Going into this year’s draft, there were a lot of expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke held a season ending press conference saying that he would attempt to move up in the draft and attempt to go after John Tavares, which essentially got every Leafs fan excited for the future and excited for the draft.
Of course once again, Leafs fans were let down.
Burke did not move up in the draft and didn’t pull off a miracle in getting John Tavares. But still there was hope in drafting Luke Schenn’s brother Braydon, who was projected to go fifth overall. Fans hoped for the big deal that would see the Leafs move up and get Braydon Schenn.
Once again Leafs fans were disappointed and the Los Angeles Kings did not part with their pick.
So what were we to do next?
With the seventh overall selection, there was a lot of speculation that the Leafs might still trade down to get Zack Kassian, while also getting more draft picks.
But instead of something exciting happening, the Leafs uneventfully drafted Nazem Kadri of the London Knights. A good player and a solid prospect but not what Leafs fans exactly imagined.
Kadri is a small forward with a lot of skill and a nose for the net. Not your typical Brian Burke player. Plus to boot he was a Montreal Canadiens fan, which to be honest, didn’t sit well with me.
So after Friday and Saturday passed, I looked at who we got and was puzzled.
I didn’t know how to take it. No big names and nothing flashy. So I thought I would give it a couple days and wait to see how I felt about the draft.
What I came up with is that the Leafs had an amazing draft, taking all players that would fit the mould of a Brian Burke team. Kind of like the draft, none of them are flashy or the types of players that jump off the page, but if all pan out, will each contribute in a big way with the team.
Here is my scouting report for each player drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft:
First Round, Seventh Overall—Nazem Kadri—London Knights—Center
Nazem Kadri is a tall, lanky prospect who has the potential to be a number one center down the road, something that the Maple Leafs have not had for some time. His stick handling is considered to be one of the best from the draft and is also considered a clutch playoff performer, scoring 21 points (9G and 12A) in 14 playoff games. Finally, before his jaw injury, people worried about his toughness. But after coming back from a broken jaw, after only missing 17 games, there is no question that he can play through the pain, which obviously caught Brian Burke’s eye.
Player Comparison: Marc Savard
Second Round, 50th Overall—Kenny Ryan—USNDP—Right Wing
Kenny Ryan is a strong skater that plays a very solid two-way game. He is very hard to knock off the puck because of his big size and is a very hard worker in the corners. One thing to note is that he is also very gritty, with Darren McCarty being his favourite player growing up. The difference between the two is that he is also very fast on his feet, being one of the fastest to come from the United States National Development Program.
Player Comparison: Todd Bertuzzi
Second Round, 58th Overall—Jesse Blacker—Windsor—Defenseman
Although at first it does not look like it, Jesse Blacker is a great two-way defender with a great defensive presence and an ability to always be in position. He is good in the corners, almost always being able to come out with the puck. He also has an underrated ability to move the puck, something that was not able to be shown with limited ice time last season. Finally, unlike most two-way defenseman, he is a really sound and fast skater, being able to skate back on the rare occasion that he is caught out of position.
Player Comparison: Dennis Wideman
Third Round, 68th Overall—Jamie Devane—Plymouth—Left Wing
Even though Devane was unranked by most NHL scouts, this pick makes all the more sense when you look into it. Jamie Devane was one of the biggest fighters in the OHL last season, getting 14 fighting majors last season. What that also tells us is that in playing 64 games, he only got 22 actual penalties, which means that he is not dirty by any means. One thing you can count on with this kid is that he will come into every game playing as hard as he can, while doing everything possible to win. The two big knocks on this kid is that he is not a good skater and has no scoring touch, but in all honesty, I really don’t think Burke drafted him for his gracefulness and scoring ability.
Player Comparison: Chris Neil
Fifth Round, 128th Overall—Eric Knodel—Philadelphia Jr. Flyers—Defenseman
The first thing that stands out about this kid is his size, standing at 6'6" while weighing an astonishing 216 lbs. That size is very rarely seen from a high school kid. Another thing that stands out about the kid is his ability to shutdown opposing players, saying that he takes a pride in always having a good plus/minus. Finally, and the most important reason why I think Burke drafted him, is his heart. Knodel is the type of guy that always has a team first mentality and is always willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to win, which means that Burke can mold his 6'6" frame into whatever playing style he wants; something that is very hard to find in a hockey player.
Player Comparison: Pavel Kubina
Sixth Round, 158th Overall—Jerry D’Amigo—USNDP—Right Wing
Jerry D’Amigo was ranked 67th by central scouting for this year’s draft. So why did he fall so far? The reason is because of his decision making. Although he does possess great offensive abilities and great puck-handling skills, he sometimes has the habit of losing focus which in turn hinders his decision making on the ice. Not to mention, his defensive game could use some work. But still, you cannot deny his scoring potential and his tenacity with the puck, being another player drafted that has a lot of heart and leadership abilities.
Player Comparison: Brian Gionta
Seventh Round, 188th Overall—Barron Smith—Peterborough—Defenseman
Son of former NHLer Steve Smith, he is considered more of a project at this point. But standing at 6'4", there is potential here. He has a great physical aspect to his game, being able to dish out crunching hits. Besides that, there is a lot of work to be done here. His positioning is average at best and his skating leaves a lot to be desired. But I imagine with more playing time in the OHL next season, a lot of those issues will be addressed.
Player Comparison: Greg Zanon
Also, I have a new blog and if you want to check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/ and see all my articles starting from March 7, 2009.