Alright, so wrapping up this week’s recap of the Leafs’ moves this season, we go all the way back to the beginning, to re-examine Burke’s moves on Draft Day. The Leafs’ picks were immediately analyzed and re-analyzed in the days following the draft, but a fresh look, especially given the results of the rookie camp and the moves made over the rest of the offseason, will shed some new light on the Leafs’ plans for their new prospects.
Obviously the big story heading into the draft was how the Leafs were going to use their abundance of mid-level picks, as they headed in with two late first rounders and a high second round pick. It was no secret that the draft wasn’t incredibly deep, with a pretty even talent range for the majority of the top end of the draft. The guy that many Leaf fans, myself included, wanted Burke to trade up for was Mark McNeill, but he went to the Blackhawks at 18, four picks ahead of the 22 spot that Burke eventually landed in.
Instead of McNeill, Burke grabbed another power forward in Tyler Biggs, an 18-year old who’s already 6’2, 210+ lbs and knows how to use his size to his advantage. Biggs is a developmental pick that, if he pans out after a season or two under Enrico Blasi at Miami University, could give the Leafs a talented power forward the likes of which I honestly can’t remember them having in a long time. With a tough physical edge included in a skillset that includes strong skating, a quick shot and a nose for the net, Biggs was initially ranked 5th among North American skaters at the midterm rankings, but fell to 22nd by the end of the year.
Three picks later, Burke added to his already deep pool of talented young blueliners by drafting Stuart Percy, another 18-year old, who scored 4 goals and 33 points for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. He had a decent showing at both the Leafs’ prospect camp and the Team Canada World Junior Development Camp this summer, and there’s certainly no question he’s a few seasons from being anywhere near NHL ready.
After the first round, the Leafs didn’t pick again until the 3rd round and finished their draft by selecting two left wingers (Josh Leivo, David Broll), a center (Tony Cameranesi), three more defenseman (Tom Nilsson, Dennis Robertson, Max Everson) and a goalie (Garret Sparks). Most of these guys are, at best, outside shots to make the NHL, some more than others. Still, I thought Burke did an excellent job of adding depth to just about every aspect of the Leafs’ prospect pool.
The three forwards are all unique, each offering their own skills and style of play. Leivo, from everything I’ve read and watched, was one of the biggest stories of the second half in the OHL, as he transformed his game into a nearly point-per-game pace by the postseason. He plays well at both ends of the rink, and uses his size (6’2, 185 lbs as a 17 year old during the season) to his advantage. He’ll obviously have to keep growing and keep developing, but I’ll be keeping an eye on him in Sudbury this season.
Speaking of size, have you seen David Broll? The 6’3, 220-pound monster already earned himself a three year entry-level deal with the Leafs after an impressive showing at prospect camp. Broll needs to work on his skating, but he’s actually got decent hands for a man of his size, and he’s not afraid to drop the mitts. He certainly has the size to make it as a bottom-six NHL player, and he’ll get every opportunity to do just that over the next three seasons. Finally, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Tony Cameranesi, a 5’9, 160-pound speedster from Wayzata High School in Minnesota will spend the next year in junior hockey before joining the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A true gamble, Cameranesi has a lot to prove if he wants to eventually make the NHL.
Overall, without any real NHL-ready talents outside the very top prospects in this draft, Burke’s plan this year was clearly to add some assets for the future. I’m not the type of Leafs fan that’s going to tell you that Garret Sparks is going to be the next Curtis Joseph, but adding another goalie to the organization can never hurt. The additions of Percy and Nilsson add a couple of talented young d-men to a blueline already brimming with young talent but it can never hurt to keep the pressure on the guys farther up the line than those that have just been drafted. Finally, up front, there was little chance of landing a top-line scorer that would be ready this season. Look how long top level talents like Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne have taken to develop. Players like Biggs and Broll bring a much-needed element of size to a Leafs’ forward group that has been somewhat lacking in that department for the past few seasons. While they won’t contribute right away, when guys like Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri are in the prime of their careers (and the Leafs are hopefully challenging for a Stanley Cup – knock on wood), there’s going to be a need for guys that can hammer their way to the front of the net and wreak havoc on the boards.
So what are your thoughts on the draft? Were there players you would have rather seen drafted? Do you love or hate Tyler Biggs?
Thanks for reading, and as always, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/editorinleaf.