The 2015-16 NHL regular season is nearing completion. The Toronto Maple Leafs have less then 20 games remaining on their schedule. Knowing well in advance that they weren’t going to make the playoffs, after the trade deadline passed, they made the move to bring up some of their most promising young prospects.
The goal was to get their feet wet at the NHL level and for management and the coaching staff to take a closer look at how their development has come along and where they fit into the team’s future plans.
So far, a few names have stood out. William Nylander is finally in the big leagues and his patience has been rewarded with many opportunities from Mike Babcock. While he still has much to learn, the young Swede has looked solid and even potted his first NHL goal against Ottawa.
Nikitia Soshnikov and Zach Hyman also deserve some recognition. Both have shown glimpses of toughness and tenacity, with Soshnikov adding some excellent goal scoring as well. With so many young players making big league impacts, it is important to look towards the future for the Maple leafs, specifically the upcoming draft.
Draft Lottery Luck
The Maple Leafs would love to win the lottery and receive the first overall pick. That would almost assuredly net them Auston Matthews, the phenomenal centre playing his draft year in Switzerland. Getting the second or third overall pick, has a solid chance of them landing one of the highly regarded Finns, Patrick Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.
Sobering math for Leafs or whoever comes 30th: almost 50/50 chance (47.5%) last place team drops all the way to 4th in NHL Draft Lottery.
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) March 7, 2016
The new draft lottery format is also a bit of a concern for Leaf fans or whoever comes in last. The NHL is implementing a new triple lottery system to determine the drafting order. If the Maple Leafs do drop all the way to fourth overall, it’s not the end of the world. There are a bevy of skilled and exciting players that they could select, chief among them Matthew Tkachuk, Alex Nylander or Jakob Chychrun.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins currently sitting in playoff contention, the Maple Leafs would also get their first rounder for this draft. This gives them many different options deepening on the route they want to take.
They could possibly use that selection and pick a defenseman to help shore up the blueline in the near future. There are many interesting prospects available including Logan Stanley, Jake Bean or Charlie McAvoy. All are highly skilled and have different sets of skills that would benefit any team.
Injured Leafs Nearing Return
The Maple Leafs recently sent down Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic to the Toronto Marlies. There are two main reasons for these moves. The first is to shore up the Marlies and make sure they have some key cogs in place as the playoffs draw closer.
The second reason is that some injured Leafs will be making their way back to the active roster. P.A. Parenteau is hoping to be ready to go by Wednesday against the New York Islanders. He’s been out with stiffness in his neck.
Looks as though Milan Michalek will make his Leafs debut tonight. Paired with Holland and Boyes this morning.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) March 7, 2016
Milan Michalek will also be making his Maple Leafs debut against the Buffalo Sabres. He was acquired in the recent blockbuster deal that saw Dion Phaneuf become an Ottawa Senator. The former 2003 first round pick had put up ten points this season before being sidelined with a broken finger.
While Michalek isn’t in the Leafs long-term plans, he is under contract for another season and should be looked upon as a leader and mentor to the team’s young players.