Leafs 2005 draft preview

By Rory Boylen

Maple Leaf Top 10 Prospects

1. Carlo Colaiacovo, D
2. Alexander Steen, C
3. Kyle Wellwood, C
4. Robert Earl, LW
5. Ian White, D
6. Jeremy Williams, RW
7. Dmitri Vorobiev, D
8. Brendan Bell, D
9. John Mitchell, C
10. Jean-François Racine, G

The much criticized draft day decisions made by past Toronto Maple Leaf management has a chance to be forgotten on Saturday. John Ferguson Jr. is leading the team in the first draft for the seemingly brand new league, and with a brand new league comes brand new ideologies. Toronto reportedly desires to move up in the draft to select a can’t miss prospect. If they can manage to swap for a top 10 pick, it would be a credible commitment to developing from within and do wonders for their poor prospect depth.

Team Needs

With nine unrestricted free agents, and buyouts expected, the Leafs are sure to ice a very different cast in 2005-06 than they did in 2003-04. In fact, it’s possible that they will see the most turnover of any team. Other high-spending teams, like the New York Rangers, shed contracts before the new CBA expired and already began their youth movement. Toronto must begin now. Gary Roberts, Alex Mogilny, Owen Nolan and Joe Nieuwendyk are all expected to be gone next season, leaving huge holes in the lineup.

Organizational Strengths

Toronto is very top heavy when it comes to their prospect depth as two very good players lead the way by a fair margin over the rest of the field. Carlo Colaiacovo on the blueline and Alexander Steen up front are the two blue chippers that the Leafs have in their system, but there are a handful of depth players to help fill out at least a quality AHL team.

Colaiacovo is likely ready for NHL play after playing last season in St. John’s. Fellow defensemen Brendan Bell and Dmitri Vorobiev both have good size, and are steadily improving, although they still need a couple of years to mature. Ian White is smaller in size, making him more of a longshot, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in offensive capabilities.

Organizational Weaknesses

The overall depth of the Leafs prospect system leaves much to be desired, especially when it comes to NHL caliber forwards. Perhaps the biggest positional concern is in net, although Pogge enjoyed an improved year after being dealt from Prince George to Calgary. Jean-Francois Racine is also on the depth chart, but like Pogge, is still a few years away. But the team lacks a blue-chip goaltending prospect.

Draft Tendencies

Toronto has never been very draft savvy, but has always had the money to compensate. A salary cap makes the draft much more important as a source of talent, and a change in draft tendencies is surely on the horizon. The fact that the organization has been looking to move up in the draft is already a new kind of character for Toronto, one that we could see more of in the future.

The Leafs currently hold the 21st selection in the draft, but do not hold a second rounder, having traded it to the Rangers. They also lack a fourth rounder, thus holding a total of five heading to the table.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future mock draft result): Tuukka Rask, G, Fin Jr Ilves

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