I recently spoke with Kyle Pereira from lastwordonhockey.com and Tony Ferrari from dobberprospects.com. Both have provided scouting reports on two players they think the Maple Leafs should draft in the first round.
Kyle Pereira Scouting Reports:
Braden Schneider – RHD – 6’2″ 209 Lbs
Braden Schneider is the top option for the Leafs. They need to draft their future number one right-handed defenseman (RHD), and he could very well be that guy. Schneider is a very good skater. His skating ability and good puck handling allow him to find success in transition. Being good in transition is key for any defenseman, especially with the way the NHL is evolving.
He is a very smart and safe offensive player and makes sure he doesn’t overdo anything in the offensive zone. Ultimately, he’s very reliable when it comes to defending as he rarely gets caught in the offensive zone. When it comes to defensive zone play, Schneider again plays very smart and safe hockey. He will not wow anyone with plays at either end of the ice, but he plays sound hockey.
He has a high hockey IQ in all three zones and can use his skating with that awareness to play a technically sound overall game. Schneider is a puck-moving, defensive-minded yet offensively capable defenseman that may not ever be elite, but can easily eat up top pair minutes.
My Thoughts On Braden Schneider
The Maple Leafs have been craving for a right-shot defenseman to add to their top defensive pair. It’s hard to predict where a player will fit when you draft them, or how long it will take for them to develop. I like Schneider’s mix of size, hockey IQ, and skating ability.
Yaroslav Askarov – G – 6’3″ 176 Lbs
Yaroslav Askarov is the next best bet for the Leafs if he is available. Chances are Carolina scoops him up, but they did take Pyotr Kotchetkov last year, so who knows. Askarov is an athletic goalie, and the poise he has shown at his age to this point is impressive. He will likely get a shot at the KHL next season.
He possesses incredible abilities to cover the net and frustrate his opponents. The Leafs are likely moving Freddy Andersen, and they do not have a clear cut future number one, so this pick would be a great choice for them.
My Thoughts On Yaroslav Askarov
It is really hard to picture Askarov still being available at 15th overall, but with drafts, you never know. The Leafs already have Joseph Woll and Ian Scott in their system, but you can never have enough depth. The Maple Leafs have never been strong in goaltender depth. Adding Askarov to the organization would be huge for the Maple Leafs going forward.
Tony Ferrari Scouting Reports:
Dawson Mercer – RW – 6’0″ 179 Lbs
Mercer might be the most quietly effective forward in this range of the draft. He is an excellent skater who has hands that can keep up. His high-level hockey sense allows him to be in the right position in all three zones. His shot is good, but he is an effective finisher because he gets into high-danger areas with regularity.
Rarely lacking for effort, Mercer could very well be a high-level complementary player that can not only play with stars at the next level but produce at a relatively high rate. He may not be the defender that the Leafs need, but he is a future replacement for a player like Zach Hyman with a much higher upside. You have to just take the best player available. Too many teams have gotten in trouble by drafting for need.
My Thoughts On Dawson Mercer
Although the Maple Leafs already have a ton of depth on the right-wing, you can never have too much depth. A player such as Mercer is probably two to three years away from joining the team. A lot can happen in that time. I like his skating ability and his willingness to battle for the puck in the tough areas. The Maple Leafs have tons of skill and could use more players who can battle along the boards and in the corners to retrieve the puck.
Noel Gunler – RW/LW – 6’2″ 174 Lbs
Kyle Dubas likes to look at the upside and try to mine the most value from his picks. Gunler is a player that is warranted at 15th overall for his skill set, but some perceived (and overblown) off-ice issues could cause him to slide a bit, making him a candidate for a selection, even if the Leafs brass decides to trade down.
Gunler has one of the better shots in the draft class, even if he doesn’t always get included in the group of guys at the top of that list. His offensive instincts are lethal and predatory when he is at his best. Understanding when and where to take advantage of defensive schemes with both his shot and playmaking ability.
He has some issues with consistency, but his effort improved through the year as he became more comfortable in the SHL, the top Swedish men’s league, and one of the best in the world. His engagement is something that whoever drafts him will have to work on, but the image of Gunler on a line with Matthews and Nylander is all too tantalizing.
My Thoughts On Noel Gunler
Gunler is an interesting choice for the Maple Leafs. He does have a good shot and has shown patience to wait for the right play to appear. Another year in the SHL would benefit Gunler greatly, before moving over to North America for some time with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League (AHL). Could be a sleeper pick for the Maple Leafs that turns into something great.
I would first like to thank both Kyle Pereira and Tony Ferrari for taking the time to provide these scouting reports. Both have been a pleasure to work with. I think if the Maple Leafs can draft any of these players mentioned, they will be adding a fine prospect within the organization.
Follow me on Twitter for more great content @Jermz13!
Follow us at @OT_Heroics for more great content!
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!
This article is sponsored by Bottom Line – Toronto’s Classiest Sports Bar