No team has more eyes on them heading into the draft than the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are a lot of difficult decisions to be made, and none more intriguing than what will come of the fourth overall pick. Granted, there is a lot of curiosity around which players will be traded, but the only guarantee is that the Leafs will be walking away with a blue chip prospect. There will be elite level skill on the board when the Leafs are on the clock, and Shanahan, Dubas, and Hunter will have an extremely difficult decision to make. McDavid and Eichel will be off the board, Arizona is heavily interested in Dylan Strome and many have him penciled in as the third selection already. That leaves Noah Hanifin, Mitchell Marner, and Ivan Provorov. Some have included Mikko Rantanen and Mathew Barzal into the equation, but I find it highly unlikely given the sure fire prospects that will remain on the board. So circling back to the big three (big four if you include Strome), you have to look at how you’re going to build this Maple Leafs squad. If you take Mitchell Marner, you’re getting an elite playmaker who may be an 80 point guy in the NHL, but you’re also accepting that your team will struggle on the blue line for at least a few years. Drafting Strome brings something similar to Marner in the fact that you leave the blue line rather bare, though you do get a 6’3 center, a size and position combo that is highly coveted around the league. Now if the Leafs go with one of Hanifin or Provorov, which in my opinion is the best route, you attain a franchise defenceman, something every recent Stanley Cup winner has relied heavily upon. Without Doughty or Keith does LA or Chicago win more than one cup? It’s doubtful. I get the hype around Marner, and I’m a huge fan, but if you’re looking at starting a team from scratch, you can’t pass up on a future top 10 defenceman in the NHL. Throughout the draft, the Leafs could use help at almost all positions. At 24, they’re going to get a good prospect, likely someone who fell. Keep an eye on Bittner, Debrusk, and Boeser. It’ll be a tough call for the Leafs brass come June 26th, and will certainly be surrounded with skepticism, but whichever way they go they’re going to get a great prospect.
Draft Day Gameplan
– Attain as many top 60 picks as possible. With the lack of depth throughout the organization, you need as many prospects as you can get.
– I don’t believe you necessarily have to trade Kessel for picks alone, in fact if look at moving him for two or three younger forwards who you can add to your core moving forward.
– Trade Dion. Some may disagree, but I wouldn’t want him leading my young group into the future. Add a 1st round pick and other pieces.
– Make a decision on a goalie. Move out one of Reimer or Bernier and add pieces.
Leafs Big Board (Without McEichel)
1. Dylan Strome
2. Noah Hanifin
3. Mitchell Marner
4. Ivan Provorov
5. Mikko Rantanen
6. Mathew Barzal
7. Pavel Zacha
8. Kyle Connor
9. Zach Werenski
10. Travis Konecny
Who do they take?
In my mind there’s a lot of ways it could go. If Hanifin or Marner go 3, Strome goes 4. If Strome goes 3, Hanifin goes 4. I think Hanifin is the guy you build around, so that’s who I’d go with.
Ivan Provorov. Yes, he’s top 5 on my list, but he’s still a dark horse this early. He’s going to be a great defenceman just not sure I’d take him ahead of Marner or Hanifin.