We continue our Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Entry Draft retrospective series with the 2001 Draft.
Here’s what the Leafs did on that day:
And here’s how they stacked up to the rest of the NHL:
-The draft was a deep one as a whole, or at least it was a lot deeper than the year before. The Leafs did well, too. Kyle Wellwood, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jay Harrison have all had lengthy careers, while Brendan Bell played over 100 games and Karel Pilar fell just short of that mark.
-The Leafs, however, continued their trend of trading away first-round picks when they shipped Colaiacovo and Alex Steen (the Leafs’ first-rounder in 2002) to the St. Louis Blues for Lee Stempniak. We all know how that one turned out. Colaiacovo hasn’t hit the 70-game mark since 2008-09 as he’s continually struggled with injuries. He only played in 25 for the Blues last season.
-Wellwood was an interesting case. The smallish centre racked up 118 points in his junior year with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, but fell to the fifth round over what I’m sure must have been concern over his size. He wasn’t able to consistently light the lamp in the NHL, but was able to muster 42 points in 48 games in 06-07. He drew criticism in Toronto for not taking his offseason training regimen seriously enough, and was eventually put on waivers in 2008. He was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks, and spent five more seasons in the NHL with the Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, before calling it quits at age 30. He actually put up a very respectable 18 goals and 47 points in 77 games with the Jets in 2011-12, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to stick around two years later.
-That’s a hilarious bad draft by the New York Islanders. They didn’t have a pick until the fourth round, but it’s still pretty sad when your only NHLer is Andy Chiodo, a goaltender who went on to play in eight games for the Pittsburgh Penguins as a 20-year-old before spending the rest of his career bouncing around the minors and eventually Europe. That Mike Milbury sure has an eye for talent.
-Strangely enough, the Anaheim Ducks’ (or Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, as they were called back then) two best picks were in Rounds 8 and 9, where they picked Martin Gerber and P.A. Parenteau, respectively.
Top Three Picks
3. Alexander Svitov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Who? Svitov was playing in the Russian League at age 18, so that must have impressed the Lighting front office enough that they made him the third pick in the draft. He went on to play in 179 games with the Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets, and even won a Stanley Cup with the Bolts in 2004, but never broke the 10-goal or 20-point mark in a season. He moved back home to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for good in 2007-08 as a 25-year-old.
2. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators
Spezza has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since he was drafted by the Senators. The incredibly gifted centreman has went from being vilified by his former coach, to being praised by everybody, to being named captain before last season, back to being thrown under the bus after the Sens struggled this year. There have been about a zillion rumours since the end of the season about Spezza being shopped around the league. One thing’s for sure, though: Spezza has earned every ounce of hype he received when he was drafted out of the OHL. On his NHL resume are four 80-point and 30-goal seasons, a a career point-per-game average and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2007.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers
Speaking of controversy, there’s been plenty of it surrounding Kovalchuk during his NHL career. The Russian left-winger burst on to the scene scoring 29 goals in 65 games as an 18-year-old and finishing second in Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting. He went on to score over 40 goals for six consecutive seasons for the Thrashers before being traded to the New Jersey Devils in a blockbuster deal in 2010. He made it to the Cup Final in 2012 before shocking the hockey world last summer by announcing his retirement at age 29. He played last season in the KHL, and it remains a mystery if he’s ever going to return to North America.
2001 NHL All-Draft Teams
C- Jason Spezza
RW- Patrick Sharp
LW- Ilya Kovalchuk
D- Dan Hamhuis
C- Mikko Koivu
RW- Ales Hemsky
LW- Jussi Jokinen
D- Kevin Bieksa
G- Mike Smith