As the draft has approached and the Leafs have continued to add to their front office team, several prominent members of management, from Kyle Dubas to Mark Hunter to Dave Morrison to Brendan Shanahan, have spoken about the need to hit a homerun with the 24th overall selection.
Likewise, each of them to varying degrees have also spoken about a change in philosophy towards drafting skill, irrespective of position.
Notably, Kyle Dubas also touched on an extensive understanding the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) by this year's staff, both in upper management and at the amateur scouting level.
For each of these reasons, it makes sense for the Leafs to take star forward Daniel Sprong with the team's second first round selection.
Not only is Sprong a potential homerun as one of the draft's most talented players, but he may also fall to the team in part because of the class' depth but largely because he's seen as a risky, turnover-inducing, defensive liability by some scouts.
If he were to drop, much like Vladimir Tarasenko, Teemu Teravainen, Filip Forsberg, Ivan Barbashev, Vladislav Namestnikov and Robby Fabbri fell in recent drafts, it wouldn't be because of a lack of upside.
Sprong, my 16th ranked prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft with McKeen's Hockey, possesses first line offensive tools, including excellent skating, adept stick handling ability in tight, a heavy shot.
What really distinguishes him on the ice are two uncommon characteristics in young players. The first, Sprong's innocent creativity and imagination with the puck, allows him to create plays in situations where other players would bail on the play.
The second, his bullish, aggressive mentality as a skater, presents an angry-like stride and pushes a relentless tempo up-ice.
This season, despite playing on a Charlottetown Islanders team that finished 15th among 18 QMJHL teams in goals for, Sprong registered 88 points in 68 games, 13 clear of his nearest teammate -- draft eligible forward Filip Chlapik.
Down the stretch, he was arguably the QMJHL's most dynamic scorer. In 12 games in March, Sprong scored at more than a goal a game and two points per game pace, registering 14 goals and 27 points. And the high-end production wasn't short-lived, as Sprong's season represented a steady progression after an impressive 30-goal rookie campaign.
And while he isn't the most complete player, and has a tendency to try to do too much (common in gifted draft-eligible players), Sprong's size (6'0") isn't an issue and his defensive game has rounded out better than most give him credit. In fact, in January, Sprong was awarded the Islanders' award for the team's hardest working player.
Known for his low stride and shot-first mentality (due to his quick and heavy snapshot in full stride), Sprong's passing is also an asset, off the rush or through a seam in the offensive zone.
Notice Sprong's aforementioned footwork and creativity here, as he beats the defender wide with a move few young players can make (or have the confidence to make).
And notice the awareness Sprong also demonstrates here, again with a creative flair, as he kicks the puck off his skate on the rush before opening up for an easy goal on the other side of the ice.
And finally, despite being a scorer, check out this cross-ice pass from Sprong, who also lead the Islanders in assists this season.
If the Leafs are looking for a player who can create for himself and his teammates offensively, there are few better in the CHL than Sprong.
Among 17-year-old QMJHL players this season, Sprong finished first in the percentage of his teams goals that he created, ahead of unquestioned top prospects Timo Meier, Evgeny Svechnikov and Anthony Beauvillier. He also finished second in team points percentage behind only Meier.
There aren't 23 better prospects in the 2015 draft class.