When it comes to draft strategy, there are two basic schools of thought: You either target team need or aim for the best player on the board.
According to Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, however, there’s really only one draft philosophy that makes sense.
“Drafting for need when players aren’t going to be on the roster for two or three or four years, I think your needs are going to change in the meantime,” he said during a conversation on Prime Time Sports Monday night. “I look at our goal is to add the best possible players that we can, and if we end up having a surplus at one position or another then that would fall on me as the manager — not the scouting staff or the rest of our staff — to fix it.”
Dubas’s talent for building a successful club can be seen in this year’s edition of the Toronto Marlies, who just last week won the Calder Trophy as the AHL’s best team.
While this will be Dubas’s first draft as GM of the Maple Leafs, it won’t be his first time in charge at the draft table. He and Mark Hunter made some big waves at the 2015 draft as co-assistant GMs following the firing of Dave Nonis and prior to the hiring of Lou Lamoriello as his replacement. The duo drafted Mitch Marner at No. 4 overall and followed it up with some savvy manoeuvring to stock up on picks by trading back.
Now picking at No. 25, the Leafs are in a different position — but while the game constantly changes, there are certain traits that never go out of style when it comes to evaluating players.
“I think, certainly, a player’s intelligence level, not just off the ice but certainly on the ice, their instincts, their sense,” Dubas said. “A lot of things kind of come and go in terms of trends in hockey, but puck skill, sense, intelligence, those are the things that remain sort of the staples all the time.
“Some years there’s an emphasis on, ‘you have to be fast,’ other times there’s an emphasis on ‘you have to be big’ but if you have smart people with high skill level, I think those are kind of tested and true ways to go about it,” he continued. “That maybe sounds more basic than it truly is, but those are the kinds of things that every team in the NHL values for sure.”
He also spoke about the Marlies’ championship, creating a winning culture, among other topics during Monday’s Prime Time Sports appearance.
See the full interview at the top of this post.