The Toronto Maple Leafs had yet another disappointing finish to their NHL season. Despite all that, there’s still something to look forward to in the 2021 NHL Draft. What prospects are Leafs draft prototypes?
Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Prototypes: Scandinavian Defensemen
How To Determine Prototypes
All parts of my Leafs draft prototype pieces for forwards have been published! Go check them out if you have not already done so. In those pieces, the explanation behind what makes a Leafs prototype is explained in detail. For this piece, we at Last Word will take a look at Leafs draft prototypes among defensemen in the Swedish and Finnish ranks!
Maple Leafs Draft Prototypes: Finnish Eligibles
The Finnish ranks were divided into two leagues: Liiga, the men’s league, and the U20 SM-Sarja/SM-Liiga. Below is the Leafs draft history in those leagues when it comes to drafting defenders. Among them is Mikko Kokkonen and Topi Niemela.
Using those numbers, let’s see how the 2021 Finnish draft eligibles stack up!
Overall, combining the two leagues, there was just one positive fit for the Leafs. That player was Topias Vilen.
Vilen, my 93rd ranked prospect, has been ranked between 54th and 114th by various sites and experts. That gives the Leafs a generally good shot of selecting him at some point in the draft. He lands as a Leafs draft prototype because of his size (6’0” and 194 pounds), and his strong U18 World Juniors performance for Finland.
Vilen is strong in his own end, and plays with a physical edge. He has a strong lower-body, which he uses extremely well in board battles. Additionally, his balance and core strength allow him to win those battles with regularity against his own age group. Similar to guys like Anton Olsson and Stanislav Svozil, his strong defensive game is paired with a strong ability to transition the puck up the ice. However, he keeps his offensive game simple, and doesn’t have many strong tools on offense. His upside is limited, but he seems like a safe pick in the later rounds with his ability to defend and transition the puck well, along with playing a power game with his size.
Maple Leafs Draft Prototypes: Swedish Eligibles
Similar to the Finnish leagues, Sweden was also split into two leagues. Those leagues are the SHL and the J20 Nationell/SuperElit. First, let’s look at the Leafs draft history in the Swedish ranks when it comes to selecting defensemen, which includes Rasmus Sandin.
With that, let’s look at how the 2021 Swedish eligibles stack up.
In the Swedish ranks, there are two Leafs fits: Simon Edvinsson and Anton Olsson.
Edvinsson is locked in as a first-round pick in this draft, which will make it very difficult for the Leafs to acquire him in the draft. Currently, Edvinsson is my 17th ranked prospect, he has been ranked between 2nd and 11th by various sites and experts.
Edvinsson is the epitome of a boom-or-bust prospect. He’s a big-bodied defender, who plays well against the rush, along with a willingness to get physical in those situations. On top of that, his transitional game is fantastic and fun to watch. Offensively, Edvinsson is up there with Brandt Clarke and Luke Hughes. The difference is he commits far more heavily in the offensive zone than both of them. That sort of style can work at the NHL level, but not with consistency. In his own end, once the opposition has full control, Edvinsson does not have positional discipline and will puck-watch or chase. He is constantly pushing for offense when defending, and again, that can work, but not consistently. Edvinsson must reel in his aggressive offensive style and become more disciplined positionally in his own end, or he will be very frustrating for NHL coaches in the future.
Almost the polar opposite of Edvinsson, Olsson is a safe pick. He is ranked 34th on my rankings, and has been placed anywhere from 29th to 98th. The odds Olsson slides to the late-second round is certainly there, and the Leafs could be very happy if he does.
Olsson was the only draft-eligible defender playing in Sweden to play almost exclusively in the SHL against men. He was trusted more than Edvinsson, and was deployed often in the SHL and held his own. His defensive game is exceptional, and he is rarely caught making mistakes. Olsson is a very strong transitional player as well, able to move the puck up ice effectively. He may not make those stretch passes, or breakaway passes, but he will make the easy pass to exit the defensive end and enter the offensive end. His offensive toolkit is limited, but he did flash a strong passing ability at times. If he falls to the Leafs, he could be an absolute steal.
CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Timothy Liljegren poses for photos after being selected 17th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)