Hey everybody, I’m back with a look at how the Leafs drafted this past weekend. Now as the title indicates, size didn’t matter for Dubas, but this blog is my longest for sure so buckle up. 🙂
First of all, I just wanted to compare how a bunch of us did when PREDICTING the results. Not to brag, but I DID nail the first overall pick. 🙂 I put an asterisk beside the picks that were right and two ** beside those that were within three spots.
First, let’s look at all 9 picks.
Rasmus Sandin. LD, 5’11, 185 lbs – @mydogsnots
Playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last year, he’s a good, but not great, skating puck moving defenceman, or what is being referred to as the new school of defencemen today. He needs to work on his skating and he isn’t the biggest of defencemen at 5’11 which would explain why he dropped to 29. If he can improve that part of his game, his skating not his height :-), he could be a top D in the NHL and one day and I’m super happy with the pick. All things being equal I would have preferred a C here because the prospects at C are pretty thin, but you can never have too many defencemen.
Sean Durzi. RD, 6’0 195 lbs – @dudgee
Sean Durzi After going undrafted in 2017, Durzi attended the Leafs’ prospects camp afterwards, and did nothing but shoot north in his progress as a player. He describes himself a huge Leafs fan growing up, which is great to hear when you want players who play for the logo on the front.
“YOU ALWAYS GOTTA GET THOSE GOOD ONTARIO BOYS WHO LOVE TARRANA LETS GOOOOO”, as a well known hockey commentator would say! Most scouting reports I read describe Durzi as a decent sized, well rounded defenseman with a good point shot and solid puck mover. He is an intelligent defender (no butterfly chasing going on here) who understands where he needs to be in the zone at all times.
Reliable right-shot defenders are a premium in the NHL and Duzi seems to fit the bill. This tweet from Draft guru Mark Seidel a couple of days before the draft is high praise: How can you not be happy with the pick when he tweets this:
“DT: I know that Sean Durzi (21) has already been through a Draft but this kid made the biggest strides this year of ANY player in the Draft. His skill and offensive ability will fit in perfect in the new NHL & although he won’t go until Saturday, he is a blue chip prospect.”
Semyon Der-Arguchinstev. C, 5’10, 160 lbs – @danielroyyy
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev or SDA as he’s being called is a Russian playmaking center from Peterborough in the OHL that can pull you out of your seat with his vision and skill. There is a good chance that SDA could go down as the best playmaker in the draft.
SDA flew under the radar this year despite putting up an impressive 51 points in 68 games good for 11th among under 18 players in the OHL (6 of which went in the first 2 rounds). SDA’s point totals don’t tell the story of his ability though for a couple reasons.
First, if SDA were one day younger he would have been entered into next years draft so he has more growing, maturing and development left in front of him than most other players in the draft. Second, SDA being a pure playmaker he relies on the finishing ability of his teammates which was a non-existent skill on the Pete’s this year.
Their leading scorer by 23 points was former Leafs 7th rounder Nikita Korostolev who the Leafs deemed not to be even worthy of an entry level contract. He is the kind of player who will make good players better though by creating time and space for them with his play making ability, but really needs to work on his shot to be a multi-dimensional threat.
While an extremely agile and quick skater, SDA will also be well served working on his first 3 strides and top end speed in his skating to be able to exploit his skill set that much better. If he gets traded to a good team with some ability to score goals next year we could see his point totals explode.
I’m thrilled with the SDA pick by Dubas and co as the lack of center depth in our pipeline is common knowledge. I think he could end up as the 2nd best player from our draft after Sandin thanks to his young age suggesting he is a player with a lot of upside left in front of him.
Riley Stotts. C, 6’0, 168 lbs – @6_8_5_13
Strengths: Riley is a very good skater with exceptional hockey sense and a good shot. He can create offensive chances in a hurry and with the quick use of his hands he becomes very dangerous when given any bit of room to work with.
Weaknesses: Stotts is a bit small for a centre at 170 pounds, with a bit of work in the coming off-seasons he can hit the weight room and fill out his 6’0 frame. He must work on his lower body strength particularly because he is known for being far too easy to push off the puck.
Don’t let the 44 points in 69 games fool you into thinking he isn’t a gifted offensive player, 3 of those points came as a member of the stacked Swift Current Broncos in 22 games as they went all in for a Memorial Cup berth. Riley was pushed down the depth chart from the beginning of the season as the Broncos used older players to fill out the top half of their lineup.
After a trade to the Calgary Hitmen in late November of 2017, Stotts was given a new role and chance as he quickly excelled into a player that was able to put up 41 points in 47 games. Going forward Riley will be looked upon as a offensive leader for Calgary in their quest to get out of their rebuilding mode and become a WHL contender.
What Dubas has acquired in a player like Stotts will be a kid who likely plays in the WHL until his overage year is done and works his way onto the Marlies. I see Stotts having a similar career path as Adam Brooks and both have stylistic similarities to Tyler Bozak as a solid 3C option at the next level.
Mac Hollowell. RD, 5’9, 170 lbs – @biancazilla
In the fourth round (118th overall), the Leafs took another smallish-defenceman in Mac Hollowell from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (yes, another Soo player). Hollowell is an overager who led the Soo’s D in points. In the postseason he was nearly a point per game player and was a +10 rating.
According to the OHL prospects blog, Mac has elite skating and is poised with the puck especially in zone breakouts. He’s also not scared of contact in the defensive end. I can’t tell you how relieved I feel when I read that he’s not scared of contact in his own end, yet still, looking further down the road, Mac is going to have to get bigger and stronger.
He is AHL eligible next season, so if that is the route they chose to go with him it will be interesting to see how he plays the game at that level. It’s not all that hard to see why Dubas and the scouting staff would roll the dice with Mac, they had an early look at him at the Leafs development camp at the beginning of the 17/18 season.
They must of liked something they saw to keep tabs on him all season long. This should be reassuring to Leafs fans, Mac has a high upside and is a right-handed defenceman, something that the Leafs are in desperate need of. Now we get to see his development along with the other curious picks that Dubas made this draft
Filip Kral. LD, 6’1, 171 lbs – @danielyroyyy
Filip Kral is a potential home run pick in the 5th round. Kral had quite a year for himself finishing 4th in scoring in the WHL among first year draft eligible defencemen (behind only Ty Smith, Calen Addison and Alex Alexeyev) and cracking the u20 World Junior roster for the Czech Republic as an 18 year old while picking up a goal there.
Kral is a reliable two way defender who isn’t afraid to join the rush but also doesn’t cheat for offense. His biggest positive attributes are his skating, hockey IQ and his ability to get pucks on net that frequently find their way to the back of the net through tips and screens.
While a strong kid for his age, Kral will be well served by continuing to work on his strength to the point of it being a dominant quality for him, putting more power on a shot that is quite accurate and making his skating more powerful and explosive than it already is. Kral is a potential home run pick the likes of which the Leafs haven’t drafted in the 5th round or later since Timashov in 2015 (coincidentally 2015 was the last draft that Dubas had some control over).
Kral likely won’t be NHL ready for 4-5 years but that doesn’t but I do see him as a future NHL defenceman with a chance of turning himself into a 2nd pairing guy depending on the work he puts in. Great job by Dubas to add this physical, smart defender to an increasingly stacked defensive pipeline for the Leafs.
Pontus Holmberg. LW, 5’10, 176 lbs – @6_8_5_13
Strengths: Pontus is a good skater with great edge work and shows an excellent ability to protect the puck. He is more known for being a play maker that has good instinct of when to make a play and has shown he can get a pass off very quickly, making him a threat in close.
Weaknesses : Holmberg must work on his shot if he wants to be a well rounded player in the pro ranks. There has also been some concern about consistency for him. He’s played in three different tiers of Swedish hockey this season and was among the leaders offensively in the J20 SuperElit as a U19.
When Holmberg stepped into higher tiers this is where the consistent play seemed to be up and down for him. This shouldn’t be too much of a concern as the same was described of Liljegren the year prior and bouncing between leagues should cause some inconsistent play for most players. He’s has landed a full time gig next season with the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL and their coach has said he is expected to be getting top 6 minutes in the LW position.
Being drafted in the 6th round and having some good offensive talent, I think Dubas is swinging for the fences in trying to find the next Andreas Johnsson. I see a similar career path as both Johnsson and Pierre Engvall in Holmberg as he should play the next few seasons in the SHL before making the jump to the AHL Marlies. With some work on his shot and continuing to use his great skating and play making abilities, Pontus Holmberg could become a top 9 forward at the NHL level.
Zachary Bouthilier. G – @PatCancilla
His strengths: By all accounts, Zachary Bouthillier is a promising young draft pick for the Leafs. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound goalie took the Chicoutimi Sagueneens — one of the worst teams in the QMJHL with a record of 28-35-4 — to the playoffs based on his stellar play toward the last part of the season. According to the 2018 NHL Draft Blackbook, “He played some real good hockey in front of a bad team. Without a doubt, he had the best stretch of his career from January to March of this year.” Bouthillier’s post-season performance led his team to six games against the higher-ranked Acadie-Bathurst Titans in the first round, with a record of 2.76 GAA and .931 save percentage. According to Blackbook, Bouthillier faced nearly 40 shots a game throughout that series. One of my favourite Leafs ever, Felix Potvin, also played for the Sagueneens back in the day, and he eventually became the Leafs’ No. 1 goalie, so that’s a good omen. His weaknesses: While it’s true that it’s not how you start but how you finish that counts, Bouthillier did struggle at the beginning of the season, so consistency is not his forte. According to Blackbook, in the early going, Bouthillier’s rebound control was often poor. OK, but he’s only 18. It’s something he can definitely work on and improve. What I think of Dubas drafting Bouthillier in terms of the Leafs’ needs: The Leafs chose four defencemen, along with a couple of centres and two right-wingers, so I think they did well to meet their current needs. Adding a goalie, I think, was a wise move because you can never have too many goalies. As often happens, more than one netminder gets injured and/or pulled during a game and then you have to put in an accountant . . . All kidding aside, I think Dubie did a good job getting input from all parties in the Leafs’ organization, down to the assistant GM’s son. In the post-draft media scrum, GM Kyle Dubas said, “We just went down our list and picked the players . . . that were at the top,” adding that coach Mike Babcock was happy with the draft selections. “He’s happy and really that’s all that matters today.” When asked by a reporter if it was a good omen that Bouthillier was in the building for the seventh-round selection, Dubas replied: “It was interesting, [Leafs’ assistant GM] Brandon Pridham’s son is our runner and about four or five picks before he pointed to the [Bouthillier] family in the stands and [said], ‘You know, we should pick that guy’ and it’s kind of funny because we knew who the kid was and he was the next guy on our list the whole time — the goaltender, Zachary Bouthillier — so it was exciting to make it happen.” If the general manager, the coach and the assistant general manager (and his son) are all happy — and I’m sure Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan is happy as well — with Bouthillier, then I’m happy.
Semyon Kizimov. RW, 6’0, 170 lbs – @Carloumanati
With their final pick the leafs went with Russian born Semyon Kizimov. From the small samples of video out there, it’s tough to get a good read on him. The kid is your typical smallish shifty European. Looks like he has great hands but will probably never play in the NHL. With Hunter being relieved of his duties so close to the draft Dubas went with familiarity for the most part and a few of these picks look to be regulars in the NHL for years to come.
After reading all the descriptions of these players, and trying to be as objective as I possibly can (I’m such a homer so that’s pretty tough for me) I would say the Dubester scored a B/B+. Of course as with all drafts, it takes a good 5 years or so to really know how the team did.
My (probably) unpopular take here is that with the exception of Hunter’s first round picks, I feel much better about this draft than I have for the later rounds in the last couple of drafts.
Thanks for reading and apologies if it was a bit long. Hopefully the Leafs can land an impact player in UFA and not blow their brains out on cash in the process.
To be honest with you, this is one part of the NHL process I admittedly know very little about. It’s just about researching the players themselves. I would like to thank all the contributors on the pre and post-draft pieces. Especially Rich and Dan who’s knowledge on prospects rivals that of many professional prospect reporters out there. 🙂