PITTSBURGH — For the second year in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs' second draft choice is a headsy defenceman who knows all about Leaf Nation.
After being taken 35th overall on Saturday, the Guelph Storm's Matt Finn had the media from the centre of the universe eating out of the palm of his hand as he detailed his childhood growing up rooting for the blue and white. The Etobicoke, Ont., native will also have no shortage of Ontario Hockey League contemporaries he can lean on for an idea of what to expect in the Leafs organization. He's a good friend of 2011 first-rounder Stuart Percy, captain of the Mississauga Steelheads (formerly Majors).
"Me and Stuey both played for the Toronto Marlies [minor hockey organization] growing up, so I'm obviously going to talk to Stu very soon and ask him what it's going to be like with the Leafs," said the 6-foot-¼, 192-pound Finn. "The media and fans, being in Toronto, it's huge. You just got to be ready for it. I think I'm lucky because I know what it's like going into Toronto."
Storm goalie Garret Sparks is also a Leafs 2011 third-rounder. Finn's former minor hockey teammate, Erie Otters right wing Connor Brown, was taken Saturday by the Leafs at 156th overall.
Finn had a quick progression in his sophomore season with the Storm. He was an all-situations, 25-minute-a-night defenceman on a young team and had 10 goals and 48 points in 61 games. That was good for sixth among OHL defenceman and was second only to Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci for scoring by draft-year defencemen in the league.
However, Finn's pro destiny is more on the defensive side of the puck. His volume of playing time in Guelph and the fact the Storm used him on the power play out of want for a veteran power-play quarterback might mean his point total was an anomaly.
"Matt is a solid two-way defenceman, with top four potential and teams would love to put him on their top penalty killing unit some day," HockeyProspect.com's NHL Draft Black Book states. "There's simply too much talent and hockey sense to ignore his overall upside, especially considering that his skating is something that can be worked on."
Finn is somewhat similar to Percy in how he uses savvy and smart positioning to keep it tidy in his own zone. Since he's 16-year-old season in Guelph, he's distinguished himself with his ability to play 1-on-1 situations. Also like Percy, Finn grew up wearing Leafs-style uniforms with the Toronto Marlboros minor hockey organization. So he won't need a wardrobe change.
"Geez, I can't get out of it," he said with a laugh.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.