Since his arrival as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Shanahan has installed his vision of the way a championship organization should be run.
He's stressed patience and a building effort that starts with a solid foundation of prospects and draft picks.
General manager Lou Lamoriello continued to fortify that foundation Monday when he acquired second-round picks in the 2017 and 2018 NHL Draft from the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Roman Polak and forward Nick Spaling.
That follows two previous trades this month that saw the Maple Leafs acquire a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft from the Colorado Avalanche for forward Shawn Matthias and a 2017 second-round pick from the Ottawa Senators as part of the nine-player trade that included defenseman and captain Dion Phaneuf.
The three trades also brought the Maple Leafs six players, but their consequence pales in comparison to the value of the draft picks.
"I think the picks are the most important thing that we've gotten in these transactions," Lamoriello said Monday. "We'll see what the players bring from now until the end of the year [but] picks were most important as far as giving us the opportunity, depending on where we're at, these two being pushed out two years, they can also be used at a later time to acquire a player if need be or select in the entry draft."
The Maple Leafs could have as many as 12 picks in the 2016 draft, including two in the first round -- their pick and the Pittsburgh Penguins' first pick, acquired in the Phil Kessel trade. That pick slides to the Maple Leafs if the Penguins make the Stanley Cup Playoffs; entering Monday they had a three-point lead on the New Jersey Devils for the final wild card into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The next three drafts could see the Maple Leafs with as many as 10 picks in the first two rounds.
That's one part of how a winning foundation is built. But another important part is how those draft picks are used. That's why director of player personnel Mark Hunter could be the most important person in the Toronto organization.
This will be the second year Hunter has overseen the Maple Leafs' draft, and the early results from the 2015 draft certainly look promising. London forward Mitchell Marner, the fourth pick of the first round, is third in the Ontario Hockey League with 94 points in 45 games, and fifth with 36 goals. Erie defenseman Travis Dermott, selected in the second round (No. 34), joined Marner with Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. His 36 points in 41 games are tied for ninth among OHL defensemen. Forward Dmytro Timashov, picked in the fifth round (No. 125), is a top-10 scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Shawinigan, and he had seven points in seven games for Sweden at the World Juniors.
During Lamoriello's 28 seasons as GM of the Devils he came to rely on long-time director of scouting David Conte to run the draft, and the result was three Stanley Cup championships. Lamoriello, in his first season as GM of the Maple Leafs, already has the same level of trust in Hunter.
"I don't think I could over-estimate the value in the knowledge and the expertise of Mark Hunter and his position in this draft," Lamoriello said. "Total comfortability. I was very fortunate to have David Conte for a number of years [with the Devils]. Both have tremendous similarities as far as being at the rink every day and seeing games and having knowledge. Mark, in the brief time I've been here, he's one of the first individuals I spent time with because of how important he is. I'm more and more impressed with him and totally comfortable in him having these picks in his hands. And I think Maple Leafs fans should feel comfortable also. … He's straightforward, no gray area. Knows what he's doing."
However the Maple Leafs use their draft picks, they have enough of them to continue adding to their foundation.
"I think you do anything that you feel is going to fit within what the plan is, the process that we're trying to create so that anything can happen," Lamoriello said. "There's nothing in cement that this won't happen or this will happen."