This article is part of our Prospects Analysis series.
In the end, all the suffering that Leafs fans endured this season was worth it. For the first time since 1985, Toronto will pick first in the NHL Entry Draft. Our annual ranking of the top-50 available prospects is below.
1. Auston Matthews (C, Zurich-Switzerland): Matthews decision to pass on collegiate and junior hockey to play professionally in Europe was a rousing success. He had zero incentive to spend this past year playing against overmatched kids. He posted 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games in the Swiss league and he got valuable international experience with Team USA at both the World Juniors and the World Championships. I don't expect Matthews to be as flashy as a guy like Connor McDavid, but he can impact a game in just as many ways. He has all the tools to be a franchise center at the NHL level and he should be ready to produce immediately . He uses his size well, his shot is elite and he has shown a real willingness to use his teammates when the opportunity presents itself, something that many young kids struggle with. I don't have Matthews ranked quite as high as McDavid and Jack Eichel last year (there is no shame in that), but I think he is a better prospect entering the draft than Nathan MacKinnon and Aaron Ekblad were when they were drafted first overall in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
2. Patrik Laine (RW, Tappara-Finland): Since I started covering NHL prospects