Leafs scouts getting busy

NHL prospect Gabrial Landeskog does a sit-up at the league's draft combine in Toronto, Ont., June...

NHL prospect Gabrial Landeskog does a sit-up at the league's draft combine in Toronto, Ont., June 3, 2011. (MARK O'NEILL/QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 AM ET

TORONTO - With three picks in the top 35 spots, the 2011 NHL Entry Draft can’t begin soon enough for Maple Leafs head scout Dave Morrison.

He heads a department that didn’t have a first-round pick last year, after all, and works for a boss who isn’t shy about making a big deal.

But before the draft, which takes place June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn., Morrison and his staff have plenty of work to do. And that includes their own version of this week’s NHL scouting combine which wraps up Saturday at the Toronto Congress Centre.

Morrison said on Friday that the Leafs will work out 40 of the top 100 prospects already in town in a special session at the Mastercard Centre on Sunday.

“We’ve got a bunch of kids coming for a quick follow-up for us,” Morrison said as Friday’s physical testing was getting under way. “They will do a quick medical and what we call a fitness assessment to augment what they are doing here.

“There will be a lot of stretching and balance exercises. What we do is something a little different just to help us to get a better picture.”

Led by the two first-round picks and a high second-rounder, the Leafs are expected to not only get three players in the top 35 but 11 overall as it stands now.

General manager Brian Burke could alter that if he’s able to make a trade for a veteran in the days leading up to the draft, but Morrison and his staff are expecting a busy and productive couple of days.

“I worked for Brian in Vancouver an I learned early on with him that you have to be prepared for anything,” Morrison said. “We’ve put a couple of different scenarios together.

“Brian has said it publicly: If we can (move up) to get somebody we want, we will do it. But by the same token, if it’s not there and we don’t make a deal we will be quite happy to pick with the picks that we have.”

With minimal expectation that the players selected will be in the lineup next season, Morrison said the Leafs are unlikely to draft for immediate need.

“You have to take the best player because even though players are making it quicker now than they did perhaps years ago, but normally it takes a guy a few years to get there and by that time our needs may have changed,” Morrison said.

“Our job really, is to get the best available NHL talent and then Brian and management can use that for assets. You hope they play for your team but at some point if they don’t the goal is to make your team better.”

So if Burke deals some of those high picks away for a proven player, will his head scout be crushed?

“One hundred per cent no,” Morrison said. “It’s the big team that has to win. If we can do something to make the big team better, I’m all for it.”


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