It has been a long season that saw the Maple Leafs finish near the bottom of the NHL standings. The only bright light many fans are looking forward to is the upcoming draft lottery. They desperately want the first overall pick and the chance to select Auston Matthews, the big American centre. If that failed, two or three would net the Buds one of the powerful Finns that have made so much noise this year.
But then the balls are revealed and the lottery has determined that the Maple Leafs have fallen out of the top three and will instead draft fourth overall. This is not the end of the world for the Buds. The 2016 draft is considered incredibly deep, which means there is the distinct possibility that the Blue and White will find themselves a star at four.
What Player to Choose?
The Maple Leafs will have what every team desires regarding their fourth overall selection. That would be the ability to have multiple options when figuring out who to pick. There are so many different routes they can go, depending on what the management and coaching staff feel is the best direction for the franchise.
For instance, many predict that Matthew Tkachuk, the power forward of out London, will be taken in this spot. He certainly fits the mold for a player the Leafs would like. He’s big, strong and has finishing ability, as evidenced by his 30 goals and 107 points this year.
He’s also familiar with Mark Hunter, the Maple Leafs director of player personnel, who oversees the professional and amateur scouting duties for the club. Mitch Marner is also connection, as the two have been linemates for the better part of the season.
Another couple options could be Pierre-Luc Dubois or Alex Nylander. Both are dangerous scoring forwards who could potentially make an immediate impact with the rebuilding Leafs. Dubois possesses all the tools of a future dynamic two-way winger. He plays on the physical side when needed and has the innate ability to finish a play with a goal or assist. He finished his second year with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with 42 goals and 99 points. Cape Breton is also moving on in the QMJHL playoffs.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) April 1, 2016
Next up is Alex Nylander. Leaf fans should be incredibly interested for a variety of reasons. First off, Alex is of course siblings with William, the Leafs young star who has impressed many with is play in both the AHL and the NHL this year. The younger Nylander choose to play with the Mississauga Steelheads this year and racked up impressive numbers as a rookie, which included 28 goals and 75 points.
He’s shifty, fast and has the ability to wheel up the ice with effortless strides. He’s been scouted as a smart player who displays elite level vision and the ability to find teammates in the offensive zone. He could be a legitimate pick for Toronto, who could reunite the two brothers on the biggest stage in the hockey world.
Bob McKenzie on Olli Juolevi: "He's playing for London & has been very good this year. Very heady, smart, puck-moving defenseman."
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) April 5, 2016
Many believe the Maple Leafs should take a defenseman with this pick. If that is the case, Hunter and company may look to London again for the scouting report on the steady Finn, Olli Juolevi. The big-bodied defenseman has sharply risen up many draft boards in part because of his play with London and with Finland at the World Juniors.
He was a driving force behind the gold medal win with his strong two-way game. He’s flat out tough to beat and can burn you with his positioning or his skating. He plays a smart game and is also able to contribute some offense, as evidenced by his seven assists in nine World Junior games or his 42 points for the Knights this season.
History of Recent Fourth Overall Picks
No that we’ve listed some interesting candidates the Leafs may consider, let’s take a look back at some previous drafts and see what kind of impact players taken fourth overall have had.
The most recent draft saw the Maple Leafs take Mitch Marner, a star in the OHL for London. He has yet to play an NHL game, so it’s difficult to gauge his success right now. All points indicate that Marner will be a dynamic player and having two OHL seasons of over 100 points doesn’t hurt either.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 31, 2016
2014 saw the Calgary Flames take Sam Bennett, who has 17 goals and 35 points in his first full NHL season. He’s a big part of the young Flames core. The year before was Seth Jones, now a stud defenseman on the Columbus Blue Jackets. 2010 was Ryan Johansen, who was traded to the Predators this year and has 32 points in 40 games since being dealt. Evander Kane went fourth to Atlanta in 2009 and has become a star in the league.
There are an overwhelming amount of players the Leafs could choose from. Of course, there is no guarantee of success with the draft or the fourth overall pick, as every team knows full well. Anything could happen, which is what makes the draft and the Maple Leafs rebuild so exciting to watch.