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Leafs Go For Size & North Americans

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Back To Draft CentralBilly Talent 3

Brian Burke selected his seven players, but will go home without the one he wanted most.

The Leafs GM wrapped up the draft with an anticlimactic second round that saw him shift his emphasis from skill toward size as the event wound down.

After selecting the London Knights’ Nazem Kadri in the first round, Friday evening, Burke chose Kenny Ryan, a six foot, 200-pound right winger from Michigan who is playing on the U.S. development team.

With his other second rounder, Burke chose Jesse Blacker, a Toronto native who played for the Windsor Spitfires.

Then it was on to the heavyweights, Jamie Devane, a six-foot-four, 212 left winger with the Plymouth Whalers and Eric Knodel, a six-foot-six defenceman from Pennsylvania.

Burke veered to the smallish side for his sixth round pick, 5-11 right winger Jerry D’Amico from New York State before opting for more size with Barron Smith, a six-foot-four defenceman from Illinois.

Burke split his four choices between four Canadian and four American players and did not draft a European player.  The last time the Leafs chose not to draft a European was 1989.

The closest Burke came to a deal was one with Boston that involved gunner Phil Kessel. Word leaked out Friday of a deal that would send the high-scoring winger to the Leafs in exchange for Tomas Kaberle. His contract stipulated that Kaberle could not be dealt until the beginning of the draft but the deal stalled and died over confusion of the exact terms.

Burke, who had tried to land Tavares, saw his hopes dashed when the New York Islanders took him first overall. That cleared the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning to snatch Victor Hedman. Colorado selected Matt Duchene and just like that, the marquee talent was off the board.

Burke said it became clear to him that the cost of moving up would be defenceman Luke Schenn, a move Burke said would have been counterproductive.

The Leafs took a pass on towering defenceman Jared Cowan and talented Swedish forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson for Kadri whose game is built on skating and offence.

So besides its North American flavor, what’s to be gleaned from Brian Burke’s first draft with the Leafs.

Well, Schenn’s status has, if nothing else, been reconfirmed.

Beyond that, it is tempting to view the lack of Europeans as a new informal drafting policy but it’s hard to believe it’s much more than an aberration. Widespread concern over release fees and the competition from the Continental Hockey League keeps more Europeans home than anything else. Swedish players were flying off the shelves at the draft. It just appears the Leafs, with a new managerial emphasis on size, could not find one they liked.

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