Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking Back at the 2015 Draft


Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking Back at the 2015 Draft

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs had eight draft picks heading into the 2015 NHL Draft. And while they did not make a big splash like other teams, they realized that there was no reason to.

Many expected the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers to be busy at the draft, which they certainly were. The Sabres acquired Robin Lehner and Ryan O’Reilly, while the Edmonton Oilers traded for Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart, and Eric Gryba.

The Boston Bruins were also active. They made a couple of puzzling deals sending Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic in separate deals to receive the 13th and 15th overall selections.

The Leafs selected nine players at the draft.


Reading the comments from Brendan Shanahan‘s media scrum following the draft, it was clear the Leafs were more focused on the draft than moving roster players. Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf were at the top of the list when it came to trade candidates.

In one piece from Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post, Shanahan discussed the mindset he will have going into camp.

"“If we have to come to camp, and we don’t have everything done that we wanted to get done, that’s fine as well,” Shanahan said on Saturday afternoon. “We have a great coach that we think, in a lot of ways, can help some of these guys.”"

Looking at the draft, it is clear the Leafs were not going to be affected by the flurry of moves made in the first round. If anything they got the player they wanted at number four in Marner and got two second round picks by trading the first round pick from Nashville.

The man who ran the draft floor for the Leafs, Mark Hunter, had this to say about Marner:

"“He needs some growth to his game yet,” Hunter said, at the end of the night. “That’s one thing we do like: He’s not a finished product.”"

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Mitchell Marner poses for a photo with team executives after being selected as the number four overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The best recipe for success at the draft is to try to build up as many picks as you can, because you want to load your organization with as much talent as possible. That is why the team traded down from the 24th position, even though players like Travis Konecny, Nick Merkley, and Jérémy Roy were still available.

The Leafs received the 34th, 61st and 68th picks for the 24th pick, where they drafted Travis Dermott, Jeremy Bracco, and Martins Dzierkais. Here is a small report for each player the Leafs selected after Marner:

Dermott, a defenceman currently playing for the Erie Otters had 45 points in 61 regular season games. In the playoffs he had 17 points in 20 games.

Craig Button from TSN sees Dermott as a player who may not be flashy, but plays efficiently by being in the right position, making great breakout plays and having a calming influence. You can read Button’s scouting report on Dermott here.

Bracco, a forward playing with the US-developmental league, is dangerous with the puck. Button says Bracco could benefit from shooting more with the puck, but sees the play well by threading the puck into high traffic areas.

He likes to work in the perimeter and high slot in the offensive zones, where he tries to elude defenders in hopes of creating high percentage scoring chances. You can read more about Brocco here.

Andrew Nielsen is a big physical defenceman, who has been relied on a lot as a rookie with Lethbridge in the WHL. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he has the big frame to be a solid defenceman.

However, he will need time to develop into the type of player that Hunter hopes he can be a couple of years down the road. You can read more about Nielsen here.

Dzierkals, a Latvian forward, is a player who has a quick release and is not afraid to try things offensively. He currently plays in Europe, but is expected to make the move to the CHL, where Leafs fans can get a better look at him.

Hunter believes he got a bargain with Dzierkals, but only time will tell whether this is true. You can read more about Dzierkals here.

Jesper Lindgren, a defenceman playing for MODO in the Swedish league, has the skill and hockey sense the Leafs were looking for. He does not make frantic plays with the puck and will not shy away from battling for the puck.

He is another player who will benefit from sizing up, as he stands at 6’0″ 161 pounds. You can read more about Lindgren here.

Dymtro Timashov could be the player to look back at and wonder how he fell all the way to the fifth round? The QMJHL rookie of the year and a rising star in the Q after he made the move from Sweden.

McKeen’s hockey had him ranked in the top 60. One of the improvements he made was creating more offence off the cycle rather than off the rush.

His 64 even strength points were better than Tim Meier and Evgeny Svechnikov, who were selected in the first round. Give Timashov a couple of years to dominate the QMJHL and he could be a player other teams may regret missing. You can read more about Timashov here.

Stephen Desrocher, a defenceman from the Oshawa Generals, will be happy to know he could be playing in the NHL one day under former Generals Head Coach D.J. Smith. Smith won the Mastercard Memorial Cup with the Generals and accepted an assistant coaching position with the Leafs shortly after.

Desrocher does a good job protecting the puck, by using his big 6’4″ frame. He has a great shot, which was put on display at the Memorial Cup along with his Corey Crawford-like excitement for the camera. You can read more about him here.

Nikita Korostolev, the final pick in the 2015 draft by the Leafs, is a player who tries to play a dominating puck possession game by using his skill. He has the tools to be a gifted offensive player; great shot, crisp passes and relentless forecheck.

He plays for the Sarnia Sting, but fell to the seventh round, in part because of his skating. Scott Wheeler from Pension Plan Puppets believes the Leafs are getting great value for Korostolev, as he finished with the seventh highest points per game among OHL draft eligible forwards. You can read more about what Wheeler had to say about Korostolev here.

What the Leafs like about each player they selected is that every scout loves the skill and hockey sense each draft pick has. The Leafs did not take a lot of risk with their picks.

While some may not be the best skaters or have overall size, it goes without saying that the Leafs want to create a team based on skill first. With the proper time to develop, expect a majority of these players to be key assets moving forward, especially when they come to play in the AHL with Sheldon Keefe who is great at maximizing potential.

This is why a skilled player like Kessel could remain with the Leafs moving forward. If I had to give the Leafs a grade for the draft it would be an A-, because a couple of picks have the opportunity to be sleeper picks if they stay on track with their potential.