Since the Toronto Maple Leafs finally ended their lengthy playoff drought and actually had a solid season, they won’t be picking that high in the first round of this summer’s National Hockey League Draft. They have the 21st overall selection and moving down a few spots might be a smart move.
The further down the line you pick in the draft, the less difference in skill level there is between players. For instance, if you picked fifth overall and traded out of the top 20, then that would be a pretty big discrepancy. However, trading down from 21 to let’s say number 27 wouldn’t be a huge drop off in talent. If the Leafs employed this strategy they could probably get a comparable player in the first round and pick up another later round selection or two in the deal.
The New England Patriots have been doing this for years. They often trade down to accumulate more picks and stockpile their roster with young prospects. Since there are no guarantees on how a youngster will pan out, increasing your odds by having more players in your system can be a wise strategy.
If you look back at the last five 21st overall picks you will find the names Mark Jankowski, Stefan Noesen, Riley Sheahan, John Moore, and Anton Gustafsson. That’s not exactly a group that jumps out at you as having a major impact, at least not yet anyway. So if the Leafs were to trade down a few spots it probably wouldn’t be an astronomical blunder.
Leaf fans and the organization itself may be skeptical of a strategy like this since they have been somewhat burned by giving up first round picks recently. The Boston Bruins were the recipients of two first rounders that turned into Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton from the Phil Kessel trade. Kessel has played great during his time in Toronto, but teams hate losing out on young prospects filled with potential.
That was a different situation though since Seguin and Hamilton were top 10 selections. Drafting outside of the top 20 should give them some more flexibility in moving the pick if another team comes calling. If some other organization really has their heart set on a player and feel they need to get him 21st overall before someone else takes him, then Toronto could cash in with an additional prospect.