With the structure of the today’s National Hockey League, taking into account the salary cap, in turn a reliance on affordable youth, and now with what our era has shown us on how the top organizations have acquired their most absolute and purest requirements in becoming a winner. I’m not sure the Entry Draft has ever been as undeniably important.
It’s become common hockey knowledge these days, if it wasn’t already, you build through the draft. Otherwise you’ll likely be chasing your tail, and never catch up. Not only is it increasingly essential to mould a team through the podium announcements of early summer, but the picks you continue to make will be paramount in sustaining any degree of continued success. Bottom line, make good picks and make lots of them. Get lots of quality chances, bury some.
Here in Toronto we’ve been heavily focused on the draft process over the past few years. As a fan base and as a management group, everyone knew what had to happen. The Maple Leafs had to start fresh, and that meant bottoming out, acquiring multiple picks, and hitting some homers. As it turned out, there’s been a few grand slams, monster shots, and still loads of runners on base.
So a foundation of elite core pieces have been established and along with the Matthews’ and the Marner’s, a deep crop of talent has been sewed. There is a new, refreshing philosophy in Toronto when it comes to adding young troops. I’ve printed this before but it bears repeating. In the years Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter were OHL GM’s simultaneously they were ranked #1 and #2 in quantity of selections during that span. It seems they’ve brought their strategy with them to the Maple Leafs boardroom and don’t expect it to change anytime soon. Doesn’t in 2018, where we already have more tickets to cash than the field.
The 2017 draft may not be on the front burner of Maple Leafs fans mind as we begin to partake in what looks to be an exhilarating playoff run. But make no mistake, the magnitude is not lost on management or those who cheer wildly and are attentive. Everyone involved knows there are holes to fill and now we finally know the best, most efficient way to fill them. Homegrown is the way to go.
Toronto have 8 picks accumulated already for 2017, one in each round and two in the 2nd. Don’t be at all surprised if they acquire more. UFA’s possibly on the move along with other veteran names who keep coming up lead one to believe Gary will be likely asking the Leafs to come forward as many as ten times. This will provide the Leafs with maximum flexibility. We talk, Babcock talks, everybody talks about compete. Well the best are competing in this world too. Be the best drafting organization in hockey. Be the best scout you can be.
I think it’s a decent time to give some attention to the young guys who could be pulling on Leafs jerseys come June, or even just who’ll be entering the league. I can’t think of a better, more informative way to do that than with the help of our friend of the site, Chief Scout for North American Central Scouting, Mark Seidel.
Thanks in large part to a great working relationship between the NACS and LeafsHub.com over the past few years, Mark has honored us with the privilege of releasing their 2017 Draft Rankings as we approach the midway point of the season. Names like Foote,Hague, Suzuki, and obviously Nolan Patrick, are just a few Leafs fans should be eyeing. Yet there are so many others and I can’t think of a more reliable, trustworthy, or just plain knows wtf he’s talking about, source than Seidel (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) and his staff to lay this draft class out in order for everyone. As you can see, there’s nothing “Seids” hasn’t done on the scouting end and if you ask anyone in and around the game they’ll echo our sentiment of due respect.
Keeping that in mind, I’ll make one suggestion to those who enjoy the draft experience and take pride in their prospect knowledge. This June the 2017 NACS Draft Guide will be available for purchase and after having it the past few drafts I wouldn’t go without it. Improves the experience, player profiles of the things you want to know, extra content, category rankings and winners, for any of you who’ve picked one up in the past you know exactly what I’m talking about. For lack of a better word, it’s excellently done. Have a copy by your side at your fingertips on draft day.
LeafsHub.com gives you the North American Central Scouting Draft Rankings as of January 2017, from 1-215. Included along with these rankings is an alphabetized list as well as a select group of both “risers” and “fallers”, equipped with a written analysis and explanation from Seidel with each.
NACS Draft Rankings
Sorted By Estimated Draft Position
Some Rise and Fall notes from Mark Seidel of NACS
Nico Hischier – (2) Halifax – We had him at #2 to start December but his performance at the 2017 WJC’s only cemented his standing. Furthermore, he has closed the gap with Nolan Patrick. The dynamic Swiss star has the “it” factor that many teams covet. He will score at the NHL level on a consistent basis.
Finn Evans – (75) St. Michaels – We were slow to really like this kid but his recent play, including at the World Junior A Challenge, has proven that he has a very complete game. His size and upside will excite some teams in June.
Martin Necas – (15) Brno Kometa – Necas jumped into the fire of the World Juniors and carried the Czechs at times. He showed his full offensive skill set throughout the tournament and proved to be a leader on an overachieving team.
Zach Gallant – (63) Peterborough – We have been very hard on the 5th overall pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection but has he turned the corner. The big, solid LC has been a big part of why the Petes have been on fire lately. Although we still don’t think he will put up big offensive numbers, teams are always looking for big sturdy Centremen.
Keith Petruzzelli – (88) Muskegon – The massive goaltender has turned us into believers. He is continually improving & his MVP performance in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects game was very impressive. Although he is still raw, he moves well & has been dominant at times in the 1st half.
Adam Ruzicka – (90) Sarnia – We are always willing to give an import player a few months to adjust to the CHL but Ruzicka just hasn’t done enough to warrant being in the 1st round (Which is where he started the season). His play at the WJC’s was up & down & although he has the physical tools, he is going to have to pick it up in the 2nd half.
Nikita Popugaev – (29) Prince George – The massive left winger started the year very well and crept into our Top 15 but his play in the CIBC Canada/Russia series was just mediocre. He continues to put up points but & has the skills to dominate but we see a lot of holes in his game. Hopefully his recent trade to Prince George will convince him to develop his overall game.
Artyom Minulin- (82) Swift Current – Although he is having a good year in Swift Current, we expect so much more from the big strong defender. He still makes the smart simple play but his feet still have to keep getting better.
Jacob Paquette – (78) Kingston – Another big defender that we had high hopes for but his first half has been just ok. He moves well and is solid defensively but his offensive ceiling isn’t tremendously high and thus he continues to fall slightly in our rankings. Truthfully, he has been outplayed by his teammate Eemeli Rasanen which is something we never expected.
Adam Tilander – (97) North Bay – Tilander started the year in our top 20 but his conversion to the North American game has been slow. He has improved his defensive game a lot under Stan Butler but nobody is going to draft him as a defensive defenseman. We need to see more intensity and start showing the offensive creativity that we fell in love with.
Share with friends in any market, this is not only Leafs-centric. Make your own notes, circle names of interest, and really get the most of this enjoyable and crucial process. Following Leafs prospects and the passion involved with watching any of hockey’s youth grow and eventually get drafted, it’s one of the wonderful parts of our game.
We’d like to thank Mark Seidel and his group once again not only for allowing us to exclusively share their findings, but more so for the hard work they put into keeping us all informed. Let’s see if Hunter and the boys can’t hit a few more dingers this year! With a bevy of picks and his acumen, I love his odds. Please send us your thoughts, questions, feedback, and personal knowledge as it pertains to players you’d like to see Toronto select, or not select. We, with more of Mark’s help, will get further into evaluations the closer we get to June. Specific needs, D and goaltending, maybe a center or two. LeafsHub.com will have one eye on the playoffs and one eye on our future.
I like where the Maple Leafs organization is, but we all know smart, savvy drafting will take us even further and keep us where we belong for many years to come. Best of luck to all those eligible this year. No matter where or with who they land, it’s a dream come true.