Leafs Draft Review

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Round 1 (17)-Carlo Colaiacovo-D-Erie-OHL

While your columnist would have preferred to see the Toronto club grab a
sniper in the first round all of the forward prospects that would have
warranted the 17th pick overall went off the board one by one shortly
before Pat Quinn and Mike Penny went up to the podium. The Erie
blueliner is a solid value here and should develop into a top 4
rearguard in the mold of Bryan McCabe in a few years. That he shoots
right-handed is another bonus on a blueline that only has three of those
on the pro roster compared to eight lefties. Grade: A

Round 2 (39)-Karel Pilar-D-Litvinov-Czech Rep.

An overaged player at 23, Pilar played with recent Leaf acquisition
Robert Reichel last year in Litvinov. Another righty, he has good size (
6’3″, 210 pounds) but needs to learn how to use it a bit more. His
transition skills are not in question. The pick has the feel of panic
mode in it to some extent. Two other players the Buds had their eyes on
Mark Popovic and Kyle Wanwig went 35 and 36 respectively. Finnish power
forward Tuomas Pihlman was taken at 48 by the New Jersey Devils and
might prove to be the better value. Still, if Pilar can help the Leafs
fill the hole on the blueline created by the departure of Danny Markov,
the selection is salvageable. Grade: D

Round 3 (65)-Brendan Bell-D-Ottawa-OHL

A very solid pick here. Bell was the best talent on the board at this
point and many had him going in the second round. Again, like Pilar, the
transition game is all there and the Ottawa defenseman possesses a good
shot from the point. However, like his second round counterpart, he also
needs to work on his physical game. Had a sub-par campaign this season,
but that could just as easily be a sophomore slump as anything else. Was
outstanding in his rookie year. Grade: A+

Round 3 (82)-Jay Harrison-Brampton-OHL

Harrison, a lefty, is Brendan Bell’s alter ego. Everything the Ottawa
blueliner is, Harrison is not.
Big, mean, and nasty, the Brampton rearguard was another one who fell in
the draft due to a poor season in 2000/2001. At 6’3″ and 200 pounds
he’ll be expected to gain another inch and 15 pounds by the time he gets
to the pros. The only question is whether his lack of puck skills now
will translate into a turnover-prone defenseman later. Grade: B-

Round 3 (88)-Nicolas Corbeil-C-Sherbrooke-QMJHL

A small, but extremely quick offensive dynamo, Corbeil could easily be
this year’s version of Simon Gamache, the late round selection last year
by the Atlanta Thrashers that went on to have a monster campaign in
2000/2001. The jury is split on his physical play but the feeling here
is that he is more Theo Fluery than Yanic Perreault. Keep an eye on this
one, he could surprise. Grade: B+

Round 5 (138)-Kyle Wellwood-C-Belleville-OHL

Possibly the steal of the draft, many had Wellwood pegged to go much
earlier in the selection process. Another undersized pivot with
incredible creativity, he has above average speed and topped the OHL in
scoring this season. While some might chalk that up partially to his
linemates, it should be noted that one of his wingers Branko Radivojevic
was cut loose by the Colorado Avalanche before the draft and the other
Randy Rowe is as of yet undrafted as a 4th year junior. Grade: A+

Round 6 (168)-Max Kondratiev-D Togliatti-Russia Jr.;

Round 7
(183)-Jaroslav Sklenar-Brno-Czech Jr;

Round 7 (198)-Ivan
Kolozvary-RW-Trencin-Slovakia Jr

These three picks represent what looks to be the beginnings of a trend
in the Toronto draft strategy. Take the players you know best early (ie
the myriad of picks from North America) and then take some European
flyers in the later rounds of the draft. It has been successful for the
club in the past (Sergei Berezin 1994/256, Danny Markov 1995/223, Tomas
Kaberle 1996/204, Vadim Sozinov 2000/179), there is no reason to believe
that at least one of these players will turn out to be a diamond in the
rough for Toronto. The smart money is on Brno flanker Jaroslav Sklenar,
who had 21 points in 26 games with his club this past campaign. One
thing to note is that all of the abovementioned players competed in
their countries junior leagues last year. As such the most one could
expect from any of them this year would be to get drafted in the CHL’s
various import drafts. Grade: B

Round 7 (213)-Jan Chovan-Belleville-OHL

A pick clearly aimed at the very long term, the Slovakian goaltender
split time this season with Paulo Colaiacovo in Belleville and came out
on top. Still a 17 year old (at least until the 7th of September) Chovan
can only get better and his .903 save percentage in 39 games puts him at
a pretty high starting point to begin with. Even though Czech Tomas Duba
was selected only moments later by the Pittsburgh Penguins and
Kootenay’s Marek Svatos by the Colorado Avalanche, there is a lot to
like about this choice. Grade: B-

Round 8 (246)-Tomas Mojzis-D-Moose Jaw WHL

Another supersleeper, Mojzis, a Czech, played for Moose Jaw in the WHL
this season and showed he could handle the rough going of that league
and still excel in the transition game. He is going to need to put on a
few more pounds and work somewhat at his skating, but at this point in
the draft, getting Mojzis is nothing short of grand larceny. Grade: A+

Round 9 (276)-Michael Knoepfli-C-Georgetown-OPJHL

Knoepfli was the Georgetown Raiders’ sniper du jour last season and has
parlayed that into a scholarship to play for the ECAC’s Cornell
University in the NCAA. Strictly a long term project, the 18 year old
already has NHL size (6′ 1″ 195 pounds), and with 45 goals in 47 games,
three or four years from now he could be a revelation much like Jeff
Farkas (Boston College) was or Regan Kelly (Providence) is right now.
Grade: B