The Toronto Maple Leafs are busy looking forward to the 2016 NHL Draft. This draft will probably go down as one of the most important drafts in Leafs’ history. The Leafs are slated to pick first overall for only the second time in their history. That means the first pick for the Leafs is a pretty easy one. After that is when things get interesting.
First Overall: Draft Auston Matthews
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. No matter what Patrik Laine does at the World Championships, there is no way that the Leafs cannot draft Matthews. First of all, he is a center. The Leafs have needed a bonafide No. 1 center for years now. Drafting Matthews will end the years of Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri being questioned about who has the role.
The drafting of Matthews gives the Leafs three young centers to build around to go with Kadri and William Nylander. If you consider the fact that Mitch Marner is also a natural center, one of the Leafs weakest positions will be one of their strongest for years to come.
Penguins Pick: Try To Trade Up
Last season, the Leafs were set to have two first-round picks. However, in an effort to acquire more picks they traded down from the 24th pick to acquire more picks. This season, the Leafs should do the opposite.
Since the Penguins pick the Leafs acquired will be no lower than 26th overall, the Leafs should at least try to get a higher pick, maybe in 11-20 range. The Leafs definitely have the assets to move up as well. They could use one or two of the many picks they have in this year’s draft. They also have more than a few players that could be involved in a deal.
The first player that comes to mind is Bozak. With the centers the Leafs have coming up the pipepline, Bozak looks to be expendable. Plus, there have been trade rumors surrounding him every trade deadline and offseason for a while now. It looks like he finally will see his tenure with the Leafs end this offseason and the Leafs might as well get another good prospect out of him.
What the Leafs should do with the pick, no matter where it is, is draft a defenseman. Preferably one of the shutdown variety. Over the years, the Leafs have acquired plenty of offensive, play-making defensemen. It’s time to change it up.
31st Overall Pick: Draft a Goalie
Currently, the Leafs’ goaltending depth consists of Jonathan Bernier, Garret Sparks, Antoine Bibeau and Kasmir Kaskisuo. We still don’t know what Sparks, Bibeau and Kaskisuo will end up being in terms of being an NHL goaltender. However, we can say that it’s almost certain that next season will be Bernier’s last in Toronto.
Now is the time for the Leafs to take a goalie. Of course, it’s hard to project what goalies will be when they are 18-years old. For every Carey Price drafted fifth overall, you have a Henrik Lundqvist that’s drafted 205th overall. Whoever the Leafs think is the best goalie on the board should be taken with the opening pick of the second round.
Beyond those three picks, the Leafs should focus on taking bigger players that focus on the defensive side of the game. If you remember last season, most of the Leafs picks were small, offensive players. The Leafs now need to go to the other side of the game.