With the loss in the first round on Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be drafting at position 23, 24 or 25 in 2018.
They will definitely draft after the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild, based on points, so they can’t do better than 23. If either or both of the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins lose in the second round, the Leafs drop to a position behind those teams, again because of regular-season points. While the points were tied between the Leafs and the Washington Capitals, the Capitals owned the ROW tie-breaker, so the Leafs will not drop behind them if they should exit in the second round.
To get an early look at who might be available by that point in this summer’s draft in Dallas, the place to go is Canucks Army and the work of Jeremy Davis. He last updated his consolidated rankings this month.
He covers how he creates his list in his post, and you should note that three of the lists he molds into his single consolidated list haven’t been updated since January, so by the time we’re closer to the draft this will change.
I’m going to give you 21 to 27 on that list and note the range of their rankings on the source lists used to make up the consolidated result:
- Ryan McLeod - C - OHL - ranked between 16 and 35
- Akil Thomas - C - OHL - ranked between 17 and 34
- Serron Noel - RW - OHL - ranked between 16 and 36
- Rasmus Sandin - D (shoots L) - OHL - ranked between 18 and 37
- Jacob Olofsson - C - Allsvenskan - ranked between 18 and 38
- Mattias Samuelsson - D (shoots L) - USHL - ranked between 14 and 31
- K’Andre Miller - D (shoots L) - USHL - ranked between 16 and 56
That’s three lefty defenders, so in the interests in leaning a little towards need in a tier of players without a lot of differences, let’s add a few honourable mentions:
- 19th - Ryan Merkley - D (shoots R) - OHL - ranked between 6 and 62
- 28th - Jett Woo - D (shoots R) - WHL - ranked between 18 and 41
- 31st - Benoit-Olivier Groulx - C - QMJHL - ranked between 17 and 54
Ryan McLeod is one of the family from Mississauga (Mike is a Devil’s first rounder), and Kevin Papetti discussed him in his March list:
Just like his brother, he’s a 6’2 centre who can fly. He’s easily one of the better skaters in the draft, but he has to work on his ability to slow the game down at times and make plays in tight spaces. He’s scoring around a point-per-game rate in the OHL this year, and that does not spell first line upside.
Kevin had him at 25th.
Much has been discussed lately about Akil Thomas, we have a recent FanPost on him, you may have seen, and Kevin had him at 27th:
If you take Thomas in the first round, you are betting on his scoring potential. He can pull of a gorgeous toe-drag when coming down on the rush, and make high-end passes. He’s a little bit undersized at 5’11, and will have to get stronger if he wants to stick at centre. His shooting percentage is a tad low this year, and I think his best case scenario is an offensively-focused second line centre.
Jacob Olofsson who played in the Allsvenskan for the team that won promotion to the SHL is another centre right in our wheelhouse. Kevin had him at 24th:
Olofsson is a 6’2 centre who can live in the slot and score his fair share of goals. He’s an adequate skater and carrier, and a solid physical presence down low who can help establish a strong cycle game. He’s not an elite skater or playmaker, but he can win puck battles at both ends of the ice, and he’s probably good enough as a puck mover to stick at centre.
Rasmus Sandin is rising into the Leafs range, as noted by Davis:
The Swedish born defenceman had a fantastic second half for the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds and continues to add to his resume in the Ontario League playoffs, with seven points in 11 games so far as Sault Ste. Marie enters the OHL conference finals against Kitchener.
Kevin had Sandin at 29th in his ranking:
Sandin does not shoot often, in fact, he’s under two shots per game this year. He moves the puck well enough to crack a second powerplay unit, and he will hold his own in the transition game. His tools do not jump off the page, but he always seems to be one of the better players when he is on the ice, and I would be interested in taking him in the early second round.
An exercise for the interested might be to go see if his shooting rate went up with his points, or if just his percentages rose.
Serron Noel is another name that is rising on the lists. He’s a big winger who is taking his time to grow on people. Future Considerations has an older profile on him, but they don’t have him ranked very high. Bob McKenzie’s list from January has him 22nd. This might be a name to watch as new lists come out.
Ryan Merkley is all over the place in rankings, but Kevin was very high on him, and had him at 9th:
Merkley is a magician with the puck and one of the most impressive power play quarterbacks in recent years. He’s the top scorer on his OHL team despite his age and position, and he’s one of the younger players in this year’s class. There are legitimate questions about his ability to matchup against top competition, but there are few questions about his ability to create scoring chances.
It seems really unlikely that the low rankings pulling him down in the consolidated list will win the day, but you never know — players drop, and sometimes they’re dropping for good reasons, and sometimes they become steals on draft day.
Jet Woo is another small, mobile defender with the right handedness. Kevin had him 31st, and it’s worth noting that he’s dropped five places on Davis’s list as others are cooling to him:
He lacks the size to be a typical shutdown defenceman, but he can keep up with speedy forwards, and does well to defend the line. He is not a top offensive defenceman in this class, and this keeps him out of the top 15, but he’s worth taking in the late first round or early second round.
Davis mentions Benoit-Olivier Groulx (the son of the Syracuse Crunch coach) in his piece as one of the big drops lately.
Over his last 27 games, he scored 21 points, and it’s notable that nine of those points came in two games against Saint John and Moncton, a pair of bottom feeders, leaving just 12 points in the other 25 games from mid-January to the end of the year.
So the question there is which is the real man?
So what do you think? How should the Leafs approach this draft?
How should the Leafs approach this draft?
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Forget it, trade the pick
Pick someone who is likely to be NHL-ready sooner
Pick someone with 4-year or longer draft rights
Pick a centre, the best available
Pick whoever has mono right now