Catch up on all of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2019 draft selections below (click ‘READ’ in the right-hand column for a full player profile).
At a glance
- All six Leafs draft picks came in under 6’0 in height and none weigh more than 200 pounds. Similar to last year’s draft under GM Kyle Dubas, skilled forwards with a high hockey IQ and offensive upside and intelligent, mobile, puck-moving defensemen were the themes of the day. Listening to Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley after the draft, the words “intelligence” and “highly skilled” were uttered an awful lot.
- Dubas and the management group are clearly confident in their development and strength/conditioning staffs’ ability to develop the strength and physical maturity aspects in a good number of these undersized players, with the philosophy being that their best chance of producing quality NHLers is if the skill, hockey IQ, and upside is there. “We’ve got a good development program that can help our guys with their strength work,” said Dubas. “Rich Rotenberg will immediately get his hands on these guys, and Trevor St. Agathe in the weight room and with their habits off the ice, and Scott Pellerin on the ice. We will be on our way.”
- John Lilley: “[The picks] fit what Kyle and our management group is trying to acquire: Skilled players with good hockey sense.”
- Most of the kids drafted today love the game, but all of the reports you read and all the people you talk to about 53rd overall pick Nick Robertson mention early on that he’s the type of hockey nut who isn’t going to stop until he gets to where he wants to go. It’s hard to bet against kids like that if they’ve got skill to go along with it. Similar things were said about Connor Brown, who had pretty similar numbers on weaker teams in his first two years in the OHL. Where Brown was a sixth rounder, in Robertson’s case, he comes with a top 30-40 pedigree according to many of the draft ranking services.
- This was the first entry draft since 2014 in which the Leafs did not select a Canadian prospect. They did draft two players out of the CHL in Nick Robertson (Peterborough, OHL) and Mikhail Abramov (Victoriaville, QMJHL).
- The Leafs drafted five 2019-eligibles and one 2017-eligible (Nick Abruzzese). The Leafs took two left-shot defensemen, one-right shot defenseman, and three left-shot forwards, two of which can play center.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2019 Draft Picks
|Michael Koster||5||146||2019||LD||Chaska||MIN HS||5'9/172||24||19||40||59||READ|
- The Leafs‘ 2019 first-round draft choice was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the Jake Muzzin deal.
- The Leafs’ 124th overall selection (4th round) was acquired from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Nikita Soshnikov.
- The Leafs did not draft in the sixth round after trading theirs to the Buffalo Sabres for the 2018 sixth round pick used to draft Pontus Holmberg.
- On the draft floor, the Leafs traded their 204th overall selection (7th round) to St. Louis for the Blues’ 2020 seventh rounder.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2019 Draft Picks by Position
Toronto Maple Leafs 2019 Draft Picks by League
Toronto Maple Leafs 2018 Draft Picks by Nationality
GM Kyle Dubas After Day Two of the 2019 NHL Draft
What are your thoughts on the players you guys drafted here?
Dubas: For one, John Lilley in his first full season as our directory of amateur scouting, he along with Ari Vuori and Tim Speltz worked so well together. And then we had Wes Clark and Dave Morrison and Jim Paliafito in our player personnel department working in lockstep with them. I thought they worked very well. We had a real tight criteria in terms of the types of players we are looking for and how we want to go about it. We were excited to add the types of guys that we did. Especially not having a first, you worry it puts too much pressure on the scouts. We tried to relieve that by saying, “Here are the types of guys we are looking for.” We were happy with what we came away with.
Three years ago, there seemed to be an emphasis on big defensemen. Is skill maybe overtaking size or do you go for what is available taking it in combination?
Dubas: We have our scouts and we have very defined criteria we want to draft from. These are young guys, so you never know how much they are going to grow or if they’re going to grow, but I think as we all know, we’re not the same weight as when we were 17/18. Things change, sometimes mightily so. We’ve got a good development program that can help our guys with their strength work. Rich Rotenberg will immediately get his hands on these guys, and Trevor St. Agathe in the weight room and with their habits off the ice, and Scott Pellerin on the ice. We will be on our way. We are excited about the group that we got despite not having a first-round pick. We are excited to start working with them here.
What kind of popped out most about Nick Robertson?
Dubas: We had Der-Arguchintsev playing there, so we got to see them a lot. I just think he is a very late birthdate for this draft — September 11, 2001 — and certainly his skill set is one thing but his intelligence on the ice is another. We just feel he has a chance. His commitment to hockey and his work ethic, and learning about how much he loves the game and is passionate for it, that’s an indication to us he is going to put everything he can into improving. He will be close by. In getting to know him over the combine and today so far, he seems like a guy who is going to be willing to put in all the work possible. Add that to his skill set and intelligence he already has, we are excited to work with him.
Directory of Amateur Scouting John Lilley after Day Two of the Draft
On Nick Robertson:
Lilley: We are very excited to get Nick Robertson at 53. A good player out of Peterborough — a highly, highly skilled type of player that we are looking for moving forward.
A lot of the picks seemed small. You guys obviously don’t care about size, but it seems remarkable you didn’t pick anyone who was big. What’s the logic there?
Lilley: That’s just how the list falls. We certainly had big players on our list. It’s like certain years you get a certain country or nationality that somehow falls to your picks. This year, it was smaller players, but we feel every player that we did pick is highly skilled. We feel like they are intelligent players. They fit what Kyle and our management group is trying to acquire: “Skilled players with good hockey sense.”
How happy were you to get a guy like Michael Koster, who was ranked a lot higher — like 40 or 50 picks — and was still on the board when he came to you?
Lilley: We were really happy. Michael had a great Ivan Hlinka in the summer. He went head-to-head with a lot of the top players against Canada and Europe. He had a good high-school season; maybe not as good as people thought he would and he slipped a bit, but again, a very smart player who moves the puck well. Highly skilled. Just the type of player we were looking for. We were very excited to get him where he was.
How about Kokkonen?
Lilley: Intelligent player. He played in the pro league and I think had 19 points as an 18-year-old playing in the elite league. Very smart. Good defender. Can still improve his footspeed, but like a lot of these kids, they all have work to do. Highly intelligent. Good stick. Good first pass.
Lilley: Skilled. Very skilled. He had a good Ivan Hlinka this summer, a good year in Victoriaville. A good playmaker who works hard. He had a good year on a young team.
Lilley: I keep going back to smart. He is a ’99 who had a breakthrough season playing in Chicago in the USHL. He led the league in scoring. He’s a smart player who is going to Harvard. Obviously, he’s an intelligent human being. Driven. He’s under-developed for a ’99. When you look at him, you’d think he is an ’01. He’s an older kid, but he still has room to grow and mature physically. Again, an intelligent human being and an intelligent hockey player.
Lilley: Skilled. He played in the U18s. He played for the national team in several of the tournaments we attended. Ari Vuori, our European scout, really liked him in the late rounds there. He moves the puck well. He can skate. He is just another guy who is just going to get physically stronger. It’s probably his biggest hurdle right now.
Can you speak to Robertson’s determination given where he’s come in life to now?
Lilley: He’s a highly, highly motivated young man. Very, very serious. We met with him on several occasions and did the background. He’s driven. That’s part of what we like about him. Aside from the skill and hockey sense, this kid lives, breathes and eats hockey. That’s all he does. He is someone that we put the faith… You’ve got to put the faith that the players are going to do the work. As you know, the pyramid is going to get smaller and you need highly motivated people. He is certainly one of those guys. He wants it.
How did he stand out for you in the interviews?
Lilley: I think our regional guys — Victor Carneiro, Chris Roque — they do the background homework through the course of the year and give myself and Tim Speltz that type of information, and then we meet with them, and everything they said was on par that this kid is a driven player. We talked to the coaches and I talked to people at certain US hockey events and things like that. There is certainly a lot of information that we take in. Everything came back that this kid is ultra serious and dying to be a hockey player.
What kind of potential do you see for him?
Lilley: I think he is a highly skilled guy. I think he is a top line forward with power-play potential. I think he has the potential to be a point producer who can play on your power play. They’re young kids who have to put the work in. Like I said, I think he will. I can’t give you “first line” or “second line,” but we certainly have high hopes he is going to be an offensive player at the NHL level in time.
All these young men, when you start and your first pick is at #53, they’re all going to take time. None of them are NHL ready now or probably in the next couple of years, but we do believe there is a lot of potential with all of the guys we got today.