The 2022 NHL draft is over, and Toronto finishes a busy second day. They entered with three picks, they finished with five. They also changed the makeup of their goalie situation, but are left now with nothing but question marks and speculation.
Let’s talk about my first impressions of the draft as a whole, now that it’s all over. I’ll first walk through each pick and trade involved, then give my overall thoughts at the end.
1) Traded pick #25 and Mrázek to Chicago for pick #38, no salary retention
This was a slam dunk deal for me at the time, and even now that we know who the Leafs took. There were some reports on Thursday that the Leafs had a guy in mind in their top 15 who they thought they’d get at 38. Whether or not they got their guy after all, it basically means that the Leafs got out of Mrázek’s contract for basically no cost. The difference in value between the 25th and 38th overall picks is very small, and if they did indeed get the same guy they wanted at 25th then they just shed a contract for free.
Of course, the Mrázek move will also be judged based on what Toronto does now to solve their goaltending issue. But I still think the first step of that — trading Mrázek for this — was in isolation a very smart move.
Just look at what Edmonton gave up when they did a similar move to get rid of Kassian’s contract, which was also 2 years remaining with a similar cap hit. They gave up three picks to do it, and moved down a few spots.
2) Selecting center Fraser Minten 38th overall
There are two ways to look at the Toronto Maple Leafs drafting Fraser Minten. How good is Minten himself, and was there anyone else better at that spot?
My early impression is: this wasn’t who I would have taken at this spot with who was available. I really liked Gleb Trikozov, who was taken later by Carolina because of course he was. I would have also liked Seam Casey or Lane Hutson, but they each have their own flaws. Honestly, looking at who was taken in the rest of the second round there aren’t a lot of players that I look at and think are very clearly better picks, based on what I know now.
Someone asked me on Twitter why they wouldn’t have just traded down to take Minten, who was ranked lower than where Toronto took him. The thing is... that doesn’t matter much. Even for people who ranked him later in the second round or into the third, there isn’t a lot of difference in the likely value of a prospect taken at 38th than there is at 64th. The other thing is, Minten’s player profile is something that a lot of NHL teams like. Most scouting outlets who ranked him lower noted there was a good chance that he gets taken earlier — like Rutger McGroarty, who is also a bigger power center who was ranked in the 20’s by Bob McKenzie and went 14th overall.
Then there’s Minten himself. Who is he? I’ll work on a larger, more in depth profile of him as soon as Rogers fixes their damn internet network and I can watch his games instead of relying on my phone data. But from what I’ve read, and highlight clips I watched on my phone, he’s a very Knies-like pick. He’s not as big as Knies, but plays a physical game. Not as a goon, but more as a power forward-like player. He doesn’t have eye popping, elite skill — but Knies didn’t really show that when he was drafted either. Minten can protect the puck, he has a good shot, can skate pretty well and showed a lot of improvement as a passer/playmaker later in the year. He’s also a center, and gets rave reviews for being a responsible two-way defensive forward. He seems like a lesser version of Jiri Kulich, who I wanted at Toronto’s 25th overall pick when they still had it.
Here are some notes on his production, which don’t jump off the page at first glance:
- Minten only played around 14 minutes per night on one of the WHL’s best teams, playing behind one of the best CHL prospects in Logan Stankoven.
- He was 7th among WHL forwards in this year’s draft in total primary points, 7th in even strength primary points, and 5th in powerplay primary points.
- With his ice time, he had the third best primary points per 60 rate, and rates ahead of the likes of first rounders Conor Geekie and Reid Shaefer. /
In fact, he rates only just behind Shane Wright — not that I think this means he’s almost as good a prospect, just a sign that he was very productive in the more limited minutes he got. Basically, I think there is a good chance we see a big jump in his points next year as he gets a bigger role.
3) Traded pick #79 to Las Vegas for picks #95 and #135, then selecting Nicholas Moldenhauer with #95
A no brainer for a trade. Despite a large looking gap numerically between the 79th and 95th/135th picks, there really isn’t much difference in the quality of prospects in that large range. Especially since, with the 95th pick, they selected Nicholas Moldenhauer who I would have ranked worthy of a second round pick, much less a later third.
Moldenhauer is a local boy, born in Mississauga Ontario. He played for the Chicago Steel, making it a very Leafs-y draft choice. He’s a 5’11” center/winger, who was ranked higher than 95 by just about everyone — Scott Wheeler had him as high as 40th, Elite Prospects had him as high as 53rd.
He had a fascinating and almost tragic story this season. He was sick in the off-season, which slightly delayed his start to the season. Then in his first game back, he had a skate cut his face and nick an artery — something that wasn’t discovered right away, leading to a very serious threat to his life. When he returned, he very understandably was a bit slow to get back into top form. But when he did, he went on a big run. In the second half of the season, he had 29 points in 20 games. That pace would have put him in the top 5 in the whole USHL regardless of age. As a result, he was invited to join Team Canada’s World U18 roster, where he was one of the better forwards on a weak team and had 3 points in 4 games.
It’s funny because I think if you flipped the two picks Toronto made, people would think of them each as better than people seem to be. Even though Moldenhauer would have been more of a reach than Minten, even. But he is more of a known commodity among Leafs Twitter, a local kid, better offensive production, and has more obvious skill.
4) Traded their 2023 4th round pick to Nashville for pick #122 in this draft, then selected goalie Dennis Hildeby
The trade swaps a future 4th rounder for a 4th rounder this year, so not really losing much. Drafting Dennis Hildeby is a bit of a head scratcher at first glance. He’s a big Swedish goalie that was a D+3 overage pick. He has barely played outside of junior in his career, but he had good numbers this year. There is little in the way of scouting reports or highlights of him to look through, so we’re just going to have to take this on trust that their newly revamped goalie department knows what they’re doing here.
5) Picking forward Nikita Grebenkin with #135 overall
The Maple Leafs taking Nikita Grebenkin is another mystery, but in the sense of trying to understand the Leafs’ decision but there’s almost nothing out there for me to dig into. So I don’t really know anything about him. I can say he’s tall, fast, reportedly a high-octane offensive player who was on a high-octane offensive line in the MHL. He had good stats, but is a D+1 in Russia’s MHL junior league. He got a taste of the KHL, but will probably spend more time in the MHL again next year.
6) Picking forward Brandon Lisowsky with #218 overall
This is a nice swing for a 7th round pick. I didn’t mention him in my list of 7th round forwards because I thought for sure he wouldn’t be available by then. He’s a smaller forward, listed as 5’8” or 5’9”, playing on the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL. He was ranked as high as 53rd and as low as 119th, though some I’m sure just didn’t rank him at all. He’s a more offensive-minded winger that has a really good shot, and plays a style that tries to generate as many shots from dangerous areas as possible. Though he’s more of a shooter than a playmaker, he’s good at carrying the puck as well.
He’s someone I’ll be looking forward to watching some games of in the next couple of weeks.
My early impressions of this draft is that Toronto did alright. I’ll have more thoughts later once I have time to actually watch some of these guys in more detail. I won’t be able to find anything on the two mystery box picks from Europe. But I’ll be able to see games of Minten, Moldenhauer and Lisowsky.
The Leafs entered this draft with three picks (25, 79 and 218), and wound up with five (38, 95, 122, 135, and 218). They got rid of a bad contract, and came away from the draft with:
- Fraser Minten, two-way power center
- Nicholas Moldenhauer, skilled forward
- Dennis Hildeby, D+3 super tall Swedish goalie
- Nikita Grebenkin, D+1 tall and skilled Russian winger
- Brandon Lisowsky, small zippy winger who can rip it... my favourite kind of player!/
It’s a mix of players that does add one, maybe two centers to their depth which is sorely needed. It doesn’t add any defenseman, though given who was available at all of these picks I don’t necessarily think they really missed out on any obvious choice in that regard. They added a mystery box goalie who, due to his age, could be closer to jumping to the NHL assuming he turns into anything.
But a lot of this draft, I and most people will just have to trust in the Leafs’ scouting, draft choices and development. A lot of the picks seem puzzling at first glance, but my early research shows that there could be something there, I don’t know that yet. I was similarly underwhelmed by the selection of Matthew Knies last year, and he turned out to be my favourite prospect in Toronto’s system now. But he didn’t show nearly the same level of play in his draft year as he did after it. Maybe Toronto catches lightning in a bottle again with Minten in that regard.
I’ll let you all know once I watch him some more, and give you my full thoughts.
What are your thoughts of the Leafs’ draft as a whole?
|I like it. It was good to get rid of Mrázek’s contract and get some interesting looking players in our system.||981|
|I am undecided since I know nothing about any of these kids.||335|
|I hated it, they took too many ‘safe’ guys and overagers who we know nothing about||99|