With the Toronto Maple Leafs having the fifth overall pick in the upcoming draft, they have a lot of options in front of them. This draft is looking to be very deep with a lot of players possessing qualities that would fit into the mold that Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle are trying to create.
What this list will focus on are the nine players that I feel will fit best into the Maple Leafs' atmosphere. With the Leafs' dire need being a legit No. 1 center, this list will mainly focus on players that can help fill that void, as well as others who would be useful pieces.
Enjoy the list and don't forget to leave comments!
First up, we have Mikhail Grigorenko.
While he is not the top-ranked player in the draft, Grigorenko is the highest rated player with a boatload of potential whose style of play would fit with what the Leafs are looking for.
Grigorenko has a skill set that will not only help the Leafs, but complement the skill set of Phil Kessel on the top line. He has great hockey IQ, on-ice vision and playmaking ability that makes him look like the perfect candidate for the Leafs to look into this year.
Along with his great skill and playmaking ability, Grigorenko also has the size and strength that GM Brian Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle look for in their players.
Grigorenko came over to play for the Quebec Ramparts in the QMJHL from Russia this past season and put up great numbers for a rookie scoring 40 goals and 85 points leading his team in goals and second in points.
Grigorenko is currently ranked as third among North American skaters. With the Leafs holding the fifth overall pick, drafting Grigorenko would likely see them trading up to either second or third overall.
This would see the Leafs making a trade with either the New York Islanders or Montreal Canadiens. Toronto would most likely have to include this year's second-round pick or a prospect like Mueller/Holzer/Leivo/Nicholls/D'Amigo to insure they acquire Grigorenko.
Next up, we have Alex Galchenyuk.
While he has been injured for the majority of this season, he is still considered a top prospect and a player with the potential to be a top player on any team for years to come.
Galchenyuk burst on the scene last year with the Sarnia Sting scoring 31 goals and 83 points. Playing along with this year's top-ranked prospect Nail Yakupov, Galchenyuk's numbers may be a little bit inflated, but scouts still believe that he himself is a top-line talent.
Scouts have compared his elusive style of play to Evgeni Malkin because of his size, stick-handling skill and ability to weave in and out of traffic. He possesses a great shot and deceptive release that can help him become an accomplished goalscorer at the NHL level.
While he is a wild card right now because of his injury, he has rejoined the Sarnia Sting for their playoff run. Galchenyuk is ranked fourth among North American skaters behind Mikhail Grigorenko and while his skill set is a little different from Grigorenko, it would still be an asset for the Leafs.
He is also in a position where the Leafs can draft him right now. It will ultimately come down to who Brian Burke and Leaf scouts see the best fit in.
Filip Forsberg is the top-ranked European prospect in this year's upcoming draft and is expected to go anywhere between third and seventh overall, right in the perfect spot for the Leafs to take him.
While he may not have the biggest frame out there, he does possess good size and is very strong on his skates. Along with that, he has tremendous speed for someone so young and great on-ice vision that will make him a very appealing player to most teams.
Forsberg spent this past year playing for Leksand in the Swedish Elite league and, while he is still considered a work in progress, is a player who could fit the Leafs' current mold as either a center or a winger.
Having another talented Swede on the roster will also bring back memories of the days Sundin laced up for the Leafs. He is still developing and can continue to put on more size and, if he is able to realize his potential, he has the ability to be a more effective player for the Leafs than Sundin was.
Radek Faksa is an interesting choice but has good size and knows how to use it to his advantage that will impress Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle. Not only does he have good size but great speed as well considering.
Faksa spent the past season in the OHL playing with the Kitchener Rangers. He led all rookies in scoring this past season with 29 goals and 67 points and has continued to impress scouts time and time again. While he does lack a certain wow factor to his game, he does possess great hockey IQ and is an adept two-way player.
Faksa is currently ranked seventh among North American skaters in a position where the Leafs can easily draft him or trade down to draft him as well. If Burke and company decide that drafting Faksa is the right course then they can easily acquire another pick or make a larger trade involving picks and players to help bolster the Leafs roster.
Brendan Gaunce spent the last season playing with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL scoring 28 goals and 68 points in his second season. Gaunce is not the type of player to "wow" opponents offensively, but he brings a lot more qualities to the table that makes him a desirable player.
Gaunce possesses great vision, skating ability and a shot that will make him a quality NHL player one day, but he does all the little things that coaches love. He has good size and uses it to protect the puck as well as go into those dirty areas. Along with that, he has great leadership qualities on and off the ice that will make him a valuable asset to a young Maple Leafs team.
Gaunce is currently expected to be drafted between 15th and 20th overall and if the Leafs feel like he is the player for them, could trade down to acquire some more picks/prospects that they can use themselves or include in another trade for a top-line center or big talented top-six winger.
Leafs management has a lot of options if they decide to take this route and down the road it could prove to be the right decision.
When looking at Stefan Matteau, what scouts see is a player who is physically fit to play in the NHL right now. He has the right combination of size, skill set and effective skating stride that makes him a coveted prospect in this year's draft.
Matteau has all the makings to be an effective power forwards in the NHL one day and his work ethic and determined style of play is something to be desired. He has the ability to put up good offensive numbers but does not let his play without the puck suffer.
While Matteau may not become the first-line center that Leafs nation covets right now, he has the right skill set and build to compliment the direction Burke and company are taking.
Matteau is currently ranked 17th among North American players which will likely make him a late first-round pick. The Leafs would need to trade way down from their fifth overall pick or maybe even consider making some roster trades for prospects and look into Matteau as well.
When looking at Tomas Hertl, we see a prototypical Burke player. He has a good blend of size, speed and skill as well as grit and showing a willingness to play a physical game.
Hertl basically came out of nowhere this year to become one of the top offensive producers for Slavia Praha HC in the Czech Elite league scoring 12 goals and 25 points. He continues to impress scouts and has been one of the top risers in the upcoming draft.
Hertl is currently ranked fifth among European skaters and will likely be a mid to late first-round pick. Like with Matteau, the Leafs would either need to trade down from fifth overall or look to acquire another first-round pick from a playoff team if they decide that Hertl is the guy they want.
Zemgus Girgensons is a capable center who is strong in all three zones and knows how to use his size to his advantage. He is a good offensive producer, but needs to improve his skating which would help benefit his offensive ability as well.
This past year, Girgensons played with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL leading his team in goals (24) and points (55). He has the size and skill to be a similar type of player to Mats Sundin one day, but the odds of him becoming a bona fide No. 1 center is still up in the air. He has the make to be a solid top-six forward one day.
Girgensons is currently ranked 18th among North American skaters, but will likely go somewhere between 15th and 25th overall. So if the Leafs decide to go for Girgensons, they will need to trade their pick down once again.
Martin Frk is an interesting case, but is still a player that should be on Burke's radar. While his season has been plagued by injury this year, he is finally coming back to form and is a player who possesses all the qualities that Burke looks for in his players. He is able to be a consistent producer offensively and plays a very gritty style of hockey that helps him get under opponents' skin.
Frk burst onto the scene last season with the Halifax Mooseheads by scoring 22 goals and 50 points as a rookie, but was only able to follow that up with 16 goals and 29 points in 34 games this year. However, he finally looks to be returning to form during the QMJHL playoffs.
Personally, I would love nothing more than to see the Leafs find a way to draft Frk. He plays a similar style of game to current Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross with his gritty style of play and ability to get under opponents' skin. Having those two players on the Leafs roster in a couple of years would make the Leafs very difficult to play against.
Frk is currently ranked 20th among North American skaters, but could be drafted anywhere between 15th and 35th overall. The Leafs should look into trading up from their 35th overall pick to somewhere between 15th and 20th overall. Toronto would likely have to include another pick and/or a prospect like Mueller/Leivo/Nicholls/Holzer.