The Toronto Maple Leafs should come out of the 2015 NHL Draft with a great player at the fourth pick. No matter who it is, it would be pretty hard to pick a bust that early in the draft nowadays.
The last time the Leafs had a high-end center on their roster was Mats Sundin. He hasn’t been with the Leafs since the 2007-08 season. That’s six seasons that the Leafs have not had what the best teams in the NHL have. In today’s NHL you need one of those to be succesfful. Whether its Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, Jonathan Toews in Chicago, Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim or anyone else, the best teams have that big No. 1 center.
This is where Dylan Strome comes in. The best center in the draft once you get past Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, Strome is actually taller than both of them. The fact that he finished first in OHL scoring this season makes it even better.
Getting Thrown A Curveball
Before the draft lottery, it was almost a 100% certainty that Strome would be available when the Leafs pick. When the Edmonton Oilers won the lottery, things changed. With the Arizona Coyotes falling to the third overall pick, his availability isn’t so certain. McDavid and Eichel will go to Edmonton and Buffalo, respectively.
The Coyotes could take anyone of three top players left when they pick. They might take top-rated defenseman Noah Hanifin. They could take winger Mitch Marner to play along with London Knights teammate Max Domi. They very well could select Strome as well.
So now the Leafs must wait. Will they get the player they sorely need, or will they have to select somebody else?
I’m not saying it would be bad to pick Hanifin or Marner. They will both be great NHLers. Marner has even drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane. Hanifin might take a bit longer to develop, but that’s the case with all defenseman. D-men picked in the top five usually end up doing pretty good sooner rather than later. With Mark Hunter being the director of player personnel and interim co-general manager, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs favor Marner.
However, if Strome is available when the Leafs pick, they have to take him. If history has taught us anything in the NHL, when it comes to forwards, you build from the center out. The best centers make the wingers playing beside them better. If your best player is a winger, you have to find a better center to play with him. The Leafs have experienced this for years with Phil Kessel and not being able to find anyone better than Tyler Bozak to center him.
We all know it’s nearly impossible to trade for one of those types of players. You have to draft and develop yourself. So if the Leafs have the opportunity to do that, they better jump at it.