Leafs super-size their Saturday draft picks, add Europeans

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With a bare cupboard, the Maple Leafs went shopping in bulk during draft weekend.

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Not only did Brad Treliving approach his first full draft as general manager seeking size, he valued selection, as Toronto made eight picks in two days at The Sphere in Las Vegas, its most since 2020 and five more than he inherited from Kyle Dubas last June.

Four defencemen, another four-year high, were led by Ben Danford of the Oshawa Generals, their top pick on Friday night late in the first round. How many of these kids can help the Leafs over the next few years is another question, especially when four are playing in Europe, two in Russia, where in today’s geo-political situation, they cannot just jump on a plane when they feel like it.

As Saturday’s fifth round unfolded with some hard-to-pronounce names, it appeared director of amateur scouting Wes Clark had accidentally sat on his keyboard and hit send rather than properly file a hat trick of picks. But with Alexander Plesovskikh and Timofei Obvintsev, the Leafs put as much resources as possible into scouting both, in addition to Czech forward Miroslav Holinka and fourth-round Swedish defenceman Victor Johansson.

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With its draft capital cut by trades that didn’t result getting too far along the Stanley Cup route, Toronto parlayed the second-rounder acquired from Anaheim on Friday, kicking it further down the order, for a much-needed  second-rounder next year and a seventh to wrap up Saturday.

With back-to-back choices in the fifth round — the first time that’s happened for the Leafs since the mid-rounds of 2008 — they led off with centre Holinka. A heavy (185 pounds) two-way forward, he had 20 goals and 41 points in 39 games. Plesovkikh followed, a left winger with the Russian under-18 team.

Netminders, no matter their nationality, are always interesting, and Obvintsev was picked the same week it was confirmed that 2020 pick Artur Akhtyamov has arrived from Russia for summer workouts at the Ford Centre.

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Toronto stuck with size in the seventh round, getting Matt Lahey, a 6-foot-5 defender with Nanaimo of the B.C. junior league. It’s possible they saw a bit more of him in that league as part of keeping tabs on forward Jack Pridham, son of assistant general manager Brandon Pridham, selected by Chicago in the third round.

Their other picks in the seventh were 6-foot-2 winger Sam McCue from the Owen Sound Attack and 6-foot-3 defender Nathan Mayes from WHL Spokane.

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2024 MAPLE LEAFS DRAFT CLASS

31st, RHD Ben Danford, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

6/2/06, Madoc, Ont., 6-1, 194 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP 64, G-A-P 1-32-33 PIM:25

OUTLOOK: Took big steps all season with selfless play, right through playoffs … Picked a little higher than expected … Assistant captain was very attractive as a right-handed shot.

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CLARK: “Ben was pretty much the target all the way along.”

120th, LHD Victor Johansson, Leksands, Swedish League

25/4/06 Linkoping, Sweden, 6-1, 143 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP 34, G-A-P: 2-6-8, PIM: 20

OUTLOOK: Played at various levels of the Leksands program … Father was a national team player … Obviously his slight build is an issue.

CLARK: “What we like most is he’s very early in his development curve, excellent defensive instincts. There’s a lot of room to grow and he has a couple of older brothers who have shown well.”

151st C Miroslav Holinka, Ocelari Trinec, Czechia U-20 league

10/11/05, Kromeriz, CZ, 6-1, 183 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP: 16, G-A-P: 1-2-3

OUTLOOK: Played on the Czech under 18 and under 20 team … Played a number of roles, but not long enough at any one to identify an area of strength … He could be the first of their Euro picks to come over next year.

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CLARK: “He has high intelligence, he can really zip the puck.”

152nd LW Alexander Plesovskikh, Mamonty Yugry, MHL

1/08/06, Tyumen, Russia, 6′-0,172 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP: 33, G-A-P: 8-9-17, PIM: 10

OUTLOOK: Played on the Russian U-18 team last year … Going to a new club – Spartak – this year … Clark added that the club’s Russian scout, Olegs Koreskovs, was “extremely passionate for him, his two-way game. He knows where the puck is, knows where his teammates are.”

CLARK: “We’ll see where he goes. He’s a long-term play.”

157th G Timofei Obvintsev, CSKA Red Army Juniors

06/01/05, Yekaterinburg, Russia, 6-4, 176 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP: 16, W-L-T: 7-7-0, Save Pctg.: .921

OUTLOOK: Will play for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL, a feeder of the KHL.

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CLARK: “(Russian goalies) seem to be the trend the last number of years.”

200th LHD Matthew Lahey, Nanaimo Clippers, BCHL

17/07/06, Victoria B.C., 6-5, 201 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP 54, G-A-P: 2-17-19, PIM: 42

OUTLOOK: After two years with the Clippers, moving on to the USHL with Fargo and eventually Clarkson University… What’s not to like about that size on a Toronto defence constantly criticized for lack of it?

CLARK: “Really strong defensively, physical. We’ll see where that goes. A long-term play.”

216th LW Sam McCue, Owen Sound Attack, OHL

03/10/05, Sudbury, Ont., 6-2, 187 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP 34 G-A-P: 12-9-21 PIM: 28

OUTLOOK: Right after coming to the Attack in a trade from Peterborough, he was OHL player of the week and finished the year strong. Needs work in a few areas … Improved his goal total by one from last year.

CLARK: “Has an edge to his game. Chris Bourque, one of our top scouts, had a lot of passion for him.”

225th LHD Nathan Mayes, Spokane Chiefs, WHL

10/06/06, Salmon Arm, B.C., 6-3, 181 pounds

LAST SEASON: GP: 68, G-A-P: 1-15-16, PIM: 58

OUTLOOK: We’ll wager this belligerent young man is going to use the motivation of being last pick in the draft to show he’s anything but irrelevant.

CLARK: “We know what Brad likes. Now we have to execute.”

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