Toronto Maple Leafs Shouldn’t Draft Based on Current Needs


Will Alex Galchenyuk find himself in the blue and white of the Maple Leafs next season? (Metcalfe Photography)

It’s been a long time since the Toronto Maple Leafs had what they could call a true number one centre, regularly playing down the middle on the team’s top line. Ever since Mats Sundin left for the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, that has been a role the Leafs have been trying to find a replacement for.

Now beyond the point of acceptance, Leaf fans are beginning to grow disgusted and ashamed of their team’s inability to qualify for the post-season since the 2003-2004 campaign. With that obviously comes the demand for a better roster, no matter how it’s put together. It sounds like a simple formula, and it really is. The trouble is executing it, and how the team elects to do so will need to be decided within the next few weeks.

General manager Brian Burke and his staff have various options when it comes to building their roster. They’ve already explored many if not all of them and must continue to do so if Burke truly wants to see his Maple Leafs make the playoffs for the first time since he was hired in November of 2008. One of those options is to use each chance the team gets to select early in the NHL Entry Draft to select an NHL-ready player who can jump into the NHL and make a positive impact─offensively or defensively─immediately.

That’s what we saw in 2008 when the Leafs drafted Luke Schenn with the fifth overall pick. While they may not have selected him based on the fact that he was seen as likely being NHL-ready at the time, he was put into the NHL the season after he was drafted, a decision that has since proven to be costly. That’s not the point, though. The point is that there are fans out there believe the team shouldn’t look beyond next season, but rather select a play making centre because he might be able to enter into the lineup next season as the top line centre.

There are a few simple reasons why the team shouldn’t take that route. The first is simple and doesn’t need much of an explanation: It hasn’t worked in the past. It’s time to learn from mistakes made in the past and move on. Second, why rush someone into the NHL because a fan base is growing antsy? That only spells trouble.

If you take a look at this year’s draft class, you’ll notice that there is plenty of diversity and many options for teams to choose from, not various players with similar playing styles. All you have to do is look at who is ranked around the five spot, where the Leafs will select.

Future Considerations OHL scout and columnist Brian Huddle was kind enough to provide some scouting reports of a few North American skaters heading into the draft. Alex Galchenyuk, a centre who just wrapped up his final season with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, is a player the Leafs are rumoured to be eyeing as draft day approaches. Here’s what Huddle had to say about him:

A big two-way center, Galchenyuk utilizes his high-end speed and vision on the ice to rack up the points, whether an assist or a goal. Galchenyuk can blow past defenders and use his reach and puck skills well to keep the puck on his tape, drawing defenders in before hitting an open teammate with a beautiful saucer pass. A play maker by definition, he’s also known as a rink rat with very good work ethic.

Some would be quick to point out that drafting Glachenyuk would being going along with the “draft a centre and throw them into the lineup next season” logic, but the team just has to make sure they don’t rush him into the NHL. One would have to believe that if they do that in order to help him gain more experience at the junior level, Galchenyuk’s NHL potential would only rise.

And here’s some exciting news for Leaf fans, straight from Russian hockey reporter Andrey Osadchenko:

There’s no doubt that Galchenyuk would be a nice fit for the Leafs next season, but the team must remember that no matter who they draft, they cannot rush the player into the NHL. We have already seen problems with that in the past, most recently in the name of Luke Schenn.

From Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk to Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci, the Leafs have too many options to be picky this summer. Draft based on talent, not current needs.

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Lukas Hardonk

Lukas Hardonk

Contributing Editor at The Hockey Writers
Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.
Lukas Hardonk
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10 Comments

  1. Flare_Knight says:

    I have to say the article really doesn’t work with the title. Yes, they shouldn’t draft to fill current needs, but saying they shouldn’t draft based on current needs is another story entirely.

    As the article did say the Leafs have needed a #1 center since Mats left. If the Leafs had drafted based on that need back when they first needed a new center then by now that guy would have been NHL ready. If you never draft to fill that need it’s possible you will never fill it.

    So sure I say do whatever it takes to draft Galchenyuk or Grigorenko. Fill that need and slowly let them develop to the point where they can step up. Agree that they can’t rush whoever it will be, but please don’t ignore needs either.

  2. Even if we get Gal, I think it’ll only take 1 year for him to prove he deserves to be on the NHL squad.

  3. Free agency and trading obviously hasn’t worked to build heir core players. Start drafting now. This is a deep draft with future players, possibly having a huge impact. Galchenyuk is who they should go for, no doubt. Keep him in Sarnia, where he’ll have a shot at World Juniors, and a leading scorer in the league. I believe Cristobal Nieves should be a target in the 2nd round. Still playing high school, but could be the steal of the draft; he has huge offensive upside. And if Subban is still around in the 4th round, then why not take a shot at him. Obviously he’s not NHL ready, but none who they draft should be rushed. 

  4. Burke will, as usual draft who he wants in round one, then the scouts may get a chance thereafter.  Trades are unlikely; just wait until 2013, when Burke will trade everyone in the system with any skill plus draft picks to get Seth Jones.

    This year, I’d hope to get Murray, and tanner Pearson in round 3.

  5. I think that Burke is trying to work a deal to get both palyers.

  6. The Egg Man says:

    The Leafs are in an unenviable position. A segment of their fan base is resigned to the Leafs not having been a serious contender for anything for decades. Another segment is willing to take Don Cherry’s rants about Brian Burke seriously and swarm the ACC with pitchforks and torches. The rest of the league seems to be content with only trading somewhat damaged goods to Toronto and chuckling about how they “got” Burke again. Can anyone seriously say that Dion Phaneuf is the same player he was in Calgary? The Flames must’ve seen something in his progression or regression that made him trade bait. There is something seriously wrong in the Leafs culture, and it happened long before Brian Burke got there, and it looks like it’s going to last long after Grapes runs him out of town. But hey, hopes springs eternal. The Marlies run in the AHL gives a glimmer of hope, although it looks like they’re going to get their butts handed to them by… shudder!… a team from Virginia!!!

  7. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. If  the Leafs do use the pick themselves that means they’re nor relying on that player to get them into the play-offs. But we know that is still a priority. That means only one thing. Burke will be wheeling and dealing. You know there will be a veteran goalie.  Burke wouldn’t leave the upgrade at just a goalie. I like Galchenyuk. I like both of the top centres. I still think you use the pick for a deal for NASH. I think he’ll be ‘ready’ for the line-up next year.

    • The Egg Man says:

      Are there any top tier players in the NHL that even want to be traded to or sign with the Leafs? It seems like whatever’s going on up there is so bad that you only get second-rung players, at best, who think that it’s an organization worth playing for. I think Nash will do whatever he can to avoid going to Toronto, and I don’t think Columbus will deal him there unless they think they can join the parade of other teams who have pulled a fast one on Burke. The only place in the NHL that seems to think the Leafs will have a decent team any time in the near future are the eternal hopefuls who buy season tickets so that they can be let down for another year, or the wonderkinds in the Toronto-based NHL media who think the sun rises and sets on the Leafs and that everyone else is just there to contribute to their eventual glory. I wish  them well – it’s sad to see a once dominant and great franchise abuse their paying customers year after year. Toronto deserves better. Maybe the Leafs could move to Quebec and they could put an expansion franchise in the ACC. They’d make the playoffs sooner.

      • Who is this group of  GMs that have pulled the fast one on Burke? Are you trying to say Phaneuf and Ashton were not worth the plugs received in return? How about that Beauchemin trade? People can chuckle about the Kessel trade, but I believe he had over 80 points this year, including 37 goals, with a 2nd-3rd line center. And what about the Franson deal?  In my estimation, the only really awful trade the Stempniak trade. Don’t bring up Rask (snort) that was JFJ.

        Honestly, where were all the “fast ones”?

    • You’d be giving up a ridiculous amount to get Nash. Toronto doesn’t need a first line winger. They need size and depth. I know Nash is big, and multi-versatile, but is it worth giving your best prospects, and your first rounder? It would just seem like another attempt to start a quick fix. I get where your coming from, but I think there might be more options then just trying to get a suprstar. To big of a risk that could leave ‘em another five years from the playoffs. 

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