Hockey, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: The Maple Leafs’ 2014 Draft

The Leafs missed the playoffs for the 8th time in the last 9 seasons and, as a result of that failure to improve in any tangible way over the last decade, the Leafs were handed their 3rd Top 10 pick since 2008. (Though it should have been their 5th Top 10 pick, but that’s another story.) So that’s exciting.

The question is, how did they fair with their picks this draft?

First Round: 8th overall: William Nylander, C/RW:

Stats:

  • 19G, 14A for 33P, +4 in the Swedish Division 1 league
  • 1G, 6A for 7P, -3 as a 17-year-old in 22 games in the Swedish Elite League

Rankings:

  • Button: 9th
  • Central Scouting: 2nd European Skater
  • ISS: 5th Skater
  • The Hockey News: 6th
  • Hockeyprospect.com: 8th
  • McKeen’s: 8th
  • McKenzie: 9thThere seems to be debate

Note: Nylander is listed as both a “C/RW” and a “LW” on the same website, but he appears to shoot right, so let’s go with “C/RW.”

So the Leafs have drafted someone at what appears to be the consensus point, or close enough. A friend of mine tells me he was considered by some to be the prospect with the highest “ceiling” of any pick, but I don’t have a source for that. There seemed to be some debate as to who should go first (no consensus for the #1). But I guess the question is, given that Nick Ritchie was still available, was Nylander the right choice?

Ritchie was rated by some higher than Nylander: hockeyprospect.com had him 5th and Central Scouting had him as the 5th North American (so that’s debatable). But more people had him ranked lower, in some cases significantly (Button had him rated 16th). So I think the Leafs have made the safer move, which I must generally support.

My hope is that the Leafs don’t ruin him. What I would do in their situation is stash him on a junior team in the CHL this year. I guess he might be okay playing in the SEL but I would rather him play in a league with more games. So yeah, I would stash him on a good team in the CHL (if that could be arranged) and see how he adjusts to “the North American” game and, particularly, the schedule ordeal. (Hopefully a long playoff run in the CHL would give him a closer taste of the ordeals of playing in North America than the 40-50 total games he would see with Modo.) And then next season (2015-16) I would put him on the Marlies, give him Top 6 minutes and see what he can do.

But I’m 95% sure that’s not what will happen, and Nylander will be the camp this year and might even make the team if Carlyle is smoking something.

Third Round: 68th overall: Rinat Valiev, D:

Stats:

  • 6G, 7A for 13P, -6 in 36 USHL games
  • 5G, 23A for 28P, +27 in 55 WHL games

Valiev went undrafted last season though he had left Russia to play in the USHL (i.e. the pre-College top tier junior league in the States). Instead he was drafted into the WHL.

So though picks from this round often lead to nothing, we have to wonder at least a little about why a player like this would go undrafted. So, the question is, do we know more about him that’s good or are the Leafs doing their usual “off the board” thing with their low picks?

Honestly, I don’t know but I lean towards “off the board” because Hockey’s Future doesn’t even have a prospect rating for him. So this looks like a mistake.

Fourth Round: 103rd overall: John “J.J.” Piccinich, RW:

Stats:

  • 30G, 43A for 73P, -26 in 123 USHL games

Piccinich is going to university next year, so that’s good news.

But I think this is a little off the board again, but there is very little information to make much of an assessment, besides from his USHL numbers, which are obviously unspectacular.

Fifth Round: 128th overall: Dakota Joshua, C

Stats:

  • 2G, 0A in 6 games for the US National Development Team
  • 17G, 22A for 39P, +6 in 56 USHL games

Joshua is another USHL prospect with very limited information available.

In the fifth round, there isn’t really a board any more (if there even was in the fourth). Joshua has a bit better numbers than Piccinich, but I know nothing about him.

Sixth Round: 158th overall: Nolan Vesey, LW:

Stats:

Vesey plays in a brand new league somewhere in the depths of the US hockey system. I have no knowledge of this system and no knowledge of the kind of competition this kid would have been playing against in this league. I do know that the lower tiers of the Canadian system are lower for a reason.

But at this point in the draft, it’s time to take flyers on players dominating in lower levels, I would think. I guess this guy finds his way to a US college next.

Seventh Round: 188th overall: Pierre Engvall, LW:

Stats: no significant information available at hockeydb.com

I literally know nothing about this player except that he played 1 game in the same league as Nylander used to play in before graduating to the SEL.

Conclusion

The Leafs appear to have drafted by both need and talent, drafting a skilled centre (one hopes he can play centre) in the first round.

The rest of the draft is hard to evaluate in part because the Leafs had no 2nd round picks (anybody know where it went?). We can say that they definitely didn’t draft by need, as they took nearly all forwards (one D, no goalies) but hopefully they drafted by talent – and I honestly cannot say based on the limited information I could find about these players. If they did, it would be a welcome change from the old regime who would often prefer “truculence” in the late rounds to actual hockey ability.

If any player other than Nylander makes it to the NHL, the draft will have to be viewed as a success. Here’s hoping.

PS: Draft Day Trade

St. Louis gets: Carl Gunnarsson, 27, D:

  • 20:14 ATOI; 15G, 71A for 86P, +15 in 304 games
  • $3.15 mil per season until 2016 (but Leafs pay retain $200,000 of his salary)
  • 94th pick in this draft (Ville Husso)

Toronto gets: Roman Polak, 28, D:

  • 18:59 ATOI; 13G, 66A for 79P, -7 in 424 games
  • $2.75 mil per season until 2016

Um, what? The leafs traded their #2 D and a pick for the #5 D on the Blues??? For a savings of less than $500,000 (without the retained salary)? How does this make any sense? (Want to see a more thorough examination than I have time to write right now? See this.)

This is one of Nonis’ worst moves of his tenure. It is absolutely terrible. Just unbelievably bad. How do you trade Gunnarsson and a pick for a guy who barely plays? How? But of course, Leafs fans like it. [Link removed because it 404s.]

I hate Nonis. I absolutely hate him. He is terrible. I can’t even be rational about it any more. And Shanahan is looking more and more every day like he is also totally, totally crazy.

Thanks Brian!

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