The Leafs Almost Assuredly Drafted An NHL Regular Today

There are some pretty bitter people on Hockey Twitter today, what with the Leafs drafting so many draft over-agers, not to mention a trio of defensemen with questionable offensive upside.

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I’m not one of those bitter people though. The draft is such a crapshoot, and in reality, many of the players I would’ve preferred the Leafs to have taken at a given pick will in end up being absolutely nothing anyways. Such is the random nature of the draft.

There’s also another reason not to be too upset: the Leafs made 10 picks today. Given the aforementioned random nature of the draft, to me once you’re getting past the first couple of rounds it’s more important to have a quantity of picks rather than a quality.

In fact, if history is any indication, the Leafs probably did really well for themselves today. If history is any indication, the Leafs probably drafted at least one long-time NHLer.

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What I did is this: I took the overall selections that the Leafs made this weekend (1, 31, 57, 62, 72, 92, 101, 122, 152, 179, and 182). Then I looked at the players those picks wielded in every draft between 2000 and 2009 (a time frame with a good mixture of recency and distance).

The results were even better than I expected. Below you’ll see a table in which I’ve compiled the results of each draft sorted by the player that wielded the most NHL games played, to the player that wielded the least amount of NHL games played (in this case we’re only counting the players that played at least 1 NHL game). In other words, I’ve sorted the collection of draft picks the Leafs made today by points per game in a given draft year.

Asterisks denote players that are still active in the NHL (defined as having played the majority of their games in the NHL this past season).

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We should make careful consideration of the fact that 1st overall picks are being included here, so they make up many of the players with either the most or second most amount of games played in the NHL.

However, as we can see, quite literally 90% of drafts in this study wielded an NHL regular that wasn’t the 1st overall pick when considering the exact collection of 11 picks the Leafs made this weekend.

Now, using NHL games played can be deceiving when it comes to prospect evaluation, so I’ve listed the players by name in their given draft year, in the order in which they show up in the above table (i.e., most NHL games played to least NHL games played).

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Paul Martin, Rick DiPietro


Jay McClement, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andrew Alberts, Matthew Spiller, Tom Kavanagh, Brandon Nolan


Rick Nash, Matt Stajan, Jeff Deslauriers, Andre Deveaux

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David Backes, Marc-Andre Fleury, Bruno Gervais, Alexander Sulzer, Corey Pottery, Danny Richmond, Brad Murray


Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Nikulin


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Sidney Crsoby, Kris Letang, Jared Boll, Jonathan Quick, Brendan Mikkelson, Matt Kassian, Brett Sutter


Cal Clutterbuck, Erik Johnson, Mike Weber, Jan Mursak, Tomas Kana


Patrick Kane, Paul Byron, Drayson Bowman, T.J. Brennan, Jon Kalinski, Mark Katic

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Steven Stamkos, Mark Barberio, Jacob Markstrom, Dustin Tokarski


John Tavares, Casey Cizikas, Erik Haula, Anders Lee, Michael Latta, Anders Nilsson, Brandon Kozun, Mikko Koskinen, Anton Klementyev

As we can see, most drafts actually produced at least one pretty useful player. And in fact, a bit more often than you’d expect, the most experienced player out of a given draft using our collection of picks wasn’t even the first overall pick. If the Leafs can even get themselves a Cal Clutterbuck or Mike Weber out of today, that wouldn’t be amazing, but it would still be an upgrade on how they’ve done in recent years.

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Obviously this isn’t an exact science and we can’t guarantee the Leafs actually got someone out of today. For example, the 2004 draft produced Alex Ovechkin and nobody else using the picks we’re working with.

Another obvious problem is the fact that these picks are spread across multiple teams, which allows for a more varied and diverse collection of scouting minds being considered. Would the same success rate of finding a player hold true if it were held across one team, working with just one list, working with just one scouting director?

Still, the results here are pretty encouraging. The draft is random, and if history is any indication, the Leafs’ plethora of picks today will likely wield at least one NHL regular. That’s most certainly a reason for optimism.

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  • CMpuck

    The biggest manufactured outrage on twitter was for Middleton because he is overly height challenged and big boned. Basically people use reverse discrimination and oppressing him because in their mind a player is big bodied then he must not be skilled like Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson. This type of outrage is the stuff that Trump uses to create a populous support.

    The reality is Middleton was the best player available at that point in the draft. And that is why Hunter drafted him.

    • Kanuunankuula

      Issue with Middelton is that he has no points. Even the offencive juggernaut that is Martin Marincin had more. If you can’t put up any points in junior, that is a giant red flag.

      Means no passing skills

      • Gary Empey

        Yes, Hunter is on record saying he will have to learn to make quicker decisions with the puck.

        1 goal and 6 assists, is likely the reason he didn’t go top ten.

  • CMpuck

    I don’t think the Leafs drafted BPA after the 3rd round. After the first round, I saw that Asplund, who was projected to go 23rd, after the consensus 21-22, and ranked 4th among Euro skaters, was still there. He starred with Timashev at the WJC, placing him in the draft somewhere around Kunin, ahead of Gauthier. Then, at 57, I saw that Abramov was still there. However, the Leafs team need is size and sandpaper (like Kerby Rychel), so that would make Korshkov and Grundstrom BPA. The Leas also appear to be making the Matthews the Sun, with the other players revolving around him. Good luck with that.
    Woll at 62 and Greenway at 71 are BPA.
    I can’t believe the players taken in the 4th to 7th will play in the NHL, I don’t believe that they would make the 2015-16 Marlies roster.
    I saw Moverare still there in the 4th, and other u18 standouts Somppi and Wahlgren still there in the 5th, 6th, 7th, … along with Rubins who was projected as 1st round until a season lost to injury. That’s a lot of quality players who trump quantity.

  • Jeremy Ian

    People are getting carried away with “overage.” Give it a break. Fixating on one distinguishing variable often means exaggerating its significance. (Not always, just often).

    Here’s a qualifier to “overage” that gives it a different significance. Most of the overagers had break outs the year AFTER they were passed over. This means their learning curve is steep and still rising.

    Take Adam Brooks, the oldest of the lot. He basically doubled his points from 2014-15 to 2015-16 (with games up from 62 to 74), and that was after quintupling his points from the year before.

    But because he had been passed over, the ranking agencies lowered his value.

    He might be a flash in the pan, which is Shawn’s point about so many picks. But three years of astonishing growth suggests that he may not be — and that the Leafs may well have gotten a steal.

    Jack Walker, greying already at 19 years old, same story, albeit with not quite a steep curve.

    (Hard to say with Korschkov, but he’s been good for Russia internationally).

    Sure, you could say that they got a year older in not-a-man’s-league; hence the achievement. But you could equally argue that once the rating agents and the club of scouts passed someone over, they had what’s called a “status quo bias” in their calculations (that is, they were invested in demoting the value of a player in order to confirm their earlier judgement).

    Pulling guys out of the mosh pit of group thinking is really smart.

    Then there’s the type of gambit like Mattinen. But picked at 179th, you’d expect more uncertainty. If he works out, the Leafs will have groomed a 6′ 4″ giant with a bazooka shot and a good brain.

    I liked this draft. Good one on the Leafs scouts and the team for thinking differently. Now let’s see if it works out.

    • magesticRAGE

      To nutshell some of your thoughts, older players are generally more mature, worked on their game deficiencies, and are less of a mystery. Relative certainty in a draft can’t be ignored.

  • Gary Empey

    Hunter is a years ahead of the league with finding diamonds in the ruff in using analytics to exploit drafting inefficiencies. Basically other teams have been biased against overage players and russians players for years (and more recently with fighting down GMs are viewing big hockey players as negative), all of which Hunter is all to happily to draft.

  • Gary Empey

    Re- “The draft is such a crapshoot”

    What I like is Hunter’s team has removed the crap out of the shoot.

    @14 Above. Include the caveat:Hunter is picking “big hockey players” (add) with wheels. All our picks can skate well.

    In the old days (not that far back really) all you needed is size. As long as you could hook, hold, or slash those speedy guys who were blowing by you, Those days are now gone. The clampdown on the rules really hurt players like Phaneuf and Schenn. They were coached in junior to hook and hold to make up for their weak skating.

  • CMpuck

    With so few CHL picks, it didn’t really feel very ‘Mark Hunter’ but if I knew enough about who we drafted I’d offer my criticisms, instead we get to collectively find out.

  • FlareKnight

    I have no idea whether the picks will pan out, but I’m for it.

    Kind of ironic when you have someone like Pronman putting down Matthews because he’s 7 months older than Laine that the Leafs basically go “ha, we’ll take guys 12-24 months older than the other draft eligible guys!” Obviously, just coincidental but kind of funny.

    There is certainly a bias against late bloomers who find their game later than others and thus drop further in the rankings rather than improve in them. Some older guys are just better because they got a bit older, while some might actually have taken steps forward. There are guys in the NHL still that go undrafted or go really late after being passed over once or twice.

    No telling if the Leafs plan and drafting strategy pays off, but no way to know it won’t. With 11 picks they got one superstar in Matthews and we’ll see what they can get with the other 10 picks. Let’s see where these guys are in another year.

  • Metal thrashin dad

    Okay so there are a lot of people that aren’t too thrilled with this draft, and too be honest it was pretty underwhelming for me; however I trust in hunter to make good picks. My real issue is that if they take somebody at 31 who is off the board why not trade back and grab another pick? I know that having 11 picks is a lot (maybe too many) but they could have traded for picks next year seeing as they only have 7.

    • Gary Empey

      Well Hunter is on record, stating he always chooses who he feels is the best player available when he picks. It may be as simple as that. The management team could have overrode him to use your logic, that he could also be available later. That would defeat the purpose of management hiring who they feel is the best scout in the league then then ignoring his advice.

      This does leave the question of why the scouting services and mock draft guys rated him much lower.

      Was Hunter correct? Only time will tell. Would he still have been there later? This we will never know. Remember the Leafs aren’t the only team with good scouts about. He did have a lot of interviews at the last under 20 tourney

      It is Hunter’s job to tell them who the best player available is. It is the rest of the management team’s job to figure out the best way to draft him. It seems logical that the Leafs attempted, like last year, try to move a little further back, but nobody wanted to cut a deal.