We’re just under a week away from the 2022 NHL Draft, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are staring down the barrel of an eerily familiar situation to last season. Last season, they only had a second, fifth, and sixth-round pick. Luckily, the Maple Leafs used their second-rounder to draft forward Matthew Knies, who’s arguably their top prospect at this point. They once again only have three picks, although this year, it’s a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and a seventh-round pick.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
The 2022 draft class is deeper than the 2021 class was. And since general manager Kyle Dubas has been known to trade down to acquire more picks in the past, it’s entirely possible that he does so this year as well. They have pieces they could move, such as Justin Holl, who’s likely expendable with the re-signing of Mark Giordano and Timothy Liljegren, or somebody like Alex Kerfoot, who carries a $3.5 million average annual value (AAV) for one more season. However, I can’t predict the future, so for the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume the Maple Leafs use the three picks they have. And with a draft class like this one, there are lots of options available.
1st round, 25th Overall – Owen Beck (C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)
The primary reason this draft class is so fun is that once you get past the top 15, really anything is possible. There’s a ton of fluidity between prospects, and you could see players listed as high as 20th in some rankings and as low as 50th in another. While the range of Owen Beck’s probable ranking isn’t quite as wide, he’s a player who’s projected to go somewhere between 20th and 35th overall. And if he’s on the board at 25th, he’s a pick that makes sense for the Maple Leafs.
Born in Port Hope, Ontario, Beck is a 6-foot, 190-pound centre for the Mississauga Steelheads. He formed a nice one-two punch up the middle with fellow draft prospect Luca Del Bel Belluz and finished the season with 51 points in 68 games. But like most other Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects, his production this season could be underestimated due to the fact that he missed an entire season of development due to COVID-19, unlike some of his draft counterparts.
Not only does the possible selection of Beck make sense from a hockey standpoint, but he was also one of four players the Maple Leafs opted to interview more than once. They have added some solid prospects to their back end in recent years, along with some high-ceiling talent on the wing. The centre position, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, the Maple Leafs have a 60-goal-scoring No. 1 centre in Auston Matthews and another near point-per-game centre behind him in John Tavares. But after those two, there really isn’t any notable depth that could replace them down the line. Beck would instantly give the Maple Leafs’ prospect pool up the middle and, with the right development, could turn into a two-way second-line centre.
3rd round, 79th Overall – Vinzenz Rohrer (C/RW, Ottawa 67s, OHL)
Everybody loves the stories of energy players like Tampa Bay Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli, who get drafted in the middle rounds and end up playing a pivotal role for their team on a run to the Stanley Cup. And while comparing Vinzenz Rohrer to Cirelli at this stage of his career would be unfair, he plays a style of game that all teams wish to find in the draft. Not only is the Austrian forward an energetic player on the ice, but he also has a unique path to hockey as well. He’s the son of a former professional tennis player and began living on his own at only 14 years old to pursue his hockey dreams (from: ‘Why the 2022 NHL Draft’s diamond in the rough might be Austria’s Vinzenz Rohrer’ The Athletic, 5/17/22).
Playing for the same team as fellow Austrian prospect and childhood best friend Marco Rossi did in his draft year, Rohrer led the OHL’s Ottawa 67s in points with 48 through 64 games. He’s a high-octane player who can contribute at both ends of the ice and can factor in as an asset for the penalty kill as well as the power play. At 17 years old, he’s also one of the youngest players in the draft class, as he won’t turn 18 until under a week before the September 15 cut-off.
Though he’s not physically intimidating at 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, you’d never be able to tell, considering how high his compete level is. He’s always the first one into the corners to retrieve pucks, and he’s also not afraid to drive the net and score greasy goals. He’s the type of player every coach would want to have on their team, and considering his ability to play both centre and wing, I think he’s a player who would be well worth the third-round pick as a developmental project.
7th round, 218th Overall – Rodwin Dionicio (D, Niagara IceDogs, OHL)
The 218th overall pick will be one of the last picks of the draft, so naturally, it will be nearly impossible to predict. These last few picks will entirely depend on how the rest of the draft shakes out and how teams view different players. But for the purpose of the article, we’re going to try anyway. If Rodwin Dionicio is available when the Maple Leafs take the podium for the final time, he would be a nice addition to the back end.
Dionicio was born in Newark, New Jersey, but hails from a small town in Switzerland called Herisau that fellow Swiss players like San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier and former goaltender Jonas Hiller call home. He impressed Niagara IceDogs brass at the U18 World Championships and earned a first-round selection in the 2021 CHL Import Draft. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound defenseman just wrapped up his rookie OHL season, tallying 31 points in 57 games along the way.
He has a strong two-way game and above-average offensive skills, such as puck handling and shooting, which could be because he originally started as a centre. He also has a heavy shot and uses his big frame to his advantage, with the ability to throw heavy hits on occasion. Given that the Maple Leafs didn’t use any of their 2021 draft picks on defensemen, I think it’s possible we see them dip their feet in that section of the draft class this year.
Like I said at the start of this post, it’s hard to say whether the Maple Leafs will stand pat and use the three picks they have or make a trade to acquire more picks. But if they do keep their own picks, I think two forwards and a defenseman is a realistic path for them to take. Typically I would want the Maple Leafs to use one of their picks on a goalie, but the 2022 draft class is a weaker one for goalies, and they already used one of their few picks last year on a long-term goalie project in Vyacheslav Peksa.
Either way, it’s going to be interesting to watch another draft with Dubas at the helm. His regime has drafted some very intriguing players, including Knies, Topi Niemela, and Nick Robertson, and the draft classes these players were a part of haven’t fully flowered yet. Dubas also has assets to dangle, as I mentioned before, but will the Maple Leafs use these assets for the draft or for something else? Or will they use them at all? There are lots of questions yet to be answered, and it will make for a fun couple of days.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.