Why the Maple Leafs should consider trading up to select a future #1 defenseman

Dean Chaudhry
June 7, 2024  (2:26)

Carter Yakemchuk
Photo credit: NHL

While the Toronto Maple Leafs hold the 23rd overall selection this year, they should consider trading up to get their hands on defenseman Carter Yakemchuk.

The 2024 NHL Entry Draft is going to provide way more curveballs than in previous years. At last year's summer festivities, the only real curveball or wild card selection was going to be how far Matvei Michkov was going to fall. There were plenty of rumours being thrown around that he might not make his way to North America, which certainly tanked his draft stock and pushed teams away until the Philadelphia Flyers selected him 7th overall.
This year, things are a little different because after the San Jose Sharks select Macklin Celebrini with the first overall pick, it's anyone's guess as to how the rest of the first round will follow. Usually there's a consensus on who will go 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4 but not so much this year.
With that being said, there are also a few teams within the top-14 range that are willing to move their pick for the right price. New Jersey just recently announced that they are open to moving their 10th overall pick, while the Buffalo Sabres who hold the 11th pick are looking to make a splash. San Jose could also look to move on from their 2nd pick in the first round (14th overall) should the right deal fall into place.
This year in particular is going to be very defense-heavy and because of that players like Yakemchuk are going to drop a little further down the pecking order. According to most draft boards and mock drafts, Yakemchuk will seemingly escape the clutches of the top-10, which would bode well for the ensuing teams - or teams that want to trade up - to snag the 6'3, 190 pound, right-shooting defender.
Playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Yakemchuk scored 30 goals and 71 points in just 66 games this season after scoring 19 goals and 47 points in 67 games in 2022-23. He finished 5th in scoring amongst defensemen in the WHL - the 4 players ahead of him were either a year or two older - and his 30 goals led the way with ease.
Not only was his scoring prowess and offensive acumen on full display this season, he also accrued 120 PIMs which exemplifies his hard-nosed, gritty, and physical style of play. He loves to drop the boom with big hits, he gets into the opposition's faces, and he can finish with a wicked shot.
There are some concerns about his defensive game and his decision making can be suspect at times, but he's only 18-years-old and has a lot of time to season his game and grow into his frame.
The Maple Leafs pipeline doesn't necessarily possess a lot of marquee defensive prospects. Trading up for Yakemchuk should be a priority for Brad Treliving and the front office because a player of his ilk is hard to find and generally drafted within the top-10 in most drafts.
Buffalo wants to make a splash as soon as possible, New Jersey isn't looking to add another prospect to their mix, and I'm sure a deal can be had with a team like Minnesota or San Jose for the 13th or 14th pick. Yakemchuk would instantly improve their pipeline that was recently ranked 28th by The Athletic earlier this season and he would instantly rival Topi Niemelä as the team's best defensive prospect.
Source: Daily Faceoff 2024 NHL Draft Rankings: Post World Championship Top 80
7 JUIN   |   267 ANSWERS
Why the Maple Leafs should consider trading up to select a future #1 defenseman

Should the Maple Leafs trade up to select Carter Yakemchuk?

Yes, he's going to be an absolute stud9636 %
No, it's going to cost too much to move up10037.5 %
Only if he's still around in the 15-17 range7126.6 %
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