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2020 NHL Draft Roundtable: What prospects should the Leafs consider?

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We gush over our favourite prospects the Leafs should take

2018 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hardev and I have spent some time since the pandemic started chatting about prospects for the 2020 draft. We both wound up watching Will Scouching’s weekly streams, and sharing our mock drafts using draftprospectshockey.com or Future Consideration’s interactive tools. Some of the prospects and information we’ve shared have led to me writing my various draft profiles.

Since we’re right before the draft itself, we wanted to share some of the names we would like the Toronto Maple Leafs to pick in each round. That way, if they actually do take some of them, we can look super smart and scream in excitement!

Round #1 — Leafs Pick at 15

Brigstew: I really (like really really) hope that Lundell falls to the Leafs. McKenzie ranked him 12th, so NHL teams don’t necessarily think of him as a “top 10” guy, so it’s more likely he falls than a Rossi. My realistic pick that I like is Rodion Amirov, I just like the combination of skill and two-way/play driving ability that he offers. The one guy I’d reach on or trade down for is Helge Grans, because he’s a big RHD who played in the SHL, can skate well, and is great at moving the puck. If he gets stronger and develops a defensive game, he could wind up being one of the best defensemen overall in this draft.

Hardev: I would be most happy with any one of Lundell, Amirov, or Yaroslav Askarov, should they fall to the Leafs. I find it hard to believe anyone else will fall, unless everyone suddenly wants to pretend Marco Rossi sucks. Players in the range if nothing wild happens will be Seth Jarvis, Dylan Holloway, Jack Quinn, and Dawson Mercer. All of them are forwards with complimentary top-six upside. In terms of reaching for a player or trading down a few spots, I would target Marat Khusnutdinov, who has incredible potential to be a top-six centre and no one seems to care about him.

Round #2 — Leafs pick at 44

Brigstew: The guy I hope falls is Marat, who might be small but is just insanely quick has tons of potential as a two-way center. My realistic pick is Topi Niemela, a Finnish RHD who played all year in Liiga last year and has turned into an effective defensive defenseman who can still skate and move the puck. The guy I’d reach on is Tristen Robins — McKenzie has him ranked outside of the first three rounds, but I just love him and the Leafs don’t have a third round pick to use on him.

Hardev: I doubt he falls, but Connor Zary is a player projected for the second half of the first round that I hope the Leafs can nab late if he falls. William Wallinder is another guy who has insane potential as a tall, talented, and gifted defenseman. He plays for Victor Hedman’s old team MODO, you may have heard of him, I think he just won the Conn Smythe. I wouldn’t consider Wallinder a reach here.

Jean-Luc Foudy has been a personal favourite of mine while watching prospects this summer. He played on a bad top line in Windsor and had to drag his teammates around a lot. He’s a great skater with a good motor on him, has elusive puck-moving ability, and gets chances from high-danger areas. If we’re looking for a playmaking Nick Robertson, here he is.

Drew Commesso is a goalie I would look into if the Leafs got another pick in this range. If not Askarov in the first or him in the second, I would go after Artur Akhtyamov, or Dmitri Nikolayev with a late pick.

Round #3 — Leafs don’t pick here (yet)

Brigstew: The guy I hope falls is Brock Faber. He’s a 6’0” RHD that played for the US development team, and by all accounts is a great all-round defender who made all his partners better. If you’re someone who likes Schneider at 15th, one of the reasons I say not to is because there are others in the second and third rounds, like Faber, who I think can do a similar job. The guy that is realistic in that range is goalie Joel Blomqvist, who has an argument for being the second best goalie in the draft (but isn’t ranked as such by NHL central scouting or Bob McKenzie). The one I would “reach” for is Veeti Miettinen, and I use quotation marks only because NHL people don’t have him ranked in the first three rounds — but many public scouting outlets have as high as the second round. He’s small, but has a wicked shot and could be this year’s Nick Robertson.

Hardev: Ozzy Wiesblatt is a prospect that has risen on a lot of rankings this season. He plays on Ian Scott’s old team in Prince Albert and is an amazing transition player. He’s a great skater, especially his acceleration, and has the vision to find players and get the puck in the offensive zone. He’s mostly ranked in the late-first to mid-second rounds, but there’s a chance he falls since picks 20 to 80 are a big melting pot.

Daniil Gushchin is someone who should go in the first round but isn’t getting the respect he deserves. He has an incredible motor and proves it with a strong two-way game. He’s a short player, so he uses his low centre of gravity really effectively and can be as physical as you want. He’s joining Niagara of the OHL this season after playing on a bad USHL team last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he breaks out and lands on the map playing with better players.

The last guy I’ll mention is from Toronto’s USHL team the Chicago Steel. Sean Farrell is probably my top prospect from there simply because his strengths come from great 5v5 play and tenacity that I think he’ll translate to higher leagues more easily than the likes of his teammates Brendan Brisson and Sam Colangelo. He’s a good playmaker and forechecker who is described as “smart” with a “high hockey IQ”.

Round #4 — Leafs pick at 106 and 122

Brigstew: The guy I hope falls is Zayde Wisdom and Brandon Coe for these picks. I’ve written about both of them before, and while McKenzie ranks them both ranked close together in the third round I hope teams pass on them just so the Leafs can get them. My realistic picks would be William Villeneuve, a RHD who led the QMJHL in points by a defenseman last year, and Samuel Knazko who is a slick and skilled LHD from Slovakia playing in Finland. My reaches would be Dylan Garand, a shorter goalie who had great numbers in the WHL.

Hardev: Dammit, Brigstew, I was going to say Wisdom, Coe, and Knazko! I’ve liked Isaak Phillips as a guy who could be a long-term project to grow into a good third pair defenseman. He’s big, but skates well and has no problems moving the puck with efficiency and skill. He doesn’t shoot much, which I like, but still has a good involvement percentage for defensemen according to Scouching’s tracking data.

Round #5 — Leafs pick at 153

Brigstew: By about round four, all of the prospects start to be pretty much the same and it’s more about picking the guys you like than there being some picks that are clearly better. That’s why it’s a good thing to have a lot of picks. A guy I hope falls this far is James Hardie, a high volume shooter and scorer for Mississauga in the OHL. For realistic picks I love defensemen Victor Mancini, who is a big RHD who offers a bit of everything and plays in Sweden. For someone I’d reach on, I’m looking at a goalie and their rankings are all over the place... so I don’t know how much of a reach it would actually be to takesomeone like like Vsevolod Skotnikov or Amir Miftakhov out of Russia.

Hardev: Mancini is another favourite of mine. I’ll point out that I’ve liked Artem Shlaine, who’s in the USHL/NCAA pipeline. He’s a centre with great puck skills and good passing ability. His shot is okay and he isn’t afraid to go to the net hard with his size and speed. He’s going to play at the University of Connecticut this season.

Round #6 — Leafs pick at 168, 177, and 180

Brigstew: Now we’re at the point where no one really exciting is likely to have fallen. But there are still some interesting longshots to gamble on — defense with no points, goalies in European junior leagues that only 5 people watch, and prospects who are in their second or third drafts. To me, this is where you swing on defensemen like Karri Aho and Luke Reid, or forwards like Lukas Svejkovsky. For a goalie, I’d look at Nick Malik if he’s still around.

Hardev: Samuel Johannesson, not the polarizing Anton, is a double overage defenseman playing in the SHL and doing pretty well there. He evades and handles pressure well in a men’s league, and is a great puck mover. EP notes that he also does well to not chase the play and always be on top of the game. Sounds like a Dubas pick to me. Oliver Tarnstrom is one of the youngest players in the Draft and had a great season in Sweden’s U20 junior league. He put up great numbers and had good underlying stats as well.

Round #7 — Leafs pick at 189, 195, and 212

Brigstew: We’re picking at the bottom of the barrel, so you’re really rolling the dice on guys. You could throw out any number of names and they’d all make the same amount sense as anyone else. Some defensemen I like are Mitchell Smith (smaller but good underlying numbers in the OHL, could break out next year), Ivan Zivlak (good defensive numbers in Sweden’s junior league) and Ian Moore (big, RHD, high school defender with shut down capability). Forwards I like are some overagers like Gage Goncalves, Xavier Simoneau, and Dmitri Rashevsky. Lastly are the goalies, and if they’re still around I’d swing on Devon Levi (MVP of CCHL and going to NCAA), Samuel Hlavaj or Fabio Iacobo.

Hardev: Draft Benjamin Baumgartner. Just do it. He’s a double overage centre from Switzerland. He’s small, but he’s a great offensive player who can handle himself at 19 in a men’s league. He’s a shifty forward with elusiveness and is capable of seeing lots of options in the offensive zone. Pass, shoot, move, he can do it quickly.