Top 10 Prospects:
The number one priority for the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the draft would be to acquire a number one center to compliment Phil Kessel. With Brad Richards heading to free-agency, he’s the one player that Brian Burke can target without giving up any substantial team assets aside from cap-space. The other team needs would include finding a replacement puck-moving defender now that Tomas Kaberle has moved on, and goaltending insurance.
With the offensive resurgence of Dion Phaneuf late in the season, it may not be something Burke looks to invest more money into, but it’s also an area that may require additional depth. With Jean-Sebastien Giguere heading to free-agency the Maple Leafs may feel the need to add a legit NHL goaltender to compliment James Reimer. Jonas Gustavsson‘s inconsistencies and health issues may be cause for concern if the Maple Leafs plan to compete for a playoff spot.
The Maple Leafs boast strong depth in all positions and the late-season additions of Joe Colborne, Jake Gardiner and Mark Owuya. Colborne gives the Maple Leafs a potential top-six forward, Gardiner provides the Maple Leafs with a strong transition game from the back-end, and Owuya adds to the solid depth between the pipes joining Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas.
Matt Frattin has made the jump to the pros and will look to secure a spot with the Maple Leafs. He has the benefit of physical maturity on his side, completing his four-years of NCAA hockey. He’ll be joined by junior prospects such as Jamie Devane, Kenny Ryan and Jesse Blacker who look to make the jump full-time to the AHL.
Defensively, the Maple Leafs have a variety of youthful depth. Keith Aulie is already plying his trade at the NHL, while Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, and Juraj Mikus provide the Maple Leafs with different defensive options. The additions of Blacker and Gardiner full-time next season will add more dynamic depth from the blue line.
The weaknesses in the Maple Leafs system stem from the lack of a blue-chip defensive talent to build around. While Luke Schenn is a cornerstone defenseman for the club, the lack of a top-end offensive defender is evident. While Blacker and Gardiner have done well at the junior levels, their potential to be 40-plus point defenders is uncertain at this point.
Adding forwards with size that project in top-six roles is also an area that requires attention heading into the draft.
The Maple Leafs own 11 draft selections entering the draft. The 11 selections are the highest amount the Maple Leafs have held since 2001. The Maple Leafs will be drafting in the first round twice thanks to deals with Philadelphia and Boston. The two selections will mark the first time since 1993 (12th overall: Kenny Johnson, 19th overall: Landon Wilson), that the Maple Leafs will draft twice in the first round.
With Burke being very vocal in moving up in the first round, expect him try and do so on June 24th. He’s stated publically that he is looking to package one of the Maple Leafs first round selections with their second-round pick (39th overall) to move up. He’s also mentioned how he feels the depth is strong throughout the first 50 selections, so the potential to move down is also appealing.
Expect the Maple Leafs draft to favor players from North America. Burke has selected 11 players from the United States and Canada since joining the Maple Leafs; three selections came from Sweden. Burke has not selected a player from Russia since the lockout. He also tends to lean towards drafting players with good size. Rarely does he draft players who fall under the height of 5’11.
The Maple Leafs own the 25th, 29th/30th, 39th, 85th, 99th, 129th, 151th, 159th, 172th, 189th, and 202th selections.
Hockey’s Future staff mock draft results:
25: Matt Puempel
The sniper for the Peterborough Petes missed part of the season to injury but should be healthy for the start of 2011-12. Puempel will bring a goal-scoring presence to the first or second line for the Leafs.
No.29/30: Stuart Percy
The mobile puck-moving defenseman was an integral part of a very impressive Mississauga team in 2010-11. He will also address the organization need for offensively inclined defensemen.