How Badly Do The Leafs Need A First Round Pick?


Is there any point to talking about the first round of the draft if you're a Leafs fan? It's starting to seem so. Kaberle's value has surely been established in the past few days as being potentially worth a 1st round pick and maybe a bit more. I guess what I'm asking to Leafs fans is do you really want the pick or do you want a better roster player?

I've put in a little time in reading up on this years prospects, and I do watch the occassional CHL game, not just the World Juniors, and the Memorial Cup and I don't market myself as knowledgable by any stretch of the imagination on this, but of the forwards in this years draft, the only ones who could play in the NHL next season are:
  • Taylor Hall
  • Tyler Seguin
  • Brett Connolly
  • Mikael Grunlund
  • Vladimir Tarasenko
  • Nino Neiderreiter
  • Kirill Kabanov
Kind of an interesting list of names. The first two, forget about. We waved goodbye to that last fall (not a bad thing either, get over it.) Brett Connolly probably needs to spend another year in junior to catch up on the year he missed to his injury. To rush him now would be foolish. Mikael Grunlund is not of the mold Burke is looking for, and honestly, if he's seen as the centerpiece of the Kaberle deal, I'm not sure the Leafs should move Tomas. Tarasenko is committed to the KHL as far as I know, so it's not likely he's coming over this year (if ever.) Neiderreiter is a stretch at best for being NHL ready, but is a dynamic player that could ultimately be worth the deal, and Kirill Kabanov, I could see proving to be NHL ready, but there isn't much sense in talking about him in a Kaberle deal as he has probably fallen well out of the first round.

So, I've brought those players up for a simple point, given MLSE's win now mentality, dealing for a pick as the best asset of a Kaberle deal probably doesn't make too much sense.

Now, if we're talking a later first round pick, accompanying a mid range talent roster player, all of a sudden I have some thoughts on who should be considered. First, MapleLeafsHotstove.com has one of my favourite options highlighted, Brock Nelson. As they have described he's a project power forward (why are PF's always projects?) and has put up outstanding numbers against very weak competition. Another favourite is Jeff Skinner, who although is apparently slow as shit, has the unquestionable ability to put the puck in the net. And quickly rounding out the group are Austin Watson, Riley Sheehan, John McFarland, and Kevin Hayes. Of that group McFarland is most likely to be NHL ready in the next year or so, and Hayes, like his brother will probably require at least three years at Boston College.

This has been a pretty quick look at what's available for forwards in the first round, and honestly, beyond Seguin and Hall, they all have a lot of risk attached to them (Austin Watson is next closest to a sure thing in my mind.) Is it wise to build a trade around someone that could turn into Jiri Tlusty? No matter who Burke gets in the Kaberle trade, I'm going to bet they aren't over 30, so by default the team is getting younger anyways. The Leafs still have a respectable number of draft picks this year, and given the clubs record of finding hidden gems, I'm not too worried.

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