Leafs need to make the most of 25th draft pick

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It can be difficult to hit a home run from 25e in order.

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Maple Leafs scouts past and present realize those long odds, having held the position four times in the past 30 years. While that whole quartet of picks made the NHL — center Peter Ihnacak set a club rookie points record, defenseman Todd Gill lasted more than 700 games — the Leafs
moved defender Craig Muni before he won a Cup with Edmonton, while hopes for the most recent 25edefenseman Stu Percy in 2011, didn’t work.

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In fact, of all Toronto selections, 20-30e during the same period others had success elsewhere (Tuukka Rask, Brad Boyes, Grant Marshall and Alexander Steen), while Tie Domi (1988) was also traded before being bought out.

This is not to single out the Leafs for lack of luck and vision in the late first round when 31 other NHL teams are also putting months of scouting resources into the decision and may only see positive results four or five years later when they could work. somewhere else. But anyone who was clocked at 25 in previous drafts might remember what a really good team could be made of. Team 25 would include Cam Ward in goal, Jiri Fischer in defense and Andrew Cogliano up front with Brenden Morrow and David Pastrnak. They are three Cup winners and two runners-up, all but Cogliano arriving there with their repechage teams.

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If the Leafs hold from 25th through Thursday’s first round at the Bell Center without going up or down with a deal, they’ll look to a prospect pool for 2022 that’s considered deep rather than heavy.

« There’s not going to be a player of the decade coming out of this class, » Central Scouting manager Dan Marr said at the league’s scouting meeting in Buffalo last month. « But there will be a lot of players who will be stars on the road and play in the NHL for a long time. »

Unfortunately, no immediate help is likely to fall in the Leafs’ way in Round 1 or any other round. But after selecting that top just once in the past four years, general manager Kyle Dubas, player personnel boss Dave Morrison and director of amateur scouting Wes Clark have renewed their enthusiasm for the draft.

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Here are some prospects who could receive a Leaf jersey on Thursday night when the pick comes down:

C Nathan Gaucher, Quebec Remparts

Toronto doesn’t usually touch the Quebec league, especially such a high pick, but Gaucher has produced 31 goals and nine points in 12 playoff games. The 6-foot-3 player from the Montreal suburbs also racked up 74 penalty minutes.

C Jagger Firkus, Warriors of Moose Jaw

The handle is intriguing and the player too. He’s a 5-foot-10 magician with the puck who had 80 points, but those who want the Leafs to go for size and grunt would be out. Unless of course he turns into another Mitch Marner.

RW Jimmy Snuggerud, University of Minnesota

That would probably require a few teams to pass it before the Leafs are in place. It’s a long-term project and his NCAA career is just beginning. But his run with the U.S. National Under-18 team and his hockey lineage (his father Dave played nearly 300 NHL games, mostly with Buffalo) bode well. At 6-1, he could be shifted in the middle.

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C Owen Beck, Mississauga Steelheads

Hockey News’ draft preview has him well below 25, near the start and middle of the second round behind teammate and center Luca Del Bel Belluz. But both have come a long way after sitting out the 20-21 season due to COVID-19. Once safe in the OHL, Beck scored 21 goals and plenty of plaudits for his all-around game. Being raised in the GTA and playing locally would be fine too.

Dr Lian Bischel, Leksand SEL

Along with Swift Current’s Owen Pickering and Drummondville’s Maveric Lamoureux, they’re a trio of the toughest defensemen who should play midway through the first round, so it might be a futile wait for the Leafs. However, the Swiss-born Bischel is more of a mystery man and could be the one who’s still around if the Leafs want to strengthen their blue line.


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