Before I get into our next look at a potential Leafs draftee, I wanted to let everyone know about the ongoing Mock Draft being conducted by the NHL writers here at FanSided. All the picks are being posted at our main NHL site, Too Many Men On the Site. Jared Crozier, who is unfortunate enough to be tasked with writing about those hapless Senators down in Ottawa, has been heading up the effort. Check out his intro to the whole proceedings here.
Today, Frank Rekas from The Rat Trick will certainly be hoping his team enjoys the same good fortune he did in our mock draft. Frank selected top-ranked prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with his pick, check out his celebratory analysis here.
Don’t forget to check Too Many Men on the Site every day for the next month to see who each of our writers want for their teams.
Now, back to the Leafs’ potentials. Up next is a guy that the Leafs would probably have to trade up to get. Mark McNeill is an 18-year old center on the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL, and he’s already built like a brick shithouse, listed at 6’2, 204 lbs. The ISS had him rated 15th among all skaters, while Central Scouting had him pegged at 14th among North American skaters.
A solid power forward, McNeill had a breakout season this year. He had just 9 goals and 24 points in his rookie season, but notched 32 goals and 81 points with the Raiders, helping them reach the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Saskatoon Blades. McNeill won’t be ready to step into an NHL role right away, and he’ll have to prove he’s more than just a one-season wonder, but his effort this year certainly has people talking, with some projecting him to go as high as the top 15.
As far as the Leafs’ involvement with McNeill goes, it’d be difficult to see any reason not to pick him if he’s still on the board, and there’s a hell of an argument to be made that he’d be worth trading for. My expertise in prospects can be a bit lacking, especially when you get outside of the top few guys, so here’s what Maple Leafs Hot Stove had to say about McNeill:
“Arguably the second best available player for the WHL, after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, McNeill shot up the lists from a late first round selection earlier in the year. A big kid at 6’2, 210 lbs, McNeill is a ‘Burke-type Player’ if I ever saw one. A strong two-way center, McNeill uses his size to his advantage to protect the puck. He’s a playmaker by trade, but isn’t exactly a flashy player. He keeps the game simple. Going into the corners to fetch pucks, driving to the net to finish off a play, or setting up his winger in a scoring position, McNeill is that all-around forward. Some questions surround his overall offensive ability, but having played a checking role with Team Canada at the Under 18’s, McNeill should be able to play that at the NHL Level, if his offense never pans out. He has soft hands a strong hockey IQ, and draws favourable comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf. Need I say more? The Prince Albert Raider was able to propel his club to a playoff spot without much in the way of a supporting cast. It’s no wonder scouts love him.”
Given that Burke has a penchant for big, tough forwards, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this is one of the targets he’s got his sights on. He may need to move up to grab him, but that’s certainly not out of the question.