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?
Maple Leafs’ Draft Prototypes: Defensemen-Only Mock Draft
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. After finishing up a three-part series on Leafs’ prototypes among draft-eligible defensemen, we here at Last Word will move forward with a defensemen-only mock draft!
Maple Leafs’ Draft Prototypes: Draft Picks
Using Draft Prospects Hockey draft simulator, the Leafs’ mock draft was completed. Here were the results.
56th Overall: Anton Olsson
With the Leafs’ first pick, Anton Olsson was still available. To me, this selection was a no-brainer. Coming in as the clear-cut prototype, Olsson was the best fit among all Swedish defenders in the draft. He’s also the most mature prospect that fits as a prototype at that spot. He has great size, at 6’0” and 183 pounds, and played in a combined 44 SHL games over the last two years, including 39 this season, with four assists.
His offensive game is lacking, so he does not have the most appealing upside. However, his defensive game is extremely advanced for his age, and he held up quite admirably against men in Sweden. Olsson very well could be just one year away from making a transition to North American hockey and competing for an NHL spot. That safety and reliability in his own end, paired with an adept ability in transition makes Olsson a sneaky good pick at this spot for Toronto.
152nd overall: Isaac Belliveau
Isaac Belliveau may just be the opposite of Olsson. Being a very offensively-oriented defenseman, Belliveau exploded onto the scene playing with Alexis Lafreniere as a QMJHL rookie. He scored 11 goals and 42 assists for 53 points in 62 games. Although, he had a down year in 2020-21, scoring just 17 points in 37 games between two teams.
Belliveau has enticing offensive skills, though his shot needs some work. If he can reach his offensive potential, he could be a dangerous powerplay quarterback. However, he has glaring defensive zone issues. He must work past those problems if he wants to truly become an NHL defender. The upside is absolutely there, and that could be worth a late-round flier.
184th overall: Ethan Straky
Ethan Straky plays a very strong defensive game. He closely resembles Olsson, but also possesses a bit more offensive upside. He is a project, however, while Olsson has been playing against men and has a very matured game.
On the ice, Straky is almost always in the middle of every play, constantly engaging himself in puck battles and net-front battles. He will do anything to aid his team, including willingly throwing himself into shooting lanes and eating pucks. His play is also predicated on a really high hockey IQ, as he creates strong plays to transition the puck up the ice. Nothing really stands out in a big way in his game but he is very solid in just about every aspect of his game.
Maple Leafs Draft Prototypes: Defense-Only Mock Results
Snagging Olsson, to me, was a big pick. Again, he’s experienced in the SHL and comes with a well-developed game for his age. He plays a strong defensive style that is reliable, and any coach can throw him into a situation and not have to worry. He has been ranked between 29th and 98th, so this mock puts him almost directly in the middle of his range: A great spot for him to go at.
As for Belliveau at 152nd, that has some great potential. Being ranked between 61st and 238th, the spot that I selected him in for the Leafs is seemingly where he is expected to go. It’s a high-risk, high reward selection.
Finally, Straky taken at 184th is another strong pick. He does not have the same upside as Belliveau, but he has a safer floor. Ultimately, he could be a decent depth defender in the long run. Among respected prospect evaluators, he’s been ranked anywhere between 162nd and 292nd. Once again, the spot he was taken in this mock is about where he is expected to fall in real life.