Toronto Maple Leafs 2015 NHL Draft Preview (Part Two)


Toronto Maple Leafs 2015 NHL Draft Preview (Part Two)

As the Toronto Maple Leafs season continues to descend down the standings and towards the basement, fans are starting to look towards the NHL draft for a glimpse of hope. This is a highly anticipated draft with elite-level talent and a solid mix throughout, but just what kind of player can Toronto hope to land?

Click here to view part one.

Dylan Strome – Centre – Erie (OHL)

6’3″ – 187 pounds

30G – 55A – 85P in 45 GP

NHL Rank: #5 North American Skaters

ESPN Rank: #5 Overall

ISS Rank: #7 Overall

Strome is the younger brother of Ryan Strome, who went fifth overall to the New York Islanders and has 33 points in 46 games as a 21-year-old. Strome is forecast to be a lot like his brother – a big, high scoring centre.

Strome is the second leading scorer in the OHL thus far and showed a real ability to lead his team when McDavid was out with injury. He also proved the naysayers wrong, as his production barely dipped with his big-name colleague out of the lineup.

A top end shot with very good vision, Strome could translate to a top tier centre if he can improve defensively. He doesn’t have the top tier speed of other prospects, but his offensive instincts, size and overall ability are too good a package to ignore.

Lawson Crouse – LW – Kingston (OHL)

6’4″ – 212 pounds

16G – 7A – 23P in 32 GP

NHL Rank: #4 North American Skaters

ESPN Rank: #10 Overall

ISS Rank: #3 Overall

Crouse will be one of the most debated draft picks heading into the draft and with good reason. At the World Juniors, Crouse played on a shutdown fourth line with Leaf draft pick Frederik Gauthier as his centre and the two have drawn comparisons.

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While Crouse had three points to Gauthier’s one, the two looked very effective defensively and completely outclassed offensively. The worry is that he continues to compare to Gauthier, who was a point a game player in his draft year and never improved, despite being bigger and older than the players he faces.

One of the best defensive forwards in the draft in years, Crouse is a very good skater for a man of his size and plays a tough, physical brand of hockey. Despite his low scoring totals he does have a good shot and good puck skills and overall ability.

The debate rages though – is Crouse a man playing boys, in terms of his frame, which make him appear more dominant physically? Will his offense improve when playing against NHL centres?

How much should a team value an under-scoring forward who projects to be very good to elite defensively? Crouse has been ranked as high as third overall and as low as the early teens in some scouts drafts.

It will be interesting to see what he can do to establish himself offensively – his one obvious flaw – during the rest of the season. It should be noted that with a June 1997 birthday, Crouse will be one of the youngest players on draft day.

Zach Werenski – Defence – University of Michigan (NCAA)

6’2″ – 208 pounds

5G – 13A – 18P in 20 GP

NHL Rank: #6 North American Skaters

ESPN Rank: #6 Overall

ISS Rank: #6 Overall

It should come as no surprised that Werenski, ranked sixth overall by all three rankings, finishes sixth overall here too. An incredibly smooth-skating and puck-moving style defender, Werenski has the on ice vision to excel offensively and defensively.

Werenski is one of those players who makes everything look easy and effortless, and is best suited with the puck on his stick. He doesn’t panic under pressure, instead thriving on it and making crisp, effective passes.

While he doesn’t posses an overly physical game, Werenski has bulked up this year, gaining roughly 20 pounds. Teams looking for defensive help that miss out on Hanifin need look no further.

Mitch Marner – Centre – London (OHL)

5’11” – 163 pounds

35G – 58A – 93P in 45 GP

NHL Rank: #7 North American Skaters

ESPN Rank: #4 Overall

ISS Rank: #9 Overall

Marner leads the OHL in scoring and is averaging 2.06 points per game. That’s ahead of fellow OHLers Strome (1.88 ppg) and Crouse (.71 ppg), but behind McDavid (2.64 ppg).

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So why is Marner, the closest offensive talent to McDavid in the OHL and someone far superior to Crouse, ranked seventh on our board? It’s a very simple answer – his size.

While 5’11” is certainly not big, it’s a reasonable enough size by NHL standards. His weight is the problem, currently coming in around 163 pounds, having started the season around 155.

That’s not just light, that’s feather light. Marner gives up 50 pounds to Crouse, who is a month younger. In comparison to Nylander, who is also 5’11, Marner gives up 20 pounds.

He’s got elite offensive talent, with high end skating, shooting, puck skills and vision. He battles hard and has a tremendous work ethic, which scouts hope will translate into an increase in size.

As it is now, Marner would be far to easy to knock off the puck in the NHL, meaning he’ll either have to bulk up significantly or be able to beat people with his speed to succeed. A risk in that regard, he has all the makings of an elite offensive player.

Oliver Kylington – Defence – AIK (Sweden)

6’0″ – 180 pounds

4G – 3A – 7P in 15 GP (AIK)

2G – 3A – 5P in 17 GP (Farjestads)

NHL Rank: #1 European Skaters

ESPN Rank: #7 Overall

ISS Rank: #12 Overall

First off, here’s a quick explanation of how the Swedish Hockey League works. The top tier is the Swedish Hockey League (sometimes referred to as the Swedish Elite League). It’s a 12 team league with Farjestads, MODO, Frolunda and HV71 being the teams you’ve maybe heard of.

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; William Nylander puts on a team sweater after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Current Leaf prospect Andreas Johnson plays for Frolunda, while William Nylander played for MODO. The next league down – think of it like the AHL to the NHL – is called HockeyAllsvenskan or Allsvenskan for short.

For Kylington, his 17 games with Farjestads was in the Swedish Hockey League and he’s currently on loan to AIK in Allsvenskan. It would be similar to the Leafs loaning a player to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The bottom two teams from the SHL and the top four from Allsvenskan play in a tournament at the end of the year, with the top two teams in that tournament going back to the SHL and the bottom four heading down to Allsvenskan. I hope that clears it up.

Kylington missed the World Juniors due to injury. He’s a high end skater and puck mover. His high hockey IQ allows him to be very creative on the ice and to make dynamic passing plays.

He can control the game offensively but needs to work on his defence which is above average. His size is average as well and he doesn’t play an overly physical game.

Ivan Provorov – Defence – Brandon (WHL)

6’0″ – 200 pounds

11G – 33A – 44P in 42 GP

NHL Rank: #10 North American Skaters

ESPN Rank: #9 Overall

ISS Rank: #10 Overall

Provorov is second in the WHL in scoring by a defenceman, three points behind the leader with six less games played. Originally from Yaroslavl, Russia, Provorov moved to North America to play in the Atlantic Metro Hockey League after the 2010-11 season.

He’s shown a strong commitment to North America, so the worry of him going back to Russia to play in the KHL is low, meaning his stock shouldn’t drop in the draft like other Russians. He’s solid defensively and could improve some, though he is good positionally and uses his stick well.

Despite that, his high-end offensive game is what stands out, with good to great puck skills and a great or elite hockey IQ. He’s a quick skater with a good shot who can quarterback a power-play, but can also create offense with his crisp passing while on the penalty kill.

He could easily surpass Kylington as he’s an easier player to judge, having played in the WHL. Despite his higher offensive ceiling, he’s unlikely to catch Werenski, who has superior size and a better defensive game.

So who do you think the Leafs should select? Can they win the Draft Lottery and get Connor McDavid? Tell us in the comments below.