It seems like there has been an absolute flood of draft content across the internet of late, and it’s in part due to the tradition of talking draft in late June, but much more due to the fact that tonight at 8pm Eastern the NHL will announce the winners of the draft lottery.
Tonight has the chance to go very unfortunately for the Leafs, as the Red Wings and Senators own the best odds for grabbing the top three picks. Add to that, the Senators owning seven picks in the first two rounds and the Red Wings owning 4, the Atlantic division will be loading up before the Leafs even get a sniff of a pick.
Of course, the Leafs still have a shot at regaining their first round pick. If one of the eight play-in round loser picks wins the lottery, and the Leafs lose their round against the Blue Jackets, they are potentially back in the mix for a very high pick and a very good player. Still, I think most of us would rather the Leafs win their play-in round and allow us to enjoy some summer hockey instead of going full hog on talking draft.
With that spirit in mind, we’ll talk some draft, but forego any first round pipe dreams. I’ve asked The Leafs Nation writers to provide me with their ideal (but realistic) picks for who the Leafs should take in the second round.
Emil Andrae is my choice The fact that I can speak about Emil Andrae as a player that could be available when the Leafs pick in the mid-to-late 2nd round is criminal, but he was recently ranked 67th in McKenzie’s scout poll, meaning that he could be potential faller in this draft despite many draft analysts (include myself) thinking he is a sure-fire first round talent.
Andrae is a talented left-handed blueliner. The Swede eats forecheckers for breakfast, mixing in head fakes and dekes that leave oncoming attackers in the dust. Andrae’s mobility and deceptiveness make him a big-time controlled zone exit threat. He’s a solid skater in all four directions, and while he lacks eye-popping straight-line speed, I find that that is an overrated quality for defencemen these days. Andrae is also a fantastic stretch-passer who can launch accurate two-line feeds to his forwards which catch opposing defenceman off guard. Despite his small size (he’s only about 5’8), Andrae is a sturdy, positionally sound defender who makes smart reads in his own end and plays with a bit of bite. My one drawback with him is that I find he can be a little trigger-happy from the point, but overall Andrae is a very smart, skilled, modern-day defenceman with top-4 potential.
If he’s available at the Leafs’ 2nd round pick, I think Roby Jarventie would be a good pick. The 6’2″ LW has an August birthday, and he was one of the youngest players to record a point in Liiga, but spent most of the season in Mestis. There, he had the most points by a u20 player. He has a strong shot and the majority of his points were goals.
He is slightly inconsistent and problematic in his defensive zone, but he has a lot of potential with his frame and straight line speed. He can use that speed to transition the puck well, similar to Kapanen.
I think the Leafs are a good fit for him, someone with a high ceiling offensively but obvious drawbacks that could be addressed in his development. In the late 2nd round, a diverse set of tools like his can be hard to find.
Ryan Francis – C/RW – Cape Breton (QMJHL)
Projected as a possible late round pick at the beginning of the season, the 5’10” forward climbed steadily up draft rankings as the year went on – ending up as the 55th ranked player in Corey Pronman’s most recent draft rankings over at the Athletic.
Francis is a small but highly skilled playmaker who lined up at both center and on the wing for the Cape Breton Eagles this season. He recorded 24 goals and 48 assists for 72 points in 61 games, putting him in the same tier of offensive production as several players projected to be picked in the late first/early second round and earning a late nod for the CHL Top Prospects Game along the way.
His skating is fine, not outstanding for a player his size and I think he’s got a bit more jam in his game than he’s been given credit for but his ticket to the NHL will be his hands, vision and passing ability. He blends a lot of things that recent Leafs picks Nick Robertson and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev do well into his game and fits the mold as far as organizational drafting philosophy. He’s a smart enough player to be effective at both ends of the ice, possesses offensive gifts that are hard to teach, and his flaws are ones that the Leafs have shown a willingness to work with in the past making him a good fit for them in the second round.
Ryan Francis chips the puck around a pinching defender and breaks down the wing before finding Derek Gentile with a slick backhand pass for his first of 4 points as the Eagles beat the Mooseheads 7-1. He’s now up to 29 points in 16 games. #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/F6VE33jfSX
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) October 30, 2019
I’ll be a broken record on this for the next few months, but Carter Savoie is my locked in choice for the Leafs. While he might not have the hype his younger brother does, Carter had a damned success year in the AJHL this season scoring 53 goals in 54 games.
While some of you might not support the continued trend of taking undersized skilled wingers in the second round, Savoie is a great swing for the fences option, and the fact that 35 of his 53 goals came at even strength is encouraging. Skill wise, Savoie is a strong but not standout skater. He’s an excellent puck controller, and against the younger competition of Junior A, he’s shown a willingness to go into all areas of the ice.
The knock will be that Savoie did all of this in Junior A, though if he did it in Major Junior we’d be talking about Savoie in the early part of the first round instead of giving the Leafs a chance at taking him. Savoie is committed to the University of Denver, but his junior hockey rights are held by the Winnipeg Ice (the team his brother plays on.) I get that the Leafs need to eventually add some size to their prospect pool, but Savoie is too skillful to leave sitting on the draft board.
I’d love to see the Leafs go for Daniil Gushchin with the 50th overall pick. While on the smaller side at 5’8″ and 165 pounds, he makes up for it with his skill and skating. He had a strong USHL rookie season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks with 16 goals and 36 points in 51 games, and had an even better season this year, leading his team with 22 goals and 47 points.
He’d be a bit of a stereotypical Leafs draft pick, but he not only provides an interesting skillset that has boom or bust potential, but as a left shot winger, he provides the Leafs with depth in the one position up front that they’re kind of lacking in. It’s the kind of pick that is worth the trouble though, especially beyond the first round.
Russian-born Marat Khusnutdinov is ranked anywhere from the end of the first round to the end of the third round by most prospect experts, but this explosive 5’11 centre/left winger plays the game at a blazing speed, with shifty stick-handling ability and a weapon of a shot. Khusnutdinov is known for being a talented play-driver who is unafraid to go to the tough areas of the ice and already possesses a dependable defensive game at his young age. Think of Ilya Mikheyev at centre.
The lesson learned, our writers seem to really like smallish skill players, which would align us pretty closely with what the Leafs have done over the past few years. Perhaps Earl has the right idea of taking a player with the combination of size and skill when the option is still available, and the rest of us can have our desire for water bugs satisfied in the later rounds of the draft.
It will be interesting to see how perceptions of the draft class change over the next three plus months while we want for hockey to start and finish, but for now we have the lottery and with it hope that the winners come from outside the Atlantic division.