The NHL Entry Draft is a time for hope for fans of teams who find their teams on the outside of the playoff picture. As fans of successful franchises are lining up their face paint and decking out their cars with those little window-mounted flags, the brain-trust at the NHL head offices throws us a bone the day before the playoffs start with the Draft Lottery.
A good friend of mine and fellow hockey fanatic is an avid Oilers fan so the draft is something of a big deal in my social circle. The past few years, we've made a bit of a tradition of putting together a 'dream' draft list which is essentially our best case scenario for our team and a 'nightmare' draft list which is comprised of worst case outcomes.
Since there really isn't much else to talk about, I thought I'd share my preliminary thoughts with all of you, well in advance of the draft. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming that the Leafs draft 5th overall as that's the most likely outcome of the pending lottery.
The Dream Draft
My most favoured outcome would be for the Leafs to keep their first pick and have Alex Galchenyuk land softly in their laps at five. Galchenyuk is a playmaking center with decent size and good speed, who shoots the puck well. If there's an area of concern it would be his speed in bursts / acceleration but it isn't something that I'm overly worried about. Galchenyuk has perennial all-star potential and is the kind of center that Burke has been trying to land since he acquired Kessel.
In the second round, I'd love to see the Leafs land either Malcolm Subban or Andrei Vasilevski. Now I know that some of you are going to say, "yeah right! One of the best two goalies in the draft at 35 overall? Are you a moron?" Well, I looked at the last five drafts and found that it may not be as much of a stretch as you'd think.
2011: 0 goalies taken in the first round. First goalie taken 38th overall.
2010: 2 goalies taken in the first round. First goalie taken 11th overall.
2009: 0 goalies taken in the first round. First goalie taken 31st overall.
2008: 2 goalies taken in the first round. First goalie taken 18th overall.
2007: 0 goalies taken in the first round. First goalie taken 36th overall.
So looking at that info in a vacuum, we could say that it's about 50/50 as to whether 2 goalies are gone by the time we pick at 35 and since this is the 'dream' draft scenario and not the 'likely' draft scenario, I'm going to hope we land one of those guys.
Here are some other players that I don't mind with the 5th overall pick.
Filip Forsberg: Don't let his modest point totals in the SEL scare you -- Forsberg should be a top six powerforward and he has first-line upside. Forsberg isn't the biggest guy but he drives the net with determination and he plays the game like a bull. He's got good speed and, as with most Swedes, plays a responsible two-way game.
Morgan Rielly: Rielly is a guy who I see as having 2D potential. He's a good skater (as most top prospects are) and has lots of offensive upside while playing a reasonably strong defensive game as well. Think of him as Jake Gardiner with the volume turned up.
Ryan Murray: OK, I know that there's very little chance that Murray falls to five with the Islanders and the Oilers drafting ahead of the Leafs but if the forwards I like are all off the board, then that means Murray will still be there at five. He's the most NHL-ready of the defensemen in this year's draft and is a stellar skater. I don't necessarily buy the Scott Niedermayer comparisons but he's as silky on the ice as any of the league's defensemen. If he falls to five, I'd consider that a pleasant surprise.
Here are a couple guys I'd be glad to take with our second round pick.
Martin Frk: He's so good that his last name doesn't even need a vowel. Frk has a fantastic shot and good speed and while he struggled with injuries this season, he's got all the skills you'd expect from a guy who could score a lot of goals at the NHL level.
Tanner Pearson: Pearson is a guy that Randy Carlyle would just love. He plays a good two-way game and can play up or down in the line-up and in that sense he reminds me a lot of a young Nik Kulemin. He's been passed over in the draft already so it would be odd to see him go early in the second round but he seems like the kind of player who will find his way into an NHL lineup in one capacity or another and taking a guy like that at 35 is a tough thing to argue with.
The Nightmare Draft
The Leafs have spent a lot of time lately scouting Radek Faksa. Now, it's possible that they didn't expect to finish as low as fifth overall and I certainly don't mind Faksa as a pick between 6-10 but I'd be disappointed if the Leafs picked him up with Forsberg, Galchenyuk, or Murray still on the board. Faksa is a good two-way player but his point totals on a high-scoring Kitchener team weren't exactly groundbreaking. Brendan Gaunce (currently ranked 13th among N.American skaters) put up similar point totals on a Belleville team that scored 50 fewer goals and he led his team in scoring by a long shot. Greg McKegg has shown us the difference that team effects can make on OHL forwards and I'm wary of this in Faksa's case.
Gaunce is another guy who I could see the Leafs taking. He's very big and has some potential as a point producer but as with Faksa, he isn't the calibre of player that Galchenyuk or Forsberg are. Again, Gaunce is better suited to being a 6-15 selection than a top-5 pick.