Draft Day Recap: Leafs get deeper at center

Draft Day Recap: Leafs get deeper at center

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.

Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.
1137 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

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

Clarkson has rejected a contract offer from the Devils.....dunno if this has been posted yet.

dontcallmeshirley
dontcallmeshirley

Just a gut feel, but I think Mac did just enough to get a contract to come back!  Just like Grabo did enough in the one series not to get bought out! 

See two more trades (one for cap relief and one for a D-man ) and one/two UFA signing


Mattmark
Mattmark

The time between draft day and free agent frenzy is like waiting for the other shoe to drop.  In another four or five days we should have a much better idea what the team may look like in September.

93Matty
93Matty

When did this all change again, It's hard to keep up with the format updates ....

ingy56
ingy56

Pierre LeBrun ‏@Real_ESPNLeBrun

1m

As per @tsnbobmckenzie,NJ made David Clarkson a contract offer - but it did not result in a deal before his contract expired at midnight last night. Talks may or may not continue. Clarkson will be UFA on Friday but can field offers as early as Wednesday.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Pierre LeBrun ‏@Real_ESPNLeBrun


As per @tsnbobmckenzie,NJ made David Clarkson a contract offer - but it did not result in a deal before his contract expired (con't)... at midnight last night. Talks may or may not continue. Clarkson will be UFA on Friday but can field offers as early as Wednesday

Luke_R
Luke_R

Im not even gonna buy into these rumors of who were talking to or trading with until its done cause NO ONE said shit about Bolland yesterday or saw that on the radar so really i dont even know what the plan is for the Leafs.... i find it like a "choose your adventure" like book, where depending on Vinny as the first block, will determine other pursuits

Luke_R
Luke_R

1. Sign Vinny, BO Grabo - Resign Macarthur 

2. Dont land Vinny, sign Clarkson, BO Liles

Luke_R
Luke_R

I think the plan is to land Vinny, then if we get him, trade or buyout Grabo

Bring the Cup Home
Bring the Cup Home

bozak should not get anywhere north of $4 million.  maximum.  i like him....but man, what we don't need is 2 centers eating up over $10 million in cap space and neither of them anywhere near all star.

Cameron19
Cameron19

Just got back from a street party - takin' a little breather.  Think I need to say, Happy Canada Day everybody!

-

How many other countries can you hail from, where you introduce yourself to people all over the world, and they simply smile at you in return, under the assumption that you are friendly, polite, peaceful, and of course....a huge fan of hockey....?

Cameron19
Cameron19

So Nonis was talking to DET and STL at the draft, and Dreger says that Nonis left confident a deal would go down....

Glove Dropper
Glove Dropper

Interesting.  Just listening to Dave Poulin's interview on TSN from earlier today...apparently if an RFA gets an award that a team deems it can't afford, the team is allowed an extra buyout...

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

That brunette on the right hand side really seems to like me ;)

#cougar vs bush hog

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

Maybe we should try and use Colborne+ to land Bobby Ryan or Chris Stewart. 

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

JVR - Grabo - Kessel or Lupul - Kadri - Kessel

Lupul - Kadri - UFA or JVR - Grabo - UFA

McClement - Bolland - Kulemin

D'Amigo - Colborne - Ashton 

That would be pretty cool, I suppose. Wouldn't have to worry much about D'Amigo/Ashton hurting us too much if they start on the 4th line. Too bad Carlyle likely wants Orr in there. I think that kid line would be pretty decent playing against other teams' 4th-line plugs. I'd also considering moving Colborne+ for a winger to fill that blank instead of a UFA. Then try to sign Gordon to take the 4th-line center spot. We need to save some cap space for a Dman. Komi should be bought-out and Liles moved, but our RFAs will cost a decent amount to re-sign. Franson could make close to $4 million a season, looking at the Voynov contract. Makes me sick to think about how cheap the Habs got Subban signed for. Fuck. 

ingy56
ingy56

Hope_Smoke ‏@Hope_Smoke

42s

Dreger finished the interview by saying Lecavalier doesn’t like hockey crazed markets and that he sees him going to Dallas or San Jose.

2minutes
2minutes

Oilers blogger thinks Leafs are getting 2 of 3 out of: Briere, Horton and Vinny lol

ingy56
ingy56

Hope_Smoke ‏@Hope_Smoke

1m

Dreger “I can’t tell you who the Leafs are targeting per se but I can tell you Nonis left the draft confident he was going to do something”

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

Dreger saying Nonis left draft floor feeling confident he can make more deals before FA opens 

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

Before any trades/UFA signings:

JVR - Grabo - Kessel

Lupul - Kadri - Kulemin

D'Amigo - Bolland - Ashton

McLaren - McClement - Orr

Adding Clarkson doesn't fix that bottom-6. We're fine at center, just not on the wing. Although I do think a kid line of D'Amigo, Colborne and Ashton on the 4th line could have some potential. We'd just need to sign a winger and move McClement to the wing as well.

peterbleafs
peterbleafs

A trade that makes sense is Grabovski for Clarkson, with a preset Clarkson deal arranged.  Moves Grabo for nothing, fills a NJ need and caps will offset.  Grabo with Kovalchuk would be a solid scoring duo.

peterbleafs
peterbleafs

My Custom Lineup
FORWARDS
Joffrey Lupul ($5.250m) / Nazem Kadri ($3.500m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m)
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / David Clarkson ($4.500m)
Nathan Horton ($5.000m) / Joe Colborne ($1.500m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($2.800m)
Jerry D'Amigo ($1.083m) / Jay McClement ($1.500m) / Colton Orr ($0.925m)
Frazer McLaren ($0.850m) /
DEFENSEMEN
Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / Jesse Blacker ($0.870m)
Jake Gardiner ($1.117m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($2.000m)
Morgan Rielly ($1.744m) / Mark Fraser ($0.900m)
Cody Franson ($2.750m) /
GOALTENDERS
James Reimer ($1.800m)
Jonathan Bernier ($2.250m)
OTHER
Buyout: Darcy Tucker ($1.000m)
Buyout: Colby Armstrong ($1.000m)
RETAINED SALARY TRANSACTIONS (0.778% of upper limit)
Matt Frattin ($0.437m—0.5%) Ben Scrivens ($0.062m—0.1%)
------
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled with the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $62,363,333; BONUSES: $1,522,500
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $3,459,167

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

The Leafs need to add at least two wingers and a top-4 Dman. It probably makes more sense to go for cheap 3rd-line wingers than an expensive guy like Clarkson. It would have been so much easier to keep the roster under the cap with Frattin and Komarov still around.

Mike Bosse
Mike Bosse

If Bozak wants to much money, could 21 year old Alexander Burmistrov #8 - C/RW be an option??? Trade Bozaks rights for Burmistrovs. There were a couple of stories floating around, the one I seen he had asked to be traded at the deadline ( http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/columnists/burmistrov-wants-out-of-winnipeg-208450711.html ), the second one was that he wouldn't return to the KHL ( http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/05/22/change-of-scenery-might-be-good-for-alex-burmistrov-winnipeg-jets ). He might be worth a look see though, at 21 and 3 seasons under his belt may be worth a shot!

Great Dane
Great Dane

Now that the Leafs are brought back to respectability, could we start seeing players heading home to play for the Leafs in their prime?

Bolland sounded rather excited about and Clarkson and Horton could be heading back "home" as well.

It would be great if the Leafs would get a bit of home town discount.


ingy56
ingy56

Haha...Cherry tweeting that Barkov played in the Ice Follies last season. 

Aaron Chan
Aaron Chan

Tim Panaccio@tpanotchCSN

I am told that Flyers would love to get their hands on N. Horton but the word is, he has a couple clubs in mind, and it's not them.

4:51 PM - 1 Jul 13

How do you guys feel about Horton? What if the Leafs were on his list? 

mcloki
mcloki

mORRganRielly

Assuming Cox's source is correct, Bozak asking for 5M x 8 years is the most absurd news in the NHL since Vancouver gave away Schneider.

This is an insane rumour

Mitch_S2
Mitch_S2

Encouraging to hear McKenzie say that Gauthier would have gone number 3 behind MacKinnon and Drouin had he not committed to Harvard.

ingy56
ingy56

Jays win 8-3 final

Conis
Conis

Before I stop lurking and go do something productive...what do we think are the chances Clarkson comes our way?