The Maple Leafs‘ draft team opted to add some high end skill to the backend with their fifth overall pick yesterday. Some didn’t like the choice to go with a defenceman over a top end talent up front, perceiving it as safe, but as the reports on this kid continue to roll out it seems the Leafs did not shy away from rolling the dice a bit on a high-upside prospect. Similar to Galchenyuk, Rielly had a sizable chunk of his season wiped out to a knee injury, giving us only a small sample size of his draft season. Much like the suggestion that Galchenyuk would’ve been challenging Yakupov for first overall honours if he played a full season, a few scouts have wondered just how high Rielly might have gone if he didn’t suffer the injury – perhaps challenging Ryan Murray for top defenceman of the 2012 draft class.
I know, it’s easy to say things like that when you don’t know, but the point is – when you hear comparisons like Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson and you take a peak at some of the highlight packs and witness the type of raw skill Rielly possesses, the Leafs didn’t really shy away from swinging big on who they deemed the best athlete available at the number five spot, in a draft rife with defencemen in the top 10.
The second round gets underway this morning at 10 a.m. The Leafs won’t have to wait long to pick as they own selection number 35. Dave Nonis suggested yesterday that there was as much interest in this pick from other teams as there was in the fifth overall due to the depth of the draft. If the Leafs opt for some offense at 35, here a few names to look out for:
Nicolas Kerdiles is one, a United States National Team Development Program center/winger with good size and speed. Captain of the Kelowna Rockets, Colton Scissons is a Canadian born power forward who can play center. Brady Vail of the Windsor Spitfires is a center with some size and a complete game as well. If Burke, Morrison and the draft team opt to try to add size down the middle with this pick, those are two of the available options there.
If they opt to gamble a little more on a high risk/high reward offensive prospect, the likes of Marty Frk, a highly skilled Czech winger who lost time last season to a concussion, or Sebastien Collberg, a small but skilled Swedish winger who was ranked third among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, could be possibilities.
Most would call the first three the more likely “Burke picks,” but with the parity of the draft they could go searching for a steal. We’ll see. There’s a slight chance the Leafs go with a goaltender here, particularly if big Swede Oscar Dansk is still around, who has the size and athleticism combination Burke likes in a netminder.
After 35, the Leafs don’t pick again until the fifth round unless they do some maneuvering.
The second day of draft can be followed along on the NHL Network starting at 10 a.m.