in the draft and if he was, the Panthers would not consider moving the first pick. That they are open for business speaks to that fact. That’s why it seems highly unlikely the Leafs will airlift their young core in a deal with Florida that would net the number one pick and the chance to draft Ekblad.
Assumption number two: There is little historical precedent for the trade of the number one pick. Brian Burke acquired and traded the first overall pick to land the Sedin brothers in 1999. In 2002, Doug MacLean landed the first overall pick from Florida. Panthers GM Rick Dudley traded the top pick a year later to Pittsburgh who drafted Marc-Andre Fleury. Since then, bupkus.
Assumption number three: Because there isn’t an enormous gap between the first eight spots, teams should be expected to put a little more emphasis on their positional needs. If they were to move up, the Leafs seem more likely to target Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart or Kingston Frontenac forward Sam Bennett. Conversely, if Peterborough right winger Nick Ritchie or Halifax’s speedy Nikolaj Ehlers are on the board at eight, the Leafs may well be content to stand pat.
Assumption number four: Forget about the Leafs picking a defenceman. First, the draft is skewed toward forwards. Second, the Leafs consider themselves well stocked on defence with 21-year-old Petter Granberg ready to step into the lineup and Stuart Percy not far behind. Matt Finn, in a very select group of top defenceman in junior hockey, is Marlie bound but the soundness of his game and his NHL size mean he could matriculate quickly.
Assumption number five: Same goes for a goalie. The Maple Leafs have never picked a netminder that higher than 16th. That happened 20 years ago with the selection of Eric Fichaud. For the masochistic, the runner up is Tuukka Rask, 21st overall in 2005.
Assumption number six: The eighth pick is a spotty proposition.
The Leafs have picked eighth twice. They netted Darryl Sittler in 1970 which seems to have worked out pretty well for them, what with the Hockey Hall of Fame membership and all. Brandon Convery, chosen eighth in 1992, played only 72 NHL games and has been relegated to an ultra thin and obscure category of Leafs trivia: first round redheads who did not work out.
A look at the number eight picks over the last decade underscores the difficulty of landing an impact player. While it’s too early to make a pronouncement on Rasmus Ristolainen and Derrick Pouliot, the Flyers Sean Couturier, a very good two way player, has been the best of the bunch.
Have a look at the last eight overall picks.
Player Year Team
Rasmus Ristolainen 2013 Buffalo
Derrick Pouliot 2012 Pittsburgh
Sean Couturier 2011 Philadelphia
Alex Burmistov 2010 Atlanta
Scott Glennie 2009 Dallas
Mikkel Boedker 2008 Phoenix
Zach Hamill 2007 Boston
Peter Mueller 2006 Phoenix
Devin Setoguchi 2005 San Jose
Alexandre Picard 2004 Columbus
Assumption number 7.
The action doesn’t stop after the first two rounds.
Take a look at some of the top prospects in the organization and the round in which they were drafted.
Player Round Year
Connor Brown 6 2012
Sam Carrick 5 2010
Petter Granberg 4 2010
Josh Leivo 3 2011
Andreas Johnson 7 2013
Antoine Bibeau 7 2013
Assumption number 8: The easiest of the bunch. Every team, the Leafs included, will pronounce they got exactly the players they wanted. Guaranteed.