The Toronto Maple Leafs Best Options with the 23rd Pick

There is no shortage of players potentially available for the Leafs with the 23rd overall pick
Russia U20 Hockey team player, Igor Chernyshov (25)
Russia U20 Hockey team player, Igor Chernyshov (25) / SOPA Images/GettyImages
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DEFENSE

Dominik Badinka - Malmo - SWE

The Czech defender is a versatile defenseman who will likely be a beneficial factor in him being a Toronto Maple Leaf, who have valued defenders who can play both sides of the blueline in the NHL. He's 6'3, another positive for Toronto who drafts big on defense. He seems like a Brad Treliving guy, but it'll come down to if Badinka is a scouts guy.

EJ Emery - USA U18 - NTDP

Emery is a big, defensive defenseman with a lot of maturity and composure. Perhaps the best pure defenseman in this class. The defensive side of his game is quite pro-ready, but the offense? not as much. He has some good puck moving but doesn't show much in terms of playmaking or finishing in his own end. He's very stay-at-home. There's obvious value in a guy like that, it may not be glamourous but there's some positive. His offensive totals are under par for a first rounder even by defenseman standards. It's a gamble.

Cole Hutson - USA U18 - NTDP

Brother of Montreal Canadiens prospect Lane, Cole is taller than his brother, but with similar skill. He's not as explosive as Hutson, but he's a strong offensive talent who's been one of the best at producing as a defender. Playing with a strong defender in Emery helped Hutson play to his strengths. Will need a strong defensive group around him.

Lukas Fischer - Sarnia - OHL

If the Leafs are going off the board again, Fischer is an interesting option. Son of former NHLer Jiri Fischer, he played over 30 minutes a night for Sarnia this season, and he's only days from being 2025 eligible. Stats aren't super great, he's about 0.5PPG, not that exciting, but it would be decent if next year was his draft. He has a good size and skating combo that could make him a breakout option.

Spencer Gill - Rimouski - QMJHL

Similar to Lukas Fischer, a summer 06 birthday but a right-handed defender and with stronger production. Has a decent two-way game with good creativity and playmaking vision. Skating could use more acceleration and burst. Second-line D potential if he gets faster. Worth as a "steal" option.

Stian Solberg - Valenrega - NOR

Solberg was likely just outside the Leafs range about 2 months ago, but ever since the world championship he's probably now someone who might not be there. Held himself well against men at the Worlds, being a key piece for the Norwegians. Game play in Norway seemed a bit less exciting, blended in more than you would have liked someone playing in a smaller league to do. Hard to not look at the results against real NHLers as optimism.

Alfons Freij - Vaxjo - SWE

Freij has a lot of similarities to Axel Sandin-Pellikka who went to Detroit in the draft last year. Both are strong puck-moving defenseman with passing size and a solid defensive game. Freij has been consistently engaged and creative each game, and could still become even better. Like the potential for him to possibly find his way onto a team's top-four and be a special teams asset.

Leo Sahlin Wallenius - Vaxjo - SWE

Better offensive producer than teammate Alfons Freij, but Freij has more creativity and has looked strong in international play. Sahlin Wallenius has been better in Sweden and a better finisher. Some of these smaller Swedish defenders haven't lived up to potential, he could be an exception, but he's a bit of time away from the NHL.