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Draft Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs – late-round gems

Leafs have valuable pieces in place. Can they afford to keep them all?

There was a time when the Maple Leafs had a glut of quality prospects. That’s not the case now, since the future has arrived and the organization is beginning to leverage its prospects to address needs. The trade to acquire Jake Muzzin for two prospects and a first-round pick was an example. And compared to the bad old days, things are a polar opposite on the drafting and developing front. The Leafs have found quality players in the top, middle and bottom of the draft and have poured resources into developing them.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: The Leafs have no shortage of skill, but the sense is they’re vulnerable when opponents lean on them. There is a dearth of grit in the lineup in the form of players who can both contribute – or at least not hurt the cause – and provide a physical edge that lands on the right side of the rulebook.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: This is a team that is still fundamentally defensively flawed, and the blueline will almost certainly take a hit with the expected departure of Jake Gardiner as a UFA. Muzzin helps, but there’s still a desperate need for a defenseman who can be relied upon in his own end, specifically on the right side.

CAP SITUATION: The Leafs’ cap troubles are going to require all the genius GM Kyle Dubas and his management team can muster. If next year’s cap is $83 million, the Leafs have just $7.2 million in space, but are facing signing RFAs Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, the last of whom has arbitration rights. And Dubas has publicly stated he has no intention of trading William Nylander.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Defensemen Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, the team’s first-round picks in 2017 and 2018, were both hampered by injuries, which affected their ability to have an impact in the AHL. Undersized winger Jeremy Bracco finished second overall in AHL scoring.

DID YOU KNOW: Barring a trade, the Leafs will not have a first-round pick this June for the first time in nine years. Five of those previous eight first-rounders played for the NHL team this season.

(2000-2018 drafts)
Anton Stralman, 216th, ’05
Ian White, 191st, ’02
Kyle Wellwood, 134th, ’01
James Reimer, 99th, ’06
Leo Komarov, 180th, ’06
Carl Gunnarsson, 194th, ’07
Connor Brown, 156th, ’12
Viktor Stalberg, 161st, ’06
John Mitchell, 158th, ’03
Greg Pateryn, 128th, ’08

100+ NHL GAMES: 17


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