For the fourth time in seven years, the Toronto Maple Leafs will pick in the top 10 of the NHL Draft. Those three players were Luke Schenn (fifth in ’08), Nazem Kadri (seventh in ’09) and Morgan Rielly (fifth in ’12). With the exception of Schenn (who was traded for James van Riemsdyk), these players have turned into key contributors for the Leafs. With the eighth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft this Friday, the Leafs will have an opportunity to add another vital piece for the future.
As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you’ve probably deliberated on whom the Leafs might select in the first round. Maybe you’re really hardcore and even have players penciled in as potential steals in the later rounds. This is what’s so fun about the draft: You really have no idea how it’s all going to play out, but darnit, we’re gonna try to predict it anyway.
Since we all have an opinion on which player the Leafs should select, we’ve decided to provide a forum for you to share that opinion here. The Editor In Leaf staff will each provide their choice as well as a short explanation as to why they think it’s a good choice. At the bottom of the post, we’ve added a poll for you to have your voice be heard. We’ll announce the pick the Editor In Leaf community officially endorses on Friday before the festivities get underway in Philadelphia.
Without further ado, here are our picks:
Jake Virtanen, RW/C, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Virtanen has the right amount skill and grittiness, so he can satiate the Leafs management types that still believe in the word truculence and get a considerable amount of skill at the same time.
Nick Ritchie, RW/LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
I personally would like the Leafs to move up and pick Aaron Ekblad but that would mean giving up some key assets. If the Leafs stay pat at eight I would not mind seeing either Ritchie or even Sam Bennett if he drops that far. If Nazem Kadri is getting traded like the rumours say, at least the Leafs could replace him with a younger and maybe even better talent. The Leafs’ centre depth is struggling and you can tell when Tyler Bozak is the number-one centre on that team. They would be really lucky if Bennett does fall that deep into the draft so if he does the Leafs should take advantage.
William Nylander, C/RW, MODO (SHL)
The Leafs need young, high-end skill to infuse into their forward group, and Nylander fits the bill. He fills the massive void the Leafs have at centre, and if the team decides he’s better suited to the wing, he has experience playing there as well. If Nylander doesn’t drop this far, my backup pick is Nikolaj Ehlers.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Finishing his first season in the QMJHL season with 104 points in just 63 games, Ehlers would be a great offensive addition to the Leafs’ group of predominately defensive prospects. He’s described by scouts as fast and elusive, making him a good fit to one day join Toronto’s speedy roster. Coming in at 10 on Bob McKenzie’s final draft ranking, it is reasonable to think that Ehlers could still be around when the Leafs pick at eight.