While there may not be that much excitement heading into the 2013 NHL draft for the Toronto Maple Leafs, thanks to their pick being well outside the top 10 (although at this point, I'm sure Leafs fans aren't complaining), this year's draft is still an important one for Toronto, which needs to replenish its prospect pool.
Following the graduation of prospects Jake Gardiner (the 2011-12 season), Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri (this past season), Toronto's prospect pool doesn't boast many top-tier names.
Joe Colborne gave Leafs fans reason for excitement toward the end of the 2013 season, and Morgan Rielly's raw talent has fans impatiently waiting for his development. But beyond that, there aren't many impressive young players. In fact, hockeysfuture.com now has Toronto's system ranked 24th among NHL teams.
Luckily for the Buds, the 2013 draft class is one of the deeper classes in recent memory. Even at pick No. 21, Toronto should be able to snag a solid young gun who can help bolster its farm system.
The question is, how should the Leafs approach their first- and second-round selections this year?
While the big club's defense still appears to be a major concern, Toronto won't find anyone who can make an instant impact on the back end at No. 21. Furthermore, one of the positive aspects of Toronto's prospect pool is its depth in terms on defense.
Youngsters like Matt Finn, Morgan Rielly, Jesse Blacker and Stuart Percy all have the ability to help Toronto's defensive core in the next few seasons.
Considering that the Leafs are also likely to hang onto young defensemen like Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson, and it's safe to say the team can rule out going after a defenseman with the 21st overall pick.
How do you think the Leafs should approach their first few picks?
Next, one of the weaknesses listed by hockeysfuture.com with regard to Toronto's future is the team's depth (or lack thereof) at the goaltending position.
But with James Reimer's emergence this past season and Ben Scrivens proving he can step in should Reimer succumb to injury, I doubt GM Dave Nonis will be looking to select a goaltender in the first round.
Besides, both Reimer and Scrivens are still young, and TSN draft specialist Craig Button doesn't even have a goaltender in his top 35 prospects other than Zach Fucale, who should be off the board by the time the Leafs are up.
Thus, Toronto should be looking to draft a forward at No. 21.
Yet taking the best forward available may not be the smartest move, either.
Per hockeysfuture.com (see link above), Toronto's farm system already boasts gritty and character forwards.
Guys like Carter Ashton and Tyler Biggs are some of the team's top prospects, and both are solid, tough two-way forwards.
What the Leafs are seriously lacking, though, are skilled forwards. Beyond Joe Colborne, the cupboard is nearly bare in that department.
To me, it's fairly evident that Dave Nonis' approach must be to target the most skilled forward (particularly a center if possible) available in each of the first two rounds.