Usually at this time of the year, we are elbows deep in NHL free agency season. The NBA is currently having a whale of a time (Kevin Durant, please come to Toronto) as their free agency opened at the usual date of July 1st.

The NHL had to push things back a couple weeks because they started their playoffs a little bit later and the NBA did a play-in as well as a five-game first round.

But before free agency there is the NHL Draft, and I am quickly getting very excited about it. I’m really enjoying the Leafs-focused content coming from Brigstew at our site right now, which is becoming a yearly staple. Scouching’s videos have also been really useful because it puts metaphorical faces (players and their abilities) to the names we see on lists and such.

One thing that has been taking up way too much of my time is DraftSim from Draft Prospects Hockey. I’ve been doing an embarrassing number of simulations in the past couple weeks as I try to get a handle on the range of players that could be available at the Leafs picks next Thursday and Friday. As a simulation, one result doesn’t fit reality, but many simulations can start to put a picture together. DraftSim uses Bob McKenzie’s final list as its ranking, so it’s extra useful. Here’s what I’ve narrowed it down to for the Leafs first pick at 25th overall:

Pie in the sky, Brad Lambert falls to the Maple Leafs and they are somehow able to bring on a potential scoring 2C of the future with a draft pick seven years into the rebuild.

2022 NHL Draft Profile: Brad Lambert

Other exciting forwards that are in the Leafs range include Isaac Howard, Jiri Kulich, Ivan Miroshnichenko, Liam Öghren, and Noah Östlund. I saw a reality where Marco Kasper fell to the Leafs and that was really exciting, but there’s no way that’s going to happen.

2022 NHL Draft Profile: Liam Öhgren
2022 NHL Draft Profile: Jiri Kulich
NHL Mock Draft 2022: The Toronto Maple Leafs select Noah Östlund

Howard is a high-octane top gunning left winger who’s nickname is Ice Man and believes he’s one of the best offensive players available this summer. I love all of that.

The Ö twins from Djurgardens, Öghren and Östlund are very different players — Östlund is a centre and the slick flashy one, where Öghren is the hard-nosed lethal winger. I’d be happy with either of them at the Leafs spot. We picked Noah Östlund in the 2022 SBN NHL Mock Draft.

However, it’s pretty well noted that after the first handful of elite players are taken, it’s the centres that go next in the NHL Draft, leaving lots of defenders to be taken in the late first round. There is a plethora of defenders that the Leafs could take here. Namely large (very large for their age), mobile defensemen.

The Leafs would be lucky if Pavel Mintyukov fell to them from the top-15. He is the definition of big, agile, and skilled. The other big defenders behind him are Lian Bichsel and Owen Pickering, whom we were considering for our SBN pick before choosing Östlund. In slightly more average sized guys we have Ryan Chesley (RD), Denton Mateychuk, and Mattias Havelid (RD). On Chesley and Havelid are righties, but getting a lefty might not be a bad thing in 5-7 years when these players will be developed.

2022 NHL Draft Profile: Pavel Mintyukov
2022 NHL Draft Profile: Owen Pickering
2022 NHL Draft Profile: Denton Mateychuk

To quote Brigstew, “the goalies in this draft are weeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak,” so I wouldn’t look that way for the first pick, though there are some goalies with good numbers the team could take a flier on in the seventh round. Vladyslav Peksa who was also a late round pick in 2021 is currently doing very well.

I highly recommend looking into these players this week and getting yourself familiar with them. One of them could become part of Leafs Nation very soon and you’ll sound very smart for knowing something about them. And at the end of the day, that’s what is important.

Who do the Leafs draft on Thursday?

A forward165
A defender152
They trade out of the first round143

Various Leafs and Branches

Two New York Rangers have reportedly requested a trade.

One of them signed a contract to make it easier for them to be traded.

The Vancouver smartly extended Brock Boeser.

Craig MacTavish has been hired back into the NHL after some time in Europe.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Nick Paul to an extension. The term is long to bring the AAV down. Either the Lightning will be able to trade the contract in year 5 after his NTC expires, or they’ll keep him around for the long rebuild as a good vet. A classic Nonis special “we don’t care about years 5-7” signing. The rebuild in Tampa is coming. It’s only a few years away.