Leafs make most of bleak draft

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

Seven young men became Maple Leafs property via the NHL entry draft Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles and who knows if any of them will ever wear the uniform.

That is the great crapshoot of it all and when you have a team in which the general manager isn't fixated on the draft as a fix, well, this is what you get.

When you weren't expected to start the process until the 62nd pick overall, the bar best be set extremely low in terms of expectation.

That said, despite giving away the No. 2 and No. 32 overall picks to Boston in the Phil Kessel deal last October, Leafs general manager Brian Burke was indeed a busy man Saturday at the Staples Center.

He worked the floor and worked the phones to complete a series of minor deals that showed a willingness to take a shot at unearthing a prospect or two, despite the dire and pressing need for immediate help.

None of those drafted are expected to aid in the team's rebuilding effort right away. In fact, only mucking winger Mike Brown, who was acquired from Anaheim for a fifth-round selection, is likely to be in the lineup next season.

The action started with Burke at least getting into the second round with a pick he used to acquire Bradley Ross with the No. 43 selection. The price to move up 19 spots was modest -- dealing unsigned former draft pick Jimmy Hayes to Chicago.

And it ended by getting a player the team felt had slipped further down the draft board than merited.

Later Burke traded one pick for two later ones and acquired Brown -- a guy who put in nearly a full season for the Ducks last year -- for the 122nd pick overall. Hard to knock that one, either.

Forgetting the specifics of the Kessel deal for a moment -- what's done is done, after all -- Burke did what he could with what he had on Saturday.

He resisted giving up a defenceman -- believed to be Luke Schenn -- for an undisclosed first-rounder on Friday night and sat tight in his unyielding belief that the price for the former Bruins sniper was fair.

"The assets that went into this weekend ... we're happy with the player we got and we think we added some pieces that will help our team down the road," Burke said in his synopsis.

"We think Mike Brown helps right away, so we think it's a good weekend."

It is not, as Leafs TV suggested "all in all, a great draft," for the Leafs. But what did you expect?

What started with six picks starting in the third round turned into seven selections starting in the second and included the acquisition of a body that can at least fill a uniform.

And in Ross, a cantankerous forward with the Portland Winter Hawks, the Leafs have an intriguing prospect.

"He has the proper level of truculence and hostility," Burke said, a familiar refrain since he has been running the Leafs. "He's certainly not a guy we are counting on next year."

Here's where Leafs fans have to take a deep breath and separate the key dates of the NHL off-season. The draft was Part 1, an event that realistically couldn't have been viewed with anything more than modest expectations going in.

The beauty of it is that like with the NFL, there can always be a Tom Brady who hits it big after being picked in the sixth round. There are far more who miss than make in the later rounds, however.

"With a lot of our picks, it's going to be a matter of putting on more weight in the coming years," the Leafs head scout, Dave Morrison said.

As has been clear from the moment the Leafs were officially eliminated from the playoffs for the fifth consecutive spring, the more relevant date is next Thursday's opening of free agency.

Burke acknowledged as much on Saturday, promising that the team will be "active" as he opens his wallet to acquire whatever support he can add to bolster a modest forward brigade from a free-agency group that isn't exactly deep in available talent.

With cash to spend, however, at least Burke can be a serious player in the game.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos