Now that the trade deadline is behind us the next major days on the Leafs calendar all seem to be somewhat draft related. The lottery will obviously be an important day, and it feels like the next month and a half will be spent fretting over the idea of the Leafs falling outside the top three.
There has been some good news on the draft front, besides the fact that the Leafs being very much the owners of the coveted 30th in the league position. The Penguins seem to have positioned themselves to be a very strong possibility for the playoffs, and it would be shocking to see them on the outside.
Further to that, they haven’t looked that good that it’s not incredibly unlikely that the Leafs could have the best possible pick from the Penguins and pick in the 15th overall spot. What a wonderful dream. What a time to be a Leafs fan.
The Consolidated Ranking
With the trade deadline behind us, the Consolidated Draft Rankings are going to become much more of a regular thing on TLN. In fact it was just over a week ago that we ran the last rankings, but with new rankings from Draftbuzz Hockey, HockeyProspect.com and ISS Hockey, it seemed like a good time for a quick refresher, especially considering the significant changes they’ve all made in their rankings.
These outlets along with Future Considerations, McKeens, TSN-Bob McKenzie, TSN-Craig Button, Sportsnet-Damien Cox, and ESPN-Corey Pronman make up the list of rankings used.
The updated rankings are still heavily influenced by the CHL Top Prospects Game. Two of the three outlets are providing their first prospect lists since the game and as a result we’re still seeing some significant appreciation for Pascal Laberge and a growing love of Pierre-Luc Dubois.
My favourite thing about the rankings may be the high/low rankings, which makes it look like there are seven different options to go in the four spot, and after that unanimous first round players will be exhausted by pick 20. This is a wonderfully wide open draft which seems to encourage the idea of trading up or at least accumulating as many picks in the first two rounds as possible.
Laberge climbs into the Top 30 for the first time on the HockeyProspect.com list, and Dubois moves up two spots into the Top 5 overall. Dubois’ climb is even more significant since we see a slide for Jakob Chychrun who is still the top ranked defenseman in the Consolidated list, but he falls being the 3rd listed defenceman here and this is also the closest Chychrun has been to falling out of the Top 10 on any list.
A couple of other trends that we’ve seen across the new rankings are present here. People are falling in love with Logan Brown again, and he’s making significant jumps, and people are falling out of love with Alex DeBrincat, who’s hot start to the season hasn’t been sustained.
The Draftbuzz rankings are even more interesting when you consider them alongside the HockeyProspect rankings. Draftbuzz increased their position on Luke Kunin by seven spots, while HP dropped him 4. Basically, he’s in the exact same position in the consolidated list, but with a lot less consensus on where he should go in the draft.
Draftbuzz is also rather high on Logan Brown again, and like HP, sees Dubois is the fourth best player available in the draft now. They did make a much more aggressive introduction of Pascal Laberge to their list, placing him 19th after not having him in the Top 30 the month before.
Besides that, the significant drops to Max Jones and Julien Gauthier are worth noting. While this hasn’t had a huge impact on their consolidated ranking, it’s becoming more common to see Max Jones in the 20-30 range.
The fact that Julien Gauthier is finding his way to around where the Penguins pick may fall should be the stuff of dreams for Leafs fans.
The ISS Rankings have the same theme of Brown, Dubois, and Laberge appreciation, although on a smaller scale. There’s also the same theme of dropping Chychrun from the top five, having someone new sneak into the four spot. Instead of going with Dubois like the other services did, ISS opted for Alex Nylander, which only adds fuel to the fire about having a brothers act in Toronto.
Closer Look from Tom Hunter
Potential First Rounder- William Bitten – Forward for the Flint Firebirds
Playing in Flint hasn’t been easy for Will Bitten this season; his coach was fired twice, he and his teammates led a boycott against their owner and oh yeah, the entire city is getting lead poisoning from tainted drinking water. After having his draft season nearly completely derailed multiple times, Bitten still sits as a high second round prospect with a very good possibility of sneaking into the first. The young centerman has averaged a point per game playing on a terrible Firebirds team is just waiting for this season to be over. Born in July, Bitten falls into the increasingly popular theory about later birth-dates being better draft picks because they are impressing at a younger age and have further room to grow post-draft. Bitten is a great skater with great speed an allusiveness. He has the puck skills to carry the puck effectively and create scoring chances for himself as well as his wingers. He’s a smart player may be getting undervalued because of how bad the Flint team is around him. With 5 points in 5 games for Canada last summer, Bitten could use the U-18 tournament in April to show what he can do with and against the best of his peers. Bitten has the kind of skill set that may allow him to shine during the tournament and I would be surprised if he wow’d a few scouts to solidify himself as a 1st round pick.
Late First Opinion- Alex DeBrincat- Forward for the Erie Otters
Alex DeBrincat started the season on fire. Hoping to prove that he wasn’t just a byproduct of Connor McDavid, DeBrincat put up obscene goal totals through the first few months of the OHL season. Many who saw the updates on Twitter and checked into his HockeyDB page weekly wondered why he wasn’t getting the respect in the draft rankings. “It’s another example of the size-bias among scouts” was the common refrain. The fact is DeBrincat was never as good a prospect as his goal total suggested and he should not have been thought of close to the top-10. After an underwhelming performance at the World Juniors, DeBrincat had a bad January and just didn’t look like the same player we saw before Christmas. He seems like the kind of player that when things aren’t going his way and his confidence dips, it’s hard for him to snap out of it. There is no doubt that DeBrincat has very good scoring ability. He is a high-volume shooter (currently sits 3rd in the OHL in SH/Game) that can find open space and put himself in a position to take advantage of scoring opportunities. He has a great nose for the net but his puck skills leave much to be desired and he won’t often create offense for his linemates. He doesn’t play like the typical small-winger we’re used to seeing. He doesn’t have the crazy speed an allusiveness of a guy like Johnny Gaudreau or Jiri Hudler. He’ll never be a top line offensive cornerstone but DeBrincat may be the perfect pick for a good team selecting late in the first who can plug him into the lineup in a few years as a secondary offensive option.
In this consolidated ranking there were almost 50 different players that received consideration as a potential first round pick. Players like Tobias Eder might be long shots to become that, but certainly become interesting ideas for a team like the Leafs that presently would have 5 of the first 61 picks.