This pick was a no brainer with the Forwards Left in the top 5. With Oil On Whyte selecting Yakupov first overall, Grigorenko and Galchenyuk both off the board, the Leafs need help up front. Forsberg fills some needs with size up front, and he has shown the ability to play the power forward game that Toronto has been in desperate need of. This pick would fill needs, but comes with a lot of caveats.
First, this would be the first time since 2002 that Burke selected a European player in the first round, when he chose Kirill Koltsov. It should be noted that this player has never once played a game in the NHL, AHL, OHL, or any North American league. I don’t think Burke has anything against European players, but his draft history, at least in the first round, paints a picture that says different.
My money says that if the big three Russian Centre’s are off the board by number 5, the pick will be traded. It may just be a case of moving down in an effort to acquire more selections in the draft, but potentially could be used in an effort to get Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Forsberg would definitely help the Leafs, but not for a couple years as most analysts are projecting that outside of possibly Yakupov, Galchenyuk, and Grigorenko, none of the first round prospects will likely be NHL ready in September. Burke also has a strong tendency to make his players earn their way on to the NHL roster through extra time in junior as well as time in the AHL. Nazem Kadri has made some cameo appearances on the Leafs roster but has yet to stick. Bobby Ryan spent a lot of extra time in the American League honing his craft before finally becoming a regular on the NHL roster.
On to the highlights of Filip Forsberg, projected first round selection of the Maple Leafs
As you can see, Forsberg fills many of the requisite needs. He plays the wing, which does not address the need for not 1, but 2 top 6 centres before taking the team to the next level, that type of player may simply not be available in the Burke’s selection window. Solace could be taken from the comments offered by outgoing Director of Player Personnel Rick Dudley, who stated that he felt that Joe Colbourne may not be far away at all from getting a promotion to the NHL level. The Leafs also could pursue a trade, but top line centerman do not grow on trees and are not easily available, so Colbourne may actually be the next best option.