First Line Centers & Trading For Florida’s First Overall Pick

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Why it makes more sense than usual for the Leafs to move up for the #1 pick

In 2012, Dave Poulin gave an under the radar interview on Marlies TV wherein he talked about top centers and how they are acquired.

For those too lazy to watch the whole thing, Poulin discusses an analysis of the top 24 centers in the league and how each of them wound up with their current teams. With that in mind, I took a moment to look at the top center of every team in the league this past season and marked down how they were acquired:

What do the lines look like for the Maple Leafs next season? View the latest Maple Leafs and NHL news at Sportbet.com

Top NHL Centers

TeamPlayerAcquired Via
Anaheim DucksRyan GetzlafDraft
Boston BruinsPatrice BegeronDraft
Buffalo SabresCody HodgsonTrade
Calgary FlamesMikael BacklundDraft
Carolina HurricanesEric StaalDraft
Chicago BlackhawksJonathan ToewsDraft
Colorado AvalancheMatt DucheneDraft
Columbus Blue JacketsRyan JohansenDraft
Dallas StarsTyler SeguinTrade
Detroit Red WingsPavel DatsyukDraft
Edmonton OilersRyan Nugent-HopkinsDraft
Florida PanthersAlex BarkovDraft
Los Angeles KingsAnze KopitarDraft
Minnesota WildMikko KoivuDraft
Montreal CanadiensThomas PlekanecDraft
Nashville PredatorsMike FisherTrade
New Jersey DevilsTravis ZajacDraft
New York IslandersJohn TavaresDraft
New York RangersBrad RichardsUFA
Ottawa SenatorsJason SpezzaDraft
Philadelphia FlyersClaude GirouxDraft
Phoenix CoyotesAntonie VermetteTrade
Pittsburgh PenguinsSidney CrosbyDraft
St. Louis BluesDavid BackesDraft
San Jose SharksJoe PavelskiDraft
Tampa Bay LightningSteven StamkosDraft
Toronto Maple LeafsTyler BozakUndrafted UFA
Vancouver CanucksHenrik SedinDraft
Washington CapitalsNik BackstromDraft
Winnipeg JetsBryan LittleDraft

The final breakdown:

4Trade
1UFA
1Undrafted UFA
24Drafted
  • The Leafs, of course, are the one team with an undrafted free agent currently comprising their top center (according to overall ice time per game).
  • The bigger big picture is that 80% of the top centers in the league are homegrown, drafted, products.
  • Outside of Tyler Seguin, arguably 100% of legitimate 1Cs on good teams are homegrown drafted talents.
  • In the case of New York (Richards, UFA) and Phoenix (Vermette, Trade), Martin Hanzal and Derek Stepan, respectively, are beginning to take over and both are homegrown.

I bring this up due to the fact that the Florida Panthers are shopping their first overall pick this year . When asked about shopping the pick, Panthers GM Dale Tallon responded:

[quote_box_center]Well, why not? I’m looking at everything. I’m open for business. You have three options: You either take it, move back, or trade it. So that’s what we’re looking at. What’s the best deal for our future, that’s the key.[/quote_box_center]

In conjunction with that quote are two particular things Tallon noted at his end-of-season press conference for the Panthers:

[quote_box_center] We’ve had a lot of close games. We need a scorer to play with Barkov, a scorer to play with Bjugstad, Shore.[/quote_box_center]

[quote_box_center]We have to go in the free agent market and either make a trade at the draft to get probably two defensemen, experienced, good NHL defensemen.[/quote_box_center]

It isn’t lost on me that the first overall pick appears to be “up for grabs” every June only for the team with the top pick to keep it every single time, but Florida is in a unique situation.

They just made a huge move for Luongo, they are set down the middle with great prospects (Barkov-Bjugstad-Trochek-Shore-Pirri), Campbell is a top-notch defenseman not getting any younger, and they want to make a move to try and get into the playoffs now. We’re not looking at a MacKinnon or Crosby type at the top end of the 2014 entry draft, but there are (or at least appears to be) cornerstone players at the top of the rankings.

Florida is looking for scoring wingers to flank their young centers as well as experienced defensemen; couple that with the Leafs owning the #8 overall pick and it puts them in a prime spot to be a player in any sort of first-overall-pick sweepstakes. That is a reality. Just like when there was the small Jonathan Bernier sale last summer, the Leafs are once again positioned to be ideal buyers based on their own assets and needs.

Seemingly every year the Leafs have been linked to these top centers switching teams only for it never to happen. Be it Brad Richards, Henrik Sedin, or the upcoming Steven Stamkos dream, it has become a tradition here in Toronto.

That’s what makes this opening so golden for the Leafs. There is an opportunity to move up here and finally draft a stud with a top pick before looking elsewhere for the other missing pieces. Central Scouting has listed Kingston’s Sam Bennett, a center, as their top-rated player in this draft. Making this kind of move puts the Leafs in the right direction going forward next year no matter what happens in the standings for 2014-2015.

A top young center would be in place along with a top young defenseman (Morgan Rielly) and what appears to be a very good young goalie (Jonathan Bernier). That’s how franchises are built properly, with a good young center, defenseman and a goalie as the three pillars of stability. And, to top it all off, the Leafs would be able to make this move, one would think, while keeping most of their other good players (Kadri, Kessel, Holland, hopefully JVR; as I’ve said before, there are quite a few good players here).

This is easier said than done and the possibility of this is completely up in the air, but if the Leafs are going to talk about change this is the kind that will set them up for success for years to come. Over the next few weeks, I’m sure we’ll hear fans and media link centers such as Mike Richards, Joe Thornton and Paul Stastny to the Leafs, but there is a much greater opportunity at hand here to bring in a top-flight 18-year-old center who can set this franchise in the right direction for the next decade. That’s far more important than any quick fix.

Forget a culture change. This would be a franchise-altering move, and it’s right there for the taking.



  • mike_84

    I don’t think I would take Bennett over Ekblad

  • Burtonboy

    So would Lupul alone or Lupul,+ get us that pick . Assuming we include the 8 th overall

  • Bruffins

    did someone say they wanted a scorer?

  • Murph2417

    mike_84  We have Rielly we don’t need another Defenseman

  • mike_84

    Think there’s any chance we can hang onto our pick?

  • mike_84

    Would be an amazing tandem for the next 15 years. If the goal is a C then aim for 2-4 not first overall

  • Burtonboy

    mike_84  It would have to be more then Lupul going the other way to do that I think .

  • Murph2417

    mike_84  Meh, I see the need for a C more so than D at this point. Especially with who’s already coming up the pipelines.

  • 2minutes

    Like Poulin said in the video. Take the best player available. That frees us up to move another guy if we need to. I don’t think this is the year to draft high. After the Luke Schenn debacle, I would be hesitant to draft a dman that high. I know, Morgan Reilly was 5th overall, but if you are going to trade up to get a #1 pick, it should f when it’s an extremely high potential center.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/longleysunsport https://twitter.com/longleysunsport/status/466681491402264577
    Shanahan on Clarkson: “He’s a better player than that. I expect a big improvement from him.” https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash

  • HeatherRickAkin

    Anthony, thanks for todays mind food. I must stand alone here, because I think that, wherever the Leafs draft, #8, or #1, I would like them to take a defenceman. I know that Bennet and Rhinehart ansd Draisdl are all very good, but I think Ekblad and Rielly set you up with the core of a great young defence for many years. And, I think you can put some hope into Kadri and Holland becoming possible top centres for the Leafs . At #8, I believe Hayden Fleury is a defenceman who could develop into a top 2, or 3, on the Leaf depth chart. Not as good as Rielly , maybe, but better all around than Gardiner…maybe. And I will admit for sure, that its nigh impossible to trade for a top end centre .  Anyway, that’s where I stand.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/longleysunsport https://twitter.com/longleysunsport/status/466680839280287744
    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash prez Shanahan on Bolland: “I’d like to get him signed. He’s the exact type of player I like and we need.”

  • mlclearwater

    I’m a sucker for picks, i’d trades some things to get it but agree Ekblad would be hard to turn down regardless of our stable of D. We all have a boner for Bennet cause everyone compares him to Dougie. Having said that Bennet would do just fine imo

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/longleysunsport https://twitter.com/longleysunsport/status/466682000913739777
    Shanahan’s message to https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash players: “It’s going to take a lot of work to turn this around here.”

  • Mcost61

    Burtonboy So much for bartering

  • NotInsane

    HeatherRickAkin  
    IMO, we should draft the best player available regardless of position… as long as that position is center or defense.

  • mlclearwater

    Mcost61 Burtonboy  it’s true though. Our centre’s are weak, we need bolland, other teams would love this guy. We can’t overpay and over-term him is our big challenge

  • Burtonboy

    Mcost61 Burtonboy  Don’t mean he’s gonna sign him is the price isn’t right

  • 2minutes

    Bolland was exactly what we hoped he’d be before the injury.

  • 4evrblue

    Bruffins Forgot Goc is a UFA

  • watson_brent

    MapleLeafsHS APetrielli You think Ekblad would be a franchise changing addition?

  • Mcost61

    Burtonboy I like Bolland, and I liked Clarkson. How can a player turn into a complete fail(Clarkson)

  • mlclearwater

    @watson_brent MapleLeafsHS APetrielli  I think he is going to be a great two addition to any team and be successful as a top 3 dman for years to come. Guy is a fucking horse that can skate, score and play d all day long

  • mlclearwater

    Mcost61 Burtonboy  I think Clarkson rebounds and Bolland comes to play game in game out.
    If we can 15-20 goals outta Clarkson we’re laughing. He needs to see some pp time but also needs to re-learn how to skate and not fuck up all the time

  • rickpearce76

    Burtonboy  It’s true right? I think we all can see that. He looked way better in camp. Then he wanted to be a hero, missed 10 games and never recovered. In his frustration he turned to fighting too often. He will be better this year unless he does the same stupid shit again.

  • 2minutes

    Then again, if the rights to Bolland sweetens the pot enough for FLA to flip the #1 pick to us, I’d drive him to Sunrise myself.

  • Mcost61

    mlclearwater Mcost61 Burtonboy Our little miracle worker must have him skating for her

  • 2minutes

    The good thing for Clarkson is there’s no way in hell he could suck worse than he did last year.

  • 4evrblue

    2minutes I’d donate some gas money lol

  • 2minutes

    Big chance lol. Every year we are shown tantalizing reports and opinions only to sit on our hands and pick where we are.

  • 4evrblue

    Burtonboy Personally I don’t think thats enough. Hard to say how much is enough without going overboard though.

  • Mcost61

    Toronto Marlies ‏@TorontoMarlies https://twitter.com/TorontoMarlies/status/466684918815129602
    Video: Josh Leivo tees up tonight’s match-up versus the Chicago https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Wolves&src=hash :: http://t.co/lYzsZ61Mdf. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CHIvsTOR&src=hash @ 7pm.

  • phaneufoundlander

    All a pipe dream. The Leafs draft at 8th and sign Stastny to a rediculous contract…..

  • Mcost61

    2minutes I would buy him sunglasses

  • drummond

    phaneufoundlander and Bolland for even more ridiculous term

  • phaneufoundlander

    I’d pay the bloody airfare

  • 4evrblue

    phaneufoundlander ssshhh he already offered to drive and a little gas money is cheaper lol

  • http://nmwtlandtrust.org/ bob sacamano

    Mcost61 2minutes  

    I will give him an ankle massage for the whole trip. Maybe even a HJ.

  • sniperstar

    So Lupul, Franson, and our 1st? Or would we need to go higher b/c honestly I don’t know if the 1st is worth that much more in this draft.

  • Murph2417

    Mcost61 2minutes  I’ll buy him a new set of clubs.

  • breakaway23

    APetrielli like the piece too. The Leafs need to act and get a real 1C.

  • phaneufoundlander

    Shans first rookie mistake….poker face Shanny

  • breakaway23

    APetrielli although I don’t think DalColle or Reinhart are bad consolation prizes.

  • phaneufoundlander

    I’d happy if he could just stand up…..He must a be a great kaayaker all the same

  • Burtonboy

    Shanny is making some enemies on this board I would bet .

  • http://nmwtlandtrust.org/ bob sacamano

    HeatherRickAkin  

    The problem is D men take forever to become dominant. Look at Chris Pronger. He was all over the place early in his career and was even traded. 

    You need 300 games which means Ekblad is probably 23-24 when he comes into his own. Crap that means the Leafs will be good in 6 yrs.

  • Mcost61

    Burtonboy For good or bad, he has actually done nothing yet. I am still hopeful

  • Burtonboy

    Mcost61 Burtonboy  He will but only when he’s good and ready ready . He’s not going to go off half cocked you can bet on that.

  • RandomScrub

    Last time in case anyone missed it.

    https://oss.ticketmaster.com/html/group_corp_start.htmI?l=EN&team=marlies&owner=17769828&group=5269&err=&event=&customerID=

    If you haven’t watched a Marlies game here is your chance. $5 for platinums to the games.

  • loomx

    So what’s the consensus now? Is Shanahan, a “great hockey mind”, now an idiot for endorsing Phaneuf? LOL