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Matthew Puempel fights Nathan Beaulieu for the puck at the CHL Top Prospects Game
UFAs: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb, Jay Rosehill
RFAs: James Reimer, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson, Matt Lashoff, Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur
With all the trade speculation swirling around the Leafs and a bevy of first-line centres, whether it be Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Brad Richards, Steve Stamkos, Zach Parise, Jordan Staal, Paul Stastny or Stephen Weiss, I thought I’d take a different tack. Everyone knows that Brian Burke’s first offseason priority is to acquire a No. 1 centre.
But what will he do after that to shock the hockey world? Well, how about drafting Matthew Puempel? Although the Maple Leafs seem to have their top four wingers set (Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur/Nazem Kadri), Burke is always looking for ways to improve his team.
The addition of Puempel would be exactly that. Maple Leaf fans: A Phil Kessel who goes to dirty spots along the board to get the puck and crashes the net for goals as well as sniping at least 30-plus pretty goals? No one would say no.
He has been described as the best pure goal-scorer in the draft. This means better than Nugent-Hopkins, better than Landeskog, better than Couturier, better than Huberdeau. It goes without saying that a potential star like this would be gladly welcomed in Toronto. But why has he fallen? Two reasons: major injury and inconsistency.
Now normally those two issues alone would be enough for teams to steer clear of a player, but with no high-end pick, Burke needs to hit a home run. Puempel has never been accused of being lazy, just inconsistent. He’s still young; he can learn.
Remember, he scored 30 goals in both of his OHL seasons on a very bad Peterborough team, the second season shortened by injury. He was also CHL rookie of the year in 2010 and was a consensus top 10 draft pick—in some cases, even top five before his injury. What about the injury? Well, he was operated on by world-renowned hip surgeon, Dr. Marc Philippon. Not a bad recommendation.
Some scouting lists have Puempel dropping all the way down to the mid-twenties. Me, I’m not so sure about that. I’d say out of Puempel and Brandon Saad (another very highly-rated prospect who’s seen his draft stock fall) both would be available in the mid-teens, but not after that. So Brian Burke would have to trade up and, if I were Burke, to be sure about drafting Puempel, I’d be targeting the New York Rangers' No. 15 pick overall.
Rangers GM Glen Sather won’t sell cheaply, so here’s my Maple Leafs prediction for a draft day trade, remembering that you have to give to get...
Maple Leafs: New York Rangers 2011 first-round draft pick (No. 15 overall).
Rangers: Philadelphia's 2011 first-round draft pick (No. 25 overall), Boston's 2011 first-round draft pick (No. 27, No. 29 or No. 30 overall), RFA rights to Clarke MacArthur (I’m confident Kadri can take his spot on Grabovski’s wing and the Rangers need more scoring), Jussi Rynnas (highly-rated goalie prospect and the Leafs have a ton of those... something has to give).
CONCLUSION: With the 15th overall selection of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs are pleased to select from the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, Matthew Puempel.