Scouting staff 'ready for anything'

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

The last thing Dave Morrison wants is to appear gleeful at the on-ice plight of the Maple Leafs.

As Toronto's director of amateur scouting, each loss to a conference rival brings the club's highest draft pick in 20 years closer to his sphere of influence. Prospects Steve Stamkos and Drew Doughty have become household names in Leaf Nation, yet Morrison is sensitive to any defeatist-type quotes on his part getting back to the Leafs dressing room.

"Let's just say we're covering all the bases for the draft," Morrison said, while in transit in Scandinavia where 1989 and '90 birthdates are playing in various tournaments. "There's a wide area of players we have to look at."

The diligent Leafs scouts have had the rug pulled out from under them a few times where the top pick is concerned. Deadline deals in search of one or two players for a Cup drive -- or even just to make the playoffs -- have seen Toronto turn over top picks that could have been Scott Niedermayer, Roberto Luongo, Mike Cammalleri and Mark Stuart, or a star in the next few years.

In five drafts since 1996, the Leafs have twiddled their thumbs in the first or second rounds, having unloaded the pick. Now they could be batting leadoff in Ottawa in June.

"We've talked to (general manager) Cliff Fletcher, (assistants) Mike Penny and Jeff Jackson about what could happen this year," Morrison said. "We want the team to do well, but we're ready for anything.

"When we have fewer picks, it makes us dig a little deeper. More picks means we could gamble on someone if we wanted. But if Cliff came to us today and said we would trade the pick again, then we'd deal with it.

"I believe our group did all right with what has happened (with trades) the past couple of years). We lost a high pick to San Jose, but got a good goalie back in Vesa Toskala."


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