Picks and Passes

Happy Draft Eve, Leafs Nation. We here at Leafs Hub have been hoping, fearing, and generally losing sleep over what Brendan Shanahan et al. will do with the 4th overall pick at the 2015 NHL Draft. Instead of mulling over the options mentally, we decided to write out wish lists for the big event in Florida this Friday. And what wish list is complete without mentioning what you specifically do not want? With that in mind, we asked our contributors to tell us which player they want the Leafs to pick and which they want Toronto to pass on with the 4th overall selection. These are all opinion-based, so we can’t be wrong, but feel free to lambaste our choices in the comments section.


Corey Connolly/@canucksnaphook


The PICK:

With the 4th Selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs are PROUD to select from the London Knights…Mitch Marner.

Why do I take him?  Speed and Skill. The NHL is only going to get faster, and Marner has the skating and speed as the foundation of his game.  In my opinion you do not want to select a player who MAY have the speed to keep up in the NHL. You want the player who CAN keep up to the speed right now and into the foreseeable future. Marner scored 126 pts in 63 games, and actually knows where his end of the ice is.  This is a London Knights mandate: you better be able to play defense. Marner also has been tried at all three forward positions in London, so his ability to move around will be an added bonus, making him very similar to Nylander, who can also move around but will likely play the wing in the NHL. Coupled with all of those facts, his skillset is off the charts, and he’s committed to the “team first” mantra, so the 5’11” Mitch Marner is my selection at #4.

(PS if the NHL goes to 3 on 3 overtime, can you imagine Rielly, Nylander, Marner out there as our first unit?)

The PASS:

I hate to sit on a fence on this one, so I say stay away from…Nobody. The simple fact of this draft is that throughout the entire TOP 10 there isn’t really a single player who wouldn’t help our franchise moving forward.  These players all have certain attributes that we need because our cupboards are so bare. If this draft wasn’t so deep, a guy who is ranked at 7 or 8 could easily be a Top 3 during another year (see Barzal, Crouse).  Sorry that I cannot hate or dislike any of these kids.  This will go down as a Draft that rivals the 2003 class and could quite possibly surpass it.


Robert DeRose/@DoctorRobert


The PICK:

Jeremy Bracco*. Yes you read that right. Jeremy Flippin Bracco. Here are 11 reasons why:

  1. Moves the puck efficiently and effectively.
  2. think he has the highest compete level in this year’s draft.
  3. This kid has all the tools to provide a Patrick Kanesque type offense.
  4. Corners. He does not shy away from corners.
  5. He possesses an elite skating ability.
  6. Magician-like soft hands.
  7. Aggressive on every shift.
  8. Remarkable playmaking skills.
  9. Never fails to get back on defense.
  10. Elusive and shifty in tough areas.
  11. Release. He can already snipe at the NHL level.

So much has been written about this pick and the prospects available. Read between the lines. Mitch Marner is going to be a beaut!

*Jeremy Bracco is a tremendous player, but not quite worthy of a top 10 projection.

The PASS:

Anyone who isn’t named Dylan Strome or Mitch Marner. One of these guys will be available, and it is vital that we draft them for two reasons: 1) The Leafs have a great opportunity to secure an elite talent from their own neck of the woods. They cannot pass up on that. Ideally, I would love to snag both of these good ol’ Taranna boys (thumbs up), but that’s highly unlikely. 2) The Leafs can finally obtain a first-line centre. Sure, the Buds need defensive help. And sure, a pairing of Rielly and Hanifin or Provorov would be terrific. However, this team hasn’t had a legitimate topline centre since Mats Sundin. I think it may be more advantageous to rebuild around Rielly and a top centre rather than to rebuild around two top defensemen. But then again, people say defense wins championships. At the end of the day, I’ll be happy with whoever the Leafs choose at the 4th spot.


Disgruntled Hopeful/@LeafsLostSoul


The PICK:

This is very tough call to make. Do I pick Mitch Marner? Besides the top 2, this kid could be the most skilled hockey player with the most upside and the potential to could become the next electric player to watch. Showtime? This kid would be Primetime.

Do I pick Dylan Strome if available? Why not? This kid has the potential to become that 1C that LeafsNation has yearned for since the salty departure of Mats Sundin. Size! Scoring! Skating may be a slight downfall, but you don’t win a scoring title from luck. He knows where to be and how to finish, and he has some great vision when passing the puck.

Do I pick Noah Hanifin? The top-rated defensemen in this class may be the perfect piece to play alongside our very skilled Morgan Reilly. Imagine having a Reilly/Hanifin combo driving play for the next 7-10 years and charging the way to glory.

All in all, the choice here is not easy, and for the first time in forever, I may have total faith in Leafs management. Shanny’s version of the modern-day Avengers is built to succeed and prosper through pain and hard work.

Basically what I’m saying is I cannot make up my mind, so on a coin flip I will say the Leafs Draft Noah Hanfin. Why? A Hanifin/Rielly combo for many years to come is too tantalizing to not yearn to see. Growing up playing some hockey and soccer, my coaches always hinted that you are only as strong as your backend. The backend drives play forward and is responsible for giving a goalie a fighting chance.

The PASS:

Who the Leafs should pass on is an even tougher question. This top 10 is truly wonderful and full of a variety of skillsets. Although it pains me to say it because I love big, strong, and hard-hitting forwards, the Leafs need to stay away from picking Lawson Crouse. Crouse is a pick that a team makes when they are 3/4 of the way “there”. Crouse is not a player you build around, and the Leafs haven’t even started building yet. They are still in the demolition phase. Crouse will go in the top 15, possibly top 10, but to a team that needs his edge.

The Leafs don’t need an edge yet, they haven’t even sanded the surface. I could see Crouse going to a team like Florida, full of young stars now and on the brink of a playoff run and possible championship contention within the next 3 years (just in time for their move to Quebec), Crouse could make his NHL debut when they become a contender. Don’t laugh, they will.


Oak D/@Oak_Leafs


The PICK:

  • Fact: Based on the consensus among every highly respected analyst who’s written/spoken ad nausuem about this draft class, it’s clear picking 3rd-5th will land an A+ prospect whose rankings are largely interchangeable.
  • Fact: If not for McDavid/Eichel, it’s widely felt that said #3-5 prospects would have generated debate as to who’s 1st-3rd in most other draft years.
  • Fact: There is ONE natural centre in the current 3-5 group.
  • Fact: The Leafs need to develop high-end centres.
  • Fact: The fukn Leafs need to develop high end goddam centres.

Though enough has been said regarding Dylan Strome’s less-than-stellar skating and lack of tenacity in the d-zone, these observations are driven largely by pundits having to justify why they’d rank him slightly below Marner/Hanifin…satisfying the consumer demand for enlightened evidence via nit-picking.  Bottom line – Strome is a can’t miss C prospect who, as mentioned, would be otherwise worthy of first-overall consideration.

Given the fact that any of Strome, Marner or Hanifin would make solid picks, why the hell not use this rare opportunity to address a cornerstone position, especially for this franchise.  Though Nylander remains a promising C prospect, he could end up being as good as, let’s say…Kadri (which would be good). With all due respect to both of them, Strome’s size and well-documented hockey IQ present the enticing possibility that he could bring qualities which, if developed properly, could set him apart as a 1C candidate.  At worst case, I’d sooner regret missing out on a skilled winger or solid dman for the sake of taking Strome than missing a chance at a rare front line C talent. That would be unforgivable for a franchise that’s lacked that middle presence since Mats happily donned a Canucks jersey.  If available, it’s gotta be Strome.

The PASS:

There is little doubt that Mitch Marner will be an excellent player. Even more impressive is that some have suggested his ceiling is that of a potential star.  Although I’d love to have a player of his promise in our system, I remain steadfast that organizational builds revolve around centres and defense.  Though many suggest Marner has the skill to make the move to C, I’m not sure I’d bank on that historically difficult transition, especially since there is a natural C ranked as highly.  Some might argue that it doesn’t matter if he projects as a C or winger because he should be rated based on sheer talent, but I largely turn deaf to that argument. My recent hockey existence has been tragically tainted by a team which, despite being blessed with elite offensive wingers, offers further evidence to the fact that you’re hopeless as fuck without capable C talent.

Hanifin also represents a promising prospect at another cornerstone position, but in the end I’m uneasy about possibly blowing a rare lottery pick on an NCAA dman when there is a C prospect available in the same blue-chip group.


Keon/@Stormin_Forman


The PICK:

With the #4 pick I’d like the Leafs to select Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Bigger than Marner, just as skilled, and a center—those are the main reasons behind my thinking. The Leafs are unlikely to land Strome and we all know they have a pressing need for a potential #1 center. Selecting Barzal would address that need, but would not compromise on taking the best player available. When I watch him, I see Adam Oates. While Marner is supremely skilled, there’s no guarantee he will reach the size of Barzal (listed at 6 feet, 181 pounds) and the concussion Marner sustained in the playoffs is a worry. Barzal is coming off an injury as well, but as we have seen with Morgan Rielly, knee injuries at a young age can be overcome. I feel Barzal is the Morgan Rielly of the 2015 draft. If he hadn’t sustained his injury, would he be pushing Strome for the #3 spot?
The PASS:

The player I don’t want the Maple Leafs to select with the first pick is Lawson Crouse. Love his size, love his all-around game, but don’t like his hands. I don’t think his offensive game will translate to the NHL. In my opinion, picks in the top 5, perhaps top 10 of a draft should be used to select talent with high-end skill, especially in a strong draft class like this year. While the scouts obviously love him, I see a player who, in the end, won’t be a top 3 forward, maybe not even a top 6. The Leafs are thin on talent and skill. They started to remedy that weakness last June, so I feel it’s imperative that they don’t deviate from the plan in a year that has so much skill to offer.


Mike / @GilmourFan4ever


The PICK: Mitch Marner

Watch the 2015 playoffs and you’ll see that the NHL has shifted to a faster, skilled form of hockey. You witnessed the Blackhawks glance off checks from the large imposing forwards of the Anaheim Ducks. Tyler Johnson (all 5’9” of him) proved that he can hang with the top dogs.

Marner isn’t that small. He is the same height as Crobsy (5’11”). He just needs to put on weight, which I’m sure he will. Marner is a special player. He brings the speed, skill, and offensive intelligence of a Patrick Kane—with a dogged 200ft defensive game as well. He kills penalties. He blocks shots. And unlike most guys with his skill and size, he chooses to go to the dirty areas of the ice when he could easily coast as a perimeter player and still be successful. He is the prototypical NHL star in today’s game.

He has played at C/W and I think if he fills out he can be a capable C in the NHL. If he fits better on the wing you still end up with one of the most skilled players in the 2015 draft.

The PASS: Noah Hanifin

I’m not as well versed in Hanifin’s game as I am with CHL players, but I have seen the skill and abilities he can bring to the table. There’s no doubting that against NCAA competition in limited games, Hanfin has looked like a strong player. What makes me push away from Noah is that many scouts do not believe he will be a dominant point producer in the NHL. They believe he will be more of a two way puck mover with size who can put up Erik Johnson like numbers.

While the leafs could use a player of Noah’s stature on the backend, I don’t feel they are in the position to draft a player who won’t produce at the same level as some of the forwards available in the draft around him.

I believe we have some decent defence prospects coming up (Loov. Valiev, Nilsson), and Rielly, Gardiner, and Percy are expected to play a large role on the backend this coming season. We can also find D talent later in the draft or via trade. Outside of Nylander we have no frontline forwards coming through the system.

I believe you take the most talented player available, and if Marner is there at 4, he is the most talented player available.


James McClure/@RinkRover


The PICK:

Mitch Marner is the guy we tried to convince ourselves that we already had in Phil Kessel: an elite forward who makes everyone around him better. Kessel improves his linemates substantially, but only for 75 feet of ice. He’s invisible during dogfights in the neutral zone, and he’s a liability in his own end of the rink. Say what you want about the validity of plus/minus as a stat, but the -100 that Toronto’s topline reached cumulatively last season proves that you don’t want Kessel in your foxhole when you’re protecting a lead. Marner may stand no higher than his current 5’11” stature, but he offers a 200 foot game. He’s a wizard offensively, and a miniature bulldog defensively, guarding passing lanes, hounding puck-carriers, and forcing turnovers. Plus, he makes Kessel expendable to the rebuild, so the Leafs can look to fill another hole by trading #81.

The PASS:

Dylan Strome will play for an NHL team, but I hope it isn’t the Leafs. Although Strome won the OHL scoring title, much of that honour belongs to teammate Connor McDavid. True, McDavid typically centred the Erie Otters’ topline while Strome manned the second, but that means Strome had the luxury of playing against the opposition’s lesser defenders while their best blueliners focused on containing Erie’s phenom. Plus, Strome played with McDavid on the power play, which certainly helped boost his points. So is Strome an offensive catalyst, or did he simply capitalize on his chances against softer competition? Time will tell, but if the Leafs want to take a chance on a player who still needs to prove himself, I’d rather see them trade down and take Mathew Barzal for the same reason @Stormin_Forman mentioned: Barzal could be this year’s Morgan Rielly if he bounces back from a knee injury.


SPECIAL GUEST: Mark Seidel, North American NHL Central Scouting


In South Carolina for a meeting but I’ll be down there soon enough…

The PICK:

Mitch Marner fits into the “new” NHL in that he possesses incredible skill & vision for the game, and although he isn’t going to overpower anybody, he isn’t as small as many think. He has the ability to contribute offensively on both the power play and at 5-on-5, and with the Leafs’ burning desire to increase their overall skill, he would be a great fit at #4.

The best value that the Leafs could get at the #4 spot would be the big defender from Boston College, Noah Hanifin. His combination of size, skill and skating ability make him a potential franchise defender, and a combination of Rielly & Hanifin would solidify the Leafs on the backend for years to come. As we saw in the Playoffs this year with Hedman & Keith, franchise defenseman are nearly impossible to find, but when you do get one, they can have dramatic effects on a Team, and that is what Noah Hanifin can offer.

The PASS:

I have heard many analysts and “experts” project that the Leafs will take Provorov at #4, and I feel strongly that this would be a poor selection. There is no doubt that Provorov had a great year, and he is a solid prospect, but the objective for every team on draft day is to maximize their selections, and quite frankly, they could move down a bit, gather some extra assets and still get Provorov a few spots lower.


CONCLUSION


To recap, here’s how the voting breaks down (when adjusted for writers who chose more than one player in their responses):

Player Votes For Votes Against

Jeremy Bracco * 1 0
Lawson Crouse 0 3
Noah Hanfin 2 2
Mitch Marner 4 1
Dylan Strome 2 1
Mathew Barzal 1 1
Ivan Provorov 0 2

 

*no, not really

There you have it: the clear favourite among our staff is Mitch Marner, with Dylan Strome coming in second, and the split vote on Noah Hanfin landing the Boston College defenceman in third. Meanwhile, all bragging rights will go to @Stormin_Forman if the Leafs pick Mathew Barzal 4th overall. But if Toronto drafts either Lawson Crouse or Ivan Provorov with the 4th overall pick, then it’s safe to say that Leafs Hub will be in mourning.

Tell us what you think of our picks and give us your picks here and passes in the comments!

Thanks for reading

@RinkRover

 

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