Last Updated: 2020-10-08 01:23:55
A busy Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2020 draft is now in the books.
After selecting Rodion Amirov 15th overall in round one, the Leafs drafted 11 more times on day two: once in round two, once in round three, twice in round four, once in round five, three times in round six, and three times in round seven. 12 selections is the highest total in Leafs history for a seven-round entry draft, surpassing the 11 picks made in 2016.
The Leafs executed both a trade up — in the fifth round (153 and 212 for 137) — and a trade down — in the second round (44 for 59 and 64) — in addition to securing an additional late seventh-round pick from Boston by swapping their 2021 seventh-round draft choice.
“With the first trade back, our feeling was that we had a lot of players in that kind of cluster — especially as we saw how the round was going — and it wasn’t as predictable, certainly, as the first round in terms of where players were going relative to our own list and evaluations. As it started to get closer down to our pick, we felt we’d like to get another pick close by with 59 and 64. Ottawa was looking to move up. We were really happy with the outcome and to get Hirvonen and Niemela with those two picks.
With the pick in the fifth round for Ovchinnikov, we weren’t sure he would be there if we waited. It just comes with evaluating your list and who your other players are. With all of those other players in the sixth and seventh round, we thought it would be a good use of them because it allows us to get a player much further up our list. We made that jump with Bill Zito in Florida.
At the end, we had a lot of guys we liked still there. We had Ryan Tverberg in Toronto here that we really liked. He was still there, and there were teams that were looking to move back into next year, so we made that move with Boston.
All different circumstances, all dictated by the work our scouts had down throughout the year and the players they liked and felt we could get by doing those three separate things.”
– GM Kyle Dubas on the draft pick swaps
“It was a deep draft,” said Director of Amateur Scouting, John Lilley. “I don’t know if it was because we had the extra time to circle back on guys that maybe earlier in the year regional guys didn’t like, but I did think it was a deep draft, a good draft. I liked our list and there were a lot of good players still at the end.”
No surprise, the prevailing theme to Kyle Dubas’ draft over the 12 selections was one of skill and hockey sense. The Leafs selected six players (three forwards, three defensemen) between 5’9-5’11 in the 2019 draft, with those aforementioned traits the common thread among them; this year, excluding their goalie pick, they drafted 11 players between 5’9 and 6’1, with a heavy European tilt to their selections, including four Finnish players.
“It’s just the way the list falls sometimes,” said Lilley. “We certainly value the leagues those Finnish kids are playing in, but it was funny this year. Whenever we crossed off a name that was one spot ahead from CHL or NCAA or whatever league it was, it seemed like one of our Finnish guys was there. It was somewhat a coincidence, but certainly, the Finnish federation does a good job and their clubs are well run. The Finnish players are typically low maintenance and really work hard, which is something we really value. They’re hard-nosed type of kids. Regardless of their size, they all compete and show up.”
Eight of the prospects are currently playing games in leagues that are operational in pandemic times; all but one (QMJHL’s William Villeneuve) are taking either the college or Euro route, meaning the Leafs have secured four-year rights windows on 11 of their 12 picks.
“Again, it’s funny how the list falls,” said Lilley. “We would cross off a CHL player or a guy from a different league and a Finnish guy or an NCAA guy would pop up. It certainly is a nice caveat to have the extra time, but it is not something we did on purpose. We try to put the list together based on how we think the player projects to the NHL.”
Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 Draft PicksNote: click ‘READ’ in the far-right-hand column for a full player profile
|Round / Pick||Player||Eligible||Pos||Shoots||Team||Ht/Wt||GP: G-A-Pts||Profile|
|1 / 15 (from PIT)||Rodion Amirov||2020||W||Left||Ufa (KHL)||6'0, 182||10: 3-2-5||READ|
|2 / 59 (from NYI)||Roni Hirvonen||2020||C/W||Left||Assat (Liiga)||5'9, 170||52: 5-11-16||READ|
|3 / 64 (from OTT)||Topi Niemela||2020||RD||Right||Karpat (Liiga)||6'0, 163||43: 1-6-7||READ|
|4 / 106||A. Akhtyamov||2020||G||Left||Bars (MHL)||6'2, 170||46: 1.80, .931||READ|
|4 / 122 (from VGK)||Will Villeneuve||2020||RD||Right||St. John (QMJHL)||6'1, 181||64: 9-49-58||READ|
|5 / 137||D. Ovchinnikov||2020||LW||Left||Sibir (MHL)||5'11, 163||54: 24-31-55||READ|
|6 / 168||Veeti Miettinen||2020||W||Left||K-E (Jr Liiga)||5'9, 159||52: 42-31-73||READ|
|6 / 177 (from CAR)||Axel Rindell||2018||RD||Right||Jukurit (Liiga)||6'0, 176||47: 6-16-22||READ|
|6 / 180 (from COL)||Joe Miller||2020||F||Right||Blake (USHS)||5'9, 146||25: 25-34-59||READ|
|7 / 189 (from SJ)||John Fusco||2020||RD||Right||Dexter (USHS)||5'11, 181||24: 10-21-31||READ|
|7 / 195 (from WPG)||W. Schingoethe||2020||C||Left||Waterloo (USHL)||5'11, 201||47: 17-21-38||READ|
|7 / 213 (from BOS)||Ryan Tverberg||2020||C||Right||Toronto (OJHL)||5'11, 174||47: 26-25-51||READ|
You can catch up on all of the new Leafs prospects with the in-depth scouting profiles in the table above. A note on the height and weight numbers listed: Both Dubas and Lilley made the point after the draft that, due to COVID, a lot of players weren’t measured recently for their height and weight. Lilley mentioned as an example that Rodion Amirov is weighing in at 182, not the 170 that’s been reported.
“These heights and weights are coming from last November,” said Lilley. “A lot of these young men are 18 and 19 years old and just starting to hit their peak. My guess is some of the players we did draft are a little bit bigger than what they’re listed at this point. But the bottom line is we want the best players available and we don’t discriminate against big players or small players. We’d love to have all 6’4 skilled guys, but the criteria are that we want skilled players with hockey sense who compete.”
“We would love to have players that are very big and very talented. We draft a certain way, and if the player is a good player and they’re tall or short, it doesn’t matter to us. If a player is a tall player or a big player but they’re a bad player, they’re not going to suddenly become good because they are 6’4 and 225 pounds. If you look back at our drafts or a lot of them in hockey, the guys that usually end up hitting later on are guys who were overlooked for some reason — size is an issue, skating is the issue sometimes. There are a lot of examples of players that were overlooked because of their size that end up becoming great picks in the second or third through to the seventh round.
I would love it if everyone of our guys was 6’2 or 6’3, but we can address that issue in free agency and trade. We more look at the draft as our chance to really kind of strike with homeruns and guys that can really become impact players. In free agency and trade, those guys cost a lot.
That is the way we set out to do it. I know that it gets a lot of chatter and discussion, but the reality is, none of these guys are going to make the team next year and be a part of the team next year. You already see with some of the picks that they have already grown quite a bit from the last time they were seen or measured by anybody because of the draft being a number of months after it normally is and measurements now being seven or eight months apart.
These guys are going to grow. They are going to get bigger. Some of them may not, but they are very good players. The other thing for us is that, Amirov is not a small guy by any stretch, but Amirov, Hirvonen, Niemela, Ovchinnikov, and Rindell — they are already playing in men’s professional hockey at the highest level, whether it is Finland or Russia. We know what they are able to do in those leagues at those levels. Obviously, it is not the NHL, but it gives us a lot of positive thought about how they will be able to handle.
They’re all young. They’re young people and young players. They are going to continue to grow and get bigger. That is sort of how we always look at that.”
– Kyle Dubas on his draft philosophy around size
A few quick thoughts: When you get into the depths of the draft especially, you’re dealing more in larger tiers of players without as much clear-cut separation, and values and priorities by the drafting teams start to take over in order to decide on final selections. I am not a believer there is typically a clear-cut ‘Best Player Available’ at 188th overall, for instance. There at least appears to be some extra weight given to those who the Leafs have a longer runway with in terms of a rights window, those who are playing hockey right now and are not missing out on critical development time in terms of competitive game action, and there were also four right-handed defensemen selected — a clear organizational need just looking at the depth chart.
“It is nice that nearly all of them are up and running,” Dubas said after the draft. “Even William Villeneuve in the QMJHL is, of course, up and running as well. We have a few of them that are junior or returning to junior or their college hasn’t announced what is happening this year that don’t have a certain place to play, but it is certainly appealing to us.”
We could sit here all day and debate the characteristic lack of size in the Leafs draft class, or about valuing skill, hockey sense, and competitiveness over the height/weight measurables; frankly, it’s a debate that can quickly become over-simplified, flattens a lot of the nuance out of player analysis, and I don’t particularly want to dive into that hot-potato of a topic tonight.
The Leafs made a ton of picks in what is purported to be a deep draft, and time will tell if they hit on a few of these or not — we all know it is as imperative as ever they keep the pipeline flowing with plenty of cheap, capable young talent graduating through the system. It might have been surprising a few weeks back if you were told the Leafs were not going to move any of their own picks for immediate help while actually adding two more draft selections, but certainly, adding 12 new prospects into the stable — including a 15th overall prospect — will give them the free rein to use some of the gun powder in the form of their 2021 draft picks in trades throughout the upcoming year.
“Our next draft is 2021 and we have our first, our second, and if we can move those out for help, we won’t hesitate to do so,” said Dubas.
Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley breaks down the Leafs’ 2020 draft selections
Rodion Amirov (15th overall)
He is doing well in the KHL right now with three goals and five points in 10 games in a low-scoring league. We have tracked him since his underage year. I believe he was the leading goal scorer in the U18 World Championships as an underage with Jack Hughes in that class. That is kind of where we really noticed him, at least our North American scouts, and we watched him for a couple of years.
He plays the right way. He is in on the forecheck. He tracks back hard. He has offensive talent and is a very good skater. He was someone we coveted for a few years now.
Roni Hirvonen (58th overall)
He played last year as a 17-year-old in the pro league. He is back there again. He’s a really smart, cerebral player. He can improve his outright speed, but he has good edges. He is a very smart player and has good offensive instincts. He’s another player that plays on the Finnish national team that we’ve seen a lot with them. He is really smart. He has good offensive upside, and he is a competitive kid. I know he is not a bigger kid, but he is certainly competitive and hard on pucks.
Topi Niemela (64th overall)
Another guy at Karpat that we took. He is a 5’11.5 defenseman. He is a really good defender. He is really quick to close gaps and take away time and space. Again, last year, as a 17-year-old, he played in the Finnish elite league and was excellent at defending. He is a first-pass guy — not necessarily going to go on your power play, but really good at defending. Good instincts. Again, not the biggest guy, so he’s not overly physical at this time — just because he is playing against men as a young kid — but he’s very smart defensively. For us, he has some of the best defensive instincts in the entire draft.
Artur Akhtyamov (106th overall)
We did a lot of work on him with all of our goalie guys. He is a little bit older, but we felt he had potential. He had a good save percentage and a good season last year in the MHL over in Russia. He is a goalie, so it is going to take time, but we thought he was worthy of the pick where we selected him.
Will Villeneuve (122nd overall)
I believe he had about 50 assists last year. A really good puck mover. He is a little bit raw. He has some things to work on with his skating. But he’s really offensive. He is good on the power play. He is a competitive kid. We liked him and valued him.
He has development here yet, like all of these guys. I think he is going to be a puck-moving defenseman. I think he defends well. He is raw. He has got to get stronger, like a lot of these guys. I think he is going to be a puck mover at the end of the day and a good two-way guy. Whenever we watched him, he seemed to do the right thing and make good plays, move the puck up ice, defend hard. We just see a raw ability there that has potential.
Dmitriy Ovchinnikov (137th overall)
I wouldn’t say we had a late jump on him, but we saw him maybe a quarter of the way through the year. We didn’t have as much intel on him in the last few years like we do with a lot of these guys. He is playing in the KHL right now and splitting between that and the MHL. Really good speed. Good offensive instincts. He is someone who we just valued his offensive abilities.
Veeti Miettinen (168th overall)
He played Finnish junior and scored a lot. He is a good goal scorer. He is committed to St. Cloud in the NCAA. He is waiting on his visa, so he not actually playing right now. We saw him numerous times with his club team but also he plays in national team games as well.
Axel Rindell (177th overall)
Another guy we all saw playing pro. He is a 2000, so he is a little bit older. He is a little bit of a later bloomer. He had 22 points last year in the elite league. He moves the puck well and can skate well. He is another guy that we valued where we took him. We think he has upside. He moves the puck well and plays the right way.
Joe Miller (180th overall)
He is a really under-developed young man. He is a high school kid with blazing speed. He can score. He just has a lot of upside and growth in this game. We just value the speed and the skill.
John Fusco (189th overall)
He played prep school hockey at Dexter last year. Really competitive. This kid plays the game hard. He wants to win. He was the captain of his team. He is a leader.
Wyatt Schingoethe (195th overall)
He is a good two-way player who had just under a point-per-game this year. He has another year in Waterloo and then he is off to Denver. That is a really good development program for him. We saw value in him late. He has a long development path.
Ryan Tverberg (213th overall)
A local kid we have had a ton of looks on. He is committed to Harvard — not this year, as he is coming back to the Canadiens and will make his way to Harvard next season. A lot of guys really went to bat for him, especially late. We acquired a pick for him. We like his development path. He’s got time on his side.
We did a lot of homework on him and talked to him. We loved his character and his game. We we have had debates in seven months of meetings, and we had some guys who were really passionate about him that really wanted him late — Reid Mitchell, in particular, really fought hard for him. When it was all said and done, we had one guy left on our list that we thought would be a fit with the Leafs’ character and culture that we are trying to build here. It was an opportunity to add one more piece to what we think is a good draft.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 Draft Picks by Position
Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 Draft Picks by League
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Toronto Maple Leafs 2020 Draft Picks by Nationality
- Draft floor trade (7:12 p.m. ET, October 7): The Leafs have acquired the Boston Bruins’ seventh-round draft selection (213th overall) in exchange for their 2021 seventh-round draft choice, bringing their total number of picks up to 12 in the 2020 draft.
- Draft floor trade (4:58 p.m. ET, October 7): The Leafs have reacquired their own fifth-round draft choice (137th overall) from the Florida Panthers (originally traded for Michael Hutchinson) in exchange for the 153rd overall selection (acquired from Vegas in the Garret Sparks deal) and the 212th overall selection (acquired from St. Louis at the 2019 draft in exchange for the Leafs’ 2019 seventh-round pick).
- Draft floor trade (12:35 p.m. ET, October 7): In a trademark Kyle Dubas trade-down, the Leafs moved their own second-round draft choice (44th overall) to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the New York Islanders’ second-round draft choice (59th overall) and the Senators’ third-round draft choice (64th overall). The Isles’ second-round draft choice was originally acquired by Ottawa in the multi-piece trade that sent JG Pageau to New York at the 2020 trade deadline.
- The Leafs‘ 2020 first-round draft choice (13th overall, Seth Jarvis) and seventh-round draft choice (208th overall) was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes alongside Patrick Marleau in exchange for Carolina’s sixth-round pick in 2020 (177th overall).
- The Leafs acquired the 15th overall draft selection (Rodion Amirov) from the Penguins in the multi-piece trade that included Kasperi Kapanen heading to Pittsburgh.
- The Leafs’ second-round draft choice (44th overall) is their own selection.
- The Leafs’ third-round draft choice (75th overall) was traded to the Colorado Avalance in the Nazem Kadri – Tyson Barrie deal, with a 2020 sixth-rounder coming back to Toronto from Colorado (180th overall).
- The Leafs’ possess their own fourth-round draft choice (106th overall) in addition to Vegas’ (122nd overall), which was acquired alongside David Clarkson’s contract in the Garret Sparks trade.
- The Leafs traded their own fifth-round draft choice (137th overall) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for goaltender Michael Hutchinson. They acquired Vegas’ fifth-round draft choice (153rd overall) in a three-way deal at the 2020 trade deadline that saw the Leafs acquire Robin Lehner from Chicago, retain part of his salary, and send him to the Golden Knights. The Leafs also traded prospect Martin Dzierkals’ rights to Vegas in the deal.
- The Leafs possess their own sixth-round draft choice (168th overall) as well as two others: Carolina’s (177th overall) as part of the Patrick Marleau deal, and Colorado’s (180th overall) as part of the Tyson Barrie deal.
- The Leafs traded their seventh-round draft choice (208th overall) to Carolina in the Marleau deal, but they possess three others: San Jose’s (189th overall), acquired in a trade that sent Eric Fehr to the Sharks back at the 2018 deadline; Winnipeg’s (195th overall), acquired from Minnesota in a May 2019 trade that shipped out the rights to prospect Fedor Gordeev, who signed an entry-level deal with the Wild, triggering the exchange of the pick; St. Louis’ (212 overall), acquired in a trade at the 2019 draft that sent the Leafs’ 2019 seventh-round draft choice (208th overall, Vadim Zherenko) to the Blues.