The Toronto Maple Leafs currently hold 12 picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, including two in each of the first four rounds. A very intriguing selection will be the 31st overall pick, where plenty of first round calibre prospects will still be available.
As is stands, that pick will be the Leafs third of the day. First, Brendan Shanahan and his team will need to decide what position they will be going after with the pick. There will certainly be a plethora of choices at each position and the Leafs must sift through those with the most potential.
After drafting a forward with the first overall pick, either Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, the Leafs will boast an impressive forwards corps of prospects. However, they don’t have a top-two calibre defenceman in their system yet, so they could target one here. Or, they could go after a goaltender who would be able to take over the reigns in four years or so, when Toronto will have hopefully transitioned into a perennial playoff contender.
With the Penguins currently battling in the Conference Finals, their pick is guaranteed to be somewhere between 27 and 30. That means the Leafs will have two picks within, at most, five selections.
So, who should the Leafs target at 31st overall at the 2016 NHL Draft? Here are three choices spanning all three positions. They may be a little off the board, but all three have incredibly high ceilings in their potential and the Leafs must take a long look at each of them.
Adam Mascherin (LW) – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
- 65GP, 35G, 46A, 81PTS in regular season
- 9GP, 6G, 6A, 12 PTS in playoffs
Adam Mascherin has been a very intriguing prospect for all scouts this year. The 5’10, 205-pound winger has quickly developed into one of the Rangers’ best forwards, tying for the team lead in points. Mascherin was the 2nd overall pick by Kitchener in 2014 and really adapted to the OHL game in the 2015-16 season.
Mascherin makes up for his smaller stature with exceptional strength. He is an energetic player who uses speed and skill to separate himself from other players. His work ethic is second to none, engaging in every board battle regardless of his opponent’s size. Mascherin has a powerful shot and sees the ice well, allowing himself to be a solid playmaker as well.
While Mascherin is only ranked 42nd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, there is strong belief that he will be a high second round pick. He has proven that he can be a leader in every league he has played thus far, never once letting his size become a disadvantage.
What could he offer Toronto? A smart, scoring winger with the potential to contribute offensively as a second liner. He is a terrific locker room guy, and would quickly become a fan favourite for his outstanding effort level. He battles hard like a fellow small guy, Zach Parise, who stands at 5’11. Mascherin also shares his scoring touch, and while he may not have the same ceiling as Parise, he certainly plays a similar style which Shanahan should be drooling over.
Sean Day (D) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- 57GP, 6G, 16A, 22PTS in regular season
- 7GP, 1G, 2A, 3PTS in playoffs
Sean Day may be more of a stretch to go 31st overall, but it could definitely be worth it in a few years. Day was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada in 2013, making him eligible for the OHL one year earlier. The Steelheads ended up drafting him 4th overall that year and after a couple tough season, Day remains a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft.
Earlier this season, Day decided to open up about some unfortunate events that have been impacting him on and off the ice since 2014. The 18-year-old has been through a lot, and his rankings are likely a reflection of the impact that has had on him. Not to mention the pressure of being labelled ‘exceptional’ as well.
Day is a mobile defenceman whose game thrives on his excellent skating abilities. The 6’3 224-pound teenager has recently lost considerable weight, allowing him to be quicker on loose pucks. He can engage physically and even become overwhelming for opponents. Offensively, Day has a strong shot which he knows how to get through screens and on net to create scoring chances. In all, Day has the ability to be an elite defenceman in the NHL, it is just a question of whether he can put his game together.
Currently ranked 59th among North American skaters, Day would be a bit of a surprise at 31st overall, but he certainly has the natural talents to turn into a top pairing defender. Should the Leafs draft Day, they would be getting a player who can be a difference-maker at both ends of the ice. Most importantly, they would finally have a strong skating, defensively responsible prospect on the blue line.
Carter Hart (G) – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
- 63GP, 2.14GAA, .918SV% in the regular season
- 6GP, 2.39GAA, .929SV% in playoffs
Carter Hart seems to be the unanimous number one goaltender in the 2016 NHL Draft. While he was drafted in the 8th round of the WHL Bantam Draft, it will be a different story in the NHL. Hart boasted the best numbers among all draft eligible goaltenders this year despite being a late 1998 born prospect. Scouts see him becoming an elite starting goalie in the NHL.
While Hart may be considered a smaller goalie, standing at 6’1 and 170 pounds, he has top notch positioning and rebound control. He can quickly drop into the butterfly and has strong lateral movements. Hart always squares himself to the shooter and is not afraid to be aggressive in order to cut down shooting angles. He is excellent at deflecting rebounds into the corners or even swallowing them up.
The only knock on Hart’s game may be his puck handling which has become ever important, but that could be improved with time. Hart is expected to go early in the second round, putting the Leafs in perfect position to draft him.
Hart would give the Leafs something they haven’t had in a long time, an elite goaltending prospect. It is an area of concern in their current stage of rebuilding, and whether they decide to acquire elite goaltending through the draft or via trade, they must find it somewhere in order to become a Stanley Cup contender. Hart certainly has the potential to become their guy and Leafs fans would be very excited with the selection.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.