Leafs stuck with fifth overall pick

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:01 AM ET

TORONTO - The Maple Leafs had dreams of leading off the NHL draft batting order in June, but will swing from the five-hole as expected.

Once the ping pong balls dropped in favour of the second-seeded Edmonton Oilers at Tuesday night’s lottery draw at TSN studios, the Leafs scouts could get to work determining what should still be a decent pick. Toronto had an 8.1% chance of winning and moving up the maximum four places for the June 22 event in Pittsburgh. But the Oilers, with an 18.8% ticket, upstaged the 30th-place Columbus Blue Jackets and will likely take consensus No. 1 Russian forward Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting.

It’s the third straight time Edmonton will enjoy the pick of the litter, on top of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“I told Bill I expected a good job,” Oilers’ general manager Steve Tambellini joked of NHL deputy commissioner and draft monitor Bill Daly.

“I’m so excited, it’s another huge building block going forward.”

The rest of the team draft order held after the Oilers and Jackets switched places, with Montreal picking third, the Islanders fourth and Toronto fifth. It’s not considered a great first-round draft crop at present.

“There is depth in this draft,” Leaf general manager Brian Burke said earlier in the day.

“There is a player there that will make a difference for us, though maybe not right away. There are a couple of players I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, players that I have high hopes for.”

Defenceman Ryan Murray from Everett of the WHL and Quebec Remparts’ Russian Mikhail Grigorenko are considered inter-changable at two and three, with Swedish forward Filip Forsberg, Yakupov teammate Alex Galchenyuk and four CHL defencemen the likely top 10 candidates. Of the latter, expect the Leafs to take a long look at big Matthew Dumba of Red Deer if he’s still there at fifth.

Burke doesn’t want to be back in this position in 2013.

“When you’re in the draft lottery, obviously it’s a nail-biting time, but also a time for admitting failure,” Burke said. “You’re up there for a reason.”

The last time the Leafs picked fifth, they selected defenceman Luke Schenn. Burke was adamant that he won’t move his first pick in a trade, so he’ll have to deal prospects or current roster players for help.

“We need to address the size of the group and the compete level of the group,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do through trades.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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