The Toronto Maple Leafs Select Ben Danford in the 1st Round

The Leafs chose an under-the-radar player for the second consecutive year. After trading down, the team now also has a second-round pick.
2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - First Round
2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - First Round / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Toronto Maple Leafs went in a different direction with their first-round pick in the NHL entry draft held on Friday night at the Sphere in Las Vegas.

The Toronrto Maple Leafs selected Ben Danford, a right-handed defenseman from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.

Danford was not a name connected to Toronto leading up to the draft. He was considered a second-round prospect by most draft pundits.

The Maple Leafs took a similar approach during last summer's draft with the selection of center Easton Cowan from the London Knights. Cowan led the Knights to the final of the Memorial Cup while winning the Red Tilson Trophy as OHL MVP.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Again Make An Off-The-Board Selection With First-Round Pick

Leafs General Manager Brad Treliving and Director of Amateur Scouting, Wes Clark ignored higher-profile names that were associated with the team in favor of Danford.

Leading up to the draft, both had discussed the possibility of acquiring additional draft picks. Rather than stay put at pick number 23, the Maple Leafs traded down with the Anaheim Ducks. In exchange, they received the 31st and 58th overall picks.

With the 23rd pick, the Ducks selected physical Norwegian defenseman Stian Solberg, a player frequently projected to Toronto pre-draft. The developmental path of the two players will now be closely followed over the next few years because of the trade.

Danford is known more for his steady, defensive play, not his offense. Last season with the Generals he had 33 points (only 1 goal) in 64 games. During the OHL playoffs, he had 10 points (4 goals) in twenty-one games.

Analysis of the Pick

The Leafs picked for need. They chose a right-handed shooting defenseman who plays with steadiness and smarts instead of the more physical Stolberg.

Pre-draft projections indicate a higher ceiling for Stolberg, potentially a top-two pairing. Most consider Sanford to have a top-four ceiling.

The Maple Leafs desperately need defensemen in their developmental system. Their top prospects all play forward. Former third-round pick Topi Niemela is their top defensive prospect, with the best chance to soon crack the lineup.

The Leafs must see the offensive potential that they can develop with Sanford. If that side of his game grows, the pick could be a hit. Adding a right-shooting defenseman to their prospect pool plus the added draft pick could be a huge win.


The Toronto Maple Leafs once again took an off-the-radar player. They now hope that history repeats itself.