[Friday's Leafs Links] Let The Crazyness Begin!

Mitchell Leff

Against all odds and reason, I'm excited.

Today is a day that has the potential to live in infamy. Let's hope it doesn't.

For the record, I'd be happy with the Leafs picking a few of the players expected to be go between 3-10 in TSN's final draft rankings, though I have to confess I have reservations about a guy like Nick Ritchie. No, I've never seen him play, but I think a fascination with size is something that has hampered the Leafs for generations and it's showing no signs of slowing down. It goes without saying that Ritchie is exactly the kind of player Nonis & Co. would absolutely love.

On one hand, Ritchie has scored a pile of goals, and hasn't had a lot of help doing so. Furthermore (and I'm basing this solely only YouTube videos), the guy's shot looks pretty good, and when I hear words like "deceptive speed", I'm heartened. Maybe this guy really is going to be a "power forward". His numbers look better than Jake Virtanen's, at least.

On the other hand, he piles up PIM, and TSN cites "a lot of immaturity, inconsistency, as well as some injuries". The only major concern there are the injuries -- plural -- but I think something that gets overlooked as a disadvantage is size. This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

Players like Tyler Biggs (and I'm not saying Ritchie or Virtanen would be bad picks like Biggs) rely on being huge in junior to pile up points. I've heard arguments that this isn't the case with Ritchie, and there's no question he's more talented than Biggs, but I do know this: if a player is 6'4'', 229 lbs. and playing against skinny 16-year-olds, he's going to have an advantage, even if he's not just taking runs at them. A player of that size will be harder to knock off the puck, will be able to get better positioning in front of the net, and will probably shoot harder than most of his young peers. He'll still be bigger than most in the NHL, but he's not likely to be growing any more, and in the NHL, the gap in size and strength is going to be severely limited. Is a guy like Ritchie (or Virtanen for that matter) going to suddenly become more skilled in the couple years to compensate for his loss of size advantage before he gets his NHL debut? I have my doubts.

For me, players like Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander, are both preferable choices, though naturally, there's no guarantee that either will be available when Nonis steps up to pick at 8th overall. If they're both gone, Nick Ritchie wouldn't be a bad pick. I'm fairly confident he'll see some time in the NHL based on the numbers he's put up on the OHL so far, and heck, who knows, maybe he's the next James van Riemsdyk. But for now, I'd love to see the Leafs focus on simply acquiring the best hockey players -- not necessarily the biggest.

On to the links. Happy Draft Day, everyone.

Leafs likely to stay at 8

Dave Nonis doesn't think there's a good deal out there to move up, and I think I'm happy to hear that. We've been worrying for weeks that Gardiner, Kadri, or some other young prospect gets moved to so the Leafs can choose another "power forward", but it looks like Nonis knows better than to do that. From the Leafs' site.

TSN Insider Trading No. 1

Here, the boys speculate about where Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza go.Ultimately, Kesler controls where he goes, but Chicago and Anaheim are both strong contenders. Also, Edmonton and Vancouver are still very serious about moving up at the draft to grab Dale Tallon's 1st overall pick.

TSN Insider Trading No. 2

The Leafs apparently inquired about acquiring Spezza, but only for the sake of flipping him. At first, it sounds like big news, but honestly, they'd be stupid not to at least ask what it'd cost, and it's still thoroughly unlikely. Chicago is also very interested in Spezza and keen on Paul Stastny. Stan Bowman is looking for a "shake up".

Perhaps the biggest news in this one has the Leafs interested in Milan Michalek, and the TSN boys would expect Joffrey Lupul to be on his way out if/when that happens. NO THANK YOU. Of course, replacing Lupul wouldn't be a terrible idea.

John Ferguson Jr. to join the Bruins

Tomorrow's news: all of Boston's prospects traded for peanuts. Pierre LeBrun with the scoop.

Steve Spott on a few of the Marlies' odds of making the Leafs next season

He's a big fan of Peter Holland, and I guess I am, too. If I were running the show, I'd love to see Bozak replaced, Kadri in the 1/2C spot and Holland in the 3C spot. While we're dreaming, I'd also like a pony.

Gino Odjick diagnosed with terminal heart disease

A bit of really sad news, via CBC. The former Canuck is only 43 years old and has a young family. You can also read his open letter addressed to fans on the Canucks' website.

Panthers still open to trading No. 1 pick

I'd be kind of surprised if this actually happens, given the ridiculous prices being bandied about. Story from CBC.

Eric Gryba re-signs

Ottawa will pay him $1.2M the first year and $1.3M the second year to be big. Bob MacKenzie is the source, here.

Evander Kane favourites tweet asking him to come to Philly

Kane has put up with a fair bit of grief via the Winnipeg media over the last couple years, so maybe it would actually be a good thing for him to move on. The thing is, he's probably a prohibitively expensive player to acquire right now, since the Jets need him.

Craig Button on the draft

Button says "there is no identifiable superstar", but he also thinks "it's a very good draft", which is a distinction lost on a lot of people. There are going to be lots of useful pieces available, even if there isn't a superstar that emerges.

Martin Brodeur still wants to play

It's a sad thing, seeing a once-proud player decline to the point of being useless at the NHL level. I have a tonne of respect for Brodeur as a player, and in every interview I've ever seen (including a feature on NHL Revealed), he seems like a really classy guy. But it's time to hang 'em up.

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