Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Alec Brownscombe

Alec Brownscombe

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

The Maple Leafs have selected John Piccinich out of the USHL with their 103rd overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Piccinich is a 6’0, 190-pound right winger from New Jersey who is committed to Boston University for next season. He was the 135th ranked skater according to the Central Scouting Service’s final rankings.

Boston University head coach David Quinn on Piccinich:

“Makes great plays in the offensive zone… strong on his skates and gets to the dirty areas… game translates well to college hockey… another guy who people will enjoy away from the rink.”

Dave Morrison on John Piccinich:

“He’s a real hungry goal scorer kind of kid. He’s got a real thick build. He’s not a tall kid, but he’s a thick kid. He can score. It’s what he does; he’s got real good puck poise around the net. He shoots well. He’s going right into Boston University, and BU is in transition.  They’re going to go with a lot of young players next year. He’s going to get every opportunity to get a significant role next year even, in his first year as a freshman. We like him as a kid; he’s got that twinkle in his eye. He loves the game, he loves to be at the rink, and he’s got that real good stick. We’re hopeful he’s going to jump right in there next year and keep that development going.”

John Piccinich Scouting Report

“Piccinich is a playmaker who has strong vision and creativity with the puck on his stick, especially when given time and space. He has good senses and a decent shot selection. Inconsistency in his efforts need to be ironed out. ”
– Elite Prospects

John Piccinich Stats

2013-2014USA U-18USHL10000

Rinat Valiev
Rinat Valiev

With their 68th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs have drafted Rinat Valiev of the Kootenay Ice in the Western Hockey League.

Valiev is a 6’1, 190-pound left-shot defenceman who was passed over in last year’s draft. He turned 19 in May. Valiev was ranked as the 141st North American skater by Central Scouting last June but the Russian factor and a knee injury appeared to push him out of the draft picture altogether. He was invited to the Dallas Stars rookie camp last September.

Valiev’s described as a two-way defenceman with good mobility and hockey smarts.

The Maple Leafs hadn’t drafted from this area of the world since Mikhail Stefanovich back in 2008, sticking to North Americans and Scandanavians in the 35 picks since. Stefanovich was Belorussian, however, and to find the last Russian drafted by the Leafs we have to go back to 2006 to Nikolai Kulemin.

Dave Morrison on Rinat Valiev:

“He can be gritty when he has to be. He is a really intelligent defenceman, he skates well, he’s got good size. He’s really grown in the past couple years. I just like the fact that he came over here and really wants to play over here. What he did with Kootenay especially in the playoffs when they upset Calgary in the first round, they were an underdog and they lost a defenceman early to an injury and they ran with 3 or 4 defenceman. He was exceptional. We really liked him all along, all season, anyway, but when we saw that we thought ‘this is another guy with a big heart and all the intangibles we look for in a player.’

“Last year was a funny year for him. He came over late, started in Indiana because he didn’t get drafted in the CHL. He really wanted to play in the CHL and that didn’t happen, so he went and played in Indiana. In February he went to play in the Four Nations tournament and he hurt his knee and he didn’t come back. There was all sorts of rumours and all of these different things about how he didn’t want to play in Indiana. Well, he hurt himself and he couldn’t play so he just stayed at home. What he originally wanted to do was play in the CHL. He did get drafted by Kootenay, and he came over and played on the same day he arrived because he was late getting his VISA. They had a game that night in Red Deer and they said “no, no, you don’t have to play.” He said, ‘no, no, I want to play.’ To me it’s just another thing that tells you about the kid; so eager to get in the lineup.

“Certainly in the last half and the playoffs he took his game to another level. I will say he was on our radar going back to the 2012 Ivan Hnilka. We really liked what we saw at that time. We were actually following him in his original draft year. Things went south and we didn’t have all the information. We weren’t satisfied. We had him on our list last year, but we weren’t satisfied with what was going on, so when this year started and he ended up on Kootenay we got on him pretty quick. Roy Stasiuk, who is our West area scout, was Kootenay’s head scout for a long time and actually even when they won the Mem Cup. Roy has a real strong relationship with them. We were following him pretty closely early on.

“How far away he is depends on his strength. His intelligent enough, he skates well enough, he’s tall enough, but it’s more of the strength thing. How strong is he going to be in a year? We could qualify him after this year and he could go back as an overage. But when you go back as an overage as an import you’ve taken two spots; you’re taking an overage spot and a Euro card spot. A lot of times the junior teams don’t want to do that. In his case, we’d be hopeful he’d be able to play in the AHL at that point.”

 Rinat Valiev Scouting Report

A mobile rearguard with the physical tools and offensive instincts to succeed at the next level, he has definitely found his comfort zone, playing with a lot more confidence as the season has progressed.
– Hockey’s Future

Rinat Valiev Statistics
SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIMplus minus
2012-13Indiana IceUSHL36671343-6
2013-14Kootenay IceWHL5552328682

Rinat Valiev Video

Kootenay head coach Ryan McGill on Valiev:

Valiev fights sixth overall pick Jake Virtanen in March:

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William Nylander stands with Toronto Maple Leafs officials after being chosen eighth overall during the first round of the NHL hockey draft, Friday, June 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Being that we rely on second-hand reports and highlight clips for many of these prospects, especially for those playing overseas, we can’t really evaluate new Leaf William Nylander on a game in-game out basis, but maybe we can all agree Dave Nonis, Dave Morrison and the draft team seemed to have the right philosophy when approaching their eighth overall pick last night.

“Nylander might be the most skilled player in the draft.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs have selected Modo forward William  Nylander with their eighth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

The Maple Leafs have leaned on the expertise of Swedish scout Thommie Bergman in the selection of this high-upside forward. It should dispel any notion of the Leafs shying away from skilled upside in favour of size and safe projectability. The 5’11.5, 183-pound William Nylander owns tantalizing offensive upside, earning the label as perhaps “the most skilled dynamic forward” in the draft class according to Brendan Ross. William Nylander cemented his place on the top 10 radar with a strong U18 World Championship performance, where he was named top forward and won a Gold Medal, although he was left off the World Junior Championship roster.

Pro-Agility Test Left: – Nylander 2nd
Pro-Agility Test Right: – Nylander 2nd
Wingate Test – Average Power Output (watts/kg): – Nylander 1st
Wingate Test – Peak Power Output (watts/kg): – Nylander 1st
Hand-Eye Coordination test: – Nylander 4th

“All the skills – Many say, William Nylander is the most skilled player in the draft. Dynamic, quick, agile, great hands, great passes, always changing the pace of play, can accelerate out of the blocks.”

The benefit to drafting a European instead of a player out of the CHL is that the Maple Leafs can bring Nylander over the pond and groom him on the Marlies if they so choose. It’s possible he stays in Modo for next season, but the option is there to bring him over next Fall as well. Nylander turned 18 on May 1st. Unlike North American prospects, Nylander can be brought along slowly while competing against men. The downside is that it’s a little more difficult to gauge where his production is at given he bounced around various levels of Swedish hockey last season.

Patience will be required with this pick, but there is electrifying potential here with Nylander’s speed and skill package. He’ll need to size up, learn to use his linemates better and develop his all-around game from the sounds of the scouting reports, but he’s got the tools you can’t teach and that much is exciting.

We know there’s been a needed injection of high-end forward talent into the Maple Leafs development system with this pick. As always, real judgments can’t be made until 5-10 years down the road.

William Nylander Scouting Report

Click to order the McKeen’s Draft Guide

“Committed to Modo next season in the SHL, William Nylander spent time with four different teams this year including a brief audition with Modo J20 team, multiple stints in the Allsvenskan and a call-up to the SHL.. a dominant force in international play leading the 2014 World U18 Championships in points (7-6-10-16) and finished tied for second in tournament points at the 2013 World U17 Challenge capturing a gold medal (6-2-8-10) .. talented solo act who can gain the zone and brings energy and intensity to each shift .. innovative, ideas occur naturally as a by-product of his vision and awareness .. always looking for the perfect play which can cripple his game appearing to hold onto the puck too long or trying to do too much .. creates separation via an explosive short cross-over stride and superb lateral agility .. Nylander’s omission from Team Sweden entry into the WJC humbled him as he bore down in the second half playing a more mature game .. can play harder in defensive situations but he does possess Patrick Kane like skill in his ability to control and dangle with the puck needing minimal space to unleash a quick and accurate wrist shot.”
McKeen’s Hockey Draft Guide

William Nylander Video

William Nylander Statistics

2008-2009Team MarylandAYHL2825265112|
2010-2011Chicago Mission U16MWEHL293427618|
2011-2012Stockholm 1TV-Pucken87101714|
SDE HF J18J18 Elit1812142614|
SšdertŠlje U16U16 SM33474|
SšdertŠlje J18J18 Allsvenskan975122|
SšdertŠlje J20SuperElit81342|Playoffs40552
Sweden U16 (all)International-Jr747114|
Sweden U17 (all)International-Jr30004|
2012-2013SšdertŠlje J18J18 Elit12132|
SšdertŠlje J20SuperElit2715284314|
SšdertŠljeAllsvenskan84262|Kvalserien SHL102134
Sweden U17WHC-17628102|
Sweden U17 (all)International-Jr32352|
Sweden U18WJC-1852132|
Sweden U18 (all)International-Jr104264|
2013-2014Sweden U18Hlinka Memorial44264|
MODO J18J18 Allsvenskan00000|Playoffs43474
MODO J20SuperElit30334|Playoffs53582
Sweden U18WJC-187610160|
Sweden U18 (all)International-Jr141213256|
William Nylander Statistics

Photo: (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)

According to Darren Dreger, the Maple Leafs have been talking to recently let-go Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato about filling one of three assistant coaching vacancies in Toronto.

The off-season following Pittsburgh’s Cup win, Granato joined Pittsburgh as an assistant to Dan Bylsma (also coached under Bylsma in Sochi). Granato’s focus was the forward units and the penalty kill, which for the most part was a success under his watch.

Granato would also tick off the box of having prior head coaching experience having taken over the Avalanche bench on two separate occasions (2002-04, 2008-09, amassing an 104-78-17 record). The Avalanche made the playoffs in both 2002-03 and 2003-04, but Granato was dismissed after 1st and 2nd round exits, respectively. A roster that included Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Rob Blake, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay was expected to go deep and Granato was reassigned to an assistant’s role.

Granato’s exit from Colorado in 2009 was acrimonious, as GM Pierre Lacroix began pursuing Patrick Roy as his next coach while leaving Granato to twist in the wind, technically still in possession of the head coaching job which he took over from Joel Quenneville prior to the beginning of the 2008-09 season. Lacroix’s pursuit of Roy failed and he didn’t really have a choice but to go in a new direction, hiring Joe Sacco and letting Granato go. The Avalanche scored under 200 goals that year en route to the third overall pick (Duchene) in the draft.

If Granato is brought in, it’s likely to take over the Leafs’ wayward penalty kill. His results in Pittsburgh suggest there’s some sense in that. The Penguins’ PK finished first in the League in his first season in Pittsburgh, 3rd the year after, 25th in 2012-13 (with a rebound to 92.3% in the playoffs), and 5th this past season (note: received a league-best .911 SV% in 4v5 situations, 15th in CF%).

Nonis Meets the Media Ahead of Draft

Shocking, months of talk about the Leafs trading up isn’t going to come to fruition. Worry not, big changes are a—


Some good news for last:

Thursday Afternoon Links:


Too Much Cash for Komarov?

Obviously, the latter report conveys considerably less optimism when it comes to getting a deal done. Dave Nonis had no scruples about suggesting Komarov’s departure last summer was “about money,” not mentioning role, ice time or the Olympics.

Komarov reportedly made $2 million in the KHL last season, and according to Chris Johnston that was twice the amount the Leafs were willing to pay Leafs Nation’s popular pest.

Komarov posted 9 points in 42 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. While contracts are awarded based on career body of work, it’s hard not to point out the 11 points David Clarkson put up in 60 games after receiving 525% of the dollars Komarov was offered per annum, plus a lot more term.

One overpayment doesn’t mean Nonis should knowingly commit another, but I’d be finding something in the $1.5-1.9 million range to make sure Komarov is back as a versatile bottom six option on the Leafs next season. That might be a bit rich for Nonis’ tastes.

Leafs interested in Boyle, Boyle interested in Leafs?

Darren Dreger suggested on the radio yesterday that — somewhat surprising if true (one figures Boyle would be Cup hunting) — the Maple Leafs are high on Dan Boyle’s list of potential destinations if he hits UFA (the Islanders will have a couple more weeks here to try to get a deal done having acquired his rights). The interest apparently is mutual.

Sharks fans had begun to turn on Dan Boyle this past season:

In his sixth season with the franchise for which he’s the all-time leading scorer among defensemen, Dan Boyle had a disappointing year. He’d probably be the first to tell you that, too, considering what a frank assessment he gave of his play earlier in the season, admitting that he’d likely rushed his return from a concussion. That brain injury, the result of a horrific boarding penalty committed by Blues forward Maxim Lapierre, likely exacerbated the natural age-related decline that was already coming down the pike for the 37-year-old blueliner. Boyle finished the season with 12 goals and 36 points, his lowest output ever in a season where he’s played 70 or more games but his struggles were about more than production; few and far between were the singular rushes, perfect stretch passes and power play brilliance that Boyle’s tenure in teal will forever be associated with.
-Fear the Fin

On the positive side of things, Boyle did lead one of the best team’s in the league in time on ice last season, despite a concussion affecting his play, and is a veteran righty who would slot nicely onto the Leafs’ second pairing. He may well find a bit a new lease on life in the more open Eastern Conference gameplay and is a pretty sure bet to break 40-45 points given he suffered from some hard luck last season. Assuming Cody Franson isn’t coming back, Boyle would be a highly-capable powerplay substitute.

With that said, it’s all about price and if it’s worth giving Boyle the two years he wants. Boyle played the softest minutes among the Sharks’ six regular D last season with 52.1% offensive zone starts, a low quality of competition, and he’s turning 38 in a month. We know he wants a two year deal. Leafs management would have believe the aging Boyle has enough game left to come in and help out Phaneuf with some of the toughs in 2014-15 and 2015-16 or else the the cap space is probably better spent elsewhere.

Player usage chart - 6 players

Thursday Links:

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It’s likely that Dave Nonis and Brendan Shanahan will want some prior head coaching experience in one of the three upcoming assistant coaching hires, knowing the leash is tight on head coach Randy Carlyle headed into next season. There have been a few AHL candidates mentioned, however, a discussion which has included Marlies head coach Steve Spott, who just completed a successful first season coaching pro hockey, and his assistant Derek King, who has been with the team since 2009-10. Two other names mentioned by Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts column this week were the head coaches of Rockford IceHogs and Manchester Monarchs respectively, Ted Dent and Mark Morris.

Leo Komarov will not take up a contract option with Dynamo in the KHL and appears certain to return to the NHL next season. Leafs fans have been tracking him all year since his return to the KHL as Leo has worn Leafs apparel against his team’s wishes and told KHL news outlets he would love to return to Toronto.

Leafs fans love Komarov and want their favorite polyglot pest back on the team, but where it gets tricky of course is Dave Nonis’ job of setting aside emotional ties to the player and trying to arrive at fair value with a contract offer. Something Nonis attempted to do after the 2012-13 season, but for a collection of reasons – salary, needing to play an offensive role in the KHL to make Team Finland for Sochi – he returned to the KHL.

Komarov posted 9 points in 42 games in 2012-13 while playing just under 14 minutes a game (third line role). That’s a 17 point pace over 80 games, but there might be a little more to give here based on his KHL track record and the fact that it was just his first 40-odd games in the NHL. You also wonder if Komarov could potentially ride shotgun on a skilled line, because a duo such as Kadri and Lupul, if both still here, could use some jam – and Komarov’s ability to take a faceoff – on the other wing, where Kulemin might not be back season (Leo seems like the type who could get Kadri fired up if he played on his line again). Komarov also played 1:48 a game on the PK, which at the time was among the best in the League.

What was most valuable about Komarov was his ability to set the tone for his line in the bottom six. There were no easy minutes with him on the ice, which is an element the “easiest team to play against” last season could certainly use among their forward group. He brings a measure of versatility (can play C) and defensive responsibility to whatever line he might play on.

Where do we place him, salary wise? Nonis lowballed him as an RFA, according to some reports, and he’s now a UFA who can poke around the market some on July 1. It’s a tough call as Komarov is a bit of a unique case.

Hump Day Links:

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Well, folks, there we have it. Another bizarre chapter in Leafs history was penned today as it was officially announced Randy Carlyle is staying on a Leafs head coach despite all basic logic suggesting otherwise. And he’s not only staying, but receiving the vote of confidence and financial reward of a two-year contract extension for his accomplishments presence behind the bench.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle talks with his team during the practice at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence January 15 2013 DAVID COOPER/TORONTO STAR

According to Damien Cox, the decision on the futures of Randy Carlyle and his staff is expected to arrive sometime this week as Brendan Shanahan is on the verge of his first big decision(s) as Maple Leafs President.

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Leaf Fan Reaction Video
Bergeron Ties It Up 4-4 (Photo: MLHS)

You’ve probably seen the video.

Mark Micelli and his Leafs fan buddies were gathering for Game 7 on the night of May 13, 2013. Mark had recently purchased a Go Pro camera, so, taking his prompt from the Maple Leaf Square goal celebrations that were a viral hit throughout the Leafs-Bruins series, he set it up in his basement beside the TV and kind of forgot it was even there.

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We began our search for a new head coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs with an in-depth look at Peter DeBoer over the weekend. DeBoer officially received the MLHS stamp of endorsement, but he has since been confirmed to be remaining in New Jersey next season. Be it a new deal, or a contract option we weren’t aware of, apparently his contract isn’t expiring anymore.