Maple Leafs Minute – 2015 Draft Preview

The Toronto Maple Leafs enter the 2015 NHL Entry Draft armed with a total of eight picks.

While there is no shortage of opinion throughout Leafs Nation on which prospects the team should select with their two first round picks, the importance of this draft for the Maple Leafs cannot be understated.

The Shanahan Era is underway, and while ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, Shanahan’s legacy could be largely determined by the success or failures of this draft.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have four picks in the top 100 draft spots, and five picks in the first four rounds.

It’s not only vital for the Maple Leafs to succeed with their top two picks, but it’s equally crucial for the management and scouting team to make prudent selections in the later rounds.

There are a number of mock drafts available for consumption, and no shortage of prognosticators voicing their opinions on how the 2015 NHL Draft will break down.

We can speculate and predict all we want, but Derek Jeter nailed it when he said “the draft is a crapshoot”. Ultimately all we can do is sit back and watch how the draft will unfold.

Until then, here’s a look at how the 2015 NHL Entry Draft might play out for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dylan Strome
Dylan Strome is the type of centre that the Maple Leafs haven’t had since Mats Sundin. [photo: OHL Images]

First Round

4th Overall – Dylan Strome (C)

Strome lead the OHL in points this season, scoring 45 goals and 129 points, playing in all 68 regular season games as the Otter’s second line centre.

In any other draft year, Strome would likely be talked about as a potential first-overall pick. The fact that a player with his upside could ‘slide’ outside the top three is a blessing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that hasn’t had a dominant centre since Mats Sundin.

Size, strength and speed are just a few of the attributes that the Mississauga native possesses. Strome never quits on a play. His high hockey IQ and compete level make him a factor in all three zones.

Dylan Strome is a stud prospect that has the potential to become an NHL all-star and the face of a franchise.

For more on Dylan Strome, check out Shawn Reznik’s article: Dylan Strome – The Next Ones: NHL 2015 Draft Prospect Profile

NHL Comparable: John Tavares, Nick Backstrom

25th Overall – Brandon Carlo (D)

There’s a lot to like about the game of Brandon Carlo. He’s versatile, confident with the puck on his stick, and understands the ebbs and flows within the game.

His stats line won’t overwhelm you, but his high hockey IQ and natural defensive instincts mean he’s rarely caught out of position or forced into making a bad play.

Smooth skating and hard-hitting, Carlo doesn’t shy away from physical play or the occasional fight. His offensive capabilities have room for growth, but his size, strength, and mental acumen make up for any offensive shortcomings.

Brandon Carlo is physically ready and capable to excel as an NHL defenceman.

For more on Brandon Carlo, check out Shawn Reznik’s article: Brandon Carlo – The Next Ones: NHL 2015 Draft Prospect Profile

NHL Comparable: Roman Josi, Jared Cowen

Third Round

65th Overall – Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (C)

When a player like Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson is a projected third round pick, it speaks to the depth of this draft.

A true two-way centre, JFK’s commitment to strong defensive play is evident in his willingness to block shots and blanket the oppositions top players.

His shot and offensive game still needs some work, but here’s a glimpse at the skill-set that Forsbacka-Karlsson possess.

Spending the past two years in the USHL, Forsbacka-Karlsson posted 15 goals and 53 points in 50 games this season.

NHL Comparable: Carl Soderberg, Valtteri Filppula

Fourth Round

95th Overall – Nikita Pavlychev (C)

This is one prospect that Maple Leafs fans should be excited about if Toronto can snag him with their first of two fourth round picks. He’s only 18 years old, but he’s already got a near ready NHL body at 6’6″ and 206-lbs.

Pavlychev is a hard-hitting, physically imposing force to play against. He’s not likely to score in abundance, but he can routinely be counted on to shut-down the oppositions top offensive players. He’s routinely on the ice in tough situations, yet he rarely gets beat.

While plus/minus as a stat has come under scrutiny from the advanced stats community, it is worth noting that Nikita Pavlychev was one of just three players on the Des Moines Buccaneers to finish the season with a plus-rating while playing in at least 40 games.

NHL Comparable: Sean Couturier, Nik Antropov

107th Overall – Sebastian Aho (LW)

He’s got elusive speed, a nose for the net, and he’s willing to battle in the dirty areas. Making his debut in Finland’s top pro league, the SM-Liiga, Aho posted 13 points and a plus-six rating in 30 regular season games played.

Not bad for a 17 year-old kid going up against grown men, some literally more than twice his age.

Aho’s rookie season for Kärpät ended in one of the most dramatic ways possible:

That’s a teenager scoring the championship winning goal in overtime of a game seven. That kind of clutch finishing and ability to win is exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs need more of.

Sebastian Aho knows how to win.

NHL Comparable: Zach Parise, Dustin Brown

Fifth Round

125th Overall – Andrew Mangiapane (C)

Andrew Mangiapane is no stranger to fans around the OHL. He’s undersized at just 5’10” and 160-lbs, but he’s proven to be a competitor. He was twice passed over in the OHL draft and, as an un-drafted free-agent, earned a walk-on spot with the Barrie Colts.

As one of three Colts players to score over 100 points, Mangiapane had a breakout sophomore season, scoring 43 goals and 104 points. He’s got great hands, a quick release, and an incredibly accurate shot.

While the point production may not be sustainable at the NHL level, his work ethic, compete level, and 200-foot style of play are.

NHL Comparable: Mike Ribeiro, Steve Downie

Sixth Round

155th Overall – Adin Hill (G)

Adin Hill is a pretty intriguing goaltending prospect. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he’s a competitor.

Hill had a tremendous rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, posting a 2.81 goals against average, a .921 save-percentage, and two shutouts among his 31 wins.

While some will say that Hill’s stats and success are a byproduct of the team playing in front of him, one thing you can’t argue is his maturity and mental toughness.

NHL goaltending prospects tend to take a longer time to develop compared to any other position. Adin Hill is years away from cracking an NHL roster, but based on his current progression, Hill is likely to get a shot at a starting job in the NHL someday.

NHL Comparable: James Reimer, Scott Darling

For more on Andrew Mangiapane and Adin Hill, check out Derek Neumeier’s article: Better Late Than Never: Top 10 2015 NHL Entry Draft Returnees

Seventh Round

185th Overall – Adam Helewka (LW)

Helewka is more of a long-term project, but he does have moments which make him an interesting prospect, including a 5-point game this past season.

Having just completed his third season with the Spokane Chiefs, Helewka continues to improve and get physically stronger.

Adam Helewka still needs to become a more complete player before he’s ready to make the NHL, but he does have a certain set of skills that could make him an enticing late round pick.

NHL Comparable: Kris Versteeg

Mock Draft Summary:

4th – Dylan Strome (C)

25th – Brandon Carlo (D)

65th – Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (C)

95th – Nikita Pavlychev (C)

107th – Sebastian Aho (LW)

125th – Andrew Mangiapane (C)

155th – Adin Hill (G)

185th – Adam Helewka (LW)