It was an interesting Day Two of the 2016 NHL Draft for the Toronto Maple Leafs, to say the least. Mark Hunter and company picked ten players from a wide variety of leagues, often went off the board, added quite a bit of size, and half of the players they selected were passed over at least once in the draft.

While it was a league-wide trend in general on Saturday, it’s obvious that the Maple Leafs in particular feel they’ve found an inefficiency in some of the overage talent that often gets overlooked in the draft. We don’t know what the exact analytics angle is, but it seems safe to assume there is one knowing it’s a significant part of the Leafs’ drafting process. Here is Zack Urback on exploiting draft inefficiencies with overage talent:

The overwhelming majority of players selected in the NHL draft are first year eligible players, but there are typically a handful of players in their second or third year of eligibility that are selected. My initial research suggests that NHL teams routinely undervalue players that were passed over in their first year of eligibility. There are a few potential explanations for this phenomenon, but from speaking with hockey executives and scouts, there appear to be two main reasons: scouts are unable to properly quantify overage players value in a draft dominated by first year eligible prospects (interestingly enough, we observe this effect, to a lesser degree, with players who have early vs late birthdays, which is why DEV age adjusts all data) and NHL teams, due to a type of loss aversion mentality, are hesitant to select a player in the mid-rounds that they could have taken in the late rounds the year before.

Occasionally NHL teams properly value overage players, such as Tanner Pearson who was selected by the LA Kings 30th overall in his 3rd year of draft eligibility (DEV had him ranked as a pick from 20 – 24 that year, and as a 6th round pick the year before), but more often than not, overage players are severely undervalued. For instance, Ondrej Palat was drafted after his 2nd year of eligibility 208th overall. Had the Lightning not selected him as the 4th last pick in the draft, he likely would have gone undrafted. What makes Palat so interesting is that DEV had him valued as a pick from 41 – 48 that year. Another example is Tyler Johnson, who went undrafted completely, but was ranked by DEV as a 6th round pick his draft year, and a 3rd/4th round pick in his second and third years of draft eligibility. Naturally, scouts should be skeptical of an overage player who has one big season, but oftentimes, overage players were worth drafting in their first-year of eligibility. I previously wrote about the limitations of DEV and the importance of assigning context to results.

Leafs pick Adam Brooks, the 20-year-old leading scorer in the WHL this season, scores highest on Urback’s DEV scale.

One player in particular that I want to discuss is Adam Brooks. Brooks is relatively undersized at 5’10, but in his 3rd year of draft eligibility DEV suggests he’s worth selecting with a pick from 28 – 33 overall. Brooks was valued as a pick from 55 – 82 last year, demonstrating two things: 30 NHL teams passed over a prospect worth selecting in the 3rd round with their late round picks last year, and Brooks has improved considerably since last year. Some of Brooks’ successful comparables include players like Claude Giroux, Derek Roy, Ondrej Palat, Patrick O’Sullivan, Martin Erat & Jordan Eberle. I suspect he will not be selected as high as DEV values him, but if he’s available in the mid-rounds, Brooks seems like the obvious candidate to draft if a team is looking for a value selection. Obviously Brooks is not a lock to be a successful NHL player, but DEV indicates that he’s just as likely to be an impact NHL player as any other player who is optimally selected in the top of the 2nd round.

With 20 picks over the last two drafts and Standard Player Contract slots limited, this could also be a potential benefit: With four picks coming from overseas, all of whom may remain over there with men’s professional teams for now, the Leafs retain their rights for up to four years. That gives them some breathing room, and could be why 31st overall pick Yegor Korshkov remaining in the KHL for now, as has been reported, seems to be fine with the Leafs.

It will certainly be a contentious draft for the days, months and years to come. As always, only time will tell how this will all turn out.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 Draft Picks

Auston Matthews12016CLZurichSwiss6'2/21634242246READ
Yegor Korshkov312014RWLLokomotivKHL6'3/179416612READ
Carl Grundstrom572016LWLModoSHL6'0, 194497916READ
Joseph Woll622016GLUS U18USDP6'3, 196READ
James Greenway722016DLUS U18USDP6'4, 2056452328READ
Adam Brooks922014CLReginaWHL5'10, 174723882120READ
Keaton Middleton1012016DLSaginawOHL6'5, 23466167READ
Vladmir Bobylev1222015LW/CLVictoriaWHL6'2, 20572283967READ
Jack Walker1522014LWLVictoriaWHL5'11, 17972364884READ
Nicolas Mattinen1792016DRLondonOHL6'4, 220364610READ
Nikolai Chebykin1822015FLBalashikhaMHL6'3, 20939132235READ

Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 Draft Picks by Nationality


Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 Draft Picks by Birth Year

Birth YearQuantity

Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 Draft Picks by Position


Mark Hunter Addresses the Media

On the trend toward overagers:

The Brooks boy — we really believe in his skill and his talent. Just watching what we see, we think he can still develop more and still has more upside. In this business, at different times people get better. Some of these kids are going to get better at a certain time. That’s how we look at it.

On adding some size:

We added some size. The Greenway boy is a big boy. Mattinen is a big boy. We believe that they’ve got some good skills. The Middleton kid is a big, strong kid. They’ll need some time, of course, but we’ll put them away and hopefully they evolve as hockey players.

On Yegor Korshkov:

I saw him in the World Juniors. He’s a big strong guy with good skills. Evgeny Namestnikov, who does some scouting for the Leafs, coached him all year. He is the one who pushed for Soshnikov. To me, it was a no brainer. We’ll see. He’s got to get better of course. He’s got to get stronger. We think he’s got good upside.

He’s going to play in the KHL. He played in the KHL this year. There are no issues there. We’ll let him develop. It’s a good league, so it’s just a matter of when he’s ready. Hopefully when he comes over here he’s ready to step into our lineup.

On the number of Russian prospects:

I think we’re going to take the best player available. At that time, we believed those players were the best players available. That’s how we look at it.

On Nicolas Mattinen:

He got hidden in the Memorial Cup. We had a good team. Knew him, drafted him. I feel good about his upside. He is a big, strong kid that just needs a little bit of time of course. He’ll get ice time next year to show how good he is.

On Joseph Woll:

[Goaltending consultant] Bryan Daccord, who has been doing some scouting for us on the goaltending side, really loved this goalie. We believe he’s on an upward swing. He’s big, 6’3, he’s going to a good program to play in Boston. We like him. We think he’s athletic. He’s very strong mentally.

On Adam Brooks:

We’ll have to wait and see at our camp [where he’ll play]. We’ll see how he looks and see how he feels. Hopefully he gets a little bit stronger and we’ll go from there. Somebody will give him an opportunity to play, but if it’s better for his development to go back to the Western Hockey League we’ll do what‘s best for him.

Every time we went and saw him – we talk about these 96s and you try to keep away from them; of course, everybody wants to draft a 98 – but he brought it every night. Very competitive player. Very intelligent. He’s somebody that willed his team into winning hockey games. Their team went to seven games against Red Deer and he was one of the main reasons. They had a very young team. He was one of the older guys who led the way.

On Jack Walker:

He’s very fast. He can shoot. We really believe his speed is exceptional. The other thing is he played D for the last two years before that, so a year and a half now he’s been at forward. We really believe there’s an upswing with his offensive ability.

On drafting from the USNDTP:

It’s a good program. I think almost everybody on their team got drafted. Kudos to them. We liked some of the players that were coming out of there, so we stepped up and drafted them.

On Carl Grundstrom:

To me he’s like a Brendan Gallagher. He’s spunky. He plays a hard, two-way game. He’s tough. The one game I went to see him, or the two games I saw him, I got up there somewhere in Northern Sweden. First shift he gets kicked out. He hits a guy from behind. I’m like, “aww, darn, that’s not great to drive all this way and fly all this way.” Anyway, he’s a gritty player. He’s a smart player. I think he’s a Komarov kind of player.

On keeping all 10 picks:

You never know what’s going to happen on draft day. That’s kind of Lou’s department. I’m just making sure we’re getting the players we want to draft and that we’re ready to go.

Overall impressions of the draft:

Every NHL team talks about how good they drafted, but we feel good about it. We all know we have to develop these young men and give them time to spread their wings. But we feel good. We got a little more size today with Korshkov and Greenway and these kids who are big strong kids.

On all the overage picks across the league:

You see a kid like the Brooks and the Walker boys; you go see Regina play, and they dominated.   We’ve got a guy sitting there that’s got 120 points and is a leader of the team. These kids still have more upside, guys like Brooks and Walker. I think there’s teams stepping up and taking players who are the best players on their team.

There was a lot of 96s being drafted. It’s a trend right now.

On Keaton Middleton:

He defends very well. He’s a big, strong kid. One of the tougher kids, we believe, in the draft. Of course, he’s got to make quicker puck decisions. If he can do that, there’s good upside here on his will.

On Nikolai Chebykin:

He’s a big, strong kid. Our scouts liked him. Ari Vuori wanted him and our European guys like Thommie Bergman. We stepped up and took him. He’s at KHL camp right now. He’s a young man who we think has good upside.

On development camp:

We had a lot of draft picks here today and it’s a good day for the organization when you can make that many picks. Hopefully we can get some players.

Hopefully all of them [will come]. Maybe the one Russian boy will not. We’ll see. Everyone sounds good right now, but that could change. I think it’s good for them to be here and want to be here, but at the end of the day if they’re trying out for the KHL team and the KHL team wants them too, you have to have some common sense here. They’ve got to make the club they’re going to play on next year.