| TORONTO -- The word is out. Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke is looking to swing a deal. |
Burke informed the media at the NHL Scouting Combine on Saturday that he would be willing to trade one of his two first-round picks and a second-round selection (No. 39 overall) to move up in what he feels is as deep a draft as there's been in some time.
"We're trying to move up, but haven't had any luck yet ... it's still pretty early," Burke said. "We own the 25th pick (from Philadelphia) and either a 29 or 30 from Boston (depending on the result of Stanley Cup Final), and we're trying to package 39 and one of those first-rounders."
Burke was asked if this year's Draft was as deep as the star-studded class of 2003. An entire All-Star team can be put together from the first round alone, which featured Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Nikolay Zherdev, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf and Andrei Kostitsyn being the top 10 choices.
Outside the top 10, the Philadelphia Flyers grabbed Jeff Carter (11th) and Mike Richards (24th); Anaheim grabbed Ryan Getzlaf (19th) and Corey Perry (28th); New Jersey selected Zach Parise (17th); and Vancouver took Ryan Kesler (23rd).
"It's comparable, yes," Burke said. "But there was star power in that draft. There's not really a big name draw here. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I think, is the clear consensus No. 1, but that's not what I would call a marquee name. He's going to be a good player. In terms of depth after the first four or five picks (this year), we really like this group a lot."
Burke admitted he's currently laying the groundwork for a potential deal before the start of the opening round at Xcel Energy Center on June 24.
"Making a draft deal is like farming," Burke said. "You have to do a lot of work before you harvest anything. You can't just show up at the Draft and say 'OK we're making this deal.'
"You've got to lay it out for all the teams ahead of you so they understand exactly what you're prepared to do. But it may happen on the floor. If a team feels a player isn't there where they want him, they'll maybe turn to us and say, 'Now we want to do that deal.' So if you don't do all the groundwork before you get there, there's no chance of making the right deal, so we're doing all the spade work now."
Burke feels the player chosen at No. 15 in this year's Draft could have the same impact as the player selected at No. 50.
"We're trying to identify all the ledges where the draft falls off," he said. "The way this draft is, we've got good bandwidth and a good feel that you could be getting the same player from No. 15 through No. 50. When it gets to No. 25 and if we still own that pick, you're going to see our phones start to ring from three different teams. They'll probably say, 'OK, there's a guy we really want at 25, would you trade down with us?' So we haven't ruled that out, either, in this draft. We've told our scouts, you have to have a gymnast ability to be flexible in moving up or down, so you'll see the phone ringing a lot on draft day."
Burke admitted being impressed with Mississauga St. Michael's Majors defenseman Stuart Percy in the Memorial Cup tournament. That was evidenced by the fact his eyes were glued to Percy for much of his fitness testing here at the Toronto Congress Centre.
"Would a good Memorial Cup performance sway an opinion of a player? Only 100 percent," Burke said.
Burke also had high praise for Nugent-Hopkins, NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater, and No. 2-rated Gabriel Landeskog. He feels Landeskog, a forward, will play in the NHL next season.
"Will Landeskog play in the NHL next year? I say yes, he'll play," Burke said. "Is he NHL ready? I'll leave that up to the team that drafts him. What's happening the last couple of years … we started to keep kids who should have gone back to major junior. It used to be one or two guys used to make it, and now its five or six guys. Frankly, they're not all ready."
Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog had impressive showings at the Combine this week. Burke feels Nugent-Hopkins is a "dynamic player."
"I like everything but his size (6-foot-1/2, 164 pounds)," Burke said. "He's an undersized kid, but he'll be big enough to play when he gets done growing. A lot of these kids are undersized in their draft year, but his creativity and his vision are exceptional. I think there are players who sell tickets and make things happen on the ice, and he's one of those guys."