While we wait for newly appointed GM Brad Treliving to reshape the roster for this coming season, I’ll outline a few of the players that could be selected by the Leafs at this years NHL Entry Draft, one at a time, over the next couple of weeks.
With just 3 selections this year (1st, 5th, 6th), the Leafs will once again be challenged with the task of keeping their prospect ranks full, with far too few picks in their arsenal.
This will be the 3rd consecutive year with 5 picks or less (they had 5 selections in 2022 and 3 in 2021), which leads me to believe that trading back to recoup a selection or two may be in the cards. As much as I disagree with that strategy, the only other option is to trade players at or before the deadline for a package that includes picks. After listening to everything Treliving has said, I’m not entirely sure that’s in the cards, but crazier things have happened.
For the time being, we’re going to assume that the Leafs keep and use the 28th pick. So, without further ado, here is my first random prospect overview:
NHL Comparable: Any number of defensive defenders, such as Chris Tanev or Damon Severson
What to expect
The strength in Simashev’s game is in his skating and defensive ability. He has a smooth stride, with good edges and lateral movement. He uses his long reach and ability to read the play to break up scoring chances, while he uses his size and strength well in the corners and in front of the net. He’ll need to continue to add strength in order to compete with NHL power forwards, but name me an 18 year old in which that isn’t the case. He isn’t a puck rushing defender, instead he prefers to defer to his defensive partner for zone exits or to make a quick pass to a forward. If he can gain confidence and improve his ability with the puck on his stick, he’ll project to play higher in NHL lineups, but as it stands he’ll likely peak as a 2nd pair defender, or as the perfect partner for a puck rushing defender (what Marc Methot was to Erik Karlsson).
While Brad Treliving isn’t allowed to sit at the table on draft day, he has spoken about wanting to get bigger on the backend and to acquire players with the ability to protect their own net. Targeting a defender like Simashev, ahead of the diminutive puck rushers we’ve come to expect the Leafs to choose, would be a clear change in draft strategy under Treliving.
**Statistics courtesy of eliteprospects.com