The 2022 NHL Draft is over and Toronto ends a busy second day. They came in with three picks, they finished with five. They have also changed the composition of their goalkeeping situation, but all that remains are question marks and speculation.
Let’s talk about my first impressions of the draft as a whole, now that it’s all done. I’ll first go over each choice and swap involved, then give my general thoughts at the end.
1) Traded pick No. 25 and Mrázek to Chicago for pick No. 38, no salary withholding
It was a slam dunk affair for me then, and even now that we know who the Leafs took. There were reports Thursday that the Leafs had a guy leading in their top 15 they thought they had at 38. Whether or not they get their guy after all, that essentially means the Leafs got out of Mrázek’s contract for basically no cost. The difference in value between the 25th and 38th overall picks is very small, and if they did indeed get the same guy they wanted in the 25th, they just gave up a contract for free.
Of course, Mrázek’s move will also be judged on what Toronto does now to solve its goalkeeping problem. But I still think the first step of that – trading Mrázek for that – was a very smart move in isolation.
Just look at what Edmonton gave up when they made a similar move to get rid of Kassian’s contract, which also remained 2 years with a similar cap. They gave up three picks to do so and fell back a few spots.
2) Fraser Minten Selection Center 38th overall
There are two ways to look at the Toronto Maple Leafs drafting Fraser Minten. How good is Minten himself, and was there anyone else better there?
My first impression is this: it was not the one I would have taken to this place with who was available. I really liked Gleb Trikozov, who was later taken by Carolina because of course he was. I would also have liked Seam Casey or Lane Hutson, but they each have their flaws. Honestly, looking at who got taken in the rest of the second round, there aren’t a lot of players I’m looking at and I think they’re very clearly better picks, from what I know now.
Someone asked me on Twitter why they wouldn’t have just traded to take Minten, who was ranked lower than where Toronto took him. The thing is… it doesn’t really matter. Even for people who ranked him later in the second or third round, there isn’t much difference in the likely value of a prospect taken 38th versus 64th. The other thing is that Minten’s player profile is something a lot of NHL teams love. Most of the scouting outlets that ranked him lower noted there was a good chance he would be taken sooner – like Rutger McGroarty, who is also a bigger power center who was ranked in the 20s by Bob McKenzie and went 14th overall.
Then there is Minten himself. Who is he? I’ll be working on a bigger, deeper profile of him as soon as Rogers fixes his damn internet and I can watch his games instead of relying on my phone data. But from what I’ve read and clips I’ve watched on my phone, it’s a very Knies-like choice. He’s not as tall as Knies, but plays a physical game. Not like a jerk, more like a power attacker type player. He doesn’t have elite talent, but Knies didn’t really show it when he was drafted either. Minten can protect the puck, has a good shot, skates pretty well and showed a lot of improvement as a passer/playmaker later in the year. He’s also a center and receives rave reviews for being a responsible two-way defensive forward. He looks like a lesser version of Jiri Kulich, who I wanted Toronto’s 25th pick when they still had him.
Here are some notes on his production, which are not immediately obvious:
- Minten played only about 14 minutes a night on one of the WHL’s top teams, playing behind one of the CHL’s top prospects in Logan Stankoven.
- He finished 7th among WHL forwards in this year’s draft in total primary points, 7th in even-strength primary points, and 5th in power-play primary points.
- With his ice time, he had the third-best primary points rate by 60 rates, and rates ahead of first-rounders the likes of Conor Geekie and Reid Shaefer.
In fact, he ranks right behind Shane Wright – not that I think that means he’s nearly as good a prospect, just a sign that he’s been very productive in the more limited minutes he’s had. Basically, I think there’s a good chance we’ll see a big jump in his points next year as he gets a bigger role.
3) Traded pick No. 79 in Las Vegas for picks No. 95 and No. 135, then selected Nicholas Moldenhauer with No. 95
Obvious for a trade. Despite a large numerical gap between the 79th and 95th/135th picks, there really isn’t much of a difference in the quality of prospects in this wide range. Especially since at the 95th pick, they selected Nicholas Moldenhauer who I would have rated worthy of a second-round pick, let alone a third later.
Moldenhauer is a local boy, born in Mississauga, Ontario. He played for the Chicago Steel, making him a very Leafs-y draft pick. He’s a 5’11” center/winger, who was rated above 95 by just about everyone – Scott Wheeler had him up to 40th, Elite Prospects had him up to 53rd.
He’s had a fascinating and almost tragic story this season. He was ill during the offseason, which slightly delayed his start to the season. Then, in his first game, he got his face slashed by a skate and cut an artery – something that wasn’t discovered right away, which put his life in danger. Upon his return, he was understandably a bit slow to get back to full fitness. But when he did, he had a great run. In the second half of the season, he had 29 points in 20 games. That pace would have put him in the top 5 in the entire USHL, regardless of age. As a result, he was invited to join Team Canada’s U18 world roster, where he was one of the best forwards on a weak team and had 3 points in 4 games.
It’s funny because I think if you reversed the two picks Toronto made, people would think they’re better than they look. Although Moldenhauer would have been more accessible than Minten, even. But he’s more of a known commodity among Leafs Twitter, a local kid, better offensive production and more obvious skill.
4) Traded his 2023 4th round pick to Nashville for the No. 122 pick in this draft, then selected goaltender Dennis Hildeby
The trade is trading a future 4th round for a 4th round this year, so not really losing much. Editor Dennis Hildeby is a bit of a headache at first glance. He is a great Swedish goalkeeper who was selected in D+3. He’s barely played outside of junior in his career, but he’s had good numbers this year. There are few scouting reports or highlights on him to peruse, so we’re just going to have to believe their newly revamped goalkeeping department knows what they’re doing here.
5) Choosing striker Nikita Grebenkin with No. 135 overall
The Maple Leafs taking Nikita Grebenkin is another mystery, but in the sense of trying to figure out the Leafs’ decision, but there’s almost nothing to dig into. So I really don’t know anything about him. I can tell he’s big, fast, seemingly a high-octane offensive player who was on a high-octane offensive line in the MHL. He had good stats, but is a D+1 in Russia’s MHL junior league. He had a taste of the KHL, but will likely spend more time in the MHL next year.
6) Pick forward Brandon Lisowsky with 218th overall
That’s a nice swing for a 7th round pick. I didn’t mention him in my list of 7th round attackers because I thought he wouldn’t be available by then. He is a shorter forward, listed as 5’8″ or 5’9″, playing with the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL. He was ranked as high as 53rd and as low as 119th, although some I’m sure just didn’t rank him at all. He’s a more attacking winger who has a very good shot and plays a style that tries to generate as many shots as possible from dangerous areas. Although he’s more of a shooter than a playmaker, he’s also good at carrying the puck.
He’s someone I can’t wait to see a few games in the next few weeks.
My first impressions of this project are that Toronto did well. I’ll have more thoughts later once I have time to look at some of these guys in more detail. I won’t be able to find anything on the two mystery box selections from Europe. But I will be able to see matches from Minten, Moldenhauer and Lisowsky.
The Leafs entered this draft with three picks (25, 79 and 218) and ended up with five (38, 95, 122, 135 and 218). They got rid of a bad contract and came out of the draft with:
- Fraser Minten, two-way power center
- Nicholas Moldenhauer, skilled striker
- Dennis Hildeby, Swedish super tall D+3 goalkeeper
- Nikita Grebenkin, tall and talented Russian D+1 winger
- Brandon Lisowsky, sharp little winger who can tear it up…my favorite kind of player!
It’s a mix of players who add one, maybe two crosses to their depth, which is sorely needed. It doesn’t add any defenders, although given who was available to all those picks, I don’t necessarily think they really missed out on an obvious pick in that regard. They added a mystery goaltender who, due to his age, might be closer to jumping into the NHL assuming he turns into anything.
But a lot of this draft, me and most people will just have to trust the Leafs’ scouting, draft picks and development. Many choices seem confusing at first glance, but my initial research shows that there are could be something there, I don’t know yet. I was also disappointed with Matthew Knies’ selection last year, and he’s turned out to be my favorite prospect in the Toronto system now. But he didn’t show nearly the same level of play in his draft year as he did afterwards. Maybe Toronto catches lightning in a bottle again with Minten in this regard.
I’ll let you know once I’ve watched it some more, and I’ll give you all my thoughts.
What do you think of the Leafs draft as a whole?
I like it. It was good to get rid of Mrázek’s contract and to have interesting players in our system.
I’m undecided because I don’t know anything about any of these children.
I hated it, they took too many “safe” and overage guys that we don’t know anything about
728 votes in total