Maple Leafs Need to Build From Blueline

The Toronto Maple Leafs have an incredibly important draft coming up in June. The rebuild is now being properly conducted and the Buds are seeing the initial results of the moves they have made. By this, I mean that some of their young guns have received NHL playing time and have looked good while doing it.

Others are thriving in their respective leagues like Mitch Marner in the OHL, Dmytro Timashov in the QMJHL and Andrew Nielsen, the dynamic scoring defenseman in the WHL. If the Maple Leafs plan on being a competitive team in the near future, a good portion of this draft needs to be devoted to stocking up on solid players to patrol the blueline.

The Maple Leafs already have one first rounder guaranteed. They are hoping that that selection turns into big centre and future superstar, Auston Matthews. The Leafs also have a second first rounder coming, but that one is a touch more tricky. They got it as part of the return for Phil Kessel and the first rounder only goes to the Maple Leafs if Pittsburgh makes the playoffs.

The Penguins currently sit in the first wild card position, so for now, that first rounder is safe and should be on its way to Toronto at season’s end. This pick is more likely than not a selection in the teens, anywhere from 13 to 19. This is a good position to be in because this draft is especially deep according to scouts.

The Leafs should use this pick and select a solid defenseman who can help their rebuilding club.

Olli Juolevi, London Knights

This may be a long-shot from the Maple Leafs perspective, as Juolevi is projected to go as high as sixth overall. If he were to somehow fall in their laps, it would be huge. You can bet that Mark Hunter has his eye on the Finnish prospect, as he is currently playing his draft year out with the London Knights.

He can skate, shoot and score with the best of them and has become a dominate defenseman in his first OHL season. He also represented team Finland at the World Junior Championships, where he won a  gold medal and was named to the tournament’s All-Star team. He currently has 38 points in 52 games for the powerhouse Knights.

Logan Stanley, Windsor Spitfires

Many NHL teams like a little size on their blueline. It helps when stepping up for a hit or clearing out a pesky opponent from the front of the net. The Maple Leafs would be wise to take a long look at the Spitfires behemoth.

He’s considered more of a stay-at-home blueliner, which is something the Maple Leafs are in desperate need of. He’s tough in his own end and likes to throw his weight around to get his opponents off their game. While he mostly plays a defensive style, he hasn’t been shy about getting more offensively involved this season.

His skating could use a bit more improvement, but he’s young and has other physical gifts that will come in handy as he continues to development his skills. If all pans out, he’s projected to be one of three possible Spitfres taken in the first round of the NHL draft.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston University

McAvoy is a product of the US National Team Development Program. He currently plays for Boston University and has put up 23 points in 34 games. He has demonstrated excellent and fluid skating as well as tremendous poise and patience in all zones on the ice.

He considers himself more of an offensive defenseman and has had little trouble quarterbacking the power-play.  He also plays a strong game in his own zone, demonstrating his commitment to a complete game. He’s got decent size at six-foot-one and  211 pounds, although he will have to add muscle in the future.

He recently suited up for the United States in the 2016  World Junior Championships. He suited up in all seven games and wowed scouts with his skating and vision. He helped the Americans take home the bronze in the tournament. The defenseman, who hails from the New York area, was also named Hockey East Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week on Monday.