This mock draft business was a whole lot easier when the Leafs weren’t very good. Last year, Editor In Leaf chose centre Filip Forsberg fifth overall in the 2012 FanSided NHL Mock Draft. Brian Burke, the Maple Leafs’ general manager at the time, ended up going a little off the board by selecting defenseman Morgan Rielly with that pick. Nearly a year later, it’s hard to argue with Burkie on that one, as Rielly looks like the can’t-miss prospect many expected him to be. Nonetheless, there remains a giant hole in the Leafs’ centre prospect ranks.
About five months ago, I took a look at some of the top centres in the 2013 Draft because I fully expected the Leafs to be selecting somewhere in the top ten (oops!). Now with the Leafs settled into that 21st spot, it’s a little more difficult to get a read on whom the Leafs might take. I still firmly believe the Leafs should focus on taking a pivot, which is why the following list I compiled features only centremen. I hear a lot of people talking about how the Leafs should “take the best player available” regardless of position, but unless you’re a member of the Leafs’ front office, there’s really no way of knowing who they’re targeting, especially this year when most rankings are all over the place.
I ended up focusing on four players: Frederik Gauthier (NOTE: Octopus Thrower selected Gauthier with their pick in the mock yesterday), Curtis Lazar, JT Compher and Nicolas Petan. Other centres such as Bo Horvat, Max Domi and Alexander Wennberg are ranked higher, but there’s a good chance these guys will be taken before the Leafs step up to the podium on draft day. I compiled each player’s respective ranking from four different outlets: Corey Pronman of hockeyprospectus.com, NHL Central Scouting (which has separate lists for North American and European skaters), International Scouting Services and Craig Button of TSN.ca, and added them to come up with a final score.
As we can see from the total score, the scouts seem to like Gauthier, Lazar, Compher and Petan in that order. There are many other rankings out there and if you would like to see a much more comprehensive compilation of different rankings, check out NHL Numbers. Now let’s take a closer look at these four players and what skills they have to offer.
Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Gauthier fits the bill as a big pivot, listed anywhere from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-5, and 193 to 215 pounds. Central Scouting has him listed at both wing positions, while the other outlets have him at centre, which suggests he has enough versatility to play all three forward spots. Although he’s a big guy, he still possesses above-average skating ability. He put up nearly a point-per-game (60 in 62) playing heavy minutes against tough competition for Rimouski, but was inconsistent at times. He needs to be more aggressive and throw his weight around better. Sounds like a very similar player to current Leaf/Marlie Joe Colborne.
Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Pronman writes that Lazar has “one of the smallest risk factors in the draft (in terms of probability of becoming an NHL player)” and is “one of the best defensive forwards in the draft”. Lazar scored 38 goals this season for the Oil Kings, but many scouts aren’t sure if his offensive ability will translate to the NHL. He remains a very solid, well-rounded player with no obvious holes in his game. He isn’t huge (listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds), but still loves to play a physical game, especially on the forecheck. He’s also an above-average skater.
JT Compher, C, United States National Team Development Program (USHL)
Interestingly, Pronman’s rankings were the only ones of the four I looked at that put Compher ahead of both Gauthier and Lazar. Compher is smaller than the others at 5-foot-11, but makes up for his small stature with a high-level skating ability and high-energy game. He has shown an ability to set up his teammates but also possesses a heavy shot. He plays a very physical style and doesn’t hesitate to bang bodies. It seems his lack of size is the only thing holding him back from being ranked higher across the board.
Nicolas Petan, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Petan came out of nowhere this year to tie teammate Brendan Leipsic for the WHL scoring crown with 120 points in 71 games. In fact, the top three scorers were all members of the same line in Portland, with Ty Rattie finishing third. There’s no doubt Petan has all the offensive tools in his arsenal, showing outstanding ability to find open teammates, keep possession of the puck in the offensive zone and put the puck in the net. The only thing holding him back is his 5-foot-9 frame. Will teams be willing to roll the dice on Petan’s offensive game translating to the next level despite his size?
Now it’s your turn. Which one of these young centremen would you like to see the Leafs pick on draft day? Or would you like to see them go in a different direction entirely? Let us know in the poll or comments below. All votes will be considered when we make our pick in the FanSided NHL Mock Draft on Monday.