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Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

According to Darcy Regier, “The NHL Amateur Draft produces, on average, 54 players [who play at least 80 NHL games in their career] a year — 1.8 per team — I think.”

Think about that. Only 54 players per draft play at least 80 NHL games. That means Mike Zigomanis qualifies as one of those “NHLers.”

The draft is a time for many things: hope, optimism, change, but perhaps most importantly (and foolishly) it is a time for false belief. Fans, especially fans of teams who are struggling, look at the draft and expect so much from it. The truth is though, if you draft one really good NHL player, you’ve done well. If you draft two solid NHLers, you’ve done above average. Three? Well, that’s basically a special draft all things considered.

So if you’re apart of the Leafs organization and waking up this week, you have to feel pretty good about a draft that netted you two players that you (and many others) ranked as first rounders, especially when one is a guy you ranked first overall (more on that below).

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Toronto native Matt Finn

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.

Morgan Rielly is a Canadian defenseman who played his junior career for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. This 18 year old, 6 ft, 190 lb defenseman was born in West Vancouver and was Moose Jaw’s second overall selection in the WHL Bantam Draft.

His honors include a bronze medal in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge and a selection to the 2011 Subway Super Series. Rielly’s season was cut short by a torn ACL as the D-man played only 18 games for the Warriors scoring 18 points during that stretch, including 3 goals. We needed to add some more mobility on the back end and we got it now.

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Hello fellow Leaf fans, welcome to the MLHS 2012 NHL Entry Draft Open Thread. According to Twitter, a lot of GMs are talking to each other so that’s probably a good thing, as long as they aren’t talking basketball. Which is over. Thank God.

Just because Burke has said his reading is that the best player available will be a defenceman doesn’t necessarily mean it’s set in stone. There could be trades, or a team could have changed their mind just as you’re reading this and the whole order changes.

According to The Star, there is as much interest in the Leafs’ 35th pick as there is for the 5th. Maybe that leads to a trade up possibility, but from the sounds of things it looks like the Leafs are picking 5th.

So, debate away, we have an exciting evening ahead of us. No one really knows what’s about to transpire for the Leafs, or most of the teams at the top of the drafting order.  Let’s hope the Leafs end up as winners when it’s all said and done.

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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.

Photo: WHL/OHL/CP, courtesy of Sportsnet

Even if you whole-heartedly buy into the “take the best player available” theory when it comes to draft strategy, I think the odds are low the Leafs will be drafting a defenceman with their fifth overall draft selection in the 2012 Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Say you truly believe organizational needs do not shape a draft team’s particular assessment of “the best player available.” I still can’t see Everett’s Ryan Murray getting past the Oilers or Islanders. I also don’t think the Leafs would pass on the offensive talent available in the top five and draft Matthew Dumba or Morgan Riely. It doesn’t make sense from an organizational needs standpoint – not with Jake Gardiner’s emergence this season – nor from a best-available-player perspective.

Working with that assumption, a good place to start when it comes to analyzing what the Leafs need most with their fifth overall pick is by taking a look at the young forwards already in the system.

Photo: RENE BAILLARGEON/QMI Agency

There are more than a few things I’ll never understand in life. Why do Americans want sports on TV in the middle of the day on the weekend? Who actually likes DJ banter on the radio? And why is the KHL considered to equal death for prospects?

The first two I’ve given up on and accepted as an unfortunate part of life, but the fear of the KHL seems like one that can be addressed easily. Simply put, I think the common perception of the prospects leaving for the KHL is wrong. In fact, the NHL should be encouraging some of their young prospects to consider going this route as it will potentially elevate their game.

Being pro-Russian prospect is easier this week with Vladimir Tarasenko returning to the Blues than it was a few weeks ago when Kuznetsov decided to stay in the KHL for another couple of years. Although, in his decision Kuznetsov does hint at the benefits to his development, and if you scan the Capitals roster there does not seem to be any certainty that a 20 year old offensive player will readily crack the lineup. If he continues to excel in Russia it seems that in two years it could be his spot to lose.

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Photo: Yahoo Sports

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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In this period without any Leafs hockey, Leafs Nation speculates about the draft and summer trades and acquisitions. Once again, yours truly is here to do the former, only this time I’ll be looking at value beyond the top 10 selection.

At the moment, the Leafs hold the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. It’s possible, plausible even, that our second round pick gets moved in order for us to move up for a shot at that future top line forward. However, given the uncertainty of draft day decisions, especially for the top five, six draft eligible players, I doubt that will be the case.

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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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Photo: Getty Images

With the Toronto Maple Leafs set to select fifth overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on June 22, most Ontarians seem to be impatiently pining for an all-world talent to fall into GM Brian Burke’s lap.

Speculation will run rampant up until the moment just before Burke steps to the podium, when he caustically taunts a rival GM about his pending selection, ruining the reveal.  But is there something we should know about Burke that he’s not telling us?

I back-tested the last seven drafts that Burke has participated in – three with Toronto, four with Anaheim – going back to 2005.  In those seven drafts, Burke selected a total of 52 players.  Only eight of them, or 15.9 percent, are European-born or European-trained (all others are North American).

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Scott Laughton

Photo: oshawagenerals.com

After jumping 30 spots in the most recent International Scouting Service report, the 2012 MLHS Draft Profiles turns its watchful eye to Oshawa Generals centerman and Jack-of-all-trades, Scott Laughton.

There’s a lot to like about Scott Laughton, who recorded 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 PIM in 64 games, skating mostly on a line with Christian Thomas (40th overall in 2010 by NYR) and Andy Andreoff (80th overall in 2011 by LAK).  After starting the year slowly, Scott Laughton has developed into a reliable two-way force in the ‘Shwa.

What Scott Laughton has that should separate him from the pack is will.  Simply put, the guy works hard each night and was relied upon as a special teams cog over older, more established players on the Generals roster. He initiates contact, and is dogged in his pursuit of the puck.  And despite a relatively average frame (6-foot-1, 178 pounds), he’s a willing pugilist.  He might want to rein-in that last element of his game for future success, as his any-situation utility is moot while he’s in the sin bin.

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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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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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The Maple Leafs wrapped up a busy two days in St. Paul, Minnesota, adding a total of nine young draftees to the organization, eight of whom boast Canadian or American passports. With the nine selections, the Leafs targeted four forwards, four defensemen and a goaltender. While this year’s crop likely won’t yield much star power, the multitude of draft picks should help bolster organizational depth and provide at least a couple valuable contributors in a few years time.

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A big (6’2, 205lb) technical goaltender for the Allaire System, Sparks played 19 games this past season for the Guelph Storm. Posting a .890 Save Percentage in his first year in the O, Garret played a secondary role in which he showed a calm nature and good rebound control. He’s a project as all sixth rounders are but guys like Rynnas, Scrivens, etc. won’t be around forever with the Marlies; when they do move on, Sparks will hopefully be ready to jump from the OHL to the American League.

Sparks tweeted after his selection:

Dear Maple Leafs,

Thanks for turning my mom into a crying mess. And waking me up from my nap. But seriously, I don’t mind. #bestdayever.

With their 9th and final selection in the 2011 draft, the Leafs drafted their second prospect from a Minnesota high school hockey program in Edina High School defenceman Max Everson. From MN Hockey Prospects:

Plays a responsible defensive game, choosing wisely when to join the offensive rush. Everson transitions well, using his positioning and speed to force opponents to the outside. Everson has demonstrated the keen ability of taking away time and space from the opposition. Has the drive to be a workhorse defenseman and could develop into productive scorer at the next [collegiate] level. Everson continues to improve his coverage in front of the net, but still needs some fine-tuning.

Some tweets from Minnesota High School hockey reporter Ryan S. Clark on both Everson and fifth round pick Tony Cameranesi  courtesy of Burtonboy:

ryan_s_clark Ryan S. Clark
Everson is a good pick. He was a Mr. Hockey candidate here in Minnesota and if its not for an injury, gets more love

ryan_s_clark Ryan S. Clark
Cameranesi was also a Mr. Hockey candidate with a lot of speed, flair and when surrounded by good talent, excitement

ryan_s_clark Ryan S. Clark
Everson will play at Harvard while Cameranesi will be playing at national champion Minnesota-Duluth.

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Photo Credit: www.mnhockeyprospects.com

Cameranesi is a 5’9″, 160 lbs center from Minnesota High School. This is what www.mnhockeyprospects.com had to say about the player:

“The future UMD Bulldog is very attentive on the ice and has exceptional puck control. His first stride acceleration and on-ice anticipation allows him to find open ice and create scoring opportunities. Cameranesi is a hard worker on the ice, keeping his feet moving at all times. Scoring seems to come naturally for Cameranesi, possessing a killer instinct around the net. Likes to use his wrist shot and does a good job keeping the puck low.

Size is obviously an issue, although he uses his body well protecting the puck and is not intimidated of bigger players.”

Here is a small highlight pack which shows what he brings in terms of skill, skating and his ability with the puck.

David Broll is a 6″1′, 225 lbs man child LW who loves to fight. His assesment according to the www.thescoutingreport.org:

“Broll was Erie’s first round pick back in 2009 and put together a very productive freshman campaign with the Otters. He saw some quality minutes and was a part of Ontario’s entry at the Under 17 Challenge, where he had two assists in a predominantly depth role. Broll is a massive player on the ice and many have labeled him as being a “man-child” due to his sheer presence on the ice. His physicality and ability to lay huge hits are two of the main elements to Broll’s game, but he also has some offensive upside. He’s a great guy to plant in front of the net on the powerplay and does a great job generating offense off the low cycle. His skating stride is long and awkward, which will hinder him at the draft, but he will definitely be selected and could go around the early third.”

One of his fights is here, plenty more can be found on youtube. He’s got Brian Burke written all over him.

Dennis Robertson was selected 173rd overall by the Leafs. The defenseman recently finished his first year with the Brown Bears of the NCAA Division I. Listed as 6’0, 195 lb Robertson lead all defenceman on his team in points (17) and 6 goals in 30 games played. Here is a good link with a short bio along with his views on the importance of education, plus his bio on the Brown Bears website.

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Photo Credit: OHL Images

With their first pick of the day in the third round, the Leafs grabbed someone out of left field as far as the rankings go in Josh Leivo. The 6’1, 180 pound winger out of Sudbury went unlisted on the Central Scouting’s rankings, but was the subject of interest for multiple NHL teams in the lead up to the draft after he stepped on the gas production-wise towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. Buzzing the Net had a story on Leivo’s “breakout” playoff campaign as a rookie, when he became one of head coach Trent Cull’s top line players. The Leafs will hope his performance towards the end of the year is a sign of things to come for next season with Sudbury.

Leivo, the Wolves’ 11thround pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection, is coming off a breakout rookie campaign.

After scoring two goals in his first 30 games, the Innisfil native tallied 11 markers in his next 34 starts.

But his real coming-out party was during the post-season, when, playing on the first line with centre Michael Sgarbossa and right-winger Andrey Kuchin, he scored six goals and assisted on seven others.

He helped the Pack upset the favoured Ottawa 67′s in the first round, before falling to the mighty Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the second.

Leivo wasn’t listed by NHL Central Scouting on its final rankings, released in April, but it’s clear the 6-foot-2, 188- pound forward is on the radar of several big-league clubs ahead of the seven-round draft, which runs today and Saturday in St. Paul, Minn.

He said he has been contacted by Boston, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, San Jose, Toronto, St. Louis and Buffalo. Among the personality traits Leivo showed during his rookie season was dogged de t e rmina – tion, particularly on the forecheck.

-Sudbury Star

The Leafs then dipped their hand into their frequented pool of Swedish defence prospects with the selection of 6’1, 173 pound Tom Nilsson of MoDo Jr. Nilsson is a late ’93 kid who doesn’t turn 18 until August, so he’ll have even more developing to do than your typical fourth round pick. Described as very physical, Nilsson (like Leivo) put himself into the draft discussion with strong end-of-year play:

Sometimes overlooked when thrown in with Sweden’s other impressive
defenders, Nilsson can sometimes be the most dangerous weapon they have.
Nilsson can flat out hit and he loves to do it. His physical play
during the U18 tournament was impressive to say the least and changed
the momentum in his team’s favor on several occasions. A part from his
deceivingly good physical play, Nilsson is fairly well rounded and can
be counted on to do what is asked of him. His skating can still improve
but overall Nilsson is a player who really thrust himself into the draft
discussion with his end of year play.”

-Hockey’s Future