The Road Ahead Pt 1: NHL Entry Draft

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Congratulations to former Toronto Maple Leaf, Nazem Kadri, on winning the Stanley Cup last night.

An even bigger congratulations to Alex Newhook, who will bring the Cup to Newfoundland for another tour. It’s been a few years since the trophy of all trophies landed on The Rock, so it’ll be nice to see it happen once again.

On to the road ahead:

Next up is the NHL entry draft, which is just 10 days away. The Leafs hold the 25th selection in the draft and are expected to draft another winger (by me), even though their centre and defensive depth still leave something to be desired throughout the organization. With just three selections in the draft (they also hold the 79th and 218th selections) for the second year in a row, some are expecting the team to trade back in the draft to recoup more picks. Based on Dubas’ history that prediction holds water, but here are a few players they could consider if they do choose to pick at #25:

Rutger McGroarty (C/LW)

The name says it all…… I just don’t know what that is because whatever it’s saying is angry, loud gibberish. My assumption is that when the universe spawned the named Rutger McGroarty, it simply wanted to embody hard work and emotion. So, let’s read a few scouting reports, shall we?

“An extremely intelligent player with great competitiveness, McGroarty has been known for his ability to score goals and rack up points and he’s continued to do that with the National Team Development Program. He’s been showing off his playmaking more and more, putting his excellent vision on display game in and game out.” – Josh Bell (Sporting News)

“McGroarty plays the game with pace and works hard away from the puck. He has a balanced offensive skillset that allows him to facilitate, finish scoring plays, and create chances with his slick puck-handling.” – Nick Richard (Dobber Prospects)

Rutger McGroarty, indeed.

I’ve clicked around the web-o-sphere and have seen him compared to Sean Couturier and Zach Hyman. A player that works hard and is responsible in all three zones. He plays centre and wing and, at the very least, could be a terrific 3C.

Rutger would need to fall a few spots in order to make it to the Leafs, but if he’s still on the board he’d be a slam dunk for Kyle Dubas at #25. He’s a Leafs fan as well, which is always a bonus.

Owen Pickering (LD)

Pickering is a 6’4″ LD that has raw tools and a high ceiling. He skates well for a big man and has good puck skills and offensive instincts. The problem right now is consistency. From shift to shift, you’re not entirely sure what you’re going to get here, but if he can iron out the kinks in his game he can be a top 3 defender in the NHL.

Tristan Luneau (RD)

The name of the game with Luneau is mobility and intelligence. The self-described two-way defender can play in all situations and seems to be adept in all areas of the game. He has a good shot, terrific passing abilities, 4-way mobility, plays a smart defensive game and has a good frame at 6’2″, 174lbs. He had surgery last summer that saw him start the year behind the 8-ball and, perhaps, that’s why he’s ranked right around where the Leafs are set to pick. His scouting reports read like a dream and, while I have no first hand knowledge as to who you might want to compare him to, the Leafs’ very own Mark Giordano comes to mind when you read about him. This may be my favourite option at #25 at the moment.

Luca DelBelBelluz (C/LW)

I kinda just want the Leafs to draft DelBelBelluz to hear the play-by-play guys stumble over his name as the game goes on.

I also want them to draft him because he’s a 2-way centre that could be a solution to the 2C problem that will inevitably arise as John Tavares ages.

A player that can both dish the puck and score goals, DelBelBelluz has great edges and hands, but needs to work on his speed.

Lian Bichsel (LD)

The 6’5″ 212lb defender’s noted strengths are his powerful stride, offensive awareness and, obviously, his huge frame and long stick that he uses well to defender.

The typical criticisms are there as well for a man his size. His skating needs to improve and his puck skills aren’t as great as some of the other defenders in his draft class. However, the potential to be a top 4 defender is there.

Owen Beck (C)

I may just be listing players that I like, as I see a people talking about some of the wingers in the draft (Gleb Trikozov, Jimmy Snuggerud, etc), but that’s okay, because not enough people talk about guys like Owen Beck.

An all-situations player, Beck has good puck skills, skating skills, offensive and defensive awareness and is a smart player that works hard. He needs to add size and strength and a little consistency to his game, but Beck has all the tools to be a middle 6 centre in the NHL.

***UPDATE***

Timothy Liljegren has signed a 2 year contract extension with a $1.4M caphit, which appears to slot him in as the Leafs 6th defender for this coming season. He played well with Mark Giordano last season, so if the two can continue to find chemistry, it could give the Leafs a solid 3rd pairing that could challenge for 2nd pair minutes as the year moves along. Patience has been key with Liljegren, who was selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He has steadily improved year over year and will look to continue that growth next season. Having a solid veteran like Giordano to lean on will be vital in taking the next steps forward.

Congratulations, Timothy!!