It’s the offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the team has kept busy since bowing out of the playoffs in round one. They have kept their eyes on a multitude of prospects and players who are playing in various leagues and tournaments all across the world.
Mitch Marner and William Nylander are currently lighting up the World Championships for Canada and Sweden respectively, while the Toronto Marlies of the AHL are right in the middle of their second round series against the Syracuse Crunch.
The team is looking to make improvements for next year and will need to explore a variety of avenues in order to secure themselves the best selection of players.
Picking 17th in 2017
The Maple Leafs recently got a little bit of help from the Nashville Predators in regards to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Predators recently defeated the St. Louis Blues, which means the Leafs will officially have the 17th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
This pick is icing on the cake for the Leafs after a great season. They had an amazing year which included making the playoffs and getting their rookie crop a ton of great experience.
Their next test will be selecting a player who can contribute to the lineup in the coming years. The Leafs problem this season was a porous defense. They should try and address this glaring issue by selecting a talented defenseman with the pick.
In many different mock drafts, there is a bevy of different players available at or around the Leafs pick. Names include Cal Foote of the Kelowna Rockets, Nicolas Hague of the Mississauga Steelheads and Erik Brannstrom who is playing with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League.
There are a couple of other intriguing names. Conor Timmins would be an interesting choice. He’s a smooth-skating defenseman playing his draft season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Another name is Nick Suzuki. While not a defenseman, he has quickly leaped up the draft boards of fans and scouts alike. He’s got massive offensive upside and was able to pot 45 goals and 96 total points in 65 games.
He also totaled 23 points in 17 playoff games for the Owen Sound Attack. Suzuki isn’t overly physical, but he is defensively responsible and is comfortable playing at both ends of the ice.
Looking to Russia
Over the last couple of years, the Maple Leafs have been looking overseas to Russia and the KHL in order to sign talented players. The biggest gem of the bunch so far has been Nikita Zaitsev, the steady defenseman that the Leafs recently signed to a seven-year contract extension.
Two other names are Nikita Soshnikov and Miro Aaltonen, the latter of whom may see some NHL action next year.
The most intriguing name this offseason is Evgeny Dadonov, a skilled winger who played this past season with St. Petersburg SKA. He’s a former Florida Panthers draft pick who played with them from 2010 to 2012. He spent some time in the AHL after that before heading back to Russia.
He scored 30 goals and 66 points in 53 games. He’s quick and extremely dangerous on the rush and could be compared to a player like Artemi Panarin, an offensive forward with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He spent the season playing on a line with Vadim Shipachyov, who recently signed a two-year deal with the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights.
McPhee says Vegas has had conversations with Evgeni Dadonov, but doesn't know if he's "going to sign with us, or another NHL team."
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) May 5, 2017
The Golden Knights have had discussions to bring Dadonov to Sin City, but the Russian is likely to end up in a bidding war as numerous clubs are interested in his services, including the Leafs and the Blackhawks. Dadonov hasn’t yet decided if he will sign in the NHL or remain in the KHL.
With his high-end skill, he may be too good of a player for the Leafs to pass up making an offer on. They have deep pockets and any extra scoring is always appreciated in today’s NHL.
If there’s a move that can be made to improve the Leafs for the 2017-18 season, expect Lou Lamoriello and company to be right at the forefront.