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The Leafs Have an Ace Up Their Sleeve for the Draft

The vast majority of players picked in NHL entry drafts never see themselves make an NHL debut. Drafting in this league is extremely difficult because most of the time any team picking after 30th overall have their work cut out for them in terms of finding a future NHL player. The 1st round features the most mature players with the brightest futures being taken; while in later rounds scouts try and find those players who they hope have the potential to develop and mature into skilled prospects. Great scouts can find superstars deep in the draft (Ex. Jamie Benn, Henrik Zetterberg) and their work pays off for their organizations in the long run. For the Toronto Maple Leafs, their ace up their sleeve comes in the form of a man named Thommie Bergman.

Bergman used to play for the Detroit Red Wings, and after his playing days he became a scout. He's been employed by the Maple Leafs for years now, and has found them many late round steals in past drafts. Toronto has had a terrible draft record over the last decade, but Bergman proves to be a bright spot in their scouting department. He's stationed in Europe, and mostly gives recommendations for players to be chosen in rounds 6 and 7 of the draft. His job is to find the Leafs those late round european gems (much like the Red Wings always seem to find), and based on his recommendations, the Leafs have drafted the following:

Anton Stralman, 2005 entry draft, 7th round 216th overall

Anyone watching the playoffs this year will see the reliable Stralman anchoring the blue line for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He plays big minutes against opponents' top forward lines, and is a very underrated shut down defenceman. Lightning coach John Cooper said:

 “I’ve used this line about Anton — he may not win the Norris Trophy, but his partner will; that’s how good he can make you look. People should just watch him. He’s always on the right side of the puck. He uses his body in such a way that he doesn’t have to play a big heavy game, but he can play it because his body position is literally perfect every time he’s around the puck."

Stralman does seem to make whoever he's playing with better, and he's always had the trust from his coaches because of it. When he was part of the Toronto organization, his confidence shrunk because he didn't fit with what Leafs management (Brian Burke and Ron Wilson) wanted; which was to get bigger and stronger. The slick Swede was then traded out of town to Calgary. It is this exact impatience from the Leafs over the last decade that has ruined prospects or caused them to be traded early in their development, and now they get to watch Stralman in the Stanley Cup finals with Tampa Bay.

Leo Komarov, 2006 entry draft, 6th round 180th overall

Under Bergman's advice, the Leafs drafted Komarov in the 2006 draft. Unlike Stralman, this pick the Leafs actually kept, as Komarov is currently still on the Leafs roster. He doesn't have huge offensive capabilities, but is a solid 3rd line player who plays a very physical game. He forechecks hard, hits anything and everything, is a great penalty killer, and has an agitating style that brings excitement to the game. His energy is loved by teammates, and his role on the Leafs earned him a 4 year contract last summer. A good find in the 6th round. 

Carl Gunnarsson, 2007 entry draft, 7th round 194th overall

Another steal in the 7th round, Gunnarsson was part of the Leafs organization for many years. Bergman found him in Sweden and knew his defensive potential, and so Toronto drafted him in 2007. He is a stay at home defenceman who played with Dion Phaneuf on Toronto's top defensive line before being traded to St. Louis last summer. In part of the trade, Toronto gave up Gunnersson's speed and shut down capabilities for Roman Polak's size and grit. Questionable move, as Carl seemed to fit on the Leafs back end. For a 7th round pick, he developed perfectly and into the player Bergman knew he would become. 

Petter Granberg, 2010 entry draft, 4th round 116th overall

Still a prospect, Granberg has been solid on the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Leafs). He's appeared in 8 games with the Leafs, and is in consideration to be Toronto's 6th defenceman next season. He's developed quickly for a defender (especially for a 4th rounder), and at only 22 he's looking to make the jump to the NHL. As stated before, Bergman helps with the later round picks, but at his advice the Leafs picked Granberg early. In his 8 NHL games there were some points where he looked overwhelmed, while on other shifts he showed his excellent defensive capabilities. These bright spots have given Leafs management excitement thinking of what he can become. 

Viktor Loov, 2012 entry draft, 7th round 209th overall

Viktor Loov (pronounced "love") isn't a very known name, but his work on the Marlies is just starting to be recognized. He was brought to North America from Sweden this season to learn the style of hockey played here, and his big body fits well with the physicality in the AHL. He is always looking for the big hits, and Bergman has seems to have found a solid, physical, stay at home defenceman for the Leafs in the future. I personally watched him play at a Marlies game this season, and his skill was evident along side his physical play. 

In the end, each and every draft that goes by, Thommie Bergman is the Leafs secret weapon in the scouting department. There are many more players that didn't make this list in which Bergman recommended to be drafted. He's found Toronto quality prospects and solid NHL players in rounds that teams rarely have success in. With the 2015 draft being labeled as one of the deepest and most skilled in years, who knows who he might find. 

Here are some other pieces on Loov, Bergman and Stralman (in that order): Toronto Star, National Post, and the Toronto Star again

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