We Look Back at Former Leafs Draft Picks at 24 and Who is Next
Many articles have focused on the Leafs’ first pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Rightfully so, as the Leafs will select fourth overall in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. But let’s examine the lesser talked about first round draft pick held by the Maple Leafs. This pick (along with Brendan Leipsic) was acquired from the Nashville Predators for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. After the Predators bowed out in the opening round of the playoffs, the pick took its official place as the 24th overall selection in this year’s draft.
Projecting who might be taken 24th overall is tricky because the 2015 prospect pool is drowning in talent. In another Leafs Hub article, Craig Button (TSN’s Director of Scouting) notes that a prospect who is ranked at the 21st spot may be selected at the 40th spot and vice versa. Each team has their own prospect rankings and depending on how the draft plays out, there is no real way of telling who will be the best player available when the Leafs make their second draft choice. Nevertheless, I will attempt to project the possible candidates for the 24th pick.
Something to keep in mind…
Not that this has any impact on the Leafs’ selection, let’s take a look at some notable former 24th overall picks: Kevin Hayes, Marcus Johansson, Mikael Backlund, TJ Oshie, Mike Richards, Alexander Steen and Brad Boyes. As you can see, in recent history, the Leafs have held the 24th overall pick a couple of times as they selected Brad Boyes in 2000 and Alexander Steen in 2002. The club has also held this pick in 1999 when they drafted Swiss centre Luca Cereda who would never play a game in the NHL. So who might the Maple Leafs draft at the 24th spot in 2015? Below, I have compiled all of my research in a fancy little report. Enjoy!
*** Footnote: Instead of pretending like I knew all about these prospects, I contacted and referenced scouts who did! Special thanks to Mark Seidel of NA Central Scouting who provided me with his views on several of these candidates for the 24th pick. ***
Evgeny Svechnikov (ISS Ranking: 18 Craig Button Ranking: 17 Bob McKenzie: 18)
QMJHL – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – GP: 55 G: 32 A: 46 PTS: 78
Back in March, Mike Morreale of NHL.com participated in a mock draft and he had the Leafs taking Svechnikov with this pick. Although, I am almost 100% positive that Svechnikov will not drop this far, it gives us Leafs fans something to think about. Especially because Russian players slip in the draft all the time. In saying that, after reading several interviews with Svechnikov, I am fairly confident that he is the type of kid teams don’t want to pass up on. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that he gets drafted by Edmonton or Winnipeg at the 16th or 17th spots, respectively. For this reason, the Leafs will need to make a trade in order to obtain a talent like Svechnikov. (Note: This is the only prospect on my list who probably won’t be available at #24.)
To get a better gauge of Svechnikov and what he’s all about, let’s take a look at an excerpt from an exclusive interview he did with Jude MacDonald of Leafs Hub:
“He almost chuckles in the best way when asked if he could handle the pressure of playing in Toronto. ‘For me it’s not pressure. It’s Hockey. I love it and it’s fun. I don’t pay attention to that. I’m just thinking of my family and working hard and enjoying the game.’
There’s something about him that is so likeable…
‘I have to work on keeping my game simple. I know there are things you can’t do in the NHL and I want to learn so much.’
He’s definitely to not going to the KHL. He told me himself. There is no going back for him.
Cape Breton loves him. The whole community loves him. He’s light-hearted, level- headed, and a big time worker off the ice. He can be last one at the gym even after his best nights.”
This blue collar attitude is something that has been desperately lacking from the Maple Leafs of late. But with Svechnikov, it’s not all about character…he has the skills to make him worthy of the 16th overall selection. He’s a good skater with elite offensive skills. He can dangle, snipe and make crisp passes. Svechnikov also has some tremendously powerful size as the kid is 6’2″ and weighs in at 201 lbs. He’s only 18 years old and he’s already the size of James van Riemsdyk who’s 26!
Jake DeBrusk (ISS Ranking: 27 Craig Button Ranking: 21 Bob McKenzie: 28)
WHL – Swift Current Broncos – GP: 72 G: 42 A: 39 PTS: 81
“A personal favorite…Very different game than his dad except for the tenacity which is the same…Hard on the puck…Has more finish than people think..Smart player…Understands the game…Can play a puck possession game…A winner.” – Mark Seidel
There is an excellent chance that this kid will be available for the Leafs to scoop up with the 24th pick. DeBrusk has been described as a hard working winger who plays a strong 200-foot game. He simply prides himself on playing the game the right way. In other words, he does not cheat for the sole purpose of offensive production. See Phil Kessel for a better understanding of “cheating” in hockey. In an NHL.com article, the Edmonton native said he moulds his game after three time Stanley Cup champion Marian Hossa. Furthermore, DeBrusk is the type of player who thrives on playing in front of the net, grinding in the corners and battling for pucks. Notably, DeBrusk played on a line with Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner during the Top Prospects Game that was held this past January. He is definitely the type of player playoff teams look to snag with late first round picks. In my opinion, this kid is a safe bet to make the NHL one day. If he can raise his offensive production to the NHL level, then DeBrusk will be an absolute steal with the 24th pick.
Jansen Harkins (ISS Ranking: 25 Craig Button Ranking: 23 Bob McKenzie: 30)
WHL – Prince George Cougars – GP: 70 G: 20 A: 59 PTS: 79
“Coach’s kid with a really high hockey IQ…Solid 200 foot game…Will never put up big offensive numbers…Will end up probably as a solid 3rd line Centre….Coach’s will love him…Would like to see more jam out of him…I don’t love him as much as some.” – Mark Seidel
Another two-way forward from the WHL. Like DeBrusk, Harkins is a hard working player who plays the game the right way. However, it would appear that he is much stronger defensively than he is offensively. Scouts have described him as an efficient centre who pays attention to detail and makes the game difficult for opponents. In addition, he has also been seen as a leader in every dressing room he’s ever been in. And yes that does matter. Believe it or not, scouts look for good character traits in players. Nevertheless, he may not be the best option available when the Leafs go up to make their second selection at the draft. But he will definitely be in the discussion.
Denis Guryanov (ISS Ranking: 24 Craig Button Ranking: 20 Bob McKenzie: 21)
MHL – Lada Togliatti – GP: 23 G: 15 A: 10 PTS: 25
— NA Central Scouting (@MarkSeidel) May 31, 2015
Guryanov may or may not be available at the 24th spot. As you can see above, Craig Button and Bob McKenzie think this kid will be drafted 3-4 picks prior. If he has not been selected before the 24th pick, then he may very well be the best player available under those circumstances. So, what type of player are you getting out of this young Russian international? Guryanov is a hulking 6’3″ power-forward who nearly weighs in at 200 lbs. Oh and he just celebrated his 18th birthday a couple of weeks ago! He has compared himself to Valeri Nichushkin, but he aspires to be like Alex Ovechkin despite playing on the opposite wing.
In all honesty, I do not know much about him. So here’s what Goran Stubb (Director of European Scouting) had to say about Guryanov:
“A dynamic goal scorer who is full of surprises, he is a strong, tough, power forward who goes hard to the net using his physical strength and size. He protects the puck well, is difficult to stop when at full speed and always tries to use his strong shot.” (Taken from this NHL.com scouting report.)
Jakub Zboril (ISS Ranking: 22 Craig Button Ranking: 26 Bob McKenzie: 14)
QMJHL – Saint John Sea Dogs – GP: 44 G: 13 A: 20 PTS: 33
“Good feet…Does a lot of things well but nothing exceptional…Bit of a throwback defender…Plays a North American style of game…Not as much offense as some like to believe…Blocks shots…Not a star but a solid piece.” – Mark Seidel
If the Leafs select a forward with the 4th overall pick and they do not acquire any additional 2015 first round picks, then they will most certainly draft a defenseman with their 24th selection. Zboril is a defender who might slip to 24th, but most scouts believe he will be drafted before then. He describes himself as an offensive defenseman who tries to mould his game off of Nicklas Lidstrom. Zboril is a safe bet to make the NHL one day, but only time will tell how good he can become.
Word of Warning: Zboril loves P.K Subban and the Montreal Canadiens.
Jeremy Roy (ISS Ranking: 23 Craig Button Ranking: 27 Bob McKenzie: 29)
QMJHL – Sherbrooke Phoenix – GP: 46 G: 5 A: 38 PTS: 43
“Could be a good fit at the #24 position if he is still on the Board…Kid has good offensive instincts & has developed his overall defensive game…Makes very good decisions on the PP…Much stronger than he looks…Size is a bit of a concern in trying to defend in the NHL.” – Mark Seidel
Jeremy Roy could very well be the Leafs second pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. As Seidel has mentioned, Roy plays a strong two-way game while placing a special emphasis on offense. Last season, he led his team’s defensive core in scoring and finished first amongst QMJHL rookie defensemen in goals, assists and points. This is remarkable given the fact that Roy only played in 46 regular season games. Furthermore, he has been praised for his maturity and good character traits. Some scouts have likened him to Duncan Keith, but this might be a rather hasty comparison.
Oliver Kylington (ISS Ranking: 32 Craig Button Ranking: 47 Bob McKenzie: 24)
Allsvenskan – AIK – GP: 17 G: 4 A: 3 PTS: 7
“Biggest variance of ANY Player in the Draft…Incredible feet…Good offensive instincts…Really looked disinterested at times…Has played very effectively at times but struggled in 2015…Tools are there but he needs to put it together…Been over-analyzed…Elite offensive skills…Can he defend is the question…If he is there at #24, he is a huge high reward/high risk guy.” – Mark Seidel
Kylington is one of those guys who could go early in the draft, but he might also fall into the late first round/early second round. Button has him going 47th overall and ISS recently dropped him from their top 30. However, Bob McKenzie selected Kylington to be drafted at the 24th spot. He must see a good fit between the young Swedish defender and the Leafs. Notably, CSS has him ranked 6th amongst European skaters in their final rankings. This is troublesome as he was ranked first amongst European skaters after the midterm projections. So, should the Leafs take a chance on this kid? Yes. The Leafs need a defenseman and this kid could become quite the reward. A few years down the road, he might be considered to be the best defenseman drafted in 2015. In saying that, the Leafs will only make this pick if long-time European scout Thommie Bergman thinks the kid is a slam dunk.
Something Odd: NHL.com held this poll which suggests that Kylington could be drafted in the top 5.
Ilya Samsonov (ISS Ranking: N/A Craig Button Ranking: 14 Bob McKenzie: 19)
MHL – Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk – GP: 18 GAA: 2.66 SVS: 0.918
The Toronto Maple Leafs do not need goaltending help. However, if Ilya Samsonov is still available at the 24th spot, Mark Hunter may be tempted to select a goalie. Samsonov is currently the top ranked goalie in this year’s draft and he would be hard to pass up on. The kid is only 18 years young and he is already a solid 6’3″ and 201 lbs. I believe if the Leafs were to invest a first rounder on a goalie then it would surely mean that they potentially see this kid as their future starter. Thus giving management all the more reason to ship out James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier this offseason.
Awards: U18 WJC Best Goaltender (2014/2015), U18 WJC Top 3 Player on Team (2014/2015)
Mitchell Vande Sompel (ISS Ranking: 74 Craig Button Ranking: 25 Bob McKenzie: 63)
Reasons: He’s a skilled defenseman who recently won the Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals. But more importantly, take a look at who his favourite team and player is: Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly. Maybe his old coach D.J. Smith will play a role in swaying the Leafs to select him with the 24th pick?
Brandon Carlo (ISS Ranking: 21 Craig Button Ranking: 52 Bob McKenzie: 22)
Reasons: He is a 6’5″ defensive defenseman who isn’t afraid to get physical. If the Leafs take a forward at the 4th spot and Carlo is still around by #24, they may be inclined to draft this imposing Tri-City Americans defenseman.
Paul Bittner (ISS Ranking: 17 Craig Button Ranking: 35 Bob McKenzie: 20)
Reasons: A 6’4″ American winger who utilizes both skill and size. Bittner has demonstrated that he is a true power-forward while playing for the Portland Winterhawks the past three seasons.
Daniel Sprong (ISS Ranking: 26 Craig Button Ranking: 38 Bob McKenzie: 33)
Reasons: A Dutch-born, Canadian scoring winger. He sniped 39 goals in the QMJHL last season while adding another 49 assists. He led the Charlottetown Islanders in regular season scoring and in playoff scoring. Sprong will likely be the most offensively gifted player available at the 24th spot.
Gabriel Carlsson (ISS Ranking: 30 Craig Button Ranking: 56 Bob McKenzie: 27)
Reasons: Carlsson was ranked #2 (European Skaters) by the NHL Central Scouting. He has been described as a sturdy defenseman with few holes in his game. However, he may be lacking in offensive production. Fun Fact: Carlsson is from the same hometown as legendary Leafs’ defenseman Carl Gunnarsson.
Most of these players have a good chance of falling into the Leafs draft range late in the first round. Ideally, the Leafs would love to snag a talent like Svechnikov, but he’ll definitely be gone in the top twenty. Zboril, Guryanov and Samsonov will most likely not be available at the 24th spot as well. Furthermore, I firmly believe that the Leafs will choose a forward with their 4th overall pick. Thus, they will decide to select a defenseman with their second pick in the draft as long as they don’t acquire any additional 2015 first round picks. For all these reasons, I believe that the Leafs will end up selecting Oliver Kylington with their 24th pick. This prediction is truly meaningless whether I am correct or incorrect. There are too many variables and possibilities. Who knows how the draft will play out? Maybe some highly touted prospects slip in the draft. Maybe the Leafs make some significant trades that slightly alter their draft strategy. Maybe the Leafs trade away the 24th pick altogether. All these scenarios make it nearly impossible to foresee how the draft will unfold. But nevertheless, for what it’s worth, I’m betting on Kylington at #24.
Since it is so incredibly difficult to predict who will be left as the first round comes to a close, I leave it to you Leafs Hubbers…who do you think the Leafs will draft with the 24th pick?