Toronto Maple Leafs: 25 Years of Draft Disasters

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Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A general view of the complete draft board after the completion of the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4. Brad Ross- Left Wing
Portland Winterhawks- Western Hockey League
Second Round- 43rd Overall- 2010

They passed on- Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Dalton Prout, Mark Stone

Another Brian Burke entry finds its way onto the list. Originally belonging to the Calgary Flames, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired this pick from Chicago in a draft day deal sending Jimmy Hayes to the Windy City. Burke used the pick to select left winger Brad Ross, a Steve Ott-like left winger from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Ross was coming off a good season in which he scored 27 goals, 68 points, and had a whopping 203 penalty minutes in 71 games which was enough to ship the promising Hayes the other way.

In January of this year, Ross was suspended 20 games by the AHL after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This past May, after three pro seasons bouncing between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the East Coast Hockey League, he signed a contract with the Iserlohn Roosters of the German Pro League without playing a single game with the big club. Rumor has it, the Leafs have been trying to acquire Toffoli from the Kings for quite a while. They could have had him for free.

3. Jeff Ware- Defence
Oshawa Generals- Ontario Hockey League
First Round- 15th Overall- 1995

They passed on- Petr Sykora, Sami Kapanen, Marc Savard, Mikael Handzus, Mikka Kiprusoff, Brent Sopel

This one’s a head scratcher if only because of the player that was taken three picks later. After the departures of rearguards Bob Rouse, Sylvain Lefebvre, and Garth Butcher in previous seasons, Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher elected to select big, tough defenceman Jeff Ware of the Oshawa Generals with the 15th overall pick.

Still on the board was Czech forward Petr Sykora who had come to North America to play pro in the IHL at the age of 17 before becoming NHL draft eligible.

New Jersey would eventually take Sykora three picks later at number 18. Ware was a bust and played only 15 NHL games with the Leafs before being dealt to Florida in 1999 for David Nemirovsky.  Sykora would go on to play 1017 NHL games with the Devils, Ducks, Rangers, Oilers, Penguins, and Wild scoring 323 goals and 721 points.

2. Luca Cereda- Center
Ambri-Piotta (Swiss-A League)
First Round- 24th Overall- 1999

They passed on- Martin Havlat, Mike Commodore, Jordan Leopold, Frank Kaberle, Craig Anderson, Mike Comrie, Ryan Malone, Ryan Miller, Chris Kelly

Ironically, this one was the result of the Leafs’ FIRST three-headed management team of Ken Dryden, Mike Smith, and Anderson Hedberg. Cereda took an uncommon path to the NHL, choosing to play pro in his home country of Switzerland at the age of 17. After being selected by the Leafs, he returned to the Swiss-A league before returning in 2000 for Leafs training camp where he was diagnosed with a defective heart valve by Leaf medical staff.

Cereda returned to Switzerland to have heart surgery and missed the entire 2000-01 season. He returned to Leaf training camp in 2001 but was sent to the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs. He played parts of three seasons in the AHL before returning to Switzerland for good.

The 1999 draft was pretty much a complete bust for the Leafs. Out of the nine players they drafted, only one played in the NHL. Defenceman Pierre Hedin appeared in three games with the Leafs in the 2003-04 season collecting one assist.

Next: Draft Disasters: The Number One