With the NHL season concluded (congratulations, St. Louis!) the Toronto Maple Leafs need to turn on business mode and start getting things sorted out ahead of the entry draft. The question is now ‘what are the Leafs going to do at the draft?’ and ‘can fans expect anything exciting?’
It has to be a two-horse-race here: keep your picks or trade for draft positioning.
Kyle Dubas and previous rebuild management have shown their willingness to move back in the draft and add another asset. This strategy was notably used in the 2015 entry draft to select Travis Dermott. It’s a penny-pincher move, but if you are drafting for positional need, then it can work out.
The Leafs obviously were looking for a defenseman in Dermott’s draft and didn’t see a better option ahead of his 34th overall draft position. This pick immediately turned into Travis Konecny for Philadelphia, as well, defensemen Noah Juulsen, Jacob Larsson, Gabriel Carlsson, and Jeremy Roy were selected in the space between the Konecny pick and the Dermott selection. Not bad, boys.
If the team is going to keep their picks, of which they have no 1st, one 2nd, one 3rds, two 4ths, one 5th, no 6ths, and two sevenths, I would image they will draft the best available players, regardless of position. With a few Marlies pegged for NHL tryouts this season and a deep farm system including the AHL team and ECHL affiliate, the Leafs can stockpile players at will.
Any player movement expected?
Your guess is as good as mine on this one. The cone of silence from the Leafs organization has been astounding even after Lou Lamoriello leaving, so rumors are few and far between for trade talks. Something we don’t need to speculate on is the (mutual) desire to move Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, and maybe Nazem Kadri.
With rumors linking him to Edmonton and Vancouver, the pressure to add draft picks at the draft could facilitate a move. As well, Patrick Marleau is also clearly on his way out of the organization and Nazem Kadri has generated interest around the league.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Dubas use some of his low-value surplus picks (4ths and 7ths) to sweeten the deal on potential trades. I would imagine that the team could also trade back in the draft to get more picks to flip as trade assets.
Dubas made a big move for Jake Muzzin last season, but he hasn’t stamped this team with his mark via marquee move just yet. Sure, the structure of the team’s prospect system has his name written all over it, but watch out for a big-picture deal potentially happening to change the complexion of his team.