June 19, 2007
Leafs prepared for all scenariosHead into draft with all bases covered
By LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media
Chances are slim and none the Maple Leafs will come out of this weekend's National Hockey League draft with a hot young winger ready to plug into Mats Sundin's line.
But few if any of the 30 teams involved expects an automatic windfall in Columbus. The shifting fortunes of the Central Scouting Bureau's top prospects through this year are the first clue and lack of any recognizable names beyond the top five or six skaters means a lot of clubs are in wait and see mode.
"I'd describe it as a middle-heavy draft class," said Leafs' amateur scouting director Dave Morrison, whose team picks 13th in Friday's first round. "There isn't a no-brainer such as Sidney Crosby, more like a lot of potential stars down the road.
"But you've got the unusual situation of a team with multiple picks (Edmonton has three) in the first round and some with two (Washington and Philadelphia). That adds a new dynamic where one of those teams might take a flier on a kid they normally wouldn't. You might also see some trades."
The Leafs are leaving open the possibility of a deal to move up, but it would take only a roll of the dice from one or two teams ahead of them to get a player they thought wouldn't be around. Still, it would take a very special teenager to come out of this draft and into the Leafs lineup. Toronto is taking its time with last year's No. 1 Jiri Tlusty, whom they took at 13, their highest position in nine years.
"He had a good year in the Soo, learning the language and the style of play in North America," Morrison said. "When a player makes the NHL right away, it has to be the perfect fit for player and team.
"We're going to take the best guy. We're not going to take a forward (a lean part on the current depth chart) at the expense of a guy who'll be a better defenceman down the road."
Morrison said the Leafs are ready for all scenarios, presumably everything from a trade to move up or down, an Angelo Esposito or Logan Couture slipping to 13th or jumping at a dark horse.
The Leafs have choices in all seven rounds, with an extra fourth rounder.
"We're excited," Morrison said. "This is the culmination of a lot of planes, trains and automobiles for our staff."