Players Toronto Maple Leafs Should Consider Trading Up for in 2014 NHL Draft
The Leafs currently hold the No. 8 pick, which should yield a very good prospect. The Leafs have been able to improve their organizational depth over the past few seasons as good NHL prospects have developed with the Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies have been a very competitive AHL team, and developing players are learning how to win at the professional level.
The team has a number of good defence prospects, but holes remain at most positions. Like with most other organizations, more skilled players are always needed.
Let's take a look at some prospects the Leafs should consider trading up for later this month.
Aaron Ekblad, Defenceman
Aaron Ekblad is the best defence prospect available in this year's draft. He has size, speed and good skill with the puck.
He thinks the game very well and, at 6'4" and 217 pounds, the Belle River, Ontario, native has the physical size and strength to make an impact at the NHL level as early as next season.
Howard Berger suggested on Monday that the Leafs may be looking to unload Dion Phaneuf in a package deal to Florida to land the No. 1 pick. It would be expected that the club would then select Ekblad.
That would be a huge price to pay for the Leafs, although Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is warranted in demanding a lot for the top pick.
If Toronto managed to make a deal for him, Ekblad would be a great addition to the Leafs' defensive corps.
Leon Draisaitl, Centre
Diehard Leafs fans know that the club could use a skilled, big centre. They don't have to look any further than Germany's Leon Draisaitl.
Draisaitl has played two seasons in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. He made great strides this past season, scoring 38 times and earning 105 points.
He's the total package in that he plays a three-zone game, is a talented scorer and can use his physical prowess to overpower opponents.
Where Draisaitl could improve the most is realizing what an asset his size is down low to cycle the puck and create offensive chances. His reach and hands are exceptional.
He's got great potential. Expect him to go in the top four at this year's draft.
Sam Bennett, Centre
Sam Bennett had an exceptional year with the Kingston Frontenacs. While he may not be the biggest or strongest player in the draft—the NHL combine proved that—he's a great player.
He's been in good hands with owner Doug Gilmour in Kingston. There are eerie similarities between these two players.
If Bennett's career even approaches Gilmour's, teams that pass on him will look foolish in the years ahead. Having had the opportunity to watch Bennett on a few occasions, it's clear that his compete level is off the charts.
He could develop into a great first-line centre. He is one of the younger players eligible to be drafted, so he should continue to mature on a few levels.
If the Leafs get an opportunity to select Bennett, it could be a real game-changer for the organization.
Sam Reinhart, Centre
Sam Reinhart has the skills and pedigree to be an impact NHL centre.
His father Paul Reinhart was an excellent defenceman. His older brothers were both high NHL draft picks Max with Calgary, Griffin with the New York Islanders). Sam may end up being the best of the bunch.
The Vancouver, British Columbia, native stands 6'1" and weighs 183 pounds. He may pack on a few more pounds of muscle, but his game does not depend on it.
He is very similar to Bennett in that he beats his opponents with both his brain and his superior physical skills. Reinhart had 105 regular-season points in the WHL in 2013-14 and added 23 more in 13 playoff games this spring.
Expect Reinhart to develop into a top-six forward, as all indications are that he will be an offensive force in the NHL.
He'll make the players around him better—a great trait in an elite centre.
All stats can be found on hockeydb.com unless otherwise noted.