Three of those players are crucial parts of the Toronto Maple Leafs core right now, and Liljegren is certainly on his way after completing his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.
Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Preview
And Friday night in Dallas, with the 25th overall pick, the Maple Leafs will look to add the next piece to their puzzle.
Last Word on Hockey’s own Ben Kerr has the Leafs taking Jacob Olofsson in his mock draft. This would add another Swede to the Leafs pipeline. It would also add a centre, a position of weakness beyond the NHL club.
TSN’s Craig Button believes the Maple Leafs will take Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Rasmus Sandin in his last mock draft, which would be fitting considering that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was once the general manager of the Greyhounds.
Considering organizational needs and who might be the best player available when Toronto picks, here are three players and one dark horse the Maple Leafs could select 25th overall.
3. Ryan McLeod
Team: Mississauga Steelheads, OHL
The younger brother of New Jersey Devils 2016 first round Michael Mcleod, Ryan McLeod is a 6-foot-2, 206-pound centre who scored 70 points in 68 games with the Steelheads in his third full OHL season. Dubas likes the OHL, McLeod’s game fits with what Toronto is trying to do. There are only two glaring issues with Toronto taking the Mississauga native; he’s expected to go between 15 and 20 so he’d have to slide if Toronto drafted him and his play without the puck needs some work. Albeit, that’s definitely something the Maple Leafs can fix.
2. Ryan Merkley
Team: Guelph Storm, OHL
Ryan Merkley is probably the most interesting prospect in the 2018 draft. His skill and talent cannot be questioned. Unfortunately, Merkley has attitude issues and off the ice distractions that dropped his draft status all year long. His 67 points in 63 games as a defenceman weren’t enough to make scouts forget about his lack of defensive prowess. But if you look at current Maple Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott, and how far the Toronto Marlies brought his defensive game, Merkley could really flip the switch if drafted by the Blue and White.
1. They Trade Back
If I was a betting man, this is what I would bank on. Toronto prefers quantity over quality, as shown in the 2015 draft. With Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter running that draft, the Leafs traded back from 24th pick to get the 29th pick and 61st pick and then traded the 29th pick to get the 34th pick and 68th pick. Again, quantity over quality. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toronto not pick at 25 and instead pick twice early in the second round. Teams with multiple second round picks? Montreal (picks 35 & 38), Detroit (picks 33 & 36) and NY Rangers (picks 39 & 48). Get calling, Dubas.
Darkhorse: Jack McBain
Outside of Merkley, Jack McBain is one of the most interesting prospects this year. He has an early 2000 birthday, and yet he’s already 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. What makes him very intriguing is where he played hockey his draft year: for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in the OJHL. He’s committed to Boston College for next season, so his game should take major strides forward in the next 12 months but his 58 points in 48 games as a defenceman is very encouraging. He’s ranked #37 here at LWOH, #35 on Bob McKenzie’s list, and #54 on Future Consideration’s list so it would be surprising if he wasn’t there when the Leafs pick in the first round.
Main Photo: CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Timothy Liljegren poses for photos after being selected 17th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)