The Toronto Maple Leafs went into the 2012 NHL Draft with six selections, including the fifth overall. While General Manager Brian Burke did little to surprise with his selections, there was some big news at the conclusion of the draft.
Burke dealt former fifth-overall pick in 2008, defenseman Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for the former second-overall pick in 2007, forward James Van Riemsdyk. Schenn was deemed expendable due to numbers on defense and the need for a top-six forward with size. Van Riemsdyk is coming off an injury plagued season that saw him limited to only 43 games, in which he scored 11 goals and added 13 assists.
The Maple Leafs opted to select one of the many highly regarded defensemen in the draft with the fifth overall selection. Morgan Rielly missed most of last season recovering from a torn ACL injury that he sustained at the beginning of November. He was limited to only 18 regular season games where he scored at a point per-game rate with three goals and 15 assists.
Rielly possesses high hockey IQ, top-end skating ability, and a lethal arsenal of offensive tools from the back-end including a high-end puck-moving game. Missing most of the season with injury, it's likely that Rielly will return to junior where he'll have the opportunity to represent Canada at the upcoming World Juniors. He's already made a mark on Maple Leafs brass, standing out at the Maple Leafs Development Camp in early July.
Ranked as a first round talent by many scouting agencies, defenseman Matt Finn managed to slip to the Maple Leafs at the 35th spot on the second day of the draft. Finn played a large role for the Guelph Storm during the 2011-12 season, anchoring the defense in all situations. Finn finished the year with 48 points, including 10 goals, in 61 regular season games.
Finn is a steady defenseman who's fairly sound at both ends of the ice. The Toronto native is a solid 6'0, 197lbs whose strengths are in his puck-moving and ability to read the developing play. Defensively he continues to progress, but should work itself out over time with experience. The assistant captain of the Storm is mature beyond his years, which should bode well for future development.
Dominic Toninato, C – Duluth East High (MINN-HS)
5th round, 126th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 161 lbs
Without a selection in the third and fourth rounds, the Maple Leafs had to sit until the 126th selection before picking Dominic Toninato.
Toninato is considered a skilled forward who is strong at both ends. A competitor, with leadership ability, he is a long-term project with good potential. The 18-year-old scored 28 goals and added 33 assists for 61 points in 21 games for Duluth East. He's taking a similar route to that of fellow draftee Tony Cameranesi, he'll be spending one year in the USHL (with Fargo Force) prior to making the jump to the NCAA with Minnesota-Duluth.
Connor Brown, RW – Erie Otters (OHL)
6th round, 156th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 170 lbs
With their first of back-to-back selections, the Maple Leafs looked to their backyard when they selected Connor Brown, an opportunistic scorer from the Erie Otters. The 18-year-old, Etobicoke native led the dismal Otters in scoring with 25 goals and 53 points in 68 games this season. His minus-72 is an alarming stat even with Erie's lack of success, and will be an area that Brown should look to remedy moving forward.
The type of season that the Otters endured in 2011-12 can breed bad habits in players, which will be something Maple Leafs brass hopes Brown can avoid. Brown's greatest strength is his ability to generate offense in a variety of ways – both from a scoring and playmaking role. He'll require work on his skating and should add more explosiveness as he matures physically. He'll return to Erie for the 2012-13 season and should have a large role on an improved Otters squad.
Ryan Rupert, C – London Knights (OHL)
6th round, 157th overall
Height: 5'9 Weight: 186 lbs
Those looking for Burke to draft more truculent types can look no further than the Maple Leafs second selection in the sixth round, Ryan Rupert. Along with his brother Matt, the Rupert's can prove to be quite a handful even though they stand at a generous 5'9. With the Knights, Rupert finished fifth in team scoring with 17 goals and 31 assists for 48 points in 63 games. He also racked up a grand total of 120 penalty minutes. His coming out party was during the Knights Memorial Cup Run, where Rupert scored nine goals and six assists in 19 games.
Ryan is considered to be the more talented of the two brothers, and may have gone as top-sixty had he not checked in at under 5'10. He has an extremely high compete level and will do whatever it takes to win. While Rupert's style of game certainly bodes well for pro transition, his size may hinder his overall effectiveness against older competition.
Viktor Loov, D – Södertälje (Allsevenskan)
7th overall, 209th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 190lbs
A general unknown at the time of his selection, Viktor Loov was a targeted selection of Maple Leafs European scout Thommie Bergman. Playing in the second-tier Swedish pro league, the 19-year-old Loov was passed over twice before being selected in the seventh round by the Maple Leafs. He played 50 games as a rookie in Allsvenskan with Södertälje, where he scored three goals and added three assists.
Loov is characterized as a late-blooming strong puck-moving defenseman. He has good speed, and can control the flow of the game due to his poise. Loov is under contract with Södertälje for the next two seasons and could make the jump to the Marlies thereafter.