Home 2013 Entry Draft Draft Day Recap: Leafs get deeper at center

Draft Day Recap: Leafs get deeper at center

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The old saying in hockey is that defense wins championships, and defense was the theme of the day for the Leafs yesterday even though they didn’t acquire a single defenseman.

For Toronto, the day started off by selecting 6’4 Frederik Gauthier with their 21st overall pick. Gauthier started off the season hot with 10 goals and 20 points in his first 20 games, but he suffered a broken jaw that required surgery and struggled after that offensively, potting only 12 goals in his remaining 50 games.

However, his effort was routinely noticeable defensively, as Gauthier worked hard to cut off passing lanes, backchecked, sacrificed his body to make the right play and simply put forth an honest effort. Last June, the Leafs used their first rounder to draft Morgan Rielly in part because of how hard he worked to get back after suffering a devastating knee injury, and this year they drafted a guy in the first round who suffered a broken jaw but came back strong and continued to work despite poor goal totals.

Gauthier was fourth overall in points for a rookie in the QMJHL this year, but he played fewer games than each of the three players ahead of him. It’s also interesting that Gauthier is getting drafted as a rookie, because that means he never had a year to adjust to the league; instead, he was thrown into the Q and expected to produce immediately. There are more than a few examples of players being drafted after their rookie year lower than they should have been –Wayne Simmonds and Brandon Saad are two — because they had good but not great rookie seasons.

Some will criticize this move as the Leafs playing it safe again in the first round, but if you’re telling me Toronto will get a legitimate NHL player out of this I’d take it. Here are the selections at 21 since 2000:

2000 – Anton Volchenkov

2001 – Colby Armstrong

2002 – Anton Babchuk

2003 – Mark Stuart

2004 – Wojtek Wolski

2005 – Tuuka Rask

2006 – Bobby Sanguinetti

2007 – Riley Nash

2008 – Anton Gustafsson

2009 – John Moore

2010 – Riley Sheahan

2011 – Stefan Noesen

Nonis said Gauthier projects as a second but more likely a third line center. If Gauthier pans out, the question will really boil down to – will he be more like a Brian Boyle or Dave Steckel, or a Martin Hanzal or Jordan Staal brand of checking, two-way center?

Dave Bolland Acquisition

After drafting their two-way center of the future, the Leafs moved quickly to bring in their two-way checking center of the present in Dave Bolland.

What the Bolland acquisition does more than anything else is place the Leafs’ centers in their proper roles. Last season the Leafs had Bozak in a prime scoring role, which he isn’t suited for, and Grabovski in a checking role, which he isn’t suited for either. Kadri was in a sheltered scoring role but once he began to emerge the limited roster forced Carlyle to even start pitting Kadri head-to-head against the opposition’s best players.

The Leafs are a little small at center now, but Kadri is physical, Bolland plays with an edge, Grabovski is fearless and McClement actually has decent size at 6’1 and over 200 pounds. They aren’t a big group on paper, but pound for pound they are as tough as anyone.

Yesterday, Nonis gave quite a few mixed signals on Bolland, saying he doesn’t want to pigeonhole him as a third line center but that he’d be fine using the current center group of Kadri-Grabovski-Bolland-McClement for next season, and that this doesn’t affect Bozak’s status because they’d still like to retain him. Unless the Leafs plan on getting rid of Grabovski and resigning Bozak as a checking center, those comments don’t really add up, so I’m not going to take them at face value. At the end of the day, Bolland is best suited as a checking center and in fairness to Nonis he did say Bolland’s “got enough skill that he can play (against) really good players and he’s got enough grit that he can play against really good players.”

In a lot of ways, the Leafs current group of centers is the same formula the Bruins deploy as Kadri is an offensive center (Krejci), Grabovski is a two-way center (Bergeron), and Bolland plus McClement are checking centers (Kelly, Campbell) . This isn’t to say they are as good of a center group, but it’s the same formula.

Bolland’s only 27 and has a lot of hockey left in him, but he’s only played over 80 games once in his five year career. That’s concern. Moreover, he’s a UFA after next season so the Leafs do take on some risk here. They only gave up a second and two fourths, which isn’t a lot for a solid NHL center considering those are hard to find, but it’s going to look bad if Bolland walks for nothing a year from now.

After the playoffs, Leafs management mentioned that certain players didn’t want to be on the ice during the game 7 collapse, essentially shrinking in the moment, and Bolland is a guy who is known for his big-game performances. His Stanley Cup winning goal aside, he also has a Memorial Cup to his name, returned from injury in the playoffs with Chicago down 3-0 against Vancouver and was a major factor in the Hawks pushing the series to 7, and was tied for fifth with 16 points in 22 games when Chicago won the Cup in 2010. He’s a gamer.

Boiled down, the aggregate of the whole deal is that Grabovski is a better scoring center than Bozak and Bolland is more comfortable in a prime shutdown role than Grabovski. The Leafs are coming out ahead here if everything goes according to plan.

The rest of the 2013 draftees

Following the Bolland deal, the Leafs still had a draft to finish off. Next up they selected Carter Verhaeghe in the third round. At 6’1 and roughly 180 pounds, he isn’t a huge guy and he doesn’t play like it. In some ways, this pick reminds me a bit of the Connor Brown selection from last year as Verhaeghe is a player known for hockey sense and skill and he’s going to get a great opportunity to produce in his draft +1. With Ryan Strome graduating this year for Niagara, Verhaeghe should see a spike in offensive opportunities and hopefully that will translate to more points. Stuck behind Strome last season, Carter was forced into checking duties. Now, he’s going to get an opportunity on a team in a transition. He’s also one of the younger players in the draft with an August birthday, so the Leafs are banking on him having a lot more room to grow. Verhaeghe played with Gauthier on the gold medal winning U18 Canadian team and some believe he boosted his stock in the tournament with 4 points in 7 games. It was only a few years ago the Leafs drafted Jerry D’Amigo, albeit much later in the draft, in large part due to a huge U18 tournament.

Toronto went into the draft with few legitimate center prospects other than Greg McKegg and maybe Dominic Toninato. Their other center prospects are two legitimate players in Tony Cameranesi and Ryan Rupert, who are both well under 6 foot so you have to think they are probably wingers at the pro level, and two grinders who have a long road ahead of them if they are to see NHL action ever in Sam Carrick and Andrew Crescenzi.

The Leafs next pick was Fabrice Herzog, who is a player I admittedly know nothing about, so I won’t pretend to. The positives are that he’s coming over from Europe next year according to Morrison, and playing in North America will help his development. Plus, Switzerland has had an emerging program in recent years and hopefully Herzog is apart of that. This seems like another swing for the fences type pick ala Sondre Olden.

In the sixth round, the Leafs selected 6’2 goalie Antoine Bibeau who won the net over this year, played in 46 games and had a .911sv% with five shutouts. Bibeau had a particularly strong second half of the season, going 16-4-2, which brings up memories of when the Leafs selected Josh Leivo after a breakout second half in his draft year.

Finally, the Leafs turned over their last pick to their Swedish scout Thommie Bergman and he selected Andreas Johnson. He’s rolled the dice with late picks almost every draft, and considering the late nature of the picks the results haven’t been half bad (Anton Stralman, Carl Gunnarsson, Daniel Brodin, and Viktor Loov). Johnson had 54 points in 42 games in the Swedish U20 league but is only listed at 5’10.

There’s plenty of offseason left and many more moves to come. The Leafs still have five to six fairly noteworthy RFAs to deal with. So far up to this point, Frattin, Komarov and Scrivens are out; Bernier, Bolland and five draft picks are in.

1484 comments
whalz
whalz

anyword on John Blum (nashvillle)? would love to get him as a ufa

MikeGartner11
MikeGartner11

I hope Leo returns after this season no matter how we do. Every team could use a player like him

Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

Aren't Bolland and Clarkson from the same town just on the outskirts of Toronto?

Seems as if Clarkson might have gotten word to Nonis that he would like to play with his buddy.

Jordan29
Jordan29

You know what, I understand totally that we need Clarkson now with Komarov leaving, but it sucks that we all know hes going to be one of those guys who is over paid in a year or so and we are stuck with. Armstrong was the same thing

leafmealone
leafmealone

@whalz He's still an RFA according to capgeek.

Cameron19
Cameron19

@ingy56 Guess we couldn't reach an agreement that worked for both sides.

whalz
whalz

lol  so much for the theory of getting Strome to take on that shitty contract...btw-who suggested that?

Mattmark
Mattmark

@MikeGartner11 He's a good skater and has good hands and moves for an agitator.  Surprised he didn't put up more points.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@ingy56 Jesus. Can't believe they haven't just hired a hitman at this point.

dlb meh
dlb meh

@Jordan29 

there's always a possibility, but Armstrong is an agitator, whereas Clarkson is a warrior.  think Clark, Roberts, Tucker ... there's a place for a guy like this, he'll make the fans loud and his teammates bold.

TheCanucksnaphook
TheCanucksnaphook

@Jordan29 Depends on what the person is like.  Do they want to succeed or just get paid?  We will find out with Clarkson....

Some guys dont care what money they make.  They just want to win.

mcloki
mcloki

How stupid do you have to be. They financially fuck up the move to Brooklyn now. Just watch.

ingy56
ingy56

@wiski @ingy56 Looks like that ship may have sailed...unless you're talking revenue sharing money. 

wiski
wiski

@Mattmark If they could have kept him with Frats and Kadri I think he would have.

Mattmark
Mattmark

@ingy56 @Komas Taberle They could have gone to different high schools--or, for that matter, to the same high school--and hate each other.  Kids from the same area might have festering grievances against each other they wouldn't have with total strangers.

TheCanucksnaphook
TheCanucksnaphook

@dlb eh  I think Gary Roberts is a bit more talented in the offensive zone but he is a great comparison.   I wish for the fans of the Leafs that Clarkson is even CLOSE to Gary Roberts.

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

@Cameron19

I hope they don't plan on charging much for those backwards facing seats lol

Too bad,,thought they would be more desparate

Cameron19
Cameron19

@JMAC17 @ingy56 @Faalcon @Cameron19 It's a tough deal to make for both sides.  For us, Nonis has to be able to sell the acquired asset as being worth 24 million dollars, and for them, Snow/Wang have to be able to sell their fan base on the reasoning for dumping a high end asset just to move a mistake.

-

Perhaps the new arena has convinced Wang he can afford the buyout.

ingy56
ingy56

@JMAC17 @ingy56 @Faalcon @Cameron19 From the outside....sure, it would seem a natural. But from the inside, like I said above...Wang and Snow....who knows how unreasonable they could be? Only Nonis, and that's even if they tried. 

JMAC17
JMAC17

@ingy56 @Faalcon @Cameron19 crap, with the NHL saying these deals are on side and the money we have backing us I thought for sure we would make a deal here, even if it wasnt for the premier deal we wanted...win at all cost right?  I guess you cant go setting the bar low for this type of deal.

ingy56
ingy56

@Faalcon @ingy56 @Cameron19 I'm sure they tried but you have to remember you are dealing with Wang and Snow....sounds like a comedy team. 

Mattmark
Mattmark

@2minutes Two scorers and a hell-for-leather defensive agitator on the same line has worked pretty well in NHL history.  Think Kurri - Gretzky - Tikkannen... or Cournoyer - P. Mahovlich - Gainey.

2minutes
2minutes

Woulda been a waste on the right win. Leo does not have enough scoring prowess. Leo would be great on bottom 6. Don't like him in the top.

MikeGartner11
MikeGartner11

@wiski @Mattmark Maybe another strong offensive year in Russia gets him a more serious look in 2015( I already hate the team that is getting connor McDavid just when i type 2015)

Mattmark
Mattmark

@wiski @Mattmark Lupul-Kadri-Komarov would have been an interesting experiment.  Ton of speed and grit.

ingy56
ingy56

@Komas Taberle @ingy56 Nothing now. I'm sure it happens all the time. Nonis may get outbid, it will all come down to where he really wants to play.

Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

@ingy56 @Komas Taberle I mean Ingy what's stopping Bolland from talking to Clarkson and then mentioning to Nonis, he wants to come to Toronto but he needs this much coin?


MikeGartner11
MikeGartner11

@Komas Taberle @ingy56 It will be a good measuring stick to see if we actually get some UFA interest with our current team. Players like playing on good teams and teams they think they fit on. Maybe that could finally be the leafs this year