First Overall Belongs in Toronto


The Arizona Coyotes are allegedly keen to acquire this year’s 1st overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs, as reported by Jimmy Murphy, even though 1st overall belongs in Toronto.

It’s no surprise Arizona has their sights set on Auston Matthews, as the Scottsdale native is widely considered to be this year’s top prospect. If acquired by his hometown team, many are convinced that Matthews could single-handedly turn around the struggling franchise and attract more fans, despite it being a step backwards from sustainable financial success.

First Overall Belongs in Toronto

As of right now, though, the Leafs still hold the 1st overall pick. Expect them to keep it unless an unjustifiably one-sided, irrefutable deal lands in their lap. It’s hard to picture the Coyotes, a team who currently has one of the strongest prospect pools in the league, stripping down almost every piece of anticipated talent in their system for one player. It’s also difficult to envision the Leafs trading away the most valuable asset they have held since Mats Sundin. Should Toronto keep their 1st overall pick, Matthews could soon be the number one centre they’ve desperately needed.

What doesn’t make sense is why Arizona would see Toronto possibly accepting this apparent trade offer. The rumoured value is nowhere near the potential of Matthews, even if Max Domi and Christian Dvorak are both included, let alone either-or.

Domi had a successful rookie campaign with the Coyotes with 18 goals and 52 points. Although, with eight of his goals coming in his first sixteen games, there are questions about how high his ceiling really is after he cooled down from a hot start. As for Dvorak, he has yet to play a full season against men after playing the majority of his last three seasons in the OHL. Each player has the potential to be successful in the NHL, but that doesn’t provide Toronto certainty that either will reach Matthews’ expectations.

To go along with Domi and Dvorak, the Coyotes’ seemingly offered Toronto both of their 2016 1st round draft selections, at 7th and 20th overall. Adding relatively high draft selections is certainly appealing to any general manager, however keep in mind there is a significant drop off in pick value after Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujärvi. Also bear in mind the fact that late first round value is essentially similar to second round value. Understanding context regarding this year’s draft class along with the history of the NHL draft is important when looking at trade offers like the one Jimmy Murphy is reporting.

There’s also a strong possibility that recently hired Arizona General Manager John Chayka is simply offering the best he can to receive Matthews. Arizona may be “pushing hard” for the 1st overall pick, but offering away more assets would likely hurt the organization in the long run.

The reality is that the Leafs are likely receiving calls from every team in the league the closer the draft gets, therefore with a pick as valuable as the one they own it should be expected that all general managers will throw their hats into the ring.

If this trade proposal were true, then we are seeing the oldest and youngest general managers in the NHL discuss a blockbuster deal: Lou Lamoriello vs. Chayka; experience vs. inexperience. At the end of the day, the Leafs Lamoriello is trusted with what’s best for Toronto. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t listen to trade offers.

Assuming there is validity to this reported trade proposal, don’t anticipate the Coyotes organization will throw away everything they have for Matthews despite their desire for his rights. Looking at Toronto after their successful re-rebuilding season in addition to their rare draft position, it only makes sense to hold onto to the opportunity to draft Matthews, who will hopefully be their next Sundin.

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  1. The leafs would need to seriously consider this offer. A few reasons why:

    1) Matthews has immense potential as a marketing tool for the ‘yotes, for sure. But the same potential exists for Toronto with Max, Tie’s kid.
    2) Dvorak has played exceptionally well with Marner, the Leafs’ top prospect. Their chemistry adds an intangible to the equation, in addition to Dvorak being an absolute steal in rd 2 a few years back
    3) Arizona’s 7th pick will likely yield either a) Tkachuk, the third member of Marner and Dvorak’s line (can you spell kemistry?), or, b) Alex, William Nylander’s younger brother. Again – chemistry galore, delivered in the form of two really good players.
    4) Adding three young players of this stature, with their early-career contract leverage (or lack thereof), will allow the Leafs to throw whatever it takes at Stamkos this season, thereby mitigating the need for Matthews, their ‘franchise centre’. They’d get another first overall, this one with an established track record and captain experience.
    5) Other pieces – 20 overall, perhaps Strome – might be in play too. There’s enough assets here to make it worthwhile for both teams.

    The Leafs need every piece they can get. One player here or there won’t cut it – the league isn’t run on superstar power anymore. It’s run on cap management, development, and depth. Three potential top-level players would have to trump just one.