Monday, July 06, 2009

Maple Leaf draft picks

I'm a little slow on a review of the Maple Leaf draft picks on June 26-27. Several scouts have commented that the "Burkenized" Leafs did a great job. I did a little research and here is what I have come up with.

Nazem Kadri -7th pick

This would be the only non-physical, skill player selected by the Leafs. Kadri plays for the London Knights. He finished with 1 point less than Matt Duchene in the regular season for the OHL London Knights, scoring 25 goals and registering 53 assists for 78 points. He would have been the team’s leading scorer if not for a midseason trade that brought in John Tavares. At 6′ and 177 lbs he will need to fill out and is likely 2 or 3 years away from the NHL. He should turn out to be a decent offensive forward, as his competitive drive is very high which is likely what attracted him to Brian Burke. He has the potential to be a second line centre.

Kenny Ryan - 5oth pick

Ryan is considered a strong skater who is hard to knock off the puck. He is considered defensively responsible, strong in the corners, and his offensive outlook pegs him more as a shooter than a playmaker. The Leafs must have liked the rugged aspect to his game because there is nothing fancy about his game. Ryan is 6′0″, 204 lb and was drafted by the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. He has elected to go the NCAA route which likely means he’s probably about 3 years away from signing with the Leafs. He was one of ONLY 7 players at the NHL scouting combine to recieve high grades for both his upper and lower body development. He has the potential to be a second or third line physical winger.

Jesse Blacker - 58th pick

Jesse Blacker is a 6′1″ and 190 lbs defenseman with the Memorial Cup winners, the Windsor Spitfire. He is a physical defenseman but will need to put on a little more weight if he is to continue with that style in the NHL. Not much of an offensive threat at this point in his career. He will need some seasoning before hitting the NHL.

Jamie Devane - 68th pick

Jamie Devane stands at 6′5″ and 210 lbs and plays left wing for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. I don't think this guy was ranked so the Leafs must have turned some heads with this pick in the third round. The NHL employees at the draft didn’t even have a name plate ready for the draft board, so they had to go and quickly make one up. Devane is a huge kid with a nasty attitude and a very good fighter. He had 14 fights last season with 4 more in the playoffs. His fights can be viewed on YouTube. Some might say this is a pretty high selection for a fourth line fighter.

Ed Knodel - 128th pick

Ed Knodel is another giant kid picked by the Leafs. He’s a 6′6″ 216 lb defense man who has been playing with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers in the US Tier 1 Junior A Hockey League. Scouts didn't start looking at this guy until later in the season. I'm sure his size is a factor although he isn't considered a tough guy. Thinking long term, the Leafs are probably looking at Knodel turning pro in about 3 or 4 years, so he isn’t about to turn up in at the ACC this upcoming season unless he has bought a ticket. Late rounds are always a gamble.

Jerry D'Amigo - 158th pick

In the 7th round, the Leafs drafted another American Jerry D'Amigo. Highly skilled from an offensive perspective, D’Amigo has been criticized by some for lacking in mental focus, and irresponsibility with the puck (meaning he coughs it up too much). He was actually expected to go higher in the draft (Central Scouting had him listed at 67th) so the Leafs appear to have done well with this pick. He made quite an impression with an outstanding World U-18 tournament, where he was Team USA’s best player and leading scorer.

Baron Smith - 188th pick

The Leaf's last pick is another huge bodied (6'4/5". 191 lbs) project defenseman with modest stats. Smith has spent the last 3 years playing on 3 different teams, and amassing a grand total of 7 points over that span. He is the son of former NHLer Steve Smith and is described as a stay-at-home defender with limited mobility and “very limited upside”. Everyone gambles at this stage of the draft and Burke went with size. Even if he never makes the NHL, he might be a useful player in their system.