Photo Credit: Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports

Top Five Best Drafts in Leafs History

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the worst drafts in the Leafs history, although most of them were pretty recent (which makes sense, considering they were really bad for about a decade).

So today, we’ll be looking at the other side of Leafs draft history, and look at some of the best drafts the Leafs have done. Unlike the last article, these drafts will be scattered throughout their history.

I’ll be using the same method as the other article to evaluate the drafts, so if need a refresher, check out the last article again.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Honourable Mention: 2015 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 22.22% (2 for 9)

Games Played per Pick: 21.78 (196 combined games played)

The numbers don’t exactly back this one up, but I’m just gonna have this here  because it’s probably their best draft of this decade, what with the fact that two players have already made big impacts with the team in Mitch Marner and Travis Dermott, two or three have some potential to make the NHL still (depending on your opinion of Andrew Nielsen).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Also, Dubas’ work with turning one first round pick into Dermott, Bracco, and Dzierkals looks pretty good a few years later as well.

Jan 17, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) during the second period against the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

5. 2002 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 55.56% (5 for 9)

Games Played per Pick: 276.67 (2490 combined games played)

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

We can call this draft “the one that got away”. 2002 was one of their more successful drafts, but unfortunately for them, none of their hits never really saw that success with the Leafs.

First round pick Alex Steen played only three full seasons and another 20 games before getting traded to St. Louis, where he had a career high in goals (33) in 2013-14, and a career high in points (64) in 2014-15. Second round pick Matt Stajan played six and half seasons with the Leafs before he was traded to Calgary in the Dion Phaneuf trade, and has played their for the rest of his career so far, that has reached 1003 to this point, although his best season in 2008-09 (55 points) came with the Leafs. Sixth round pick Ian White spent about half of his career with the Leafs, before getting traded in the Phaneuf trade as well.

The Leafs got a few good players out of this draft, but it also shows the underlying problem of the Leafs in the 00’s, that being that they drafted fine, but would trade away most of their young players to try and win now.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Notable pick: Alex Steen (1st round)

4. 1970 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 62.5% (5 for 8)

Games Played per Pick: 323.63 (2589 combined games played)

Now we’re gonna throw it all the way back to 1970, which saw the Leafs draft a player that you could probably argue was their best draft pick to play a majority of their career with the Leafs.

That player was Darryl Sittler, who ended up playing 1096 games, and putting up 1121 points. His best season with the Leafs was in 1977-78, where he put up 117 points, the second most in a single season for the Leafs after Doug Gilmour’s 127 point season in 1992-93. Two seasons prior, he lit up Don Cherry’s Boston Bruins for 10 points, the NHL record.

He wasn’t the only hit in this draft either. The Leafs also drafted Errol Thompson, who played 599 games with the Leafs, Red Wings, and Penguins; Gerry O’Flaherty, who played 438 games with the Leafs, Canucks, and (Atlanta) Flames; and Ron Low, who played 382 games with the Leafs, Capitals, Wings, Oilers, Nordiques, and Devils.

Notable pick: Darryl Sittler (1st round)

3. 1987 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 50% (6 for 12)

Games Played per Pick: 329 (3948 combined games played)

This was an interesting draft, as the Leafs went in with 12 picks, and hit on the first six, and then completely missed on the final six.

But, the six that they hit on, they really hit on. This drafts combined 3948 games played is by far the most in any draft, with the 1970 draft’s 2589 games is the closest. This draft includes Luke Richardson, who played 1417 NHL games, Mike Eastwood (783 games), Joe Sacco (738 games), John McIntyre (351 games), Daniel Marois (350 games), and Damian Rhodes (309 games). While they didn’t hit on every pick, the ones they did managed to have respectable NHL careers.

Notable pick: Luke Richardson (1st round)

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Stephane Robidas (12) celebrates his first goal as a member of the Maple Leafs with teammate Korbinian Holzer (55) against the NY Rangers during second period NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

2. 2006 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 85.71% (6 for 7)

Games Played per Pick: 338.14 (2367 combined games played)

Probably the only good draft for the Leafs since the lockout (although we’ll wait a bit on the recent drafts), this draft was the Leafs best in terms of hitting on their selections. Of their seven picks, only one pick didn’t make the NHL. And 13 years later, some of them are still floating around in the NHL.

2006 saw the Leafs draft Jiri Tlusty, who spent most of his career with the Hurricanes, Nikolay Kulemin, who had a breakout 30 goal season in 2010-11 and after a few seasons signed with the Islanders, James Reimer, who singlehandedly carried the Leafs to the playoffs in 2013, Korbinian Holzer, who’s… uh… still with the Ducks (good one Randy), Viktor Stalberg, who won a Cup with Chicago, and everyone’s favourite Estonian, Leo Komarov.

The only pick that didn’t pan out was Tyler Ruegsegger, a career AHLer/ECHLer. But you can’t really complain with this one. There were no home run picks, but a lot of singles and doubles, which can also win baseball games.

Notable pick: James Reimer (4th round)

1. 1963 Draft

Percentage of Successful Picks: 75% (3 for 4)

Games Played per Pick: 557.25 (2229 combined games played)

Sometimes, you just can’t beat the original. The first ever NHL draft was similar to the 2006 draft, with the Leafs hitting on all but one pick. The difference is that the 2006 didn’t have any standout players, just a lot of players that played well throughout their careers. The 1963 draft saw all three players they hit on play at least 600 games.

Walt McKechnie, their first round pick, ended up becoming a decent scorer with 606 points in 955 games, although he traveled around, playing for eight different teams over his career. Jim McKenny, their third round pick, was a solid defenseman, and even had a few really productive seasons, while spending a majority of his career with the Leafs over the course of 604 games. Gerry Meehan, their fourth round pick, was another good scoring forward, who put up 423 points in 670 games, with six different NHL teams.

You could make the argument that, because there were only 21 picks in this draft, they had a good pool of players to pick from. But, since it was the first NHL draft, a majority of players who would have been eligible were already playing for NHL teams, so it was a pretty weak draft to choose from. Also, of the 21 picks, only five of them made the NHL, with three of them being Leafs picks. Not bad at all.

Notable pick: Walt McKechnie

MLN Draft #Content


Founded in 1950, Sports Excellence Corporation represents over 150 family-owned independent hockey retailers across Canada and the United States. Our highly knowledgeable hockey specialists are available to assist all your equipment needs. Find your closest Sports Excellence retailer here: Find a location near you!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.