2014 NHL Draft: 5 Perfect Fits for Toronto Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly, Jerry D'Amigo, Carl Gunnarsson and James Reimer are Leafs draft picks that have been significant, to varying degrees, to the club's success this season.
Drafting smartly is a key way to put up the scaffolding in order for an organization to have long-term success. Given the high level of parity in the league, it's challenging to win multiple Stanley Cups in a short period of time.
The new measures of success are making the Stanley Cup playoffs consistently and going deep in the second season from time to time. While free agent signings and trading for players to meet specific needs still makes sense, great home-grown talent often marks the most successful NHL teams.
Unless they make a trade to move up, it appears that the Leafs will have a first-round pick in the 16 to 22 range, given their current standings.
Given that criterion, here are five players that are potentially great picks for the Leafs in the 2014 NHL draft.
All stats, unless otherwise noted, are from hockeydb.com
5. Ivan Barbashev, Centre, Moncton Wildcats
Moncton Wildcats centre Ivan Barbashev has all the tools to be a top-six NHL centre. The 6'3" 185-pound pivot is a versatile player who has 46 points in 36 games this season after gaining 62 points last year.
Barbashev has also spent significant time on the wing so it would not be surprising to see him begin his career on the wing as he grows into a pro role. He has an edge to his game and is not afraid to work the puck down low.
The Leafs could use more skilled forwards in their system, and the ability to take the body regularly is an added bonus.
The talented Russian may not slip this low on draft day but he'd be a great fit with the Leafs.
4. Nick Ritchie, Left Wing, Peterborough Petes
Nick Ritchie has all the attributes that NHL teams are looking for. He's huge, at 6'3" and over 230 pounds.
He also has soft hands and the ability to find the net. He is the kind of player that you're drawn to when you watch him play.
He's got 20 goals in 41 contests this year. Ritchie also has the ability to run over people, almost at will, yet he is creative and has good vision for a big man.
He's accumulated 145 penalty minutes over the last one and a half seasons in the OHL. He looks like a man among boys on most shifts.
The native of Orangeville, Ontario has the tools to be a dominant NHL winger. While his skating could improve, there is every reason to believe that he will be a power forward for many years.
He would be a great asset for the Leafs who could use more size and grit up front in the years ahead.
3. Dylan Larkin, Centre, U.S. National Program
Centre Dylan Larkin has advanced hockey sense for his age. Combined with good size at 6'1" and 190 pounds, Larkin has the potential to be a great pro pivot.
Larkin is a gifted skater who can make skilled plays at high speed. There is every reason to think that Larkin can be a top-six NHL forward, although that is unlikely to happen in the next season or two.
He will be a lot younger than most of the draft-eligible players this June so expect him to continue to grow physically as his on-ice game matures. He makes things happen constantly in the offensive zone, which is a great asset for a centre.
2. Jake Virtanen, Right Wing, Calgary Hitmen
Jake Virtanen may go a lot higher than the middle of the first round, but if he doesn't, he would look very good in a Maple Leafs sweater in the future.
Virtanen has a ton of speed and can back away defenders as he blazes down the wing. He's got a great release and is not afraid to shoot the puck. He's got 48 points in 48 games this season.
The native of Abbotsford, British Columbia will not be 18 until next August, so much like Larkin, he has room to grow on a few levels. The 6-foot winger plays at both ends of the rink and enjoys the physical side of the game.
There is a lot of potential in this WHL star and he will only get better. He'd be a fan favourite in Toronto.
1. Jared McCann, Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Jared McCann does all the little things well. His game can be compared to current Calgary Flame Sean Monahan in many ways.
McCann has a calmness to his game, as he thinks the game very well and can do everything challenging with ease. He plays a three-zone game and is rarely out of position.
No organization can have too many prospects at centre or on the point. McCann is plus-10 with 46 points this season.
He's got the tools to be an excellent two-way NHL centre in the near future. He's the type of player that a coach can send out when he needs a play to be made.