What should the Leafs do with their First Round Draft Pick?

Hi everybody!

So happy to officially now be a contributor here at CentreofLeafsNation. My goal is to contribute as often as I can so I can keep talking about my favourite things, hockey and the Toronto Maple Leafs. How often we’ll have to see but anyway I decided to take my first post here to talk about something that I don’t think many Leafs Fans have thought about for the last 8 months, the Leafs first round draft pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

I mean, obviously we knew that going into the season we would have a first rounder along with 3 (now 1) second rounders, but this draft is different because for the first time since 2014 there has not been a true number be all end all number one option that has emerged. Couple that with the fact that the Leafs are actually nowhere near where the entire league thought they would be (The bottom 5 maybe bottom 8 tops) and it makes figuring out what to do with this pick a lot harder.  So let’s put on our hypothetical hats and examine if the Leafs should keep this pick or trade it.

Keep It

This chart comes from @SteveBurtch an analytical writer for Sportsnet, and it shows essentially the value of draft picks over time relative to the rest of the class. As you can see first overall picks like Auston Matthews are worth a ton while mid first round picks (like the Leafs current 17th overall pick) are worth a lot but still a lot less.

When we look at it though this chart only measures value over a long period of time, if we look at in the short term, which is the idea for these picks a lower level guy who gets to the NHL faster it looks even worse. of the 24 players picked between 12th overall and 19th overall in the last three drafts, only three have played more than 30 NHL games yet—Dylan Larkin, Brendan Perlini and Jakob Chychrun. And with all due respect to the other two only Larkin has made a real impact since he started playing.

This doesn’t matter though since there is a great prospect at 17-19 that the Leafs should get right?  Well not exactly, the Leafs are currently estimated to pick 17th and the most common prospects that keep popping up in mock drafts are Nicholas Hague, and Callan Foote.

Now Nicholas Hague is a guy Leafs fans in the GTA may be familiar with as he is currently in his sophmore season with the Mississauga Steelheads picking up 18 goals and 46 points in 65 games for the 2nd place Steelheads. Hague is known as an offensive defenseman who has had challenges skating thanks to his hulking 6’6 frame.

Jeff Marek of Sportsnet – Mar. 8th: “Plays in all situations, can anchor a PP. Some scouts think skating still an issue, others not that concerned about his feet. Very poised, well controlled now.”

A solid player no doubt but not necessarily a world beater. Now what about Callan Foote? The last name probably rings a bell as he is the son of Hall of Famer Adam Foote. Known as a solid two way defenseman he had a solid year registering 6 goals and 57 points in 71 games for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

Mike Morreale NHL.com – Jan. 20th: “The 6-3, 213-pound son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote probably won’t be the physical presence his father was, but plays all situations and uses his smarts, reach and strength to contain his opponent and gain position.”

Now don’t get me wrong they both may be great players in the NHL but will they be great players within the next 2 years while Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are still on their ELC’s? I highly doubt it which is why I propose trading this draft pick.

What to trade the pick for

This is the tricky part, because trades don’t just happen. There have been 13 cases since the 2014 draft of 1st round picks being traded for players. Here are the NHLers who have come back in trades where a 1st went the other way: Kevin Shattenkirk, Martin Hanzal, Frederik Andersen, Andrew Ladd, Braydon Coburn, Phil Kessel, Martin Jones, Griffin Reinhart*, Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, Robin Lehner, Keith Yandle, Cody Franson/Mike Santorelli, David Perron and Ryan Kesler.

It has to be understood that these 1st’s are often just pieces in larger deals and considering most teams typically trade established pieces for young players along with picks the Leafs may have to move one of the crop of rookies. Maybe a Leipsic or a Leivo or a few have to go to facilitate a deal it depends on who they want. It has been done though and teams have gotten good pieces out of deals.

If the Leafs wind up picking with their first-rounder this summer, that’s fine. I’d prefer no deal to a bad deal. But given the fact that especially since the defensive FA market is Shattenkirk, Cody Franson and nothing else they should consider looking into that first round pick being traded to help on defense in the next 2 maybe 3-5 years already.

Let us know in the comments what the Leafs should do, look to trade the pick or keep it.