Leafs looking up and down

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Maple Leafs' amateur scouting boss Barry Trapp has spent his first two drafts watching the hockey world pass by, pining for the second or third round before getting to work.

But at tomorrow afternoon's talent show in Ottawa, Toronto's table will be buzzing in anticipation of the 21st selection, the third-highest spot in the past 10 drafts. In 2004, Trapp had to wait until 90th overall before selecting goaltender Justin Pogge.

"It will be exciting to draft someone so high and turn them over for development," Trapp said as scouts and management gathered in Bytown. "But it wasn't a case of being frustrated before. Deals were made to try and win Stanley Cups and it's good we had those (draft pick and youth) resources to trade. Scouts realize that it's part of the business."

But the Leafs haven't won many of the gambles, going back to 1991 when Floyd Smith swapped Tom Kurvers for a pick that almost became Eric Lindros and ended up as Scott Niedermayer. In the Cliff Fletcher "draft, schmaft" years in the mid-1990s, the Leafs also went hungry without Cups or first-rounders.

Pat Quinn gave up first-rounder Brad Boyes as part of the Owen Nolan deal and John Ferguson sent last year's No. 1 to the Rangers for Brian Leetch.

But the chance to land Sidney Crosby invigorated the Leafs scouts this past season, despite the lockout.

"John told us at the start of the year to do all regular scouting work with the idea we'll pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 30," Trapp said. "As a result, we've had our best draft coverage ever, better than a lot of teams who maybe cut back because of the lockout.

"We were told to go full bore in Europe and there wasn't a single hockey player we didn't know about."

The ping pong balls didn't drop for the Leafs in the Crosby lottery, but they'll pick around where they would have in a normal 100-point season. But Ferguson won't guarantee sitting still at 21.

"We've explored moving up and moving back," he said last night. "We're quite flexible and if we get something intriguing (in a trade offer), we'd move. We've made some calls and also received calls from teams ahead of us and behind us."

The Pittsburgh Penguins would never trade Crosby, but Trapp is convinced that any pick from No. 2 through No. 6 is roughly equal value.

Ferguson, meanwhile, believes the Leafs can stay at 21 and have the pick pay off.

"The yield on the top 10 (usually) is significantly better than 20 through 30, but not always," he said. "I can remember (1998) when Christian Backman, Jiri Fischer, Mike Van Ryn and Scott Gomez all went 24 to 27.

"There's no reason we can't get a good player, too."


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