As of now the Leafs are in 16th spot in the league. From the bottom that is. When it’s time to talk draft, it’s time to flip the standings upside down. So unless they go on an amazing run through the playoffs, they will be picking somewhere in the 16 or greater area.
Pinning down who they should take in the first round this year is going to be a touch harder than last year, even once we know the position.
TSN has released their mid-season rankings. This list is compiled from the consolidated opinions of 10 scouts, and unlike the NHL rankings, it combines all players regardless of league they play in now.
This year, the disagreement over position starts very high up the list:
Getting consensus on the Top 5, or for that matter the Top 10, isn't usually that difficult, but it was a tremendous challenge this year.
Swedish defenceman Timothy Liljegren is No. 3 on TSN's mid-season list – despite the fact he missed much of the first half of the season with mononucleosis – but the range of opinion on the mobile, puck-moving blueliner is really quite extraordinary.
Liljegren was as high as No. 3 on four scouts' rankings but was as low as the second round on another.
Once you get away from that astonishing disagreement, the top players still have a wide variance in rankings but to get to prospects who the Leafs might be in range for, you have to go the number eight and Matin Necas, so that’s the portion of the list we will look at today.
TSN mid-season rankings 2017
|8. Martin Necas||Brno (Czech)||C||6'0 ½||167||35||6||13|
|9. Eeli Tolvanen||Sioux City (USHL)||RW||5'10 ¼||170||30||17||31|
|10. Klim Kostin||Moscow (KHL)||RW||6'3||196||9||1||1|
|11. Elias Pettersson||Timrå (SWE-Als)||LW||6'1 ¼||156||31||13||31|
|12. Cale Makar||Brooks (AJHL)||D||5'10 ¼||171||40||15||52|
|13. Miro Heiskanen||HIFK (SM Liiga)||D||6'0||170||28||4||8|
|14. Cody Glass||Portland (WHL)||C/RW||6'1 ¾||180||47||23||65|
|15. Lias Andersson||HV71 (SHL)||LW/RW/C||5'11 ¼||198||29||5||9|
|16. Jusso Välimäki||Tri-City (WHL)||D||6'1 ½||204||34||12||36|
|17. Ryan Poehling||St. Cloud St. (NCAA)||C||6'2 ½||202||25||5||8|
|18. Cal Foote||Kelowna (WHL)||D||6'3 ½||213||49||5||38|
|19. Kristian Vesalainen||Frolunda (SHL)||LW||6'3 ¼||207||20||1||6|
|20. Shane Bowers||Waterloo (USHL)||C||6'1 ¼||178||38||14||30|
|21. Nicholas Hague||Mississuaga (OHL)||D||6'5 ½||206||45||14||34|
|22. Maxime Comtois||Victoriaville (QMJHL)||LW||6'2 ¼||199||44||14||32|
|23. Kailer Yamamoto||Spokane (WHL)||RW||5'7 ½||153||43||30||63|
|24. Urho Vaakanainen||Jyvaskala (SM Liiga)||D||6'0 ½||185||29||2||3|
|25. Jake Oettinger||Boston U (NCAA)||G||6'4||203||22||1.82||0.935|
|26. Nikita Popugaev||Prince George (WHL)||LW||6'5 ½||204||52||24||59|
|27. Nick Suzuki||Owen Sound (OHL)||RW||5'10 ¾||187||45||23||57|
|28. Isaac Ratcliffe||Guelph (OHL)||LW||6'5 ½||196||47||22||40|
|29. Matthew Strome||Hamilton (OHL)||LW||6'3 ½||206||45||26||42|
|30. Robert Thomas||London (OHL)||C||5'11 ½||185||45||14||42|
The first things that stand out are that this is the defender portion of the draft as well as the Finnish portion of the draft. Seeing all these Finns ranked so highly makes me wonder if this is a holdover from last year where there were three Finns in the top five of the draft. Draft scouting is never immune to the cool new trend affecting rankings.
One other issue affecting this section of the draft that with so many Europeans on the list who play on men’s teams, they may get very little ice time between now and the end of their seasons. Players in the USHL or the CHL or even the NCAA have an easier time getting time to stack up point stats.
This list is going to change as we move through the playoff season. Again from TSN:
"I think what you're going to see is there could be a big difference between the mid-season rankings and the final rankings," one NHL scout said. "This is a year where there's not a lot separating the top 10 or 15 so if a player shows really well or really poorly it could make a bigger [than usual] difference."
For me, I haven’t stopped looking at Elias Pettersson and Lias Andersson. They looked very good at the WJC, they continue to play well in the Swedish leagues.
Another interesting name is Nicholas Hague, a defender as tall as Keaton Middleton who also scores goals.
Deeper in the draft, the Leafs have two of three second round picks, and at this time we don’t know which two. The middle one goes to Anaheim. So somewhere in the 45 to 62 range, the Leafs have two more picks. The TSN list goes all the way to 80, so feel free to go find some second round gems to lust after.
But for now, who do you want to pick?