Let’s give the Toronto Maple Leafs organization credit. A plan was put in place to start fresh and return an Original Six team to it’s proper standing. Though I must say, management aren’t the only ones deserving of a pat on the back. As are you, the fan.
The 2015/16 season here in the T-Dot was never intended to be about accumulating wins for a postseason appearance. As a matter of fact, it was quite possibly geared up for the other end of the spectrum. We were all warned of this in advance and appreciated the notice, as well as the strategy. This fan-base is not only the most loyal in sports, but arguably the most knowledgeable. There wasn’t just simply acceptance and understanding throughout Leafs Nation, the faithful took it a step further by embracing the “Shanaplan” with open arms. No, there was little attention paid to on ice performance, aside from a change of culture and clear improvement in effort level and attention to detail. Other than the odd rivalry night, the schedule wasn’t important to us. We survived the year, killing time while establishing a new and proper culture, and the payoff has arrived. The only dates circled on our Leafs calendars were June 24th and 25th. Those days are now upon us.
The Maple Leafs did their part, securing 12 draft picks for ‘16, including of course 1st overall. You, the fans, did your part in supporting the rebuild and showing patience for management’s vision. Now LeafsHub.com want to do our part by preparing the readers as best we can for the weekend ahead. In order to properly do so, we asked for help.
Mark Seidel has been a friend of the site’s more or less since its inception, so if we have a draft question, or anything hockey in general, we know have a trusted voice to count on. Mark’s reputation in scouting is as well known as it is respected. With this resumé it’s little wonder.
Chief Scout; NACS NHL Scouting
Former NHL Draft Insider; Hockey Night in Canada
Former NHL Draft Analyst; ESPN & The Hockey News
Former Commissioner; NOJHL
Former NHL Regional Scout; Minnesota Wild
Our writers compiled a list of questions we thought Maple Leafs fans and Leafs Hubbers would like asked prior to the Draft, and we were lucky enough to lean on Mark’s experience and resources to provide us with his answers.
Outside of the Top 60, who do you feel is the most underrated player that everyone may look over in the draft?
Two of the guys that we think very highly of that may fall outside the Top 60 are Jordan Sambrook from Erie and Carson Twarynski from Calgary. Sambrook is a very efficient defender that doesn’t bring you out of your seat but makes great decisions and kept getting better. Carson Twarynski is a power forward that took a while to develop his game but he has a lot of upside for a guy outside the Top 60. Both should be 2nd round picks in our opinion but it won’t surprise us if they fall a bit.
Of the smaller high end skilled defenseman of this draft (Girard, Clague, Dineen, Fox, Green, Mete, Quenneville) which one stands out as having the most potential in becoming a top 4 point producing NHL D-man? And what separates this player from the others in your evaluation process?
I think the way the game is changing, a few of them have a chance to become impactful NHL defensemen but I’d have to say Adam Fox. To be a small defender in the NHL, you have to have incredible vision and awareness and Fox has that. He can obviously make the offensive plays but he has become much better defensively than he used to be. There honestly isn’t a lot that separates him from guys like Clague, Dineen & Mete but I think that in 12 years, we may see him as having the most impactful career. Cam Dineen is an interesting case as well because he literally came out of nowhere and had a fantastic year on a defensive minded Stan Butler coached team. Like Fox, he has the ability to make plays in the offensive end but still can defend in his own end but make no mistake about it, they all will be challenged to play in the NHL at their size.
The Leafs are likely going to take a goalie in this year’s draft. Which goaltender should they be eyeing and what round do you think they could grab him in?
I have been on the record saying that I don’t think that this is a banner year for goaltenders. I see a crew of goaltenders that have a chance to become NHL starters but there isn’t a guy that I’d bet my life on. If I was the Leafs, I’d wait until the 3rd round and see who is still there. If the higher end guys like Parsons, Fitzpatrick & Gustavson are gone, I’d look at a guy like Colton Point. He played Junior A this year and led his team to the Royal Bank Cup. He is going to go to school so you can afford to be patient with him & let him continue to develop. He has great size & good athleticism so I’d send him off to school and let him develop for 3 or 4 years before he turns pro.
You have been clear, Auston Matthews is the number one prospect in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. When Toronto announce his name, from an experienced scout’s point of view, tell us what are the Leafs truly getting here? Whether physical or otherwise, what traits help separate him from the class?
He is a kid that does EVERYTHING well. Above the obvious physical tools, the Leafs will be getting a quiet leader that will solidify them down the middle for the next decade. The average fan might not take notice of the way he is always on the right side of the puck or how he manages it, or how he puts passes in the exact spot, or the way he uses his body, but experienced hockey guys do. I’m not saying that he is Jonathan Toews because Toews is one of the 5 best players on the planet but they have a similar quiet, smart efficiency about their games that are remarkable. He isn’t going to be the savior but he will be a hugely important piece for the franchise as they incorporate some of these flashier, skilled guys.
Toronto have 12 picks going into this year’s draft. There are skilled prospects currently in the system. You’ve been an NHL scout, what would be your message to the Leafs management team entering pre-draft meetings? More particularly, taking into account where Toronto will be picking, who are some guys you might say “Listen, if we can get this guy at 31”, or so and so at 60, who has made an impression on you. Which players out there fit the Buds wants and needs best as they move forward with the Shanaplan?
Firstly, the Leafs will have extensive meetings to have a clear direction on how Mike Babcock wants to coach this team for the next half decade so they will fill the needs he wants. The Leafs went out in last years Draft and almost exclusively drafted skill. They arguably took the most skilled guy on the board with 7 of their picks but in doing so, they sacrificed some size. I think they decided that they wanted to become a skilled, puck possession team but don’t forget that all of those moves were made Pre-Lou Lamoriello. It will be very interesting to see which direction they go this year because I think that Lou has proven over the years that he likes skill but he also likes size so they will have to make an organizational decision as to which path they are going to take. I think they need to get some size and add some heaviness to their future teams to play with the smaller skilled guys like Marner, Nylander, Bracco and Brown. That doesn’t mean that they should exclusively draft size over skill because elite offensive talent is the hardest commodity to find in the NHL but they need to get a little bigger. I also think they will put a premium on guys that can really skate because they want to play a faster game so guys who might have other deficiencies in their game but can really skate, may creep up their draft board. One other trend to watch as the draft progresses is an emphasis on character guys. Lou has always put a premium on that so they will be looking to draft guys that they feel can become part of the fabric of the team. I think this is why they have spent so much time interviewing guys because they want to get as many good people on draft day as they can because Lou realizes teams can’t win solely on skill.
As to who they can take, its too difficult to forecast because guys will fall that nobody expected but they are in a unique position with so many picks that if someone starts to tumble that they have ranked high, they can package up some picks and move up to grab him. Mark Hunter is a great evaluator and he has some good people working for him so they will have their list ready and won’t be afraid to swing for the fences, if they can.
As you stated, currency is there for the Maple Leafs to move up. You likely have an idea what the market will be and the price, who if they fall out of the Top 10, let’s say, would make you pull the trigger and move assets to go get that player?
I think if you see any of those 3 defensemen fall a bit, I wouldn’t hesitate to package up some assets and jump into the 10-15 range to get one of them. The other guy that will be interesting is Clayton Keller. He is a unique talent that has a chance to become a superstar so if he starts to slip, I’d have no qualms about jumping up to grab him but the problem is that they went small and skilled last year so I’d be surprised to see them do it. If a guy like Mike McLeod falls a bit, it will be quite tempting to jump up and solidify your Centre position with Matthews and McLeod for the next decade. Lastly, Julian Gauthier has become a bit of a forgotten man after a poor finish to the season but he has tremendous size, the ability to finish & he can skate so he might be someone that they jump up to get so he can ride shotgun for the smaller skilled guys.
Being familiar with both Hunter and Dubas draft philosophy in the OHL of going to the podium more than anyone, do you see that altering considering the quantity of picks and current prospects on the 50 man? Realistically, how many times do we take the microphone on Draft weekend?
As I said earlier, I think they will use those picks as assets to move all around the Draft board to grab guys that they really covet. Mark Hunter has a strong belief in his abilities to find players so they will be VERY active during the two days to position themselves where they can get guys they think represent true value. A few times that will involve them trading up but don’t be surprised if they trade down at times as well. By the end of the weekend, I would expect that they will have drafted 9 or 10 guys.
At the conclusion of the draft, what boxes will Toronto have to check for you to consider it another success?
Everyone wants to point to the goaltending and how they must address it, but I just don’t see it that way. I expect they will take one goaltender in the 3rd and one later but these kids won’t solve the goaltending issues for at least 5 or 6 years. For me, the weekend will be a success if they start to put the pieces together to building a Championship team and that means adding some size, continuing to stockpile skill and speed, & finding some defenders that can move the puck but also defend. On Saturday night, the Leafs, just like the other 29 teams will be RAVING about how good their 2 days were but I think fans should start to see the framework for a complete team in 4 years. If they add those elements that can complement the skill they already have in their system, they will continue on the path to a Championship. With that said, nobody should underestimate the time that this rebuild will take. They are adding pieces but they still have a long way to go because their most talented players are almost exclusively still teenagers.
We’d like to thank “Seids” for his time and the honesty in his opinions. To fully prepare yourself for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft be sure to order a copy of the NACS Draft Guide by messaging @MarkSeidel for details. I’ve read every profile, all 88 pages, and it’s every bit as fantastic as the insight given above and then some.
Just a reminder that our 2016 NHL Draft Guide is now for sale for $29.99 + tax. DM your email for ordering info! pic.twitter.com/NHhtM6NVhn
— NA Central Scouting (@MarkSeidel) June 15, 2016
LeafsHub.com would also like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs for proving their commitment this season to building a future Leafs Nation will be proud of. Which brings me lastly to the yourselves. Thank you for visiting the site all year for our prospect and Marlies coverage. We tried to do our part and shift the focus where it belonged as we all allowed this 30th place finish to transpire without much angst. We are quite sure that as we move forward the bulk of our attention will be placed on the NHL club, while continuing to keep everyone updated on our youth. Until then, enjoy the week.
You deserve it.