Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Alex Tran

Alex Tran

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Alex has been a part of the original MLHS team since way back in 2008. He has contributed to the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals with a special interest in junior hockey and player development.

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Dylan Strome Leafs
Dylan Strome Scouting Report

2015 NHL Draft Profiles: Dylan Strome

Dylan Strome – 6’3, 190 lbs, centre from the Erie Otters (OHL)

Rankings:

  • #3 by ISS Hockey
  • #4 by Future Considerations
  • #8 by Mckeen’s Hockey
  • #4 by Bob Mckenzie consensus rankings


Dylan Strome Strengths:

  • Excellent pedigree of success and winning – Mississauga born hockey player who was named GTHL player of the year, became the #2 overall selection in the 2013 OHL Priority Draft, Gold Medallist for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, part of the impressive Strome hockey family (2011 5th overall pick Ryan Strome is a burgeoning young star for the Islanders).
  • Accelerated offensive development – After scoring 39 points last year, he has more than tripled than output (129 pts) this season to lead the Otters. He has thrived under the increased opportunity and ice-time. He is an elite-level scoring centre that thrives with the puck on his stick in open ice and uses his long reach to weave around oncoming defenders. He can find teammates with crisp passes through traffic on the rush or on during 5 on 5 play. The skillset is topped off with a well above average wrist shot that he can get off quickly and accurately.
  • Well-built for the modern game – Strome possesses a big, strong frame but moves surprisingly well, especially on the rush in open ice. Acceleration is average to slightly below, but his ability to maneuver with the puck and find seams in open ice is impressive. He has spent time at all three forward positions for the Otters, but seems more comfortable with space down the middle ice than along the boards. He demonstrates a nose for the net and has an excellent ability to find pucks in traffic for deflections or rebounds.

Dylan Strome Criticisms:

  • Can he score without McDavid – This question has been asked all season, and Strome was especially under the microscope when McDavid went down for a stretch with a midseason injury. Strome played 2nd line centre for most of the season when McDavid was healthy, thus shielding him from the opposing team’s top pairing defenders. Strome and McDavid would play together on the powerplay, with Strome’s big presence felt primarily in the slot and in front of the net. With McDavid, Strome scored 94 points in 47 games, good for 2.00 points/game. Without him, he scored 35 points in 21 games, good for 1.67 points/game as the 1st line centre on Erie.
  • Defensive game needs work – While he unlikely ever be a high level two-way player, he must handle his defensive responsibilities better in order to be an elite top line centre in the NHL. He can trouble with his transition game, particularly off turnovers in neutral ice, whereby the opposing centre can beat him back up the ice to create an odd-man rush. He has a good reach and demonstrates an ability to force opposing forwards to the outside, but has been prone to lose puck watch and lose his man on broken plays in his own zone.

The Verdict:

  • Potential is sky high – He projects to be a true, first line centre in the mold of a Ryan Getzlaf – a player around whom you could build a championship calibre top line.
  • Draft Day – The Phoenix Coyotes are rumored to have very strong interest in Strome at 3rd overall, though he could quite possibility fall as low as #6 or #7. Aside from the obvious gaping hole at the franchise centre position, the storybook fit between a local kid and a team in need of something to feel good about cannot be understated. The Maple Leafs would and should have very serious interest if he’s there on the board.

Dylan Strome Interview

Courtesy of The Pipeline Show:

On his playoff performance:
I felt okay. I mean, obviously the numbers haven’t been the same since the regular season, but I’m okay with that. It doesn’t really affect me, it doesn’t really bother me too much. I think the guys ahead of me in the standings would much rather be where I am right now in the Finals. It doesn’t really affect me too much. I’m okay with going out there and getting no points and the win as opposed to getting three points and losing. That’s what playoff hockey is, that’s what it comes down to. Our whole team is a pretty tight knit group and when you have a guy putting up the numbers like Connor is you don’t have to worry about that all the time.

On being in McDavid’s shadow:
It’s been different. It’s been fun. He’s one of my best friends, or he is my best friend. To kind of go through this whole process with him has been fun. I’ve been kind of going through it the whole year so I don’t really find too many negatives from it. I just kind of go out there and we kind of just do our thing. We have fun. We like to put the puck in the back of the net and when we’re doing that we’re having our most fun. We’re really a tight knit group and we’ve got so many close friends on this team there’s no problems. There’s no guys that don’t like each other. We’re just really close. That speaks volumes for myself and Connor. We’re just really great friends and going through the whole draft year together, obviously it’s been different with him getting the injury and people saying it was kind of my time to step up, but I think the whole team stepped up. It wasn’t just me, everyone kind of did their part.

As a young brother of an NHLer, did the experience of ‘playing in the shadow’ help?
Yeah. I think it definitely helped. You never like to be in the shadow, but when you’re in the shadow of a guy that is probably the best player in the world outside of the NHL – he is the best player outside the NHL – it isn’t such a bad thing. I guess I learned a lot from when my brother was going through the process, just kind of watching him and being the younger Strome. I think I fared pretty well for myself and I’ve had fun, and he’s helped me along the way. Obviously everyone knew Connor was going to have the year that he had and we kind of just went through the process together.

On how often he played with McDavid:
We played probably about four or five games on the same line, just when we had injuries at the start of the year. Other than that, pretty much every powerplay we get we are on the ice together, so sometimes that’s two minutes a night and sometimes that’s four or six. It really depends. Sometimes there’s no powerplays in a game so we don’t get any time together. It’s kind of something that people have been saying the whole year, but like you said, the people who watch junior hockey have kind of a better understanding that we don’t really play together as much as people would think. Obviously, yeah, he’s pretty special and when you give him the puck you pick up an assist here or there, but I think my linemates and I worked pretty well in the second half of the year with myself and Nick Baptiste, and we’ve had a couple of different wingers in Nick Betz and Mason Marchment and Kyle Maksimovich. We’ve had a lot success just by ourselves but it’s definitely nice going into the powerplay with one of the best players in the world.

On describing himself as a player:
I think I am a player that likes to have the puck on my stick. I think my skating needs to come a long way if I ever want to play in the NHL but I’m aware of that and I think that’s just going to come with time and building strength. I’m a player that likes to have the puck on my stick and find my teammates in the offensive zone. I like playing on the powerplay, I like doing whatever it takes to win. I’ve kind of liked to think of myself as a winner wherever I’ve been in my hockey career. I’ve played on the Marlies for seven years and we won six straight GTHL championships, and a couple of OHF championships. That’s kind of been my family and myself; we like to win. We’re competitive. We compete even when we’re playing stupid board games or mini sticks or road hockey in the driveway. I like to think of myself as a competitive guy and a winner, and hopefully I can back that statement up with an OHL championship.

On using his size:
I think you’re right when you say I’m not really a power forward, but I kind of like to use my body to protect the puck.

On his huge jump in production from last year:
I’m not sure if I was expecting that many [points]. Kind of just throughout the year we kind of played with more confidence and kind of everything just started to roll. We played our first game of the year in Saginaw and no one really knew what to expect. We had a pretty good preseason but I guess things were kind of really up in the air. I think on my second shift this year I got an assist and kind of things just kept rolling for myself and my linemates. We got off to a really good start. When you get a couple big games to start the year you expect that of yourself to be that kind of player and to put up numbers for your team. When you’re going on the ice you’re team is expecting you to score and obviously you have to score to win games. I think I obviously wasn’t expecting that big of a jump, but I knew my brother did the exact same thing in his draft year. He had 27 points his first year and 106 the second year. We kind of followed in each other’s footsteps there. I think I obviously wasn’t expecting that high of a number but it’s definitely a pretty cool thing to be recognized by.

Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters (photo: OHL Images)
Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters (photo: OHL Images)

Experts Take: Dylan Strome

Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) speaking about Dylan Strome on The Pipeline Show:
For me, it’s Marner [at number three] but it’s a 3A with Strome.

Dylan is a player I’ve had the pleasure to watch for quite a bit now. He grew up in the Marlies program here in Ontario. Very, very cerebral player; he’s very much like his brother in that sense, in that the way he breaks down plays it’s outstanding to watch. Even earlier in his Erie career, when he didn’t have high-end guys like Baptiste and Betz playing with him, he was still able to produce. People will knock his skating and there is some merit to that, but when you watch him play he purposely slows the game down and reads the play. He’s got a 360 degree view of the ice. It’s a pleasure to watch him break things down and he sees things where you go, “how did he even see that?” He’s able to just use his creativity and his vision to create, that’s why he’s averaging 1.5 or 1.7 points per game. A lot of that isn’t even playing with McDavid because he plays on a separate line. His skating is something he’s going to have work on, but he’s implemented a style of play that isn’t predicated on his speed. While it is something he has to work on – and he has done better at it, let’s give him credit for that, too – his play isn’t going to be held back by his speed regardless.

I would say he’s above average on the dot. It’s not one of his high-end skills. He wins draws probably more than he doesn’t. When you watch him play, you don’t take notice of that sort of stuff. He’s definitely an offensive zone guy though. He does track back, he does support; again, when his feet come into play and the fact that he doesn’t always take the prime routes, he’s going to take shortcuts some of the other guys don’t. He’s no slouch in his own zone, he wins draws, he won’t hurt you in that sense.

Craig Button (@CraigJButton) speaking about Dylan Strome on The Pipeline Show:
When it’s close like that [between Marner and Strome], I always default to the centerman. I will 100% of the time take the centerman over the winger. I think it’s close between Dylan Strome and Mitchell Marner, I think it’s razor thin close. With that being said, Mitch Marner poses a little bit greater challenge in my view because I think he’s a unique winger. I think most wingers are skate up the ice, shoot, and have speed or what not; he can shoot, but he’s a playmaker and he’s a creative player off the wing. You don’t see a lot of players like that. I’m certainly not suggesting it would be an easier one, but for me I default to the centerman. I just think number one centers are so hard to find. I use the Chicago Blackhawks; yes, they drafted Patrick Kane, but they did that knowing they had Jonathan Toews in the fold. I think that that always becomes a factor for your organization. If you have a couple of centers or a center that you think is really good, then Mitch Marner is not a guy you would pass on. But if you don’t have that number one center, I’m taking the number one center.

Mark Edwards (@MarkEdwardsHP) speaking about Dylan Strome on The Pipeline Show:
The first time I saw him, obviously I knew the name, it was in a triple-A tournament in London. I started watching the skating and, oh my God, it left you wanting more. You thought, how is this kid going to pull it off? No one is going to call him an elite skater right now, but I’m telling you, if you saw him early in his OHL draft year and how far his skating has even come from his draft year to now, it’s impressive. He’s a smart hockey player. Like a Marner, I like that he competes all over the place. You’ll see him hustle and back pressure, working hard on the backcheck, and pretty smart in his own zone. I think he’s another excellent playmaker; in minor midget, surrounded by the kind of talent they usually have on those Marlies teams that usually dominate, he just moved the puck around and guys were just, “can I be on his line?” type of thing. I thought he got off to a good start early in the year and he just carried it. The McDavid injury [was] good for him, he [performed] and put up points and not having to listen to any McDavid [stuff]. They played on opposite lines a lot of the time, too.

Dylan Strome Statistics

SEASONTEAMLEAGUEGPGATPPIM+/- POSTGPGATPPIM+/-
2011-12Toronto Marlboros Bantam AAAGTBHL-----|
2012-13Toronto Marlboros Minor Mdgt AAAGTMMHL6065781438|
2013-14Erie OttersOHL601029391117|Playoffs1436902
Canada Ontario U17WHC-17565110|
2014-15Erie OttersOHL6845841293247|Playoffs1591019101
 GPG1st Assist2nd AssistTotal PtsNHLeES PtsES PPGES Pts/60%ESTOITMPt%TMGl%%TGC
Strome6845523312946791.163.2335.99%39.76%13.76%11.45%

Glossary via CHLstats:
NHLe - The number of points the player would have scored if they were in the NHL this year. Translation factors are based on Rob Vollman’s research which currently sets the WHL and QMJHL as 0.26 while the OHL is 0.3.
TmGl% - Team’s Goals Percentage: What percentage of your goals account for the team’s goals in all games.
TmPt% - Team Point Percentage: what percentage your points account for all of the teams scoring. Currently is based on every goal scored by the team.
%ESTOI - Percentage of ES TOI: As we all teams do not play equal even-strength time per game we represent this as a percentage. Compares TOI for prospects without special teams adjusting the results.

Dylan Strome Video

Dylan Strome – Shift by Shift:

Dylan Strome Highlights:


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Brandon Carlo
Prospective 2015 U.S. National Junior Team player Brandon Carlo battles around Boston University player Cason Hohmann.

2015 NHL Draft Profiles: Brandon Carlo

Brandon Carlo, 6’5 200 lbs defenseman from the Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Rankings:

  • #21 by ISS Hockey
  • #23 by Future Considerations
  • #21 by Mckeen’s Hockey
  • #17 by Bob Mckenzie consensus rankings

Strengths:

  • Powerful, punishing frame – Typical WHL defensive product is perfectly built for the physical game; he is described as a fierce competitor who displays strong play along the boards and does a good job protecting the front of his net.
  • Positional play – He displays good defensive instincts and plays a safer, stay-at-home type of game; he forces quicker forwards along the outside with his gap control and long reach; displays excellent poise and can be relied upon to eat up a ton of minutes against top forwards as demonstrated for the American WJC team.

Weaknesses:

  • Offensive upside – Carlo shows the ability to make a smooth, clean first pass and will occasionally make a smart read to jump into the rush but is unlikely to ever be a major point producer; the passing instincts and point shot will likely grade out as average or slightly below

The Verdict:

  • Potential top four defenseman – Should develop into a reliable 20 minute a night stay-at-home defenseman with a relatively high floor, in the mold of a Braydon Coburn or a Josh Gorges
  • Draft Day – He should find himself coming off the board in the 18 – 25 range.

Brandon Carlo Interview

Courtesy of The Pipeline Show from early in the 2014-15 season.

On his growth this past season, in his role and game:
I feel like I stepped into a huge role this year myself. I am a leader this year, wearing the A and I feel like that was a big honour for me. I feel like that like that’s good because I have a lot of respect for my teammates as well. Definitely a big role playing big minutes each and every night, being used in a lot of situations and I am happy with the role I am playing right now.

Last year [included] not a lot of powerplay time for me, but I’m stepping into a role with that this year. I am on and off the first and second powerplay. Definitely just coming into this year I feel like my role has changed from my experience in the League, being able to tell the younger guys how I went through what they went through. When they make mistakes, give them a little pat on the back. I feel it’s more my job this year to try to look after the long guys and lead by own way.

On his new role on the powerplay:
I feel like I haven’t really gotten the opportunity yet to really release that big shot, but definitely that’s what I look for. Occasionally I’ll get it and have gotten quite a few assists off of it. Definitely looking for that one timer shot right in the slot, that’s kind of my role.

On his height/weight:
So far I’ve been told and I believe that I’m 6’5, 200 pounds. For me I feel I’d like to gain at least 15 more pounds. I want to be a really, really solid guy on the ice and I feel like I need to fill in a little more on my legs a little bit with the squats and things like that over the summer. I feel like that’s a big thing. I feel strong, definitely stronger than last year, but I can make a jump to the next level and I feel like I definitely need to work on some core strength and leg strength.

On physical play:
I am not the guy that really looks for the huge hits, but definitely in the corners with me you’re going to  get a couple cross checks and definitely feel my presence there. I feel like physical presence is something I could implement more in my game.

On playing for the US at the Ivan Hlinka:
It was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed it, meeting all the other guys. For that, it was a huge honour to throw on the USA sweater. Obviously, getting to represent your country, there’s nothing like it.

On the decision to play in the WHL:
NCAA was absolutely an option for me, but overall I felt the WHL fit me and the type of player I was. For me, I really just wanted to give it a solid shot at making the NHL and I felt this was going to be the best route with my size and things like that. I feel like the way I was developing and still am; I’m really happy with my decision to sign in the WHL and after my first season and coming into this season I’m very happy with it.

Brandon Carlo Video

Brandon Carlo Statistics

SEASON TEAMLEAGUEGPGATPPIM+/- POSTGPGATPPIM+/-
2011-12Colorado Thunderbirds U16T1EHL U16406111720|
2012-13Tri-City AmericansWHL000000|Playoffs51010-2
Colorado Thunderbirds U16ÊT1EHL U164110374758|
2013-14Tri-City AmericansWHL713101366-13|Playoffs50118-1
2014-15Tri-City AmericansWHL634212590-15|Playoffs40114-1
USA U20WJC-20501101|

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Daniel Sprong

2015 NHL Draft Profiles: Daniel Sprong

It’s that time of year of again – when the pain and suffering of another losing season finally pays off. But at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the stakes are higher than ever.

At 4th overall, the Maple Leafs will make their highest ever selection since taking Scott Thornton 3rd overall in 1989 (yikes). They will then follow that with the Nashville Predators’ selection, somewhere between 22nd – 24th overall depending on the playoff outcomes. If there was ever a time to hit a home run, that time is now. Let’s dive right in, starting with a candidate for their late first round pick.

Daniel Sprong – 6’0 192 lbs, winger from the Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

Rankings:
    • #26 by ISS Hockey
    • #15 by Future Considerations
    • #20 by McKeen’s Hockey
    • #32 by Bob Mckenzie consensus rankings


 

Daniel Sprong Strengths:
  • Quick and elusive – Possesses explosive speed down the wing and has the ability to weave easily through the seams on the rush; can beat opposing defenders by simply accelerating past them during quick transition play
  • Scoring instincts – One of the best pure snipers of this draft class with a quick, accurate release on his shot; demonstrates the ability to sneak away into open space to receive passes in the offensive zone
Daniel Sprong Criticisms:
  • One-dimensional player – Prefers to play out in open ice and likes to cheat along the blue line for quick transition; not the type of player to regularly sacrifice the body for a chip play out of the zone; in the offensive zone, he is prone to making high risk plays that may lead to turnovers at inopportune times
The Verdict:
  • Potential scoring winger – Has the skillset to become a high octane, dynamic 25 – 30 goal scorer at the NHL level though with higher prospect risk, in the mold of a Gustav Nyquist
  • Draft Day – Early into the year, there was talk that Sprong could go as high as the early teens, but his inconsistency and defensive flaws have caused his stock to slip a little bit. He should settle in somewhere between picks 20 – 25, but as we’ve seen with such players in the past (John Mcfarland, Hunter Shinkaruk), he could end up as a surprise slip into the low 20’s or even out of the first round altogether.

Daniel Sprong Statistics

SEASONTEAMLEAGUEGPGATPPIM+/- POSTGPGATPPIM+/-
2011-12Deux-Rives Dauphins Bantam AALSLBAA193083832|
Wilkes-Barre Knights BantamAYHL119233224|Playoffs474114
2012-13Lac St-Louis Tigres EspoirQMEAA30485610436|Playoffs35380
2013-14Charlottetown IslandersQMJHL6730386820-20|Playoffs44150-5
2014-15Charlottetown IslandersQMJHL6839498818-23|Playoffs1074116-6

Daniel Sprong Highlight Video

Daniel Sprong Isolation Video (2013)

Daniel Sprong – Sportsnet Feature: “Possibilities”

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With a little over a week left until the NHL Draft, teams are going into crunch time as scouts race to finalize their draft rankings. These are the days where as a scout, you decide once and for all just how much you’re to advocate for your player. Sometimes if a single scout’s voice is loud enough, it may make all the difference in how high a surprise player can climb. Our next player has the potential to do exactly that – either you love him or you hate him – Val-d’Or forward Anthony Mantha.

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As the playoffs head into their final weeks, it’s become clear once again that size does matter. The ability to win battles along the boards, play a punishing physical game and own the front of the net has allowed the Boston Bruins to steamroll through the New York Rangers and now the Pittsburgh Penguins. I have no doubt that Maple Leafs is paying close attention and is eagerly counting down the days until the likes of Joe Colborne and Tyler Biggs are ready to suit up for the club on a full-time basis. Should they so choose, there may an opportunity to add even more size up front with their 21st overall selection this June. Next up in our 2013 NHL Draft Series is the powerful two-way centre out of Rimouski, Frederik Gauthier.

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It’s that time of year again. With the 2013 NHL Draft just over a month away, let’s start looking toward the next crop of exciting young stars. Barring any trades, the Maple Leafs are poised to select 21st overall after a successful season and noisy, albeit shortened, playoff run. To achieve any form of sustained success in today’s NHL, organizations absolutely have to capitalize on their late first round selections in order to create a constant stream of affordable, quality talent to the big league team. With their strong depth across all levels of the farm system, the Maple Leafs can afford to go any which way with this selection. Let’s start with shutdown centre Bo Horvat.

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Kadri, Lupul
Photo: CBC.ca

That Kadri kid is pretty good isn’t he? Back when Brian Burke stepped up to the podium at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, I imagine this was the player he was envisioning that night: slick, slippery and drenched in skill. That was an absolute clinic Kadri put on out there against the Lightning, displaying all sorts of offensive creativity, patience and ingenuity with the puck. This is a player who is gaining confidence and progressing by leaps and bounds – a player on the verge of making a lasting imprint in this star-starved market. But before we get too far of ourselves thinking ahead, why don’t we take a step back and briefly peruse the timeline  that has led him to the “now” (and enjoy a few memorable quotes along the way).

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Photo: Leafs TV

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of chatting with Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting for an upcoming article in the Lindy’s Sports Maple Leafs Annual magazine. We touched a variety of topics including the progression of certain top prospects, drafting philosophy and the general inner workings of hockey management. Which prospect is his pick for breakout player of the year (he picked Jake Gardiner in last year’s annual)? How does a GM affect drafting philosophy? Where did the organization have Morgan Reilly ranked on draft day? Guess you’ll just have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, we also went through a few reader questions kindly submitted by the MLHS community. Courtesy of the fine folks at Lindy’s Sports, I am able to provide you all with a short snippet as a preview of a very exciting fall project. Everything has gone to print and the entire MLHS team was thrilled to be involved. Details regarding the magazine release and where to snag yourself a copy will be available in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

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Next weekend I will be chatting with Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison about prospects and the draft for an upcoming magazine feature. If you are interested in submitting a question for Morrison, please do so in the comments below. Thanks.

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Photo: Toronto Star

With their first pick of Day 2, the Maple Leafs quickly snap up one of the top leftover talents in defenseman Matthew Finn. The 6’0 Guelph Storm blueliner shares many similarities to the Leafs’ 2011 first round pick Stuart Percy as another complete package on the back end. During his rookie season in the OHL, Finn struggled at times with inconsistency and was criticized for his conditioning level. He responded in a big way the following summer with a tremendous work ethic and headed into last season in excellent shape.

On the ice, he’s a reliable defender with a solid physical game. His stick and positional instincts aren’t quite on Percy’s level but Finn offers more in the way on lower body strength and ability to clear out the dirty areas. He’s an effective member of the penalty kill, showing a willingness to get in the shooting lanes and sacrifice his body to make a play. On the offensive side of things, he plays well with the puck on his stick. He thinks the game quickly and effectively, enabling him to move the puck effectively in transition. Finn possesses an above average point shot and does an admirable job quarterbacking the Guelph powerplay.

In summary, you’re looking at a solid two-way defenseman with an high hockey IQ, but one whose whose potential is hampered somewhat by his average skating ability. The upside is here for a top four defenseman who can contribute at both ends of the ice as well as on both special teams units. This is a player who should have gone between picks 15 and 25 in my opinion (and Bob McKenzie’s), so there could be excellent value here.

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Photo: EuroProspects.com

We’re now mere days away from the ever exciting NHL Entry Draft. One of the names that consistently shows up in that group of the top 3-4 players is 6’2 power forward Filip Forsberg. The 17 year old Swede is touted as the most complete player in the draft, offering a superb package of size, skill, defensive instincts and competitive spirit. It is unlikely that he will still be around by the 5th selection, but stranger things have happened. Any team selecting Forsberg as early as 2nd overall could find themselves with a tremendous bargain in two or three years time.

The Basics: All-around winger/center for Leksand, 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points in 43 games played.

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With the discussion and speculation builiding up as draft day nears, one name that just won’t go away is Radek Faksa. The Maple Leafs are rumoured to be quite high on the powerful Kitchener Rangers’ forward and have scouted his games extensively. Faksa possesses many of the qualities currently lacking in the organization: the ability to play centre, defensive zone acumen, and size. His name will undoubtedly be linked to the Blue and White even at #5 overall.

The Basics: Two-way centreman for the Kitchener Rangers, 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points in 62 games played

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Photo: RDS

As the draft continues to draw nearer, the Mikhail Grigorenko story becomes more and more interesting. A player once believed to be a lock for the 2nd or 3rd spot in the draft is beginning to slide down the rankings, and is currently pegged anywhere from 4th to 20th. This opens up a scenario where a supremely talented, albeit inconsistent, 6’3 centre is on the board for the Maple Leafs at the fifth selection. What to do… What to do…

The Basics: An elite offensive-minded centre, a high risk/reward type prospect; 40 goals and 45 assits for 85 points in 59 games played for the Quebec Remparts

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According Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov, it appears that the Maple Leafs are poised to sign 25 year old forward Leo Komarov, their 6th round pick from 2006, to an entry level contract following the World Championships. Last summer, it was believed that the team made a push to sign the young agitator but Komarov respectfully declined, preferring to spend one more season in the KHL. Should these rumors come to fruition, the Leafs will be adding plenty of nastiness and physicality to their bottom six group this fall.

The 5’11 210 pound Estonian born Finn has been honing his craft for the past 3 seasons against men in the KHL. At the NHL level, he likely fits in as a 4th line super pest who offers a high energy, in your face type of game. Komarov is an emotional player upon whom teammates can feed off of. His strengths lie primarily in a speedy, forechecking type of role with the ability to get under his opponents’ skin. He’s an average player in the 5 on 5 setup but is quite effective as an open ice forecheck due to his excellent skating and impressive ability  to recognize and close down open lanes. He absolutely loves to chirp and play really close to the edge, making him an easy target at times for officials. During his time in the Finnish SM-Liiga, he was named the league’s “Most Hated Player” three times.

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Photo: TSN

So now that the Maple Leafs have settled into the fifth overall selection (barring any major surprises from the draft lottery), the draft picture becomes a little bit clearer and the list of draft candidates becomes a little narrower. Today, let’s talk about Everett Silvertips’ captain Ryan Murray, a tremendously skilled defenseman earning comparisons to the likes of Scott Niedermayer.

The Basics: All-around defenseman with top notch mobility for the Everett Silvertips; 31 points in 46 games played.

Strengths: It’s not easy living up to a comparison to a Hall of Fame calibre player, but Ryan’s doing a pretty good job so far. His resume speaks for itself. Murray was the Canadian captain for the gold medal winning U18 Ivan Hlinka tournament team and was also named the Silvertips’ captain at the tender age of 17. He is an absolute horse on the Everett blueline, touching a ridiculous 30+ minutes/game and is a difference maker at both ends of the ice. Red Line Report commended Murray on his superb defensive play, describing him as virtually “flawless positionally”. The offensive statistics a bit misleading due to a weak team, but Murray possesses high level poise, vision and rushing ability. He’s mature beyond his years, has all the tools to become a future captain and is likely ready to step onto an NHL blueline next season.

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A very interesting story is beginning to develop out west. The Anaheim Ducks top prospect, defenseman Justin Schultz, has been the best blueliner in college for the past two seasons. We’re talking about a 6’2 well-rounded defenseman with strong skating ability, slick passing ability, a very good point shot and a boatload of upside. During his age 20 and 21 years in the NCAA, he’s scored 34 goals and 91 points in 78 games played for Wisconsin.  There’s the potential here for a future top pairing defenseman. Remember the Gardiner-Lupul trade last season? Schultz was a big reason that trade happened because the Ducks believed (and they may be right) that Justin was the better of the two talented young blueliners. Now here’s the thing: he has not yet signed with the Ducks and is due to become a league-wide free agent this coming summer.

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Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

It’s that time of year again… when the bitterness of another bottom five standing turns into optimism towards a potential top five draft pick. Maple Leaf hockey in March. Gotta love it. Let’s start off this year’s MLHS Draft Profile Series with centre Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls. He’s one of those classic Canadian born, OHL trained two-way centres. Brendan’s well-rounded skillset projects him anywhere between 6th and 12th on draft day.

The Basics: Classic two-way centre for the Belleville Bulls; 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 points in 63 games played.

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Photo: tosports.ca

It was a brilliant moment of catharsis that just seemed to sweep away the bitterness of the previous year.

Imagine yourself in Sundin’s place leading up to this moment. For twelve seasons, you had brought a level of commitment and excellence that undboubtedly would have placed you among the most distinguished hockey players in the history of a storied Original Six franchise. You had given your heart and your career to a management team that had failed to pay you back in turn. Even still, your teammates and most of all, the wonderful city of Toronto had been behind you all the way. Then all of a sudden, things changed. You were now a trade chip, being publicly ushered out the door. A sacrifice for the long-term betterment of the franchise. Somehow, your reluctance to play anywhere other than where your heart truly belonged had earned you criticism and scorn from the same media and fans that once praised your dedication to the city. It was painful.

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Quick links for your Monday blues:

Joffrey Lupul continues to receive much deserved recognition for his standout campaign. He has earned the nod to serve as an alternate captain at the All-Star game.

Colby Armstrong’s nearing a return from his concussion injury, but will have to remain patient for the time being. Given a lack of conditioning and upcoming All-Star break, Ron Wilson explains that it may make more sense to pencil in a January 31st (Pittsburgh Penguins) return for Armstrong.

As can be expected, frustations continue to mount when you’re not winning. Some of that boiled over at Sunday practice when Carl Gunnarsson and Joey Crabb got into a bit of a disagreement.

Quirky Stat: Kessel likes to keep busy. When playing with 0-1 days rest, he’s put up 34 points in 29 games played. When given an extended break (2+ days rest), he’s scored at a more modest pace of 15 points in 17 games.