Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in The Hockey Writers’ mock draft. What started as a two-round mock, became a full-on seven-round mock draft. This was really entertaining and unpredictable and made you feel like you’re part of the scouting and drafting process.
I selected for the Toronto Maple Leafs — they had 10 picks in the draft and gave each pick a detailed summary and explanation. In addition, there are opinions and insights from draft analysts giving their take on the picks.
Keep in mind this is a mock — the results may differ when the actual draft takes place. This was merely a way to select the best players available, while meeting the team’s needs along with their philosophy. Without further ado, here’s the recap of the Maple Leafs selections for the mock draft.
Second Round, 50th Overall: Jaromir Pytlik, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL
I’m really high on Jaromir Pytlik. He’s already earned top-line minutes for the Greyhounds in his second season and the potential and skillset is there for him to grow and be a reliable two-way centre in the NHL. His head coach has already touted him as having a pro mentality and he’s extremely reliable in all situations. He never takes a shift off and he seems to always be involved in a play, whether it’s in the offensive or defensive zone.
Pytlik already possesses high-end vision capable of playing a solid 200-foot game. His offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, compared to other players in the draft, but it’s hard to ignore his ability to play a complete game. He does possess great size and strength with great speed, making it tough for players to contain him in the offensive end.
His attention to detail without the puck is what makes him a special player in his own right. He has the ability to get his stick into passing lanes to break up plays and defensive awareness makes up for that. He’s always making excellent decisions in terms of his positioning and knows where the play is going to go. With all the offensive weapons up front, it’s good to have someone with a defensive mindset in Pytlik.
It’s always hard to find players that already possess a well-rounded game and pro mentality. Drafting a player of Pytlik’s caliber in the second round is a big win and this could pay dividends down the line.
Fourth Round, 112th Overall: James Hardie, LW, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL
Considering the Steelheads were average this season, James Hardie was a major bright spot for the team. As a result, there is a lot of buzz surrounding the Steelheads’ second-leading point getter.
He has a lot of the offensive tools to make him a big offensive threat. He’s a great skater and has great strength for his size. His 34 goals allowed him to finish in the top 20 in OHL goal scoring. He has a great shot and knows where to be in order to get the puck off for a scoring chance. He has the tools to be an offensive producer.
However, scouts want to see his defensive game develop, so he can be a more complete player. Hardie acknowledges that this needs to be worked on. Admitting this shows that he’s willing to put forth the effort and become a better player.
Hardie’s offensive abilities could easily make him a second or even third-round player, but his defensive game is what is hindering him from finding consistency in draft rankings. Knowing the Maple Leafs and their emphasis on skill, his goal-scoring ability is a great value to have as a mid-fourth-round pick. If he develops properly, the Maple Leafs landed a player with great potential.
Fourth Round, 117th Overall: Ian Moore, D, St Mark’s, USHS Prep
If there’s one thing that I noticed with this draft, is the promising talent that’s making it’s way through US high school programs. Ian Moore is one of those names that could benefit the Maple Leafs.
First off, he’s a right-handed shot — something that the Maple Leafs need to bolster their depth on. Second, he’s an extremely talented and mobile puck-moving defenseman. NHL Central Scouting has him listed as 6-foot-2, 171 pounds, already having size for the pro level. With that, Moore moves very well for his size and has great vision finding the open lanes to carry the puck and move the play forward. The Harvard commit posted 12 goals and 46 points, finishing third in team scoring.
In the clip above, he’s able receive a long stretch pass and chip the puck up to the blue line. Moore is then able to get good body position, allowing his teammate to gain access into the offensive zone. He eventually gets control of the puck and makes a nice clean pass to his defense partner. Moore then receives a pass as he wires the puck home for a goal.
Getting a great puck-moving defenseman as a mid-round pick is a great find for the Maple Leafs. While it’ll be a while before we see him make the jump to the pro level, there’s a lot of promise in Moore as he could be, at best, a second-pairing defenseman.
Fifth Round, 148th Overall: Ryder Rolston, RW, Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL
Drafting Nick Abruzzese last year in the fourth round, the Maple Leafs go back to the United Sates Hockey League with their fifth-round pick, adding some NHL pedigree.
The son of former NHLer Brian, Ryder Rolston brings high-end speed and excellent skating. There’s no doubt that this is his greatest asset, but he’s definitely a work in progress as he needs to refine certain aspects of his game, most notably his shot and accuracy.
The Draft Analyst, Steve Kourianos was able to provide a detailed scouting report on Rolston. Here is what he had to say:
“There was a lengthy period dating back to last year when I felt Rolston was a borderline first-round pick in 2020. Statistically this season, he reinforced his standing as one of the better draft-eligible forwards from the USHL. But a deeper look into his game, however, revealed a need for improvements in two critical areas for a center — shooting and playmaking. Rolston’s skating is elite in several areas and he provides excellent two-way play, especially on the penalty kill. But it always seemed like effort and speed drove his point production more than creativity or hockey sense. Nonetheless, the potential for him improving in these areas is high, especially when you consider he was an NTDP’er whose dad Brian was a consistent NHL scorer for well over a decade. Definitely an excellent fifth-round choice from a value standpoint, and he can marinate in college for at least four seasons before the Leafs are forced to commit to a contract.”
The Maple Leafs covet speed and skill. Ryder’s ability to fly by the opposition is what may entice them to select him. His shooting is an easy fix and attending Notre Dame will definitely be beneficial for his development.
Sixth Round, 174th Overall: Dylan Garand, G, Kamloops Blazers, WHL
With Joseph Woll continuing to develop and with Ian Scott missing a full season due to hip surgery, it wouldn’t hurt to add another goaltender into the prospect pool.
Dylan Garand put together a strong draft year, going 28-10-3 with a .921 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average, third best in the league and setting a franchise record for the stat in the process. At 6-foot-1, 172 pounds, he’s smaller compared to other goalies, but he does play a big game when he’s in the crease.
Garand has a great glove hand, along with quick lateral movements making it easy for him to stay in front of the puck. What stands out is his ability to stay square with the shooter and take any angle away, giving them very little space to work with on net. Even when there are some nail-biting sequences, Garand doesn’t panic and always keeps the puck out of the net.
Despite where he ranks, Garand remains a strong goaltending prospect. The fact that many teams passed on him to get to the sixth round, the Maple Leafs could use his service and depth in the crease.
Sixth Round, 178th Overall, Zach Uens, Merrimack College, H-East
An overager, Zach Uens possesses great size and the ability to be a strong, mobile, puck-moving defenseman. Passed over in last year’s draft, the Merrimack College freshman took it upon himself to prove to the scouts that he’s worth being taken this year. After posting 18 points in 34 games in his freshman year, he’s made his point.
Uens has great speed and mobility as he’s able to possess the puck and carry it into the offensive zone. His vision and IQ allows him to pick his spots and be aggressive when moving the play forward. His head coach, Scott Borek, praises his aggressive ability to constantly make plays.
“He’s not afraid to take a chance in order to make a play,” Borek said in an article on EP Rinkside. “He’s learning when is the right time and when is the wrong time to take some of those risks, but you need to have the courage to take those risks and he has that.”
Uens’ determination and skillset fits the Maple Leafs’ description of what they want in terms of skating and the ability to possess the puck. After being passed over before, they’ll look to give him a chance this time around.
Sixth Round, 184th Overall: Grant Slukynsky, C, Warroad High, USHS- Mn
Throughout his high school career, Grant Slukynsky has substantially gotten better with each season at Warroad. He recorded 36 points in his first season and 52 the next. In his third season, Grant went on a tear, recording 75 points in 25 games, finishing fourth in league scoring.
Slukynsky’s 6-foot, 194-pound frame allows him to be an intimidating force. He has great speed for his size as he’s able to constantly find and move to the open areas on the ice. He’s got great hands, as he’s able to weave through tight areas where there’s a lot of traffic.
“Slukynsky has two things going for him that makes his impressive stats somewhat of an afterthought — his high hockey IQ and outstanding work ethic.” Kourianos said. “He was a real leader for a Warroad squad which from wire to wire was one of the top teams in the state, and being a dual-threat with a nasty shot-release combination is something Northern Michigan will welcome when he eventually moves on to the NCAA. He’ll need to prove himself at the USHL level for a year or two before we can really call him a steal, but Slukynsky easily is one of the more promising prospects you can mind in the depths of any NHL draft.”
Slukynsky is only 18 and he has a lot of time to develop. As Kourianos mentions, with time in the USHL and collegiate level, Slukynsky has paved a great path in order to find success as the NHL level.
Seventh Round, 189th Overall: Axel Kumlin, D, Frolunda J20
With puck-moving defensemen in Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren already in the system and transitioning to the pro level, the Maple Leafs could use some depth to potentially shore up the bottom pairing.
Kumlin is a right-handed shot, with good size (6-foot, 174 pounds). He’s a “defense first” kind of player, but he possesses the ability to move the puck up and jump into the play from time to time.
Jokke Nevalainen, head of European scouting at DobberProspects, was able to provide a scouting report:
“Kumlin is a defense-minded two-way defenseman who doesn’t do anything flashy or take a lot of risks. His positioning and gap control are both decent. He’s not afraid to play the body, and I like his defensive zone effort. Offensively, he can make simple passes and he owns a good, heavy slap shot from the blueline. All aspects of his skating ability are average at best which is a concern. Eventually, he could become a number six defenseman who can kill penalties.”
With his power and strength, his defensive presence will be a great addition to the Maple Leafs’ prospect pool.
Seventh Round, 198th Overall: Landon Kosior, D, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
At 17, Landon Kosior made an immediate impact on a Raiders team that was poised for a deep playoff run. Originally going undrafted in the 2017 WHL Bantam draft, he made the team after training camp concluded.
Kosior finished with 23 points in 64 games in his rookie season and has taken on a larger role since roster changes happened at the beginning of the season. He possesses the skills to be a great two-way defender.
THW’s senior writer and head scout Larry Fisher calls Kosior “a raw talent with nice offensive tools — skating, puck handling and puck moving. He’s more of a distributor but can lead the rush at times too.”
Without the puck, he knows when to back off and go into defense mode, either by breaking up plays or good defensive coverage.
While this video isn’t from his play in the WHL, it does show Kosior’s ability to read an odd-man rush. He gets into a good position blocking the pass and taking the lane away to get a chance on net. Kosior is then able to locate the puck, break free from the opposition and make a nice stretch pass to move the play up.
He can provide a steady presence on the blue line. Playing in a Raiders-type system will definitely help his development and round out his game. His balance of defense and offense will benefit the Maple Leafs.
Seventh Round, 216th Overall: Michal Gut, C, Everett Silvertips, WHL
Michal Gut was selected 57th overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. After that, he ended up recording three goals and four points at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup as a stand-out player for the Czech Republic. He would eventually fit right in with the Everett Silvertips and made an immediate impact in his rookie season. Gut recorded 36 points in 51 games, finishing in the top 10 in rookie scoring.
A durable center, Gut is able to play with an edge, providing a physical presence when engaged in battles for the puck. Tony Ferrari, Director of North American Scouting at DobberProspects describes Gut as an average skater, but his IQ and vision helps alleviates his weakness and allows strengths to become noticeable.
“He has excellent vision in the offensive zone, reading the play well ahead before anything develops and often spotting teammates trailing on the rush. His high IQ helps mitigates his average skating, making it less of a weakness but he could stand to work on his stride as he develops.”
Gut is only 17 years old — there’s plenty of time for him to continue to round out his game. There’s a lot of promise in him as he continues to become more accustomed to the North American style. Finding his talent this late in the draft, is great value.
The Maple Leafs have done a great job finding skilled players, including hidden gems in the draft. This year might be no different. This year’s draft haul could be a great mix of offensive skill and defensive mindsets at both positions. The real surprise is finding players at the high school level like Moore and Slukynsky. All of these have the potential to be great prospects and if they continue with their development, they could have great value for the team.