The Toronto Maple Leafs Could Have a Steal at the 2020 Draft

The Toronto Maple Leafs have drafted some of the best prospects in hockey within the past decade

Although they have a lot of other things to worry about right now, it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs could potentially have the opportunity to select yet another unbelievably talented prospect in this incredibly deep 2020 draft.

The Maple Leafs’ 2019 draft class has quickly turned into one of the strongest in the NHL, led by Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson who currently sits second in the OHL in goals with 38, and Mikhail Abramov who is fifth in the QMJHL in goals with Victoriaville, and has 22 more points than the next player on his team.

Looking forward to this summer’s draft in Montreal, Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield have headlined the top end of this class since the preseason, but the rankings for the second round and onward have fluctuated greatly as the season has progressed. One of the players who has emerged as a possible steal thus far is Antonio Stranges.

Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2020 Draft

After the recent transaction with the Los Angeles Kings which included sending a 2020 3rd round pick courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto’s picks for the upcoming draft go as followed:

  • 2nd Round Pick (TOR)
  • 4th Round Pick (TOR)
  • 4th Round Pick (VGK)
  • 6th Round Pick (TOR)
  • 6th Round Pick (CAR)
  • 6th Round Pick (COL)
  • 7th Round Pick (SJ)
  • 7th Round Pick (STL)
  • 7th Round Pick (WPG)

As we continue on throughout the second half of the NHL season, the draft placement has the potential to drastically change, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will most likely remain anywhere between the 50-60 range, and among those players in that range, Antonio Stranges stands out the most.

Antonio Stranges

In a draft class filled with so many unique players, not many are more intriguing than Antonio Stranges.

Antonio Stranges was born in Plymouth, Michigan in 2002 and was first discovered during his time playing in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League (T1EHL) for the Little Caesars U16 team in the 2017-18  season. The T1EHL is one of the premier youth hockey leagues in the United States.  Through just 12 games Stranges put up 13 goals and 22 points, which earned him a call up to the U18 team where he would spend the remainder of the season.

Stranges was drafted 21st overall in the 2018 OHL draft by the London Knights, and immediately showed signs of raw offensive potential. In his first season with the Knights, Stranges put up 34 points through 56 games, and currently has 36 points through 48 games this season, sitting eighth on the team in points.

His skating style is the first thing that stands out the most in his game, where he uses his edges to propel himself around defenders in a 10-2 formation, much like Jeremy Bracco and Jeff Skinner.

Although he does have a smaller frame at 5’10 and 170 lbs, this elusive style of skating causes defenders to distance themselves from him in order to defend a potential pass which he is framing to make, which also prevents him from consistently taking big hits.

Stranges also has some of the best puck control out of anyone else in this draft. His creativity, patience, and persistent pursuit of defenders puts him in a class of his own. If you haven’t already seen his countless highlights on YouTube and Twitter throughout his young career, you will sure enough.

Shooting is another major asset in Stranges’ game. He typically goes to the backhand on many instances in open ice when he is distanced away from the net. This is just another example of how much power he has in his lower body due to his smaller frame, and his ability to put so much strength behind his shot makes it a lethal option at any point.

Offensively, he gets an A+ in my book. He has so many tools to choose from when generating scoring chances, that he is completely unpredictable to defend at times. As much as I would love to dissect his offensive game for hours and hours, one major critique of Stranges’ game is his defensive responsibility, and his overall consistency to produce.

When Antonio Stranges is not working his magic in the offensive zone, he can tend to be fairly invisible. While he is not necessarily a liability in the defensive zone, there are many other players that the Knights would prefer on the ice instead.

Of course, many defensive aspects in player development tend to go to the wayside nowadays, and will obviously develop with maturity, but it does not bode well for his current draft stock.

London has the best organization in the CHL, and they consistently have a great group of older NHL draft picks in the system who can mentor the younger players into completely developing their game.

For Stranges, he is in the best possible position to individually develop his skills in the OHL with the best personnel behind him. While he will likely not make an instant impact at an NHL level, it is in his best interest to stick with London as long as he needs in order to completely hone his game.

Bob McKenzie currently has Antonio Stranges at 56th overall in his most recent mid-season draft rankings, and NHL.com has him at 39th just among North American players. It’s worth noting that Stranges’ position in the draft fluctuates among many different outlets, as some even have him going early in the first round, which is definitely warranted, but will likely drop due to his polarizing skill set among traditional scouts.

This is a good thing for Leafs fans.

London Knights and the Toronto Maple Leafs

If you are like me and are convinced that Stranges can pan out to be a remarkably talented player in the NHL, then I have good news for you: the Toronto Maple Leafs can, and should, draft him.

Toronto has always had a strong connection to the London Knights, and the Leafs have been able to draft some of their best talent from London with the help of part owner and general manager of the Knights, Mark Hunter.

Most notably, Toronto selected Mitch Marner fourth overall in the 2015 draft, as well as Nazem Kadri seventh overall in 2009, and both are apart of a larger pool of extremely talented players who have been filtered through the London Knights organization and into the NHL.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there has already been discussion between the Maple Leafs scouts and the Knights coaching staff on the status of Antonio Stranges, and how he would potentially fit in their group.

While the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the deepest groups of offensive prospects in the NHL, especially in terms of wingers, Antonio Stranges’ style of play seems too good to pass up on. Stranges also fits perfectly into the way this team is building their forward group. While they may not necessarily be big and hard-hitting, their young group of prospects are trending in the direction that the NHL’s style of play will eventually be.

Next: What Does the Optimal Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup Look Like?

The recent draft success bodes well for the future of the Leafs, and there is no doubt that Antonio Stranges would be a perfect fit.

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