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

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

Team
Player
Acquired 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:

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.

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

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

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.

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.



1230 comments
Whispers
Whispers

When there is no clear #1 rated player in the draft; why would you trade the 8th pick in the draft and one of your top players off your roster for the #1 pick?!! Please - that is addition by way of too much subtraction and therefore STUPID!!!

NotSince67
NotSince67

Also, if you draft Sam Bennett, do you play him next year? He's not physically mature and needs to add significant weight. You have a higher risk of injury as you saw with RNH as a rookie, and RNH also tailed off as he wore down with the season. Seguin hadn't proved himself as a top flight centre until turning 21. Barkov, as goos as he is, is not a #1 on any contending team.

The reality of it is that drafting Bennett helps you long term maybe but is a significant setback in the short term. You know you're going to sacrifcice off the current roster for a guy who's not going to really contribute significantly for 2 years, maybe not 4. JvR went at #2 and it took him a significant amount of time to be a big time contributor. 

You see Hubredeau (sp?) and he spent his next two years down in junior and at 20 wouldn;t have been a #1 on any contender. Toews spent an extra year in the NCAA.

So while it'd be nice to add Bennett, first, it's a draft and there is no guarantee. Not to be morbid or extreme, but look at the unfortunate situation of Luc Bourdon. Number two, the idea he helps NOW is more fantasy than reality, and if he helps now, it's an indictment of the quality of the team, not the player. Three, he may not help in a determinable time frame, be it in one year, three years, five, or possibly never.


Given we are picking 8th, I feel the price for #1 would be less resonable than going for the 2-4 picks which will still likely yeild a centreman with a high ceiling in Reinhart, Draisaitl and Bennett. Consolation prize could be Ekblad at #4 (stupid unlikely) which would be akin to the Preds having Seth Jones fall into their laps at 4.

NotSince67
NotSince67

Seriously? Franson and a 1st? 

I'm sure the reply is, "We don't want Franson. What about Gardiner/Reilly/Phaneuf"

billtech
billtech

If you can grab Stastny I'm o.k. for not dropping back. Stastny with Lupul and Virtanen looks sold for a 2nd 1st line. Could free up Kadri for a trade. If we go the young guy route may as well do a change over quick before other teams know it. Move Phaneuf..maybe even Kessel.

.JVR.
.JVR.

Gotta talk to an of the top (bottom) 4 teams, as you'd be guaranteed to get one of Bennett, Reinhart or Draisaitl in the top four, as Ekblad is gonna go early.

Mob_Bckenzie
Mob_Bckenzie

@APetrielli Hard to get a handle of who's going where in mock drafts. Some have Bennett going 3rd-4th. I'd definitely talk to EDM as well.

Lescott
Lescott

Have to give up something significant on wing, JVR maybe to get 1st overall.

SeanSLamb
SeanSLamb

@APetrielli Great read. I've wanted them to get the pick to build around Ekblad, Rielly & Bernier, but your 3 pillars make a lot of sense

FloorHockeyFlopper
FloorHockeyFlopper

Jordan you said someone shoot you in the face? ...   count your blessings man, my floor hockey buddy Tim got a puck in the eye  cuz he's playing ice hockey without a helmet - 4 stitches around right orbital bone, looks like a beast - you're lucky none shot you in the face!!!

ProfessorRance
ProfessorRance

I wonder how much the Kings have left in the tank. Another game 7.  That team is crazy good.

FloorHockeyFlopper
FloorHockeyFlopper

Beautiful GO KINGS GO!!!    (even tho i picked Ducks for Cup, screw it   lol)

Murph2417
Murph2417

Well my luck changed, Just screwed things over with my "friend with benefits" and Montreal won. Alone again in Alberta

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

"Penalty to #4 Boston...two minutes for holding the stick"

#Habs still get the call

Jordan29
Jordan29

Someone fucking shoot me in the face, fuck i hate montreal FUCK

conis
conis

Just got in and im sure the discussion is dead already but...

Howabout those big bad bruins right, what a joke.

Bruffins
Bruffins

@DeclanK

just want you to know that I am embarrassed that your Gillis post only has 5 likes so far...

Anthony Petrielli
Anthony Petrielli

@Greg Fenton  Kessel, Kadri and JVR are going to be good for the next five years, at least. They are an expansion team that will be garbage for 5 years minimum if they get rid of  them. That's not the way to do this. Add young talent and have the current good players hold fort until they are ready to takeover. Have to get lucky on a few acquisitions/picks too. You don't just tank and be garbage for 5 years like EDM or NYI. 

APetrielli
APetrielli

@SeanSLamb Thanks. Whoever is the #1 guy is the right player to add (should they get it). I just place a premium on C's & like Bennett at 1.

FloorHockeyFlopper
FloorHockeyFlopper

@ProfessorRance  the Phil on EA Sports Hockey with a golf club was funnier, but that's still good,   dirty Greco Roman Wrestler Chara  LOL

Jordan29
Jordan29

@Murph2417  start working with metal. Jobs out there pay you about 4k a week. That should turn your luck around

ShiFty_D
ShiFty_D

@Uncle Otis    Exactly. When in fact it clearly should have been a 5 minute major for hitting from behind.

Mob_Bckenzie
Mob_Bckenzie

@APetrielli A healthy Gunnarsson is a serviceable 4-6. Franson's shot would be welcome on their PP. Both have some value.

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

You've got Bennett over Reinhart, eh?

Murph2417
Murph2417

@Jordan29 @Murph2417  With that money I could buy a "Friend with benefits", but hey. My luck is still better than on PEI, wasn't getting laid at all there, at least I got some here! (Fucking stupid silver lining).

DylanJ
DylanJ

Lucic said "im going to (effing) kill you next year".

aaron ward pointed it out on TSN panel. use of tv cameras.

Anthony Petrielli
Anthony Petrielli

@DWCMLHS  It is close. Going to try finding tape on both of them and digging in a little more... Both had just ridiculous seasons embarrassing the leagues they are in.