The Countdown of the best draft picks in Toronto Maple Leafs history is on.
We began last week, kicking the countdown off with #10 Nik Antropov. We like Antropov – he was the first homegrown Leafs player I was old enough to remember being drafted that I got to watch evolve. I will always have a soft-spot for Antropov, but if we’re being honest, it’s somewhat embarrassing that an Original Six team has Antropov in their top ten.
To be fair, the modern draft only began in 1979. Technically the NHL has had an amateur draft since 1963, but it wasn’t until the collapse of the World Hockey Association that the draft took on it’s current form. It’s somewhat arbitrary, but this countdown only consists of players selected post 1979. Besides the switch in rules and number of teams, my age makes it inconvenient to talk about the team history prior to the Eighties.
Our second guy on the countdown, coming in at #9, was Al Iafrate. I have no conscience memory of ever watching Iafrate play for the Leafs, but I do remember collecting his hockey cards when I was a kid and he played for the Capitals. Everyone always called Iafrate in road hockey too, because his slapshot was legendary.
If you want to check out our previous lists of Toronto Maple Leafs draftpicks from the 80s through 2010s, you can find that here:
Today, #8 it’s………..
Gary Leeman was drafted in the second round, 24th overall in 1982. That makes him a first rounder by today’s standards.
Leeman, from Saskatchewan, was born in 1964. He played nine seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs and was my first ever favorite player. I owned his jersey, a hockey puck with his face on it, and I even got his autograph. I thought Gary Leeman was Jesus.
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on January 2nd, 1992 I was nine. I was probably the only person who was upset the Leafs had acquired Doug Gilmour. I didn’t know who Doug Gilmour was, I probably had never heard of him.
In this article on the 25th anniversary of the trade which sent Gilmour and some guys to the Leafs in exchange for Leeman and some other guys, from Luke Fox and Kristina Rutherford at Sportsnet, Leeman says he asked for a trade.
I probably didn’t even know what a trade was back then. And it’s probably why, during the Doug Gilmour era, my favorite player was Dave Andreychuck.
Leeman Scores 50
Leeman was part of a group of Leafs (Clark, Richardson, Courtnall, Iafrate, Damphouse) who were supposed to lead the Leafs back to respectability. On paper, the team looks like it should have been much better, but the 1980s were a disaster for the Leafs.
One of the lone bright spots, Leeman scored a career high 51 goals and 95 points in the 1989-90 season. He is just one of three players to ever hit 50 as a Leafs (Andreychuck, Vaive). But after that, it was injuries (including a cracked skull) and off-ice problems for Leeman.
He could never recapture his game, and after a couple years in Calgary, he we to Montreal – where he won a Cup – Vancouver and St. Louis before retiring in 1997. He would score only 23 more career goals after leaving the Leafs.
Still, for a while, he was one of their best players. He remains one of the best players the Leafs have ever developed. He is the 19th leading scoring in both goals and points in franchise history.
Leeman’s final Leafs totals: 545 games played, 176 goals, 231 assists and 407 total points.
He is the 8th best player the Leafs have ever drafted.
Stats: hockeydb.com , quanthockey.com