Heading into the week of the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, interim GM Cliff Fletcher’s stated goal was to add size and skill with the 10 draft picks the Toronto Maple Leafs held. The day before the draft, he dealt the third-round pick that had been acquired from Florida for Chad Kilger months earlier, to the St. Louis Blues for energy winger Jamal Mayers. On draft day, the Leafs then made a move many had anticipated for the past month, as they traded the No. 7 overall pick, the No. 68 pick and a second-rounder in 2009 for the New York Islanders No. 5 overall selection. The quest was clear that day; they wanted a cornerstone defenseman they could build a new identity around. In a draft loaded with high-end defensemen, the Leafs got one of the best in Kelowna Rockets’ Luke Schenn. When all was said and done over the two-day meat market, the Leafs took eight players and all of them were over 6’2 and the lightest checked in at 187 pounds. Size — check. Skill and production? Well, the jury is out on that one.
Luke Schenn, D — Kelowna Rockets, WHL
Drafted: First round, 5th overall
Stats: 6’2, 216 pounds
Most often compared to Colorado’s Adam Foote, Schenn is the complete package in his own end. Physical, mean and nasty, he is a shutdown defender who is a team leader and a great competitor. Schenn also possesses good mobility and lateral movement and makes a solid first pass out of his own zone in the transition game. The question most scouts and fans are asking is whether or not he possesses enough offensive skills to warrant a top-five pick. He posted seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points in only 57 games last year. There is no question that he is not on the Doughty/Bogosian/Pietrangelo level offensively but there is also no question he is a top-pairing defenseman who could be NHL ready in the next year or so. He has already played three full WHL seasons.
Jimmy Hayes, RW — Lincoln, USHL
Drafted: Second round, 60th overall
Stats: 6’4, 210 pounds
Hayes is one of the wild cards of the Leafs’ draft. Some scouts feel he could be the next John Leclair — a late bloomer who projects into a goal-scoring power forward — or he could be just another player who wows with his size and speed but can’t put it all together. Projected as a top-20 pick before the season began, Hayes struggled in his first USHL season after leaving the U.S. National Team Development Program. He scored four goals and 11 assists for 15 points in 21 games. However, he really came on in the playoffs with four goals and five assists for nine points in eight games. Some scouts compared him to his teammate that season, James vanRiemsdyk, the second overall pick by Philadelphia in 2007. Hayes has committed to Boston College for 2008 where he will compete for ice time as a freshman on a national championship winning club. Hayes’ mother is a cousin of Keith Tkachuk and former Toronto Maple Leaf Tom Fitzgerald.
Mikhail Stefanovich, C — Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
Drafted: Fourth round, 98th overall
Stats: 6’2, 202 pounds
Another player who was once projected to be a first-round pick, Stefanovich’s slide was unexpected. Most thought he was a solid second-rounder, while some still thought he was good enough to be a first-round selection. When he was still sitting at the 98th pick, the Leafs pounced on the native of Belarus. Skill is the name of Stefanovich’s game and you know somebody is a natural goal scorer when a 32-goal season is considered a disappointment. Very inconsistent, his lack of focus and intensity wanes from shift to shift and from game to game. He did score 66 points in 62 games, and played well in the World Juniors, scoring three goals and an assist in five games, but everyone wants more. He has the talent to be a top-six forward without question.
Greg Pateryn, D — Ohio, USHL
Drafted: Fifth round, 128th overall
Stats: 6’2, 212 pounds
Starting a run of three consecutive fifth-round picks, No. 128, 129, and 130, the Leafs went with the big American defenseman who will play at Michigan University. Playing 60 USHL games last season, Pateryn scored three goals and 24 assists for 27 points while amassing 145 minutes in penalties. Another big, physical blueliner, he also has good offensive instincts and shows the ability to consistently start the rush with good hockey sense and outlet passes. He is a long-term prospect who will be re-evaluated on a yearly basis. Pateryn has since been traded to the Montreal Canadiens.
Joel Champagne, C — Chicoutimi, QMJHL
Drafted: Fifth round, 129th overall
Stats: 6’4, 210 pounds
In his second full season in the Q, the big, rangy center improved his production from the season before by scoring 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 70 games, but it was not nearly enough to alleviate concerns about his long-term upside. Skating is a concern for the Lasalle, Quebec native but his career potential looks to be that of a big third or fourth-line center. While his lack of point-producing ability and skating are concerns, Champagne is a terror along the wall and in front of the net and he knows exactly how to use his size. He is also very good in his own end and back checks responsibly. His third junior season will be a huge one and if strides are made in the weaker aspects of his game, Champagne could prove those who thought he could have been a second-round selection to be right.
Jerome Flaake, LW — Cologne, DEL (Germany)
Drafted: Fifth round, 130th overall
Stats: 6’2, 187 pounds
Flaake’s 2007-08 season was a learning experience, but a good one. His first 36 games were spent in Germany’s top junior league where he rattled off 80 points. His next 30 games were spent in the DEL, Germany’s top men’s league, where he registered only one assist in 30 games. He played alongside former Maple Leaf relics Dave McLiwain and Todd Warriner while with the Cologne Sharks. A great skater with a ton of hockey sense, Flaake’s career is tough to project because he is the type of player who could fill many roles successfully. He could be a top-six forward if he shows the same type of scoring ability that he did in the junior leagues, or he could be a third-line energy guy who uses his speed and intelligence in a defensive role. It will be interesting to see where Flaake will play this fall after he was taken ninth overall in the CHL Import Draft by the Prince George Cougars. If he can get out of his commitment overseas, the Leafs would like to see him develop his game in the WHL.
Grant Rollheiser, G — Trail Smoke Eaters, BCHL
Drafted: Sixth round, 158th overall
Stats: 6’4, 195 pounds
Rollheiser was the exactly the type of goaltender the Leafs were looking for with only two goaltending prospects in the system before the draft — a project. With two veteran goaltenders at the NHL level and top prospect Justin Pogge expected to shoulder the full load at the AHL level, the Leafs wanted a goalie that was a few years away. Rollheiser is definitely that. After putting up respectable BCHL numbers with a below-average Trail squad, the lanky netminder has committed to Boston University where he will have to compete for playing time this fall.
Andrew MacWilliam, D — Camrose, AJHL
Drafted: Seventh round, 188th overall
Stats: 6’2, 214 pounds
In selecting MacWilliam, the Leafs have now selected 10 players in the past four drafts who were NCAA-bound, including four players this year alone. The Calgary, AB native will attend the University of North Dakota where he will suit up with last year’s fourth rounder, Matt Frattin, who was also selected out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. It would probably be a safe bet to say the Leafs noticed MacWilliam when they were scouting Camrose Kodiak and Boston Bruins‘ first-round pick Joe Colborne. MacWilliam is known for providing a physical presence on the back end and not much else. There is a modicum of upside as he is a fierce competitor and he can move reasonably well for a big guy. The fact that he is going to one of the top hockey programs in the NCAA is helpful.