The Toronto Maple Leafs have historically been pretty bad at the NHL Entry Draft.
Overlooking the Toronto Maple Leafs history, we see that they have had a wide range of successes and failures using the draft. High picks turn into busts, late round picks turning into stars, and (it seems) all traded picks turn into franchise players for other teams (Tyler Seguin, Robert Luongo, Scott Niedermeyer, Dougie Hamilton).
With this article, I have combed through the Toronto Maple Leafs draft history and have recorded each position in each round from 2019 to 1979.
I chose to go back to 1979 and not earlier, because this is when the NHL Entry draft as we know it today came into being . With these recordings, I hope to shed light or unveil some tendencies that previous and current regimes tend to follow for certain rounds. I will be shedding light on the hits and misses as well.
My Initial Findings
Looking through the first round of Toronto Maple Leafs draft history was truly a roller coaster of emotions. Never did I think I would become so upset and anger driven by simply scrolling through a team’s draft history.
Alas, seeing picks that ended being busts and seeing potential picks that could have been a Toronto maple Leaf, only to become a super star, was tough to see.
Furthermore, there were years when the draft was stacked full of high-end prospects, yet, Toronto was nowhere to be seen in the thick of things!
2010 is the most notable class that comes to mind, as the Leafs gave away the #2 pick.
2010 is the year when the Leafs gave Tyler Seguin in the first of two picks sent to Boston in exchange for Phil Kessel. Instead of getting a franchise player who is destined for the Hall of Fame, The Toronto Maple Leafs ended up with Brad Ross, you see where I’m heading with this?
I don’t even bring up 2003 or 2004, due to the fact that Toronto was busy making the playoffs at that time. I will never disagree with a playoff run purchase, but if a GM trades picks before his team has even stepped on ice, I will always question that.
I think it’s safe to say that the Phil Kessel trade did not work out as hoped.
Draft Histories and Tendencies
Looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs draft tendencies, in the first round, dating back to 1979, the Leafs selected seven centres, 14 defensemen, 14 wingers and two goalies.
Here’s a look at the year to year picks from the first round!
2017- Timothy Liljegren (D)
2014- William Nylander (RW)
2012- Morgan Rielly (D)
2011- Tyler Biggs (RW)/ Stuart Percy (D)
2008- Luke Schenn (D)
2006- Jiri Tlusty (LW)
2005- Tuuka Rask (G)
2002- Alexander Steen (LW)
2001- Carlo Colaiacovo (D)
2000- Brad Boyes (RW)
1999- Luca Cereda ( C )
1998- Nikolai Antropov (RW)
1995- Jeff Ware (D)
1994- Eric Fichaud (G)
1993- Kenny Johnsson (D)
1992- Brandon Convery ( C )
1990- Drake Berehowsky (D)
1989- Scott Thornton ( C )/ Rob Pearson (RW)/ Steve Bancroft (D)
1988- Scott Pearson (LW)
1987- Luke Richardson (D)
1985- Wendel Clark (LW)
1984- Al Iafrate (D)
1983- Russ Courtnall (RW)
1982- Gary Nylund (D)
1981- Jim Benning (D)
1979- Laurie Boschmann (LW)
Looking at these results, I can’t say I’m totally surprised with them, the NHL as a whole seems to hate drafting goalies in the first round, and Toronto is allergic to it.
Eric Fichaud and Tuuka Rask, are the only two goalies the Leafs have ever picked in the first round. This makes sense though because goalies are generally the hardest position to predict accurately.
It’s interesting to see the positions that have been chosen – wingers are the most, but does make sense since a team carries more wingers than any other position. In the past, the Leafs might have targeted certain positions, but today’s philosophy is to just take the best player available, regardless.
Drafting any position in any round is fine, as long as you do the correct amount of scouting and research on the player.
Looking at current Leafs GM Kyle Dubas’ track record, the thing that stands out is how small the players he drafts generally are. The Leafs philosophy today is to focus on talent and intellect, and not worry about size. We will have to wait a while to see how this pans out.
In conclusion to the first round, I wish more centers were taken, but if this is simply the result of trying to acquire the best player available, then we can’t truly fault past regimes for this practice.
The Leafs history of first round picks is pretty sad. Other than a three year period where they scooped up Iafrate, Clark and Damphouse, it is only recently that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had any prolonged drafting success.