In 2015 the Leafs were successful in exploiting a market inefficiency by drafting smaller, higher ranked players who had slipped to lower rungs of the draft due to their size. They came out with some extremely skilled young players, however, you can’t have an entire team of undersized skill players without having some bigger bodies on the ice to win board battles, fight in the corners, and grind away on the opposition in order to get the puck onto the sticks of the smaller skilled players so they can score.
Larger players, who still possess skill are key in deterring predatory player from taking cheap shots at smaller players, like we saw happen to Andreas Johnson and Kasperi Kapanen in this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs. Players like Yegor Korshkov and JD Greenway can contribute on the skilled side of things, as well as make players think twice about taking a run at a Nylander, or Marner. Any successful NHL team has larger players, if any of the players chosen today can fill the role that Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnhackl played for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, they’ll be considered successful picks. The Leafs came into this weekend with a prospect pool that was undersized, and came away having rectified that situation.
Another part of the Leafs strategy in this draft centered around drafting overaged players who had been passed over in previous drafts. Theoretically, if a player wasn’t drafted in his initial draft year, he must not be as good as the players who will be drafted in theirs, right?
Wrong. A lot of times players are passed over for a variety of reasons. Size, strength, development being stunted by a poor situation are among the reasons that players could be passed over. The fact is that a guy could be a perfectly good prospect, but simply be passed over because teams have trouble evaluating and quantifying them due to any of the above reasons. They then re-enter the draft a possibility of two more times before potentially signing as an undrafted free agent.
The reasons for selecting an overaged player are: They’re further along in their development, and they’re closer to being eligible to be a part of your system. Because of the CHL-NHL transfer agreement, players are ineligible to play in the AHL or ECHL until the start of a season in which they will turn 20 before December 31, unless their junior team has been eliminated from competition for the season. So, if you draft a 20 year old, or a 19 year old that will turn 20 before December 31, you take immediate control of their development. They can play for your AHL and ECHL affiliates in the upcoming season, and spend more time with your strength and conditioning coaches, your nutrition and sports science staff, as well as your player development coaches than they would if they were playing junior hockey in, say, Moose Jaw or Red Deer. This seemed to be a big part of the Leafs selection process on Saturday, as they drafted multiple overaged players, as well as a pair of European pros who are exempt from the transfer agreement.
The Leafs came into this weekend with a plan, and it seems as though they executed it to perfection. Will it work? Only time and development will answer that.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS 2016 NHL DRAFT RECAP
It was an incredible weekend for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fan base. They have not held the first overall pick in the draft since 1985 when they selected fan favorite Wendel Clark, who Leaf fans still adore. The Maple Leafs clearly addressed some organizational needs this year in Buffalo. Let’s take a look at who they selected with their 11 draft picks.
1st Round, 1st Overall
C, Auston Matthews, Zurich, NLA, USNTDP
With the First overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft the Maple Leafs are proud to announce from Zurich and the USNTDP Auston Matthews.
Date of birth: September 17th, 1997
Place of birth: Scottsdale, Arizona
Height: 6’2 Weight: 215 lbs
The undisputed number one prospect in the draft, Auston Matthews has the capability to not only become a franchise centerman but also a Hall of Fame inductee. Okay okay.. I won’t get too ahead of myself but seriously, this kid is going to be a star. There was discussion that he could have gone ahead of Jack Eichel at last years draft, and we all know what everyone thinks of Jack Eichel. Auston Matthews is simply special, a generational talent. Matthews is described as a complete offensive forward with an elite hockey mind. He has extremely quick hands, feet, and a very lethal shot that will allow him to score from any area in the offensive zone.
Matthews had a very busy 2015-16 season, beginning with the move to Switzerland where he played for Marc Crawford’s Zurich Lions. Matthews was by far their best player as an 18 year old playing against men and was 2nd in MVP votes in the National League A. He played in 40 games, including 4 playoff games, with Zurich adding 24 goals and 49 points. In the middle of his season he left Switzerland to pursue a gold medal in Finland at the World Junior Championships. Matthews didn’t win a gold medal but he did impress scouts with his dominant play, showing he was a man amongst boys in skill, speed and strength. He added 7 goals and 11 points in 7 games played. Later in 2016 after his season in Switzerland had ended, Auston Matthews was invited to play with the United States Mens World Championship Team, a great compliment for any teenager, let alone one who hasn’t even been drafted in the NHL yet. He accepted the invite and was again USA’s best player. He scored 6 goals and 9 points in 10 games.
Auston Matthews also has been named to the U-23 Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey that will be hosted at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, a place that he will call home for a long time.
Matthews is expected to be in Toronto’s lineup at the beginning of the 2016-17 season and fans should look for him to start the year playing behind Nazem Kadri as Head Coach Mike Babcock will attempt to ease him into the riggers of NHL hockey.
2nd Round, 31st Overall
RW, Yegor Korshkov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL
Date of birth: July 10th, 1996
Place of birth: Novosibirsk, Russia
Height: 6’3 Weight: 180 lbs
A bit of a surprise selection here at 31st overall, as the Maple Leafs take a big 6’4 Russian winger who has a good package of size and skill. Korshkov went undrafted in 2014 and 2015 but was ranked 65th on Bob McKenzie’s 2016 draft rankings list after a very good season in Russia.
Yegor Korshkov is described as being a extremely good possession player that uses his size, speed and skill to hold onto the puck down low in the offensive zone. He loves using his body to shield the puck from defenceman and also loves to take the puck hard to the net. The big Russian has the ability to lead the rush with the puck and has the skill to make solid passes in full flight.
Korshkov scored 6 goals and 6 assists in 41 games playing in the KHL for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, where he was selected 8th overall in 2013.
He also had a great World Junior Championship this past year in Finland where he had 2 goals and 8 points in 7 games with Team Russia. That was a huge factor in influencing NHL scouts and a key reason why he was selected so high by the Leafs in 2016. Korshkov also spent some time with the Russian U20 Junior team where he scored 4 goals and 11 points in 15 games
If there is things for him to work on it is his quickness and his ability to make good of the chances he gets when generating scoring opportunities.
Yegor Korshkov will turn 20 this summer and seems like he can report to the pro level in North America very soon. He might be a candidate to come over and play for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL as soon as this upcoming season. Although, Korshkov does have a lot of growing to do in regards to putting on some weight, but do not be surprised if he is in a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey as soon as 2017-18, as he already has 2 years of pro experience in the KHL and will most likely play a third in 2016-17.
2nd Round, 57th Overall
LW, Carl Grundstrom, MODO Hockey, SHL
Date of birth: December 1st, 1997
Place of birth: Umea, Sweden
Height: 6’0 Weight: 195 lbs
With their 2nd pick in the 2nd round the Maple Leafs select Carl Grundstrom a 6’0 195 pound, high energy, in your face type of forward who excels on the forecheck. He can play on your teams penalty kill and has the capabilities to put the puck in the net. Grundstrom is a smart hockey player and although not the biggest guy on the ice, he loves the physical aspect of the game. Grundstrom also has a knack for creating havoc in front of the opponents net and chipping in dirty goals.
Carl Grundstrom appeared in 49 regular season games for the Swedish Hockey League’s Modo, where he put up decent numbers as a 18 year old scoring 7 goals and 16 points while not shying away from the older players, evident through his 53 penalty minutes. He raised his level of play during the playoffs where in 7 games scored 1 goal and 3 assists for Modo.
Carl Grundstrom was also a member of Sweden’s 2016 World Junior Team who ended up losing out to Kasperi Kapanen and Finland in the gold medal game.
He was ranked as the 40th rated prospect on Bob McKenzie’s draft rankings list and was selected right around where he was expected to go.
Grundstrom will be playing with the SHL’ reigning champion Frolunda Indians for the 2016-2017 season and is expected to stay in Sweden for at least another 2 years.
3rd Round, 62nd Overall
G, Joseph Woll, USNTDP
Date of birth: July 12th, 1998
Place of birth: Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, USA
Height: 6’3 Weight: 195 lbs
Toronto decided to address an organizational need in goal here with their first pick of the 3rd round. Ranked 5th on NHL Central Scouting NA goalie rankings and the 5th to go off the board in this years draft,
Future Considerations Scouting Report on Joseph Woll:
A poised and reliable butterfy-style puckstopper. He is very calm in his net, rarely looks panicked and is always in full control of his movements. He has a good anticipation of the developing plays around him, which allows him to accomplish some timely saves to keep his team in every game. His leg moves are also accurate and he always seems to find the right spot to be when a shot is taken. Woll moves well going post-to-post, although he could add some quickness in that regard. He is very quick popping up and dropping down, and mobile moving in and out of his crease. Woll is safe in that his large frame allows him to stay within his blue paint more often than not so he can get back if the approaching shooter fakes and goes for an in-close deke or pass instead. He is solid fundamentally, has quick reflexes’ and can make some acrobatic plays when necessary. He needs to track the puck better. Woll seems to lose sight of the puck in tight and also when the play is developing at the blue line. With his size, he should be able to fight through any crease traffic and see over players in front of him in an attempt to stop the puck.
Woll, who hasn’t even turned 18 years of age yet, has spent the last 2 years in the USNTDP where in 2014-15 played in 29 games for the U17 team posting a lousy 3.48 goals against average and a .886 save percentage but his numbers have been steadily climbing since. This past year he started 12 games in the USHL posting a 2.60 GAA and a .898 SVS%. His numbers were fairly good for the U.S playing in 33 games with a GAA of 2.14 and a SVS% of 9.18. At the tail end of his year the USA goaltender started in 3 games during the 2016 U18 World Championship in North Dakota. Woll had an exceptional tournament leading all goaltenders, including 55th overall selection Filip Gustavsson, while posting a 1.34 GAA along with a .947 SVS% and 1 shutout.
Joseph Woll looks to be a long-term project for the Maple Leafs as he will attend Boston College this fall and is expected to complete his 4 years there. College hockey will allow him to grow into his big frame and the Leafs will feel no pressure to rush the skillful net minder. Joseph Woll definitely has NHL starter potential.
3rd Round, 72nd Overall
D, J.D Greenway, USNTDP
Date of birth: April 27th, 1998
Place of birth: Potsdam, New York
Height: 6’4 Weight: 205 lbs
Dipping their feet into the USNTDP once again, the Maple Leafs decided to select a tall defenceman in J.D Greenway, who’s brother Jordan was drafted 50th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Minnesota Wild.
J.D Greenway is a big, heavy defenceman that as shown he has some good skill and skating ability, evident by the goal he scored in a game against Sweden at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships this past spring. Greenway plays with great physicality both with laying body checks and being hard to play against in front of his own net and along the boards.
Greenway added seven points in seven games at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships and Greenway racked up 28 points in 64 games with the USNTDP playing behind some pretty good offensive defencemen in Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren. I project him to be a shutdown defenceman at the pro level, although he does need to improve on his positioning, shot and defensive awareness. J.D Greenway will be attending the University of Wisconsin in 2016-17 and will be a long-term project for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
4th Round, 92nd Overall
C, Adam Brooks, Regina, WHL
Date of birth: May 6th, 1996
Place of birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Height: 5’10 Weight: 175 lbs
The Toronto Maple Leafs take one of the highest scoring overager’s available in the 2016 Draft in Regina Pats centreman Adam Brooks. Brooks was passed over in both the 2014 and 2015 drafts but after a fantastic year in the WHL this past season there was no chance he was getting passed over for a third time. Brooks racked up 38 goals and 82 assists for a total of 120 points in 72 regular season games. Not only did he lead the WHL in scoring during the regular season but Brooks also put up massive numbers during the playoff scoring 7 goals and 16 assists in only 12 games.
Adam Brooks is described as being an extremely skilled small forward who drives play with his offensive abilities. His smarts and vision separate him from most players and allowed him to do what he did in the WHL this year, and that was to completely dominate the score sheet. He is not afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice and loves to compete for the puck, his competiveness allows him to gain possession and then allows his skill and stick handling ability to take care of the rest.
Brooks was not given a real chance at the top 6 forward position in Regina in 2014 or 2015, but once he did get his chance this year he definitely showed everyone he was one of the best offensive players in junior hockey.
Adam Brooks appears to be another long-term project for the Maple Leafs because of his undeveloped body. Although, he is one of the older prospects of the draft at the age of 20, Brooks should be with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies next season.
4th Round, 102nd Overall
D, Keaton Middleton, Saginaw Spirit, OHL
Date of birth: February 10th, 1998
Place of birth: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Height: 6’5 Weight: 234 lbs
Maple Leafs went big with the 102nd overall pick Keaton Middleton. Ranked 71st on NHL Central Scoutings North American Skaters list, the 6’5 234 lbs defenceman didn’t put up offensive numbers but its said to bring a real mean dimension to his game. Middleton is extremely fierce in his own end supplying physical play and a good active stick. He does play primary penalty kill minutes for the Spirit and also appears on the second power play unit. The fact that he gets top minutes in Saginaw is huge for this players development. Like most big young prospects Middleton needs to work on his skating but the idea here is “you can’t teach size”.
Keaton Middleton is projected to be a number 5 or 6 defenceman in the NHL and is expected to bring little to any offence to the table. A projection pick by the Leafs that will most likely stay in the OHL for the next 2 years.
5th Round, 122nd Overall
LW, Vladimir Bobylyov, Victoria, WHL
Date of birth: April 18th, 1997
Place of birth: Lipetsk, Russia
Height: 6’2 Weight: 205 lbs
The Leafs select another overage Russian, but this time going to Western Canada for Victoria Royals winger Vladimir Bobylyov. His best asset appears to be his shot, couple that with a heavy frame and it makes Bobylyov a dangerous threat in the offensive zone.
He also brings a feisty side to his game, he will not shy away from the rough stuff as he fought fellow Leaf prospect Andrew Nielson in 2015.
In 2015-16 Bobylyov put up 28 goals and 39 assists in 72 games. He also added 7 assists in 5 games during the playoffs with the Royals.
He projects as a bottom 6 player at the next professional level and will report back to Victoria next season for a 3rd season in the CHL.
6th Round, 152nd Overall
LW, Jack Walker, Victoria, WHL
Hunter and company went back to the Victoria Royals for their first pick in the 6th round to select left-winger Jack Walker. Walker, who is Bobylyov’s linemate, is another 3rd year eligible player who is a smaller prospect at 5’11 180 lbs. He is known as a goal-scoring player for the Royals and has some good offensive upside. A versatile player who switched back and fourth between forward and defense, was very good at both positions for Victoria. Mark Hunter also expressed his love for Walker’s quickness and speed.
Walker will play one last year in the WHL and will turn pro in 2017-18.
6th Round, 179th Overall
D, Nicolas Mattinen, London, OHL
Date of birth: March 5th, 1998
Place of birth: Orleans, Ontario, Canada
Height: 6’4 Weight: 220 lbs
The Leafs continued to go after big rangy defencemen as they selected Nicolas Mattinen, a player Mark Hunter is familiar with as he played with the Memorial Cup winning London Knights. Mattinen did not play much because of the depth London had on their blue line with the likes of Victor Mete and Olli Juolevi and overager Jacob Graves.
Mattinen appeared in 39 games during the regular season putting up 4 goals and 10 points. He appeared in only 5 games during the playoffs. For a large kid Mattinen is decent with the puck and does have some offensive potential, he also does a good job in the defensive zone as well as closing the gap when the opponent is on the attack.
Nicolas Mattinen will be a big factor in London in the coming years as London Head Coach Dale Hunter will lean on the young 18 year old to play big minutes on the penalty kill as well as on the power play. Yet another project of a prospect for the Maple Leafs to practice patience with.
7th Round, 182nd Overall
FW, Nikolai Chebykin, HK MVD Balashikkha, MHL
Date of birth: August 1st, 1997
Place of birth: Moskva, Russia
Height: 6’3 Weight: 210 lbs
A big unknown prospect just like Martins Dzerkials was in 2015.
Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter describes Chebykin as a big strong kid who can move around the ice well. Leafs European Scout Ari Vuori expressed to Leafs management that this was a player he targeted and really wanted, per Mark Hunter.
Chebykin scored 13 goals and 22 assists in 39 games while playing in the MHL for HK MVD Balashikha. Prior to this past year he spent his time with the Russian U18 team. Hunter had mentioned that Chebykin is attending KHL camp and plans to play there in 2016-17.