With The 28th Pick, The Leafs SElect…….

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The draft is tomorrow and it’s my belief that we’ll see our first trade of the Treliving era before the Leafs take the stage to make a selection at #28. I think one of two things will happen; either the Leafs will trade the pick for a player that can help them immediately, or they’re going to move back in the draft in an attempt to recoup picks and improve their prospect pool.

I was anything but a supporter of Kyle Dubas’ ridiculous plan to trade back to recoup picks, as there were mixed results at best. One such trade looked like this:

To STL: #25, Dominik Bokk
To TOR: #29, Rasmus Sandin and #76, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev

While I would have called this a bigger win last year, when Sandin was still playing for the Leafs and appeared to have solid potential, it’s less so now because Sandin was traded for the pick we’re currently discussing, #28 overall. Meanwhile, Bokk has never turned into much of a prospect, while SDA did have a respectable year in the AHL and played in a single NHL game for the Leafs this year. However, SDA is back in Russia, trying to figure out where he’ll play next year and appears to be a long shot to make the NHL, while Sandin is on another team and the Leafs are still picking below spot #25 (hilariously, the St. Louis Blues are picking #25 this year, which is the 1st round pick they received from the Leafs in the Ryan O’Reilly trade…… another player that is projected to be playing for a team that isn’t the Leafs next year).

Round and round we go.

The most famous trade down scenario was this one:

To PHI: #24, Travis Konecny
To TOR: #29 + #61, Jeremy Bracco
To CLB: #29, Gabriel Carlsson
To TOR: #34, Travis Dermott, #68, Martins Dzierkels

In a nutshell, the Leafs traded Travis Konecny for Travis Dermott, Jeremy Bracco and Martins Dzierkels. Fast forward to today and neither one of Bracco or Dzierkels ever turned into legitimate prospects, while Dermott was later shipped to Vancouver for a 3rd round selection in the 2022 draft (which, hilariously, they used to trade back to recoup 2 picks, selecting Nick Moldenhauer and Nikita Grebenkin, so I guess this trade could still be open for debate).

What makes this even more ridiculous is that Philadelphia is heading into a rebuild and much of Leafs Nation agrees that Travis Konecny is exactly the type of player the Leafs could use in their top 6, making him target #1 on a ton of fans’ target list. He could cost valuable assets in the form of 1st round picks and young players to acquire, which the Leafs would have if they drafted better…. but I digress.

The point of all of this is that trading back has yet to put valuable skates on the ice, or make any team, other than the Leafs, look stupid. However, this one year I’m not against it and believe it is a little different for a couple of reasons. The first is that while the Leafs were trading away Travis Konecny, they already had seven picks in that draft, which is plenty for a single year considering that’s how many every team starts out with. They didn’t need to recoup, but now they do. With just three selections in this years draft (1st, 5th, 6th), five selections in the 2022 draft and three selections in the 2021 draft, the Leafs’ prospect cupboards are looking extremely thin. The second reason is that this is a deep draft (as was 2015, where they could have taken Sebastian Aho, Brandon Carlo or Erik Cernak over Travis Dermott, but again, I’m getting off track), so with the correct selections this could be the right year to recoup picks. The third reason is that, while they had begun a rebuild of their own, they still had players such as James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner on the roster, which would have been plenty to trade for picks to throw away on players like Travis Dermott and Martins Dzierkels….. a rebuilding team didn’t need to throw away a 1st round pick in order to throw away multiple other picks. Fourth, and this is a big one, those previous drafts are now labeled a Mark Hunter draft or a Kyle Dubas draft and while this draft will be labeled the first Brad Treliving draft, he isn’t allowed at the draft table. What this means is that the scouts will be allowed to do what they are paid to do….. select players that they scouted. Instead of having some twat waffle GM with an ego and ridiculous vision to fulfill, the scouts might actually be able to make selections and thats a novel idea to me. Imagine allowing people that you pay to perform a job to perform that job unhindered? I hope somebody slashes Shanahan’s tires, preventing him from attending the draft, so this has a chance of actually happening.

Lastly, the reason that I believe it would be a good idea to trade back this year, is because of prospects like this:

Jakub Dvorak
Position: Defense
Shoots: Left
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 209lbs
NHL Comparable: any number of big, stay-at-home defenders, such as Vladislav Gavrikov, Patrick Nemeth or Ryan Graves

When you read about Jakub Dvorak it wouldn’t surprise you if you found out that he can’t speak (I assume he can speak), because quiet is pasted all over the place when scouts talk about his play. There’s absolutely nothing flashy about his game and there probably never will be, but thats exactly why he’s expected to go in the mid to late 2nd round.

At 6’5″ Dvorak can skate for a big man and he doesn’t mind handling the puck. He’s far from a puck rushing defender, but when there are no other options he will skate the puck into the attacking zone and does it surprisingly well. This doesn’t lead to him racking up points, but it does show the confidence and potential he has to develop a skill that few defensive defenders ever refine to a high level. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s one of the younger prospects in this draft, having played the entire year against men in the top Czech league as a 17 year old (he turned 18 a month ago, after the season ended) that forced him to play a little more reserved offensively? What playing against men didn’t hinder was his ability and willingness to clear the crease and battle in the corners, which is what scouts rave about the most with him. His physicality is utilized in those areas well, but again, he plays a quiet game, so you won’t see big open ice hits from him. He shuts down the rush well by using his long stick and solid positioning, which are skills he uses to maintain good gap control.

If we talk about areas that are in need of improvement it’s probably his speed and he could be a little more physical. He’ll have to keep working on his offensive skills, but a lack of those skills won’t necessarily keep him out of the NHL as he does make a good first pass out of the zone. While he’s already big and strong, he will fill out more and he’ll need the extra size and muscle to content with the bigger forwards that the NHL has to offer. He’s a project for sure, but it’s hard not to picture him getting at least a cup of coffee at the NHL level at some point in his career, as his quiet game, good skating and immense size project well to a regular NHLer.

If the Leafs still hold a 1st round selection tomorrow I’ll try to do a final prospect profile and will likely select another player that is projected to go beyond the 1st round. I’ll also mention that some of the profiles that we’ve covered already (Michael Hrabal, Charlie Stramel, Koehn Ziemmer) are projected to go in the early to mid 2nd round in some rankings. I’d also like to list a few teams that have the potential to trade up with the Leafs.

Detroit Red Wings: Picks #41, 42, 43, 73
Anaheim Ducks: Picks #33, 59, 60, 65, 85
Arizona Coyotes: Picks #38, 70, 72, 81, 88
Chicago Blackhawks: Picks #35, 44, 51, 55, 67, 93
Nashville Predators: Picks #46, 47, 68, 79, 83

I’m sure there are more than that, but I’m too lazy to dig deeper than this. The only picks listed here are 2nd and 3rd round selections. Some of these teams have multiple 1st round selections as well, so they may not have the appetite to trade up. A team like Anaheim, with five picks in the 2nd and 3rd round and only one in the 1st (2nd overall), may be happy to get into the 1st round for a second time though. Let me know your thoughts