Toronto Maple Leafs All-Time Best Draft Picks #1

The Toronto Maple Leafs All-Time Best Draft Pick Countdown comes to it’s thrilling conclusion today.

Over the last couple of weeks, Editor in Leaf has counted down the all-time best draft picks in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

We decided that the cut-off would be when the draft changed to include foreign players and the NHL expanded to 21 teams with the WHL merger.  That means that we only considered players drafted post-1979 on this list.

We also ignored players who played the majority of their careers with other teams.  No Vincent Damphouse.  No Brad Boyes.  No Tukka Rask.

The previous nine players selected were:

 #10 Nik Antropov

#9 Al Iafrate

# 8 Gary Leeman 

#7 Nazem Kadri

#6 Morgan Rielly

#5 Mitch Marner

#4 William Nylander

#3 Auston Matthews

#2 Wendel Clark 

One thing that is interesting is the top-ten best Toronto Maple Leafs draft picks include five players on their current roster.  This says a lot about the Leafs recent luck in the draft.  But it also says just as much about how terrible they’ve been at it over the last 38 years.

In fact, had it not been for this wicked run of super-star selections, I’d have had to include the likes of Todd Gill, Felix Potvin and Alex Ponikarovsky.  To be honest, I don’t think I would have bothered.

Without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, your #1 all-time best draft selection in team history:

#1 Tomas Kaberle

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Tomas Kaberle in the 8th round, 204th overall in the 1996 draft.  By far he is their best draft pick of all-time.

I don’t even think the NHL draft goes to eight rounds anymore, for starters.  Kaberle is one of the great late-bloomers of all-time.   Who ever heard of an 8th round pick becoming the second best defenseman in the history of any franchise?  (After only Salming, and no else is close).

Kaberle was awesome.  One of the best players to ever wear the blue and white, and my second favorite all-time player, after only Mats Sundin.

Tomas Kaberle played for the Toronto Maple Leafs for twelve seasons before disgracefully being traded by one of the Leafs worst ever general managers.

Kaberle should have retired a Leaf, but he was traded to the Bruins in 2011 for Joe Colbourne, and a first-round pick.  In typical Leafs fashion the pick was wasted in a foolish deal with Anaheim to move up and select Tyler Biggs, who, needless to say, did not appear on this list.   Also typical of the Leafs, the guy the Ducks picked with the Leafs pick turned out to be Rickard Rackell (who is very good).

Kaberle is ranked 8th all-time in games played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is 5th in assists, and 11th in points. Among defensemen, he is second in points and third in games played.

One thing that might make people underrate Tomas Kaberle is that he played during the lowest scoring era of NHL history.  His career high of 67 points in 2005-06 isn’t quite Erik Karlsson level, but it’s not that far off either.  That was the first of three straight season where Kaberle scored over 50 points.  Even in his last attempt at playing a full season, Kaberle scored at a 40 point pace.

Hall of Fame

With no championships, and without point totals that jump off the page, Kaberle might not make the Hall of Fame, but he should.  So far, there are zero defenseman from the Dead Puck Era in the Hall of Fame.

The last inductees that played D were Rob Blake, Phil Housley, Chris Pronger, Nick Lidstrom, Scott Niedermeyer and Chris Chelios.  These are all players who played at least a couple seasons in the NHL before scoring dropped off a cliff.

Tomas Kaberle is 48th All-Time for points by defenseman in NHL history.  Of the players of his generation, only Chara and Markov have more points.  And both of those guys continue to play.  Tomas Kaberle is one of the best defenseman of his generation, and he should be in the hall of fame.

I also suspect that if we had advanced stats during his prime he’d be even more beloved, since he was always a positive possession player during the last years of his career, when these stats first became available.

Kaberle is one of the all-time greats, and the best draft pick in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

stats from hockey.reference.com,  hockeydb.com, stats.hockey.analysis.com

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