Toronto Maple Leafs: What Do You Think? – The Draft

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs handle the draft table during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs handle the draft table during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a first-round selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

It’s a weird feeling, right?

Nearly a decade has passed since the Maple Leafs were absent from the podium on Day One. It was the Phil Kessel trade, and the two first-rounders his services required, that caused then-Leafs GM Brian Burke to begin his 2010 draft class at 43rd overall.

The player he selected? Brad Ross. The same Brad Ross whose zero career NHL games eventually led to him spending the 2018-19 season in Germany’s second-tier league.

Really, the last time the Maple Leafs lacked a first-round pick, hockey itself was a different sport entirely. A lifetime ago, if you will.

Will this year turn out the same? Frankly, I don’t think so.

This draft is perhaps the most crucial of the entire Kyle Dubas Era up to this point. As the 2019-20 season prepares to thrust the Maple Leafs into cap hell, with a host of promising young players now each requiring their own expensive new contracts, building a stable of cheap, cost-controlled talent for future relief is of the utmost importance. That process all begins on the draft floor. It’s where the diamonds in the rough are found, and the cost-effective assets rise to the surface.

Would the Maple Leafs even have a hope of fitting Mitch Marner‘s price tag under the cap if Trevor Moore wasn’t making a smidge above league-minimum? Of course not.

This class needs to produce a few more Trevor Moores. So, while the draft may very well function as a crapshoot with no certainty whatsoever, accumulating as many lottery tickets as possible nevertheless improves your odds of winning.

The odds of a first-round pick turning into something of substance tend to be far higher than one in the second.

Not to mention, there are some significant changes coming to the Leafs roster this summer, in one way or another. Nikita Zaitsev will likely be moved out. Connor Brown, potentially, too. And while neither player is expected to draw back a first-round pick, there is a growing sense lately that one of Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen will price themselves out of town, necessitating a trade. If included in a larger package, the price for either Johnsson or Kapanen may very well vaunt the Leafs back into round one.

Dubas has always been known as the “trade down guy”. Which, to be fair, is a valid moniker. He’s done exactly that in both of the drafts he’s been at the helm of – co-running the 2015 effort with Mark Hunter along with his first as Leafs GM last year –  and prioritizes asset management over pretty much anything else. It’s unlikely that he parlays Toronto’s existing later-round picks into a first.

Yet, given where the Maple Leafs stand cap-wise right now, the importance of this particular draft, the changes their roster is expected to go through, and the assets at their disposal, I have a growing feeling that Dubas & Co. will see some camera time before pick #31.

But it doesn’t matter what I think.

What Do You Think? 

Let me know in the comment section below to be potentially featured in the follow-up piece tomorrow!

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Thanks for reading!