NHL Draft Picks at No. 4 Who Could Play for the Maple Leafs in 2015-16
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in desperate need of better hockey players at all positions. With the possible exception of goaltender, the Leafs need more talented and hard-working players at every position.
Dynamic defenders and strong, two-way centres who can score are the team's top priorities. The Leafs are so weak in these departments that the 2015 NHL draft may yield a player who will be playing big minutes either at centre or on the point in 2015-16.
Let's take a look at some players who may fit that bill for the Leafs this fall.
Dylan Strome, C, Erie Otters
Dylan Strome would be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick if it weren't for a couple of outstanding players named Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Just because Strome isn't either of them doesn't mean he won't be an outstanding NHL player.
In fact, it will be very surprising if the talented pivot isn't a longtime No. 1 NHL centre. He's in the mold of a Joe Thornton or Jason Spezza, although he may be slightly more physical than each of those skaters. He has to continue to work on his skating, but he has great hands which allow him to score goals while setting up linemates for opportunities.
He's an elite offensive talent who should put up big numbers at the pro level. He's bright with great hockey sense. He constantly makes smart plays with the puck. If he plays with a pair of sniping wingers, it could be a scoring bonanza for the club that drafts him.
He may not be available with the No. 4 pick, but if he is and the Leafs select him, he's almost certain to start with the Leafs next fall.
Mitch Marner, RW, London Knights
Some players are simply too good for major junior hockey, even at a relatively young age. At 18 years old, Mitch Marner falls into that category. He may have already been there this year.
While the Leafs need more help down the middle and on the point, they certainly can use more talent on the wing. Marner has oodles of that.
He dangles. He blazes down the wing. He makes everyone around him better. He's a rare offensive talent despite not approaching 200 pounds (he's 160) and being 5'11". With his puck skills, size is not a limiting factor.
Without question, Marner has the talent to play at the NHL level in 2015-16. If the Leafs select him at No. 4, look for him to make a push to do so in training camp this fall.
Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings
Ivan Provorov is an exciting defensive prospect who is destined to be a top-pairing NHL defenceman. He's an offensive-minded blueliner who has exceptional mobility.
The Russian defender excelled in his first and only year of WHL hockey. His transition to the demanding league was very smooth.
While he's at his best in the offensive zone, he's also capable of playing in all three zones. He joins the rush a lot, but he has the speed to recover and break up the play coming the other way.
His mark of 61 points in 60 games projects well for his future. Given the lack of NHL talent on the Leafs blue line right now, he would be given every opportunity to be in the team's top six next season.
Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College
If Noah Hanifin is available at No. 4, it will be extremely difficult for the Toronto Maple Leafs to take someone else. If the organization hasn't figured out that the best NHL teams are anchored by elite defencemen, then it hasn't been paying attention.
Hanifin has no weaknesses in his game. He has great size and plays a simplified game that allows him to control the play. He's an effortless skater who makes the game look easy.
Because he's such a great skater, he appears to be coasting at times. He's not. He's simply conserving until the play requires a short burst. He may not have the offensive upside of Provorov, but he's destined to be a top-pairing defender.
He's good enough right now that a top-four role is not out of the question in Toronto in 2015-16. The Leafs defence would be instantly upgraded with Hanifin's addition.
All stats can be found on HockeyDB.com unless noted otherwise.