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The Leafs Could Get Tavares With Burke-esque Cunningness

The last time I wrote about how the Leafs could land John Tavares, the Islanders had 28 points and sat dead last in the NHL standings.

That hasn't changed.

What has changed between now and then, is my mindset on this whole Tavares sweepstakes. If the Leafs continue to fall, and believe me, they're about to, they definitely have a chance to slide into the second overall pick.

The assumption recently has been that John Tavares will go first. We're all very caught up on the way John completely tore up the World Juniors, and it seems that he's the unanimous top prospect coming into this year's draft.

But let's look at it in the way we've been told to look at it by folks such as Bob McKenzie of TSN who know the league well and are excellent predictors of what will happen in certain situations. Let's look at it with the mindset that whether Tavares or Hedman goes first overall is based on which team has the first pick.

Now let's assume that the Isles are first on the clock in this year's entry draft, and the Leafs second. If you put all other things aside - World Juniors and recent trends - Tavares and Hedman are still neck and neck. And it's true that GMs listen very carefully to NHL central scouting. If Tavares and Hedman are very close in ranking, then the Islanders will pick whoever would improve their team more. For the Islanders, that means Hedman has the inside track.

You see, the Islanders of late have been grabbing every forward they can get their hands on. They moved down in the draft because they weren't interested in Schenn, and opted to take a forward they liked a lot in Josh Bailey, a pick some might call a 'reach'.

The Islanders have a wealth of forward prospects, including Kyle Okposo, Corey Trivino, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Robin Figren and Ryan O'Marra.

Who are their defense prospects? None worth mentioning, really.

So it makes sense that if the Isles have the first pick and want Hedman, they might be able to blackmail the second team if they want Tavares. If the Leafs want Tavares and have the second pick, the Isles might opt to switch places, just as they did in this past year's draft, where the Leafs took Schenn and the Islanders took Bailey. Or, the talks could melt down and the Islanders just take Hedman and number two takes Tavares anyways. But if Isles GM Garth Snow plays his cards right, he may be able to extort something out of the second team to go, by either threatening to take Tavares or simply not disclosing who the team plans to take.

If you're Burke, and you're set on landing Tavares, you are going to do it; you must have things your way. He would likely make it happen if this situation presented itself this way. He traded up to get both Sedin twins in 1999, so he might force his way into that first pick. It's also widely believed that Burke is searching for offensive prospects in this year's draft, due to the lack of blue-chip offensive talent in the Leafs system.

For Leafs fans who are sobbing as the Islanders continue to lose games, who have their fingers crossed that DiPietro isn't as injured as the reports are saying, that somehow Doug Weight and Bill Guerin don't end up being traded, and that Kyle Okposo all of a sudden carries the Islanders on his back, I tell you to breathe easy.

If the Leafs can just fall to the second pick overall, the road to Tavares might be there. I can assure that it's going to be a bumpy one, though.