The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t have a first-round pick in 2021 and didn’t make their first selection until late in the second round. This year, they held onto their pick (for the time being) as they’ll be selecting 25th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Come draft day, there is plenty of talent to be had for the Maple Leafs in the late stages of the first round that meet their needs. From defenseman to forwards who can play with pace, skill and strength, the options are limitless. Here are five options for the Maple Leafs with their first-round pick.
Rutger McGroarty, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
The Maple Leafs added size, strength, IQ and a heavy shot with Matthew Knies 57th overall in 2021. They very well have a chance to repeat that with another first-round hopeful in Rutger McGroarty. Personally, I have him as a top-20 prospect in my latest rankings, but he can fall as late to the end of the first or even the start of the second.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
The USNTDP is stacked as they’ve been absolutely dominant all season, McGroarty included as he had 50 goals and 102 points combined in the USDP and USHL. He also captained Team USA to a silver medal at the World U18 Championship where he scored eight goals.
He has had quite the junior hockey career, moving from Nebraska to Michigan at 10 years old. His power forward-like game is what stands out the most, along with his quick and accurate shot, work ethic, intensity and ability to lead on and off the ice. During the combine, McGroarty said that he grew up a Maple Leafs fan and interviewed with the team, making the possibility of his dream becoming reality.
McGroarty has that killer instinct that they’ve been looking for as he models his game after Calgary Flames star Matthew Tkachuk. McGroarty has the presence and mindset to be aggressive on the forecheck and being able to put the puck in the back of the net. Based on McGorarty’s responses, he could definitely be someone that the Maple Leafs could benefit from as he’s hard working and determined to get better.
Calle Odelius, LD, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Naionell)
Central Scouting rank: 16th (among EU skaters)
Baracchini’s rank: 23rd
If you follow me on Twitter or watch Prospects Corner often, you would know that I am a big fan of Calle Odelius’ game. One of the four players that could be taken in the first round from the dominant Djurgårdens IF system, Odelius has the smarts and offensive awareness that benefits a quick transitional and possession team like the Maple Leafs.
Odelius did meet with the Maple Leafs during the draft combine. I asked what he would be able to bring to the team and he stated, “I think I could bring some offense and defense… a good all-around game.”
I even asked teammate and friend Noah Östlund on what stands out with Odelius on the ice. His response? “I would say his skating, he’s very good on his edges and he’s a quick skater.”
Odelius’ mobility in transition coupled with his accurate passing, makes him a dangerous puck-moving defender. He can be deceptive with his movements and does a great job at protecting the puck. He can make strong breakout plays and he has the patience and poise when under pressure. He excels at creating space, finding the seams and even getting shots on net for second chance opportunities. He’s just as strong defensively, getting into lanes and maintaining great gap control defending against the rush.
The Maple Leafs have done a great job developing Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Adding another top two-way, mobile defender wouldn’t be a bad decision as you can never have too many defenders.
Ryan Chesley, RD, USNTDP (USHL)
Central Scouting rank: 18th (among NA skaters)
Baracchini’s rank: 30th
If your heard me rave about Odelius, then you must’ve heard me talk about USNTDP defenseman Ryan Chesley, especially during the World U18 Championship. He may not put up the points like other defenders, but he does a really great job with his reads to know when to jump into the play, to keep the play alive, to spot a loose puck for a shot on net or carry the play in transition.
At the draft combine, Chesley described his defensive game, IQ, skating, physicality as his best strengths and tries to emulate his game in the form of NHLers like Jaccob Slavin and Charlie McAvoy. Both defenders have done a great job at providing shut down defense but being offensive contributors when on the attack as they display their quickness and smarts with and without the puck. He’s a player that I think possesses a lot of NHL-like qualities already, like his outlook and mentality.
Surprisingly, Chesley said that he didn’t meet with the Maple Leafs. Though, he does fit the bill of what they’re looking for. He’s a right-handed shot, maintains possession, great defensive awareness, a physical presence and a high level of compete. Even if he’s not on their list, he’s someone that I think should be a target when they select.
Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Naionell)
Central Scouting rank: 18th (among EU skaters)
Baracchini’s rank: 18th
If there’s one word to describe Noah Östlund, it’s dynamic, as he’s always persistent with and without the puck.
Every time the puck is on his stick, you’re in awe at what he’s able to do. He’s able to play at such a quick pace and with such conviction whenever he’s on the attack. He has excellent control and soft hands in tight spaces.
Östlund is an excellent playmaker as he had 33 assists in the J20 Nationell league. He has the ability to open the game up easily and spot his teammates with a perfectly timed pass. When he doesn’t have possession, he’s back in there trying to regain it back. While he has a pass first mentality, he has a very underrated shot as he’s able to wire it on net when he has the open lane. Oh, and there’s this brilliant goal he scored displaying his hand-eye coordination and ability to split the defense at the World U18s, as he was a key piece to Sweden’s victory in the gold medal game.
Although, he can look to add more muscle and needs to take the next step at the pro level, the offensive upside and skillset to play at a high level is there. The Maple Leafs love skilled players and Östlund oozes skill at five-on-five or on the power play.
Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Yastreby (MHL)
Central Scouting rank: 15th (among EU skaters)
Baracchini’s rank: 19th
Intense and in your face, Gleb Trikozov is always relentless on the attack with his speed, skill and strength. He had 45 points this season with Omskie Yastreby in the MHL and added another 10 goals and 18 points in 13 playoff games. He also had a decent primary point per game average of 0.97.
Trikozov is always looking to be one step ahead of his opponents. He’s quick and agile with his movements, provides great support for his teammates and engages in battles in the offensive zone. He has great hands and protects the puck extremely well to hold off players in the neutral and offensive zone. Defensively, he’s just as effective, getting into lanes and keeping players to the outside.
There are some similarities to Trikozov’s game that make you think of Rodion Amirov and his strong two-way play. The way he thinks the game, matches that of what the Maple Leafs want to emulate.
Keep an Eye On…
The Maple Leafs have endless options with the 25th overall pick, but here are a few more names that should be kept an eye on.
Ivan Miroshnichenko was once labelled as a top-10, even top-five pick with his speed, strength and shot. In March, it was reported that he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, putting his season on hold. There was some excellent news as he completed treatment and is able to return to the ice. First and foremost, I’m glad that Miroshnichenko is doing well and that he recovered. Even though he could still be in the top-20, if he falls as a result of this, the Maple Leafs are in a prime spot to select him. This could be the Timothy Liljegren selection from 2017 repeating.
Owen Pickering is a raw defender but his potential is sky high. He has great mobility, great passing abilities on the breakout and has the defensive capabilities to shut things down in his own end. He’s a left-handed shot, but he could be a great selection on his upside alone if he’s available.
Marco Kasper and Filip Mešár are two interesting options. I feel that Kasper might be gone before the Maple Leafs pick as he’s been a fast riser all season. His work ethic, strength and ability to drive to the high danger area is impressive. Mešár might be ranked lower, but he’s an energetic and crafty winger that could be a great middle-six option. Selecting him might be more likely, but both players should also be considered.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.