The Maple Leafs have been through a lot this past season. That’s why them picking fourth overall in the upcoming June draft is a sigh of relief for the embattled franchise. It would have been great to pick first, second, or third, but the Buds have to play the hand they’re dealt with. That hand includes two first round picks (No. 4 and No. 24.) and six more in the next rounds. It’s not a secret that the Maple Leafs are set to undertake a comprehensive rebuilding project, and that the players they’ll pick on draft day are definitely part of their plans. So with that being said, let’s look at the Leafs’ potential picks in the draft, which can help Toronto’s rebuilding process either soon or later.
Among the names at the top of the Leafs’ list is Mitch Marner. Despite standing 5’11” and weighing just 160 pounds, Marner’s small frame still can’t hide the fact that he’s a menace on offense. Marner is a goal-scoring machine, one that finished second in scoring in the recent OHL season with 126 goals. The kid’s just 17 years old so he might add some more size before making his NHL debut. If anything, he’s also been very vocal of his desire to play for the Buds.
Dylan Strome and Noah Hanifin, meanwhile, are two other names that are certainly high on the Leafs’ list. Strome (45 goals) was the only player who scored more goals than Marner did in the previous OHL season. And unlike Marner, Strome has NHL size for a center. He’s a 6’3”, 185-pound skater, who is already getting comparisons to San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton. Hanifin, on the other hand, is being considered as the best blue liner in the draft. If the Leafs take the former Boston College defenseman, it’ll be terrific to see him paired with a fellow young stud in Morgan Rielly. At Boston College, Hanifin collected 23 points in 37 games as a freshman. Anyone from the group of Marner, Strome, and Hanifin is a player many see as making an impact for Toronto soon. It’s not the same assessment, however, most people say about some of the players the Leafs may pick later in the draft.
Take for example Joel Eriksson Ek, who the Leafs may snag as their second pick overall. The Swedish center is still young but his 6’2”, 185-pound frame is great for an 18-year-old. He’s going to be a project, but if he continues to develop, expect him to be considered as a top-line center a few seasons from now. Another possible option for the Leafs is Travis Konecny. Konecny’s only 5’10” and weighs 172 pounds, but the Ottawa 67 center has the intensity and grit that comes along with his great puck control and solid playmaking. Given his size, though, the Leafs may give him some time before calling him up to the NHL. At the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Playoffs U.S. sportsbooks will look to the NHL Draft to update the odds to win the 2016 Stanley Cup. What will this look like for the Leafs?