2011 NHL Entry Draft: What This Means for the Future of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Was it really any surprise to hear Gary Bettman utter "we have a trade" before the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft? With Tyler Biggs still on the board, it was obvious that Burke would be foaming at the mouth to get him.
Biggs, a 6'2", 200-pound product of the U.S. National Development Program, is one of the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
Most people are unhappy with this pick. The points are valid; Burke coughed up the 30th and 39th overall picks to move up, and ended up passing on skill players like Matt Puempel and Zack Phillips.
Let's get something straight: None of the skill players available were upgrades over anyone in Toronto's top six, nor were they improvements over its top forward prospects—Kadri, Colborne, Frattin, McKegg—prospects that are all skill players.
Biggs was the best pick available for the Leafs. Why? His size, toughness, leadership and additional scoring touch. Many write off his scoring ability, which is unfair.
Want to see something fun? When Milan Lucic was drafted, he had just come off a season in the WHL in which he had nine goals, 10 assists and 149 penalty minutes in 62 games. Not exactly crazy offensive numbers. His next WHL season? 30 goals, 38 assists in 70 games, and 19 points in 22 playoff games.
Biggs had 11 points in 20 games in the USHL, a league that is definitely becoming comparable to some of the CHL.
One more thing—Biggs grew up a fan of the Leafs. He wants to play in Toronto, and he wants to win in Toronto. Burke is creating a culture in the locker room.
The Leafs needed to add size to their future forward groups. They did.
With that, Burke's drafting shows one more thing—he plans to address the top-six skill needs sooner than later. People seem to overlook this.
All of this talk about Biggs—what about Percy? It shouldn't be too surprising that Burke wanted to take a defenseman with one of his two top picks. He builds from the net out, and this is further proof.
Like Biggs, Percy says that being drafted by the Leafs is a "dream come true". Don't let that overshadow Percy's game, though—he plays a no-nonsense defensive game and is tough to beat in one-on-one and two-on-one scenarios.
It is easy to be an armchair GM and nitpick every little thing that Burke does during this rebuild/retool/whatever you want to call it. Quite frankly, I believe that no matter that Burke did at the draft, he would have been criticized for it.
As far as I am concerned, Burke is slowly gathering pieces that will translate into a competitive team that could be challenging for a Stanley Cup in a mere couple of years.
There is a culture being built in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, one that wants to play here and win here.
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