The Leafs continued to go a little off the board, after drafting for pure skill with American forward Jeremy Bracco 61st overall.
Nielsen, a defenseman with Lethbridge of the WHL, registered 24 points in 59 games this season, good for second on the team in scoring among defenders.
Known for his physical, in your face style, Nielsen isn't afraid to drop the gloves or lay a crushing hit. He also has a heavy, though sometimes inaccurate shot from the point. This season, as a rookie in the WHL, Nielsen played big minutes for head coach Drake Berehowsky, a Leafs alumni.
Beyond his strong shot, Nielsen also makes a crisp strong pass. His meteoric rise, resulting in a third round selection, started last year after a dominant performance in midget hockey, essentially walking onto this year's Lethbridge team.
At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Nielsen is already built like a strong, physical NHL defender. Don't let the size fool you though. Like, Rinat Valiev, a fellow Leafs WHL draftee, Nielsen becomes a project for Toronto's developmental system.
Three picks later, Martin Dzierkals became the Leafs fifth selection of the 2015 draft. Dzierkals, difficult to view because he played in the MHL for HK Riga, has been outstanding as a standout Latvian offensive threat with Latvia at U18s and U20s.
A strong skater with a quick release from a low kickpoint (from my limited international viewings, where he was Latvia's go-to offensive weapon on the powerplay) and a really creative player, unafraid to make the high-risk offensive play.
An up-tempo player, Dzierkals also hits hard, taking the body any chance he can get.
A relative unknown, Dzierkals is a crafty playmaker with a finishing touch and some intriguing upside.
According to The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, he may even come play in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) next year.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Leafs pick Martins Dzierkals (the Latvian) is expected to come over and play in the CHL. Probably for team of Toronto's choice.</p>— James Mirtle (@mirtle) <a href="https://twitter.com/mirtle/status/614878454006312960">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote>
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