The Toronto Maple Leafs decided to keep their first round pick and selected Rodion Amirov 15th overall.
I’m not sure about you, but I was very excited to sit back and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs make a big splash during the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. But instead, we all sat there for three hours to see the Leafs select a player who won’t be in the lineup for three years.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not upset about the pick in any way. I’ve never watched this kid play live before so I have no judgement at all against him. Everything I’ve read about him is actually very nice. He has a great two-way game and an excellent hockey IQ.
He’s currently playing in the KHL at 18-years-old, which is second best professional hockey league in the world, so I give him props for that. Those people online bashing him for having only two assists in 21 games have no idea what they’re talking about anyways, because it’s incredibly difficult to even get ice-time at that age in the KHL.
Pavel Datsyuk only had three goals in 24 games in the Russian League prior to getting drafted to the NHL and he turned out just fine. To compare another Russian superstar, Evgeni Malkin only had 12 points in 34 games prior to getting drafted second overall, so we can’t look at points as the only deterrent of a player.
Dobber Prospects described Amirov’s game as the following:
“Amirov is simply one of the best two-way players eligible for the 2020 Draft. Despite a lack of strength and size, he reads the ice well in the defensive zone to be in the right areas, block lanes, and apply pressure.”
Strength and size at 18-years-old isn’t that big of deal in my opinion, because with age the player is going to get bigger. Being a great defensive player though is much more important because that’s one thing that high draft picks aren’t typically known for. They’re much more flashier than defensive and have to learn that later, but if Amirov can do both, the Leafs have a great prospect on their hands.
Leafs Should Have Traded 15th Overall Pick
So, although I said all of these great things about Amirov, I still think the Leafs should have traded down or traded the pick for an NHL player. As much as I think Amirov will be an NHL player and potentially a long-term Toronto Maple Leafs forward, this is win-now mode.
The Leafs should have done a better job sniffing out what other teams wanted. The New York Rangers wanted Braden Schneider so badly that they traded up for him and the Leafs should have figured this out to move back to acquire more picks. This draft seems so stacked that picking 25th or 15th didn’t matter and it would have been better to have more picks.
Not only that, but the team should have moved this 15th overall selection for an NHL player. You’d have to think that the team could have gotten some sort of quality defenseman in return for that selection, but I guess I was wrong.
By not trading the first-round pick, it kind of feels like the opportunity to acquire a top-talent defenseman via trade is over. Unless, the Leafs can pull off a miracle, they’ll be looking to get that type of player in free agency instead.
I hope that Amirov turns into the next Sean Couturier, but we’ll have to wait another three years most likely to figure that out.