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Rebuilding a la Brian Burke


When Brian Burke was named 13th GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in late 2008, he was meant to bring a bold face to a once-proud franchise and in his second season at the draft, he put his fingerprints all over it.  Toronto came into the draft needing scoring talent and goaltending depth, but without a first round draft pick due to the Phil Kessel trade and Burke was rumoured to be planning to remedy that prior to the draft.

Photo Credit: Noah Graham

When no 1st rounder was obtained, the draft started with a second round pick courtesy of a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.  In return for former 2009 2nd round pick Jimmy Hayes, the Leafs received the 43rd pick, selecting left winger Bradley Ross of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. A perfect Burke pick, Ross led the WHL in penalty minutes while racking up 68 points.  Ross was selected above his 59th CSS ranking, but a mixture of offensive talent, skating ability and feistiness definitely adds to his attractiveness as a prospect.

With the 62nd pick, the Leafs selected the OHL Erie Otters’ two-way centre Gregg McKegg, a member of the Canadian U-18 World Championship team.  A safe pick in this slot, there were definitely some murmurs from Leaf fans (myself included) when Burke didn’t take a chance on the highly skilled Russian youngster, Kirill Kabanov, when he was still available in the same spot.  Apparently the Leafs felt that Kabanov’s skill level did not outweigh his widely publicized character issues.  The key to this pick is that McKegg scored 85 points in 67 games, a leap from his previous season’s point total providing hope for future offensive prowess.

Toronto traded their 3rd round pick in 2012 to the L.A. Kings to select Norwegian winger Sondre Olden at the 79th position from the Swedish Junior League where he played with MoDo.  A good-sized winger with offensive skills, the Leafs are trying to refill the prospect cupboard with some skill where the last few draft years have harboured primarily grinders and projects. He’ll likely be remaining in Sweden for seasoning.

Burke then swapped 4th round picks (112 for 116) with Washington and added a a 5th rounder (146) as well, selecting at 116th their only defensive prospect from the 2010 draft, Petter Granberg, also from the Swedish Junior League.  Granberg appears to be a defensive defenceman and was rated 21st skater amongst European prospects.  He is expected to play in the Swedish Elite League next season and is a longer term project.

2 picks from round 5 garnered 2 more forwards, Sam Carrick (144) – a center from the Brampton Battalion of the OHL, another feisty forward with offensive upside, and Daniel Brodin (146), a checking winger from the Swedish Junior League. Of the two, Brodin is predicted to be more prepared for the NHL, having had some experience with in the Elite league already.  He is contracted to play for Djurgarden next season and could join the team in 2012.

Their last pick in the draft at 182, after trading the 202nd pick to Edmonton for a 5th round pick in 2010, was right wing Josh Nicholls, from the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. As a 7th round pick it’s no surprise that he’s going to be back in junior working on his two-way game next year.  Again the Leafs choose a feisty forward with size and some offensive  upside that fits the mold of a typical Brian Burke player.

Overall, the Leafs added 7 new prospects to the fold; 6 forwards and 1 defenceman.  Some intriguing selections given the picks available and filling some of the holes in the prospect lists, with maybe a steal somewhere in the earlier rounds. These players are projects that will require differing amounts of seasoning and none that are expected to crack the line-up right away.

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