Well, it's a good thing I started this before Darren Dreger said everything but making it "official" that Treliving will be the next general manager for the Maple Leafs.
We updated the Toronto Maple Leafs GM search earlier tonight Insider Trading. More specifically, all signs now point to the search wrapping up in the very near future with Brad Treliving being named as the new GM.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) May 31, 2023
I had this idea from a larger analysis that MLHS did of Treliving as a GM – they included everything from trades, contracts signed, as well as drafting. For me, I don't really care as much about the other stuff, but I wanted to take a look at his drafting record and see how it compares to the Leafs under Dubas.
So, let's start by looking at a season by season breakdown of the drafts Calgary has had since Treliving was hired. Then, I can look at larger trends that may hint at the philosophy he has. Finally, I want to add some caveats that are worth keeping in mind.
- Round 1 - 4th OA: Sam Bennett
- Round 2 - 34th OA: Mason McDonald
- Round 2 - 54th OA: Hunter Smith
- Round 3 - 64th OA: Brandon Hickey
- Round 6 - 175th OA: Adam Ollas-Mattsson
- Round 7 - 184th OA: Austin Carroll
Treliving took over as Calgary's GM in late April, 2014. That wouldn't give him much time to get heavily involved in their draft process. Likely, his scouting team already had their board figured out more or less, and he just gave the sign off on the recommendations they made. This is what will also likely happen if he takes over as GM for the Leafs, since we're even closer to the draft now.
What you can see from this draft is that they hit pretty nicely on Sam Bennett, who became an every day NHLer. The issue was less with the pick, and more with they never really figured it out with him. After being traded to Florida, he finally took off and became a solid middle six power center.
The rest of the picks haven't really turned into much. Their two second round picks have both barely played in the AHL, and have been mostly in the ECHL since turning pro. Their third round pick, Brandon Hickey, has played on 5 different AHL teams in the last 5 seasons and has never played in a full season for any of them. The other two have since given up on making the NHL or playing in the AHL, and have gone to Europe.
All in all, not the greatest draft, even if Bennett's success had been in Calgary.
- Round 2 - 53rd OA: Rasmus Andersson
- Round 2 - 60th OA: Oliver Kylington
- Round 3 - 136th OA: Pavel Karnaukhov
- Round 6 - 166th OA: Andrew Mangiapane
- Round 7 - 196th OA: Riley Bruce
On the other hand, Treliving's first fully involved draft was pretty darn successful. Without a first round pick he got three regular NHLers who are still in their lineup. Andersson and Kylington have become top four guys, though Kylington missed all of this past season. Meanwhile, Mangiapane as a 6th round pick has been useful middle six scoring depth who has a 30 goal season under his belt.
The other two were never signed by Calgary, but they were later picks and you can't expect to hit on every single one of your picks.
- Round 1 - 6th OA: Matthew Tkachuk
- Round 2 - 54th OA: Tyler Parsons
- Round 2 - 56th OA: Dillon Dube
- Round 3 - 66th OA: Adam Fox
- Round 4 - 96th OA: Linus Lindstrom
- Round 5 - 126th OA: Mitchell Mattson
- Round 6 - 156th OA: Eetu Tuulola
- Round 6 - 166th OA: Matthew Phillips
- Round 7 - 186th OA: Stepan Falkovsky
Somehow, Calgary's second full draft under Treliving was even better. Matthew Tkachuk has been a star from very early on – even if he wound up leaving, you still take the best player. The same can also be said for their absolute steal of Adam Fox, one of the best defensemen in the league for the past few years. He never played a single game for them, but was a significant piece that helped them land Dougie Hamilton, who turned into Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. They also hit on Dillon Dube as another useful middle six depth guy.
And in the sixth round, you also have Matthew Phillips. He has never gotten a chance in the NHL, but he's been one of the best offensive forwards in the AHL the past two seasons. That's darn good for such a late round pick, and he might finally get a chance now that Sutter is no longer Calgary's coach.
- Round 1 - 16th OA: Juuso Valimaki
- Round 4 - 109th OA: Adam Ruzicka
- Round 5 - 140th OA: Zach Fischer
- Round 6 - 171st OA: D'Artagnan Joly
- Round 7 - 202nd OA: Filip Sveningsson
Another year without as many picks, and none in the top 10, Calgary did come away with two players that have become regular NHLers. Valimaki is somewhat famous around these parts for being taken right before Toronto took Liljegren. He might not have become as good of a player as expected, but he's also gone through some bad injuries. Since being taken on waivers by Arizona, he's seen his career resurgence begin.
Adam Ruzicka has become a decent depth center in their bottom six, mostly as a fourth liner. But that's still a good hit for a fourth round pick. The others don't seem to have any hope of becoming something in the NHL at this point. An okay draft given the picks they had.
- Round 4 - 105th OA: Martin Pospisil
- Round 4 - 108th OA: Demetrios Koumontzis
- Round 4 - 122nd OA: Milos Roman
- Round 6 - 167th OA: Emilio Pettersen
- Round 7 - 198th OA: Dmitry Zavgorodniy
Not a lot to write home about. They had no picks until the 4th round, and only two of these players seem to still be around on their AHL team. Martin Pospisil and Emilio Pettersen have both been around or a bit better than a 0.5 points per game. But at their ages, the odds that they might become something in the NHL is pretty low at this point.
- Round 1 - 26th OA: Jakob Pelletier
- Round 3 - 88th OA: Ilya Nikolaev
- Round 4 - 116th OA: Lucas Feuk
- Round 5 - 150th OA: Josh Nodler
- Round 7 - 214th OA: Dustin Wolf
We're getting to drafts where they're not quite old enough to write off, but they do have two prospects here who look like they could be something good – they just haven't been given a chance yet. Pelletier has been a star in the QMJHL, for Team Canada at the World Juniors, and for Calgary's AHL team. So far he's only gotten into 24 games for Calgary and had something of a notorious cold shoulder from Sutter.
The other is Dustin Wolf, a smaller goalie who has done nothing but dominate everywhere he's played. He's won Goalie of the Year awards in the WHL and AHL, and won a gold medal at the World Juniors as Team USA's second string goalie. His worst season in the WHL was his rookie year as a backup, where he had a .928 sv% in 20 games. His worst season in the AHL was his first full season as a rookie, when he had a .924 sv% in 47 games as their main goalie.
Both Pelletier and Wolf seem like they could still be stars, and from the sounds of things one of the reasons why Sutter was fired was to get a coach that will give these two a real chance in the NHL next year.
The other three picks in this year's draft don't seem to have any indication that there's something there. But getting two potential impact players, including one from the seventh round, is a good draft.
- Round 1 - 24th OA: Connor Zary
- Round 2 - 50th OA: Yan Kuznetsov
- Round 3 - 72nd OA: Jeremie Poirier
- Round 3 - 80th OA: Jake Boltmann
- Round 4 - 96th OA: Daniil Chechelev
- Round 5 - 143rd OA: Ryan Francis
- Round 6 - 174th OA: Rory Kerins
- Round 7 - 205th OA: Ilya Solovyov
This is a draft with a lot of picks, and none so far have played in any NHL games. But a lot of them turned pro going into this season. Connor Zary had 58 points in 72 games as a 21 year old, and has the look of a decent middle six center.
Yan Kuznetsov was a guy I wrote about in my first year writing about the draft, as a potential hidden gem. He had a decent rookie year in the AHL for Calgary, as a two way defenseman.
Jeremie Poirier was William Villeneuve's partner in crime in Saint John and a high octane, skilled offensive defenseman. In his rookie AHL season he had 57 points in 67 games as a 20 year old defenseman, he seems like he could be a PP quarterback for Calgary in the next year or two.
Ryan Francis and Rory Kerins as two later round swings are long shot maybes, having to play in the ECHL since their AHL team was so stacked. They were two of their team's better players as 20 year olds. For the rest, Calgary will be waiting for them to finish their NCAA careers or coming over from Europe – assuming they ever do. So a whole lot of interesting looking maybes, but that's it for now.
- Round 1 - 13th OA: Matt Coronato
- Round 2 - 45th OA: William Strömgren
- Round 3 - 77th OA: Cole Huckins
- Round 3 - 89th OA: Cameron Whynot
- Round 5 - 141st OA: Cole Jordan
- Round 6 - 168th OA: Jack Beck
- Round 6 - 173rd OA: Lucas Ciona
- Round 7 - 205th OA: Arseni Sergeev
This is another draft with some maybes, but no NHLers yet. In fact, only one of them has even gone pro yet. Matt Coronato has been a top prospect from his time with the Chicago Steel, then one of Harvard's best players in two years in the NCAA, and always one of Team USA's best players at the Hlinka, World U18s, World Juniors, and most recently the World Men's Championship this spring. At the end of this season he signed an ELC, and he's still just 20 years old. There's a good chance he's immediately an NHLer for Calgary next season.
The big whiff, if there is one, is William Strömgren at 45. It was a pretty deep second round, and if I'm only counting guys who already are NHLers or I think are almost locks to be, includes Logan Stankoven, Aatu Raty, Matthew Knies, JJ Moser, and Stanislav Svozil. Strömgren was a gamble at the time, and so too was Huckins – but man I really liked Huckins and wrote about him as well. He just hasn't really developed much since being drafted.
Another guy I really liked as a depth defenseman pick for Toronto back then was Cole Jordan. He is a big, brilliant skating defensive defenseman who seemed to hint at some offensive ability at least when it came to getting the puck out of his own end. He seemed like someone who could take a big step in his development, but... well he had some bad injury luck. He has yet to play more than 40 games in any WHL season, and missed all but the first 17 games this year after suffering a season ending injury back in the fall. As a 5th round swing I still really like that pick.
Another later pick that looks like it could turn into something is Lucas Ciona in the sixth round. He's on the powerhouse Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, and has improved his point production over the last three years from 13, to 35, to 75 this season. He's still a long shot but the way he's developing he has a chance to turn into some nice depth.
- Round 2 - 59th OA: Topi Rönni
- Round 5 - 155th OA: Parker Bell
- Round 7 - 219th OA: Cade Littler
Not much to write about for last year's draft, both because it's still too soon but also because they only had three picks – and none of them were first rounders. I liked Topi Rönni as a mid round guy last season, and the other two seem like guys for now.
Treliving's Drafting Trends
After looking into all of the players drafted by Calgary during Treliving's time as GM, there are a few trends that I noticed. Some surprised me, some didn't.
The unsurprising part is that he typically drafted bigger players. Only 16 of the 54 drafted players were shorter than 6'0", and he picked as many players listed as 6'7" or taller as he did players who are listed as 5'9" or shorter. Both the mean and average height of all the players drafted is 6'1". The trend was even stronger for defensemen – the average defenseman he drafted was 6'2", and he only drafted two who are listed under 6'0" and both were 5'11". That said, a lot of their hits come from smaller players. Coronato, Pelletier, Mangiapane, Fox, and Dube are all under 6'0", Zary and Kylington would be considered "average" at 6'0", and I'll add Dustin Wolf (6'0") as being considered small for a goalie.
Another trend is that he predominantly drafted from North America. 31 of the 54 prospects drafted came from the WHL (12), OHL (11) or QMJHL (8). Even outside of that, he also drafted from the USHL (9) and some of the lesser North American junior leagues (3). That means 43 of 54 prospects came from Canadian and American leagues – granted, some of them were European players who were in North American leagues. Of the remaining 9 players, 7 were from Sweden, 2 were from Finland, and only 1 came from Russia.
Now for the part most people probably care about: how successful overall has Treliving's draft been? Well, of the 54 draft picks he's made, 13 of them have made the NHL (24%), and 7 of those have been clear "hits" – like Tkachuk and Fox. This is a more subjective thing, but I'm counting 7 of their most recent picks as "good swings" who I think have at least a pretty good chance of making the NHL. One thing to note is that 6 of the NHLers were all their first rounders, so a lot of their success came from just not fucking up with the easiest picks. In fact, only 4 of the 13 NHLers came outside the first two rounds.
Is that good? Well, let's compare those rates to the Maple Leafs under Kyle Dubas. This is a bit unfair to Dubas, because he was only the full GM since 2018, so a lot of his drafts haven't had the same time to see if they turned into NHLers. The Maple Leafs have selected 35 players since then. That's a good chunk less than Calgary under Treliving, and only 3 of them were first rounders compared to Calgary's 6.
That said... 9 of those 35 have played at least one NHL game (26%), and 5 of them have come outside the first round. I may be biased in favour of Toronto and Dubas here, but I count 8 of their still developing players to be "good swings". All of that would make it seem like Dubas was just a bit better at finding value in the draft, and this is especially true outside of the first round. Where Calgary had more first rounders, and did hit on all of them by the look of it, Kyle was a lot better at drafting useful players or "good swings" in later rounds. Now, I say that with the caveat that a lot of those swings have yet to reach the NHL – but they're starting to. Grebyonkin, Niemelä, Villeneuve, Tverberg, and maybe guys like Voit, Hildeby and Peksa.
The Big Caveat
So here's the thing. Dubas and Treliving may be the ones making the final decisions on who to draft, but they are relying a lot on information provided to them from their scouts. For this year, at least, Treliving will be inheriting the scouting work done by the team that Dubas built. One example is that outside of Dustin Wolf, all the goalies Calgary drafted under him look to be pretty bad. But with Toronto, they have a newly built and revamped goalie pipeline, from scouts to development coaches.
While that will change over time, as various people Dubas put in place leave for other teams or other jobs (or they follow wherever Dubas goes), it is a good system for Treliving to inherit for now. Even if he likes taller players, and/or guys from North America... there are plenty of good bigger players from North America that can be found, as long as you pick the right ones. Treliving may skew that way, but he doesn't avoid smaller guys completely.
So while I'd still rather have Dubas as our GM, I'll at least note that Treliving does not seem like a bad option to manage their drafts. Not to me. I remember grumbling at Calgary when they picked some of the prospects I liked instead of Toronto.
That's my one little ray of sunshine in all this news that I can offer.