The Leafs could be considering acquiring another 1st round pick or moving up in the draft this year

Published June 11, 2023 at 9:50

With the NHL's Draft Combine having occurred this week, we are finally on the home stretch to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Coming into this week, this draft was not expected to be a busy one for the Leafs, who own just 3 picks for the upcoming draft at this time; the Boston Bruins' 1st rounder (28th overall), and their own 5th and 6th round picks. However, the combine was a much busier one for the Leafs than many expected.

We have heard ad nauseum about how the Leafs need to move one of their core players to help better balance the team, but also to free up some much-needed cap space. The 2nd part is slightly exaggerated, as the Leafs could have as much as $19M in cap space if they decide to trade Matt Murray this summer, but even still - with how inflated contracts tend to be in free agency in combination with the number of UFAs and RFAs in need of new deals, that $19M could evaporate rather quickly.

Before I get too derailed and go down the salary cap rabbit hole, I'll get back to the main point here. The Leafs interviewed a good number of prospects during the draft combine and they also have some additional meetings lined up with prospects who missed out on meeting with the Leafs during the festivities. Why is this important? Because so many of these prospects are expected to go much higher in the draft than 28th overall.

The Leafs' level of activity at the combine might suggest that they're are open to acquiring some additional picks. What it also could be telling us is that the Leafs may not be set on remaining at 28th. They may be looking to move up to select a prospect that they really like. Who do they like? Well, here are a list of some of the more notable prospects that they interviewed (or will interview very soon) that are expected to go in the 1st round on June 28th.

Gabe Perreault - RW, ranked #18 by Elite Prospects
Brayden Yager - C, ranked #7 by Bob McKenzie
Quentin Musty - LW, ranked #12 by Elite Prospects
Colby Barlow - LW, ranked #8 by Bob McKenzie and The Hockey News
Kasper Halttunen - RW, ranked #25 by Craig Button
Tom Willander - RHD, ranked #8 by Craig Button
Oliver Bonk - RHD, ranked #20 by Sportsnet
Bradly Nadeau - C, ranked #27 by McKeen's Hockey
Axel Sandin-Pellikka - RHD, ranked #5 by Craig Button

Draft rankings vary by person/scouting organization, so naturally some guys are higher or lower based on where you're looking, but for the purposes of this piece, I simply took the highest rank listed. As you can see, a number of these young players are ranked well ahead of where the Leafs would select at #28. The only ones that come in close to that range are Halttunen and Nadeau. The majority of the rest of these players are expected to be gone inside of the first 20 picks.

So why interview guys who are expected to be off the board at 28? Well, as I said - it could mean that the Leafs are having discussions with other teams to determine if another 1st round pick could be available to them via trade. Conversely, they could be looking to use their 28th overall pick, plus additional assets, to move up into the top 20 somewhere.

The alternative here is that perhaps the Leafs are viewing the players they interviewed as candidates who could potentially slip to them in the draft. In the case of Halttunen and Nadeau, perhaps they view these prospects as two undervalued and could be looking to trade down a few spots if both are still on the board at #28 and pick up and additional draft pick or two by moving down.

The Leafs are expected to be one of the busier teams as we approach the draft in just 17 days and free agency in 20 days.
June 11   |   239 answers
The Leafs could be considering acquiring another 1st round pick or moving up in the draft this year

What is the reason that the Leafs have interviewed so many prospects outside of their draft range?

They're going to move up4318 %
They're going to trade for another 1st round pick5422.6 %
Nothing, just doing their due diligence14259.4 %
Latest 10 stories