Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal

After the completion of the 2022 NHL Draft, General Manager Kyle Dubas addressed the media to discuss the Leafs’ five new prospects and the goaltending market looking ahead to free agency.

You entered the day with three picks and finished with five. Are you happy with what you accomplished here?

Dubas: I think we are happy with the players we came out with. You never go in thinking you need to draft more. We go through this year in and year out, right? There is always some consternation. We have been in the mode of trying to push the team forward.

You go in with three picks, and trading back yesterday the 13 slots, we were obviously thrilled that Minten was still there when we picked at #38. In our opinion, that couldn’t have worked out better for us with what we were trying to achieve there. That is a little bit of fortune.

Now, we just have to show that we had the evaluation right. I think he is a player who will show us down that path for sure.

What is it that you like so much about Fraser Minten?

Dubas: He is a very intelligent young man. There are a lot of intriguing things about Fraser. Number one would be that he has played a pivotal role at a young age on a very good team in the Western league. They are hosting the Memorial Cup next year. That is great, and he plays all situations for them.

The other part of it is that he hasn’t played at a high level of hockey for that long. He doesn’t come from a family that is deeply entrenched in hockey or has a huge hockey background. He has sort of carved his own path that way in Vancouver and then onto Kamloops.

We think there is a lot of upside there — mostly because of that, but also because of how eager he is to work and learn, and most importantly, the way he performed this season for Kamloops. We are very excited to have him come in.

How important was it to get another goalie in this year’s draft?

Dubas: We have talked about that at most of these availabilities. I think it is all great and great to talk about, but we need them to continue to develop, come along, and begin to push onto the AHL roster and then the NHL roster.

Dennis Hildeby with Farjestad is a player that Jon Elkin had identified very early in the year. It is a bit of a different path. He is a bit older, but he had a good season this year in the SHL. Jon, through the case that he built for him, made us be very passionate about being able to come away from the draft with him. That is what we did.

You took Nicholas Moldenhauer from Chicago. What makes that connection with the Steel so vital for you guys?

Dubas: We know he is going to be in a good program for a year. Ryan [Hardy] is heavily connected there. It has been a connection that has paid off for us quite well in the past.

He has a huge decision to make with his school. That is a personal decision for Nicholas and his family, but more importantly than the Chicago piece perhaps is that the schools that are involved are all high-end programs. That makes us feel very good about what his options are going to be developmentally over the next number of years.

I don’t know how much of the story he shared with you, but he had a very difficult start to the season with an illness. In the first game back on the second shift, he got one of the more gruesome cuts that you’ll see to a player. I think that impacted his year and his draft slot.

Now it is just about continuing to do the work and get back to the player that he has been, which he showed at the U18 with Canada, in my opinion, and then flying back and playing with Chicago in the playoffs.

With Nikita Grebyonkin and the situation in Russia, what made you comfortable with taking him?

Dubas: We tried to do as much homework as we possibly could on his situation and what he wanted. With where we had him on the list, with our pick, the decision that was made was, “Let’s pick him. Let’s see how that situation continues to play out over time here knowing that it could be a bit of a longer path for him.” We really like what he brings competitively and as a player at that level.

Brandon Lisowsky seemed to be a player that lots of rankings had way higher than where you got him. What do you like about him?

Dubas: Our Western league scouts — both Darren Ritchie and Garth Malarchuk — were very big fans of him. He was high on our list. It was supported by other members of our staff.

Obviously, he can score, which is a great attribute to have. He is a competitive guy. We hope he just continues to develop in Saskatoon. We will see him in development camp and in Traverse City in the Fall. We will just continue to get him along that path, continue to improve on his skating mobility, and hope that it is one of these seventh-round picks that everyone looks back on and it turns out well.

Is it fair to say hockey IQ matters more than anything else on your draft boards?

Dubas: Especially with the pace of the game and what we expect from our players in our system, if they can’t think the game well, they are really going to struggle in games but also with what we do developmentally.

Another goalie changed teams today in Ville Husso. What have you learned from today to yesterday?

Dubas: I don’t know if anyone else is having this same issue, but my phone isn’t working at present. It is great that everyone was here. Hopefully, by the time we get back to Toronto, we will be back in action.

You get a good sense of where the market is at, where it is going, who is available, and what the cost is going to be in trade. Now, we will work through our own situation with Jack. If it gets to that point, we will work through the situation with the remaining free agents.

That is where we are at now. We like the options we have available to us, both internally and the trade options. That is how we will evaluate things here as we go into the week. It still remains the key for us.

Did you feel you got any closer on a trade or was it just information gathering?

Dubas: I think it is more information gathering at this time. Depending on who you talk to, they might think it is closer. From our perspective, we are a team that obviously has an open spot. Teams with excess may feel that things are very close with us when we are just surveying all of the options.

It is looking like a game of musical chairs. Is that fair to say?

Dubas: I think so. It seems similar to last year. You can change the names and the teams a little bit, but a team or a goalie may be left without a spot or a spot where either the team or the goaltender doesn’t desire as much.

The way that we look at it: Last year, we went into it and signed Petr. When Colorado’s goaltender signed with Seattle, they were left at the end, and they just elected to pay the price. It ended up paying off for them quite well. There is always that option as well.

We know that, if it comes down to it, with where we are at as an organization, when we get through the next week, it is not going to be the end of the journey. We are going to do everything we can to get our team into the best spot and build the position the way we need.

Is a trade looking more likely with some of the guys that are off the board with free agency?

Dubas: It is really tough to forecast. I would say, after we made the deal last night and got more space, every team that had someone was coming up to us this morning. There just seems like there is a greater surplus in that market than there is in free agency, but there is usually something you have to pay on that end as well. It is just measuring the cost versus what we expect to get from the goaltender.

Are any of the goalies who were high on your priority list now no longer unavailable?

Dubas: Because of our situation, we were looking at everybody. It is safe to say that everybody who moved, everybody who was traded, or everybody who signed with their team was on our list.

It just takes a situation where there was a clear surplus and begins to make it more scarce. We believe our situation should be enticing for a goaltender. We will count on that as we roll on and measure the market. It is certainly a fair question.

Are you planning to qualify Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase?

Dubas: We are still sorting through that decision. With Pierre, we will be qualifying him — at least, that is the plan right now. He played a key role for us last year. We have had good conversations — Brandon Pridham has — with Claude Lemieux, who represents him.

Kase is a very similar decision to what Boston faced last year with him, right? We have had good conversations with JP Barry and James Nice at CAA. Now, with the cap space flexibility, it opens that back up again as a potential. That is where we will go.