It was a quiet Day One at the 2010 NHL Draft for the Maple Leafs, but the team stepped up its game in a big way on Saturday afternoon. The club wheeled and dealed its way into the 2nd round of the draft and through some crafty maneuvering in the later rounds, managed to add seven new players into the organization.
The Leafs were able to significantly upgrade their depth up front, by grabbing six forwards to go with one defenseman. Surprisingly, Leafs’ Swedish scout Thommie Bergman had a big day, selecting three players from the Swedish leagues.
2nd round – 43rd overall – LW Bradley Ross, Portland Winterhawks, WHL
This was the Leafs’ big splash of draft weekend, acquiring a 2nd round pick by sending NCAA prospect Jimmy Hayes to join brother Kevin in Chicago. The team quickly grabbed the younger Ross (older brother Nick is an ’07 1st round pick of Phoenix) without hesitation, proudly proclaiming that they had him much higher than 43rd on their draftboards. Dubbed by Bob Mckenzie as arguably the best agitator in the draft, Brad led the entire WHL in PIM’s this last season with 203 in just 71 games played. Brad rode shotgun on Portland’s top line with top 5 picks Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen, but did not look out of place, posting an impressive 27 goals and 41 assists.
However, the main aspect of Ross’ game is the energy, the tenacity, and the uncanny ability to get under his opponents’ skin. He’s known around the league as an absolute “dirtbag” for his style of play, which he takes personally as high praise. He was invited for the World Junior team development camp this summer and could find himself representing Canada in December. Both Burke and E.J. Mcguire project Ross to be an elite grinder at the next level, a “20 goal – 200 PIM” player in the mold of a Steve Ott or a Darcy Tucker, which would make him an immediate fan favourite. It’s hard to imagine a better fit for a Brian Burke team and for the city of Toronto.
Pick Grade: A+
3rd round – 62nd overall – C/LW Greg McKegg, Erie Otters, OHL
Aside from having an awesome name with endless nickname possibilities (Kegger?), Greg’s calling card is the ability to produce points…lots of ‘em. Playing on an impressive top line with overager Zach Torquato and Mike Cazzola, Greg lit up the OHL to the tune of 37 goals and 48 assists, finishing 11th overall in league scoring. The only three 2010 draftees ahead of McKegg are top 7 picks Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner. Greg has the ability to stickhandle through defensive coverage and is especially adept at finishing around the net on tips and deflections. However, McKeens Scouting argues that he’s a bit reliant on the powerplay as nearly half of his goals came with the man advantage, and that he’s prone to occasionally cheating defensively in order to create a quick transition going the other way.
McKegg was one of the top risers of this draft class, even earning some potential first round whispers. He had a so-so rookie season after being selected 2nd overall in the ’08 OHL Priority Draft, but started off this past year well with an excellent showing for the Canadian U-18 team. He finished 2nd on the team with 7 points in 6 games while leading the tournament with a staggering 71% faceoff win percentage. Some fans may be bitter that the Leafs passed on Kabanov (who went 65th to the Islanders), but this is a versatile player who can line up at either the center or wing position (like he did for Portland), with a very good chance to develop into a legitimate top six forward.
Pick Grade: A
3rd round – 79th overall: RWÂ Sondre Olden, Modo J20, Sweden
After securing a couple of solid, relatively safe potential players with their first two selections, the Leaf scouts creatively gambled on projection and upside here with this pick. This is a player who was scouted heavily by Detroit super scout Hakkan Andersson this past year, and so Toronto acquired a 3rd round pick to leap frog the Red Wings who were picking at 81. Olden is a lanky 6’4 forward who skates well, possesses some playmaking ability, and works hard at both ends of the ice.
He’s currently playing for the Modo J20 team in Sweden, but is of Norwegian nationality and has represented them in international competition. He’s dominated the weaker division, scoring an insane 22 points in 5 games played at the Division 1 World U-18′s, doubling the totals of the next highest player. This prompted him to earn a spot on the team U-20 team and playing against players 2-3 years older than he was, Olden did not look out of place recording 4 points in 5 games. As one of the youngest players in the draft class, Sondre is likely years away from making an NHL impact, but the potential and physical projection is there for him to become a big-time prospect someday. This is just the beginning of a big day for Leafs’ top Euro scout Thommie Bergman.
Pick Grade: B+
4th round – 116th overall – D Petter Granberg, Skelleftea, Sweden
Rumor was that Toronto was hoping for Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen to fall to them at 112, but Detroit repaid the Leafs in turn by scooping up Teemu just one selection prior. As a result, the club traded down a few spots to select Granberg, another late ’92 birthday from the Swedish J20 league. Petter is described as a strapping, shutdown defenseman (6’3 210 at 17) with sound defensive instincts and good decision making ability.
He plays a similar style of game as Carl Gunnarsson, relying primarily on positioning, quick transition, and short, accurate passes. Although he doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, Petter may add a more physical element to his game as he gets older and stronger. Granberg was interviewed by the Leafs’ media on Saturday and could not stop grinning long enough put into words how elated and excited he was to be drafted by an NHL team. He mentioned that he will likely play in the Swedish Elite League next season. Chalk up prospect number two for Bergman.
Pick Grade: B+
5th round – 144th overall – RW Sam Carrick, Brampton Battalion, OHL
For their first of two 5th round selections, the Leafs dipped back into the Canadian talent pool to select a gritty, two-way player in Sam Carrick. Sam does a bit of everything a Burke team looks for: he’ll finish checks well, plays a high intensity game, works hard, jumps into scrums, and will occasionally drop the gloves. Carrick finished 2nd in scoring on a weak Brampton team with 42 points in 66 games played.
He’s an underrated offensive player who should get a chance to post big numbers next season as he will inherit a big part of the scoring responsibility from departing center Cody Hodgson.He plays well under pressure and is often at his best when his team is down or the game is close late. Sam doesn’t really possess any above average physical tools or skills, but he always seems to find a way to get the job done and may have a future in the NHL as an energy player. Hockey’s Future Maple Leafs writer John-Eric Iancello describes Carrick as “fearless”.
Pick Grade: B
5th round – 146th overall – LW Daniel Brodin, Djugarden, SEL
One more time into the Swedish ranks for Thommie Bergman, though instead of late 1992′s, they went for a 20 year old overager with this selection. Brodin is your prototypical Swedish grinder: industrious, skates well, strong along the boards, active stick, plays the body and finishes checks. At 6’1 172 lbs, there’s still a lot of room for Daniel to fill out and become stronger, but as an overager, there is limited projection in the skills department.
I was very impressed with Brodin’s game at the World Juniors, where he was buzzing all over the ice and proved to be a big nuisance for opposing defenders. He’s like a bloodhound on the forecheck, quick on his feet and closes the gap very quickly on the dump-and-chase, resulting in rushed decisions and turnovers for the opposition. He competes hard on every single shift and could be a very valuable checker in the mold of a Sami Pahlsson someday. Brodin will likely spend another year or two in the Swedish Elite League refining his game before coming over, and could be the first draftee from this class to wear a Leaf uniform. Excellent value this late.
Pick Grade: A
7th round – 182nd overall – C/RW Josh Nicholls, Saskatoon Blades, WHL
With their last selection, Toronto grabs Josh Nicholls, a forward from Western Canada who improved steadily as the year went on. The Leafs were likely sending scouts to watch Saskatoon pest Charles Inglis, but as Inglis’ game declined, Nicholls’ got stronger. After starting off the year slowly during the first three months,Â Josh was nearly a point-a-game player during the second half of the season, finishing with a respectable 48 points in 71 games played.
Like most of the other picks in this Maple Leaf draft class, Nicholls does a lot of good things on the ice. He forechecks well, plays at both ends of the ice, works hard and earned some PK time for the Blades. The Leafs hope that he will step it up and become a more prominent offensive player next season. Nicholls was ranked somewhere in the 4th-5th round range, so this is decent value this late.
Pick Grade: B
The Big Picture:
The Maple Leafs were as active as anybody on Day 2 of the draft, moving up and down all over the place, and with the exception of the Pulkkinen selection, seem to have played their board perfectly. They added a nice mix of European and North American talent, and managed to beef up their organizational forward depth with both grinders and skill players.
The most interesting turnaround with this draft class as compared to the previous two seasons under Fletcher and Burke is the willingness to select European players, particularly those from the Swedish leagues under the careful watch of head scout Thommie Bergman. And that should be a promising sign. How good is Bergman?Â Since the year 2002, he’s picked Carl Gunnarsson, Viktor Stalberg, Johan Dahlberg, Anton Stralman, Alexander Steen, and Staffan Kronwall. That’s 5/6, or an 83.3% success rate in terms of having a player at least reach the NHL level, with 4/6 looking like productive everyday players, despite 4/6 picks being in the 6th round or later. Wow. Getting to pick in the 3rd (Olden), 4th (Granberg) and 5th (Brodin) rounds must be an absolute luxury for Thommie.
Overall, I really like what the club has been able to do with their seven picks this year, particularly the focus on energy, tenacity, and forechecking ability. Considering where they were picking, I feel like this is the most impressive drafting and maneuvering I’ve ever seen from this team. There’s a good chance we could see as many as 2 or 3 full-time NHL’ers from this draft class later on down the road.
Overall Draft Grade: A-