William Nylander (Getty Images)
It was a great indictment of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ drafting and developing when Brendan Shanahan fired the man who ran the hockey department, GM Dave Nonis, plus several key scouts two months before a pivotal draft. So where do they go from here?
It was a great indictment of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ drafting and developing when Brendan Shanahan fired the man who ran the hockey department, GM Dave Nonis, plus several key scouts two months before a pivotal draft. The scouting dismissals were on the advice of director of player personnel Mark Hunter, who has essentially been given the keys to the kingdom when it comes to picking and cultivating prospects. Hunter comes with an excellent track record of talent identification from his days with the London Knights, and the Leafs hired him to help find NHL-caliber players.
Round 1, picks 4, 24
Round 3, pick 65
Round 4, picks 95, 107
Round 5, pick 125
Round 6, pick 155
Round 7, pick 185
The Leafs have lacked a true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin. Tyler Bozak has good chemistry with Phil Kessel, but their defensive acumen is so lacking that Toronto’s top line, which also included James van Riemsdyk, made up three of the NHL’s bottom five in plus-minus.
Depending upon what happens in what should be an interesting off-season, the Leafs have enough top-end talent. They need secondary help, the kinds of players you get in the middle to late rounds of the draft where the Leafs have been so bereft of impact picks.
Even if the Leafs don’t manage to shed salary over the summer, they have just $57.4 million committed for next season, and their only RFAs of note are goalie Jonathan Bernier and center Nazem Kadri.
IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16:
The Leafs have consistently ranked near the bottom of THN’s Future Watch rankings, which is a big reason why they find themselves in their current situation. Top prospect William Nylander got his first taste of North American pro hockey playing for Toronto’s AHL affiliate. Stuart Percy saw some NHL time and looks ready to make the jump. Connor Brown, the CHL’s top scorer in 2013-14, led the Marlies in scoring.
DID YOU KNOW:
Of the eight players taken by the Leafs in the 2008 draft, only one remains with the organization. That’s D-man Andrew MacWilliam, taken 188th overall, who played 12 games with Toronto this season.