Craig Button joined Macko and Cauz to discuss the Leafs draft options and his final mock draft projection of Mitch Marner to the Leafs at fourth overall (and defenceman Gabriel Carlsson at 24).

If hypothetically all of Hanifin, Strome and Marner were all on the board, who do the Leafs prefer?
I think that there is two parts to that. Number one is that they also pick 24th. When you look at it in light of the 24th pick – you start to think, is there a forward that you think could be there that could be dynamic like a Mitch Marner? For me, there is just nobody there. Now, could there be a defenceman that fits what you’re looking for, a player that could come into your team and help you? I think there are, I think there are more defencemen in that area. I don’t see anyone like Marner. That’s why I put Marner at four for the Leafs. That’s my philosophy, my thinking; doesn’t mean that’s what the Toronto Maple Leafs are thinking. I tied it in with 24.

If I were picking at number three for the Leafs: Dylan Strome. You aren’t winning in this League without a number one centerman, a top centerman. Maybe he’s not number one, there could be a debate, but a top two centerman, a guy who does what he does; you can’t win without it. The Leafs don’t have anybody like that. For me, it wouldn’t even be a hesitation. It would be Dylan Strome. That’s why I think the Arizona Coyotes have to do the same thing.

On Hanifin vs. Provorov:
I see a lot of Jay Bouwmeester in Noah Hanifin. Quite frankly, I’ve said this all the way through, I don’t think Noah Hanifin is the best defenceman in this draft. I think Ivan Provorov is. I think Ivan Provorov is an elite, number-one defenceman. I think Noah is a top-two defenceman, but I don’t see him in the same class as Ivan Provorov.

What I don’t see in Noah Hanifin is that real creativity, that real offensive vision, that ability to make plays that threaten defenders, that opens up ice, that creates scoring chances. I see an outstanding skater, a really good competitor, a player that is going to transport the puck up with that excellent skating, that can make passes up the ice, but when he gets to the offensive blueline I don’t see a dynamic player. That’s why I compare him to Jay Bouwmeester. I very well could be wrong. I’m not suggesting that anyone is underrating him or overrating him, I can only tell you what I think. That’s how I assess Noah Hanifin. I can guarantee there are other people who don’t see it like me and think he is an elite number one defenceman. I’m not saying he’s a guy who isn’t going to have success at the NHL level, I just don’t see him as that elite number one guy, that’s all.

How influential is the Hunter connection factor with Marner?
The one thing I would say about Mark Hunter is – Mark Hunter is not married to a London Knight. He’s not married to an Ontario player. He’s going to look at the players who can come into the Toronto Maple Leafs and help them be a good team. I think for Mark, dealing with Mitch Marner, he’s able to know him a little bit deeper, know him a little bit better. But Mark knows a lot of the players, and part of the job is ensuring you know as much about the players as possible. You have to be able to do that and you have to be able to dig in. When it’s close, obviously he’s got a really good history with Mitch Marner. That could be a point of differentiation for a player, but Mark is going to dig in on all of the players. I think that there is this uniqueness here, that Mark has joined the Maple Leafs and is running the draft, and Mitch Marner happens to be one of the considerations.

Will either Strome or Marner be NHL ready next year?
No way, they’re not ready. They both have developmental weaknesses in a number of areas. You know, it’s not just physical maturity; [it’s] the skating, the strength to hold onto the puck. There’s a lot of what I call “body-on-body battles.” For Mitch Marner, he’s excellent, he’s creative, he’s got great hands, but when you get in those body-on-body battles you don’t want to get pushed away from where you want to go to. It’s one thing to be elusive, but there’s lots of players who know how to put you into a tough position. Quite frankly, I don’t think either of those players is anywhere near close to ready to play in the National Hockey League.

On the possibility of trading down:
At 24, I think that is where the interest comes in. At 24, do they move back? There is going to be teams that are anxious to get in there, it might be a team with two second round picks; there are a lot of teams with two second round picks. Now you start to investigate what group of players you would be comfortable with in this range. The more picks you have, the more opportunities you have to be successful. I think that has always got to be at the forefront of your strategy … that’s where I could see there being a maneuvering and the potential for them to try to get some extra picks, at the 24 spot.

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