Maple Leafs 2010 draft preview

By John-Eric Iannicello

Top 10 prospects

1. Nazem Kadri, C
2. Jonas Gustavsson, G
3. Tyler Bozak, C
4. Carl Gunnarsson, D
5. Viktor Stalberg, LW
6. Keith Aulie, D
7. Jimmy Hayes, RW
8. Jesse Blacker, D
9. James Reimer, G
10. Christian Hanson, RW

GM Brian Burke has done a good job retooling the Maple Leafs, even though they finished 29th in the league. He’s brought in a ton of new faces, and some building blocks in all positions in which to work with. The 2010 draft in Los Angeles as well as summer free agency are two vital points in Burke’s plan for the upcoming season. Burke has made it known that the main priority is adding top-six scoring and additional toughness to the top-nine forward group.

Tomas Kaberle has been a subject of trade rumors for years, but it seems that his time as a Maple Leaf may finally be coming to an end. With Kaberle’s trade window opening June 25th, and the Maple Leafs 29th-place finish it seems he will be dealt to the highest bidder.

Another trade chip that Burke may work with is restricted free agent Nikolai Kulemin. Once an integral building block for the Maple Leaf forward group, Kulemin has priced himself out of Toronto’s plans at the moment and if contract talks continue to stall, Burke could opt to move him with Kaberle in order to maximize the return.

Without a first or second-round selection in the 2010 draft, the Maple Leafs scouting staff will have their work cut out for them. Make no mistake; Burke will do everything in his power to add a top-60 selection for his scouts if he can.

Team Needs:
first line forward, top-nine forwards with size

With depth added to the defense and goaltending over the past season, Burke now looks to add support to his forward group. Burke will need to acquire a top-six forward in any deal involving Kaberle as the free-agency group is thin on legitimate top-six talent, but Burke should have an easier time (so long as the price is reasonable) adding muscle on July 1st as names such as Raffi Torres and Colby Armstrong are poised to hit the market.

Organizational Strengths:
defensive depth, wing depth, goaltending depth

The Maple Leafs seem to have added solid depth players in all positions over the 2009-10 season.

With the addition of Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens the Maple Leafs added two top free-agent goaltenders from Europe and the NCAA. Both add significant depth to a position that was thin a year ago. Along with Jonas Gustavsson, James Reimer and project goaltender Grant Rollheiser, they should provide the Maple Leafs with good depth for the time being.

The Maple Leafs signed free-agent defender Simon Gysbers out of Lake Superior State (NCAA), traded for Keith Aulie and have German Olympian Korbinian Holzer coming over to join fellow European Juraj Mikus on the Marlies blue line.

The acquisitions of Philippe Paradis and Luca Caputi as well as signing 6’5 Brayden Irwin from Vermont (NCAA) added even more depth to the Maple Leafs on the wing.

Organizational Needs: skilled forward prospects, natural center prospects, offensive defenders

There’s a lack of blue-chip prospects in both the defensive and forward ranks, and without a first-round pick in this year’s draft it’s unlikely either void will be filled. Nazem Kadri is a good start, but the Maple Leafs have to add more skilled forwards to compliment the character players they’ve drafted over the last few seasons.

The Maple Leafs could use an elite offensive defender also, and the lack of one could be even more evident if Kaberle is dealt for forward help. They have a foundation of two-way and shut-down defenders in the system, but none project to be 40+ point producers.

Draft Tendencies

Burke has made it known he wants his teams to be composed of size, speed and toughness so expect this drafting trend to continue in 2010. With their first selection not coming until the third round, they will be reactive instead of active unless they gain picks.

Prospects playing outside of North America, and any player under 5’11 are unlikely under Burke. Since the 2004-05 lockout Burke has only selected three European players and no player under 5’11 in the 36 selections he’s had between the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Expect there to be a good balance of American-born players selected also as Burke picked four in 2009.

The Maple Leafs have the 62nd, 112th, 122nd, 144th, 182nd, and 202nd selections.