Come draft time, barring any trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs will pick 5th in the 2012 NHL Entry draft. However, don’t count on the 5th pick yet because the Leafs do not have a happy relationship with the draft.
They have been known to trade their early draft picks or prospects for old, star players whose level of play has severely declined. Trades like Adam Mair and a second rounder that would turn into Mike Cammalleri to Los Angeles for Aki Berg and Brad Boyes, Alyn McCauley and a first round pick to San Jose for Owen Nolan, goaltending phenom Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft and possibly the most infamous; two first round picks that would turn into Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and a second rounder that would turn into Jared Knight to Boston for Phil Kessel. Mention of any of these trades make Leafs fans flinch, and for good reason.
After all these years of mediocrity, the Leafs thought they had something this season. They retained a playoff berth until February the 24th, and were not eliminated for contention until March. But by dropping 22 of their last 29 games this season, a historic collapse occurred and the Leafs fell short of the NHL for a seventh-straight season.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though. Before his injury ended his season, left winger Joffrey Lupul was on a point-per game pace and 5th in the league in scoring. Lupul finished the season with 67 points in 66 games, a remarkable total for a Leafs forward. Linemate Phil ‘The Thrill’ Kessel also had a good season, tallying 37 goals and 82 points in 82 games. There is a base to build on. But the Leafs lack a big, number one center. With Tyler Bozak playing on the first line for much of the season and free-agent signing Tim Connolly on the bench, the Buds proved they have no depth at center, and little on the wings after Lupul and Kessel.
That is what they should focus on at the draft.
There will be some great forwards available when they pick 5th. Russian center Alex Galchenyuk will most likely be available to pick. After a season where he recorded 83 points in 68 games with in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, he missed all but two regular season games this year due to a freak injury to his knee. Drafted #1 in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection Draft, he has great hands and projects as a Bobby Ryan or Marian Hossa type forward. If he is still up when Toronto has their pick, look for them to snap him up.
Filip Forsberg is another great prospect who may be available when the Leafs make their pick. Blending size with talent, at 6’2 and 181 pounds Forsberg is already big and is still growing. He is a high skill player who played in the Swedish Elite League this season, recording only 17 points in 43 games. However, he did lead the national Swedish team with 4 goals in 5 games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the summer against players of his own age. The forward can play a defensive game as well as an offensive game and is known as a two-way player. He would be a great addition to a Toronto team that lacks skill.
These are just two of the forwards that I think the Leafs should take at the 2012 NHL entry draft. If you want to hear any more projections, give me a shout out and I’ll see what I can do!