TORONTO- The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the clock. The team will enter the 2016 NHL Draft with 11 draft picks, including the first overall selection.
During the 2015-2016 NHL season, the first year of the Maple Leafs’ overhaul rebuild, the team was bad. Really bad. They were a dull team that was doomed for failure. Head Coach Mike Babcock warned everyone that pain was coming.
President Brendan Shanahan was brought to the Maple leafs with an idea of a complete rebuild. Drafting and development were the key ingredients to turn this franchise around. They got rid of David Clarkson, Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phanuef to stockpile young prospects and draft picks. So the tear down complete, but the rebuild continues until they get back to the playoffs.
The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery was held on April 30th. After painful season of losing and misery, the Maple Leafs’ luck panned out and received the first overall pick for 2016. This is the 2nd time that the Leafs selected first overall since 1985 when they selected Wendel Clark.
Not only do the Leafs hold the first pick, but thanks to the work of team management, they hold a grand total of 11 draft picks (they used the 30th overall selection to acquired G Frederick Andersen from Anaheim Ducks).
Young Highly Skilled Prospects:
William Nylander and Mitch Marner are two of the top NHL Prospects. The two have the greatest potential to become game-changers and be among the league leaders in points. They, along with the 2016 first overall pick, will be relied upon to lead the Leafs to success.
Solid Depth of Impact Wingers
With James Van Reimdsyk on the team, the Maple Leafs have multiple depth of veterans and youngster at the wing position. Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Brendan Leipsic and Jeremy Bracco represent a plethora of prospects who could be future second or third line wingers.
1) First Line Centre
The Maple Leafs can cross this off their checklist as it is very clear that they are going to take Auston Matthews. Although the Maple Leafs have stockpile a lot of young talent, there remains a lack of potential first or second line centers. William Nylander and Mitch Marner have played some centre during their development. However it seems like they are profile as wingers going forward. With the first overall pick, and likely Matthews, that department should be shored up.
2) Potential Top Pairing Defenceman
While Carrick and Zaitsev certainly have promising potential, the Maple Leafs don’t have a sure-fire, blue-chip prospect. With three picks in the first 31 at this year’s draft, one should be used to select an all-around defenceman to pair up with Morgan Rielly.
Most Likely Target: Auston Matthews, C, Zurich Lions (Switzerland)
Matthews was a consensus to go first overall in this upcoming draft. He has the potential to become a franchise center that the Maple Leafs didn’t have since Mats Sundin. Matthews offers a complete game with skills, talent and poise. He has an electric shot which fires through traffic He is a creative player with a tremendous hockey IQ which allows him to have incredible vision and developing plays to create his own scoring chances or involving his teammates. Matthews is a strong skater with great speed. Matthews is a kind of player, who offers the Leafs a generational type player to build around with. He certainly has the ability to be a game changer and could make an immediate impact for the 2016-2017 season.
What Else Could Happen?
Look for the Leafs to trade veterans like Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Jonathan Bernier to make more cap space and stockpile more young talent. With eleven picks, they can also trade some of their picks to move up in the draft or add more help in the blue line or add depth in the middle or goaltending.
The Maple Leafs certainly have the tendencies to draft North American prospects, but GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t afraid to take a risk on a couple European prospects, especially from Sweden.. Look for the Maple Leafs to draft towards more skilled players as opposing to big and hard-hitting players. They rather go more skilled players than size and strength. They love creative players who can play a responsible to play two-way, not one-dimensional.