This week The Nation Network is focusing on the seven Canadian franchises’ all-time roster of drafted players. While unrestricted free agency gets more focus each summer, the draft is much more important to an organization’s long-term success.
The NHL Entry Draft is the scouts’ championship. It is very difficult projecting how good teenage hockey players will be in the future, but that’s the job description of NHL amateur scouts. This series is all about the scouts and who they picked. Because often, once a player is selected, the scouts have very little say in his future development.
1. The player had to be drafted by the organization. Mats Sundin wasn’t drafted by Toronto, so he won’t be on the Maple Leafs team.
2. Players need to be slotted in the position they played the most. Mark Messier, for instance, did play left wing early in his career, but he is a centre.
3. We are picking the best possible lineup, similar to the Olympic rosters. Players who had the best career, even if the majority wasn’t with the organization who drafted them.
4. For organizations like the Flames, who were in two different cities, their all-time roster includes players drafted by Atlanta and Calgary.
5. We didn’t pick any extra skaters, just a 20-man roster.
The Maple Leafs were one of only six teams around for the first official draft in 1963 and they’ve been involved in all 57 drafts. For this project we are only focusing on the NHL Amateur Draft (1963-1978) and the NHL Entry Draft (1979-present).
Maple Leafs Forwards (Draft number and year)
Wendel Clark (1st, 1985) — Darryl Sittler (8th, 1970) — Lanny McDonald (4th, 1973)
John Anderson (11th, 1977) –Auston Mathews (1st, 2016) – Mitch Marner (4th, 2015)
Alex Steen (24th, 2002) — Vincent Damphousse (6th, 1986) – Rick Kehoe (22nd, 1971)
Dave “Tiger” Williams (31st, 1974) — Nazim Kadri (7th, 2009) – Russ Courtnall (7th, 1983)
There wasn’t much debate at the top of the lineup, but many names were in the mix for the final two lines. Williams might surprise some people, but he is 10th all-time in goals by Maple Leafs draft picks, and he would bring some energy to the roster. Walt McKechnie, Yanic Perreault, William Nylander and Laurie Boschman were also in the mix.
Maple Leafs Defencemen (Draft number and year)
Tomas Kaberle (204th, 1996) — Anton Stralman (216th, 2005)
Randy Carlyle (30th, 1976) — Jim McKenny (17th, 1963)
Ian Turnbull (15th, 1973) — Dmitri Mironov (160th, 1991)
Easily the most hotly debated was Turnbull, Al Iafrate and Morgan Reilly. I could envision Reilly making the roster in the future. I like him a lot, but the great part about compiling a roster like this is people view players differently. They were all good, but Turnbull won by the slightest of margins. The right defence was unanimous except for one vote for Bob McGill.
Maple Leafs Goalie (Draft number and year)
Tuukka Rask (21st, 2005)
Felix Potvin (31st, 1990)
These were the two obvious choices, and Rask edged out Potvin for the starter’s job. Keep in mind this was simply about scouts and who they drafted. Even though Rask was traded, in one of the worst decisions in Maple Leafs recent history, that decision isn’t on the amateur scouts. This many years later it still frustrates Leafsnation knowing Maple Leafs brass felt Justin Pogge was going to be better than Rask. Ouch.
The Maple Leafs drafting has been solid, but not spectacular. In the first draft, 1963, only five of the 21 players drafted played one game in the NHL. Three of them were Maple Leafs with McKechnie (606 points in 955 games), Gerry Meehan (423 points in 670 games) and McKenny (329 points in 604 GP) all playing 600+ games.
Overall, the Leafs drafting in the first round has historically been solid. They’ve had some really good-to-great picks early in the first round like Sittler, McDonald, Clark, Damphousse, Courtnall, Luke Richardson, Kadri, Reilly, Nylander, Marner and Matthews. While some top picks played 500+ games, but weren’t top-end players like Jim Benning, Gary Nylund, Scott Thornton, Drake Berehowsky, Kenny Johnson and Nikolai Antropov.
The lean years of drafting occurred in the 1990s with the likes of Brandon Convery, Eric Fichaud, Landon Wilson, Jeff Ware and Luca Cerada, who were chosen in the first round.
Toronto’s draft record has been solid, but not spectacular, but since 2012 their picks have a chance to become the foundation for a very competitive team if they spend wisely.
Who would be on your all-time drafted roster for the Maple Leafs and why?
NATION NETWORK SERIES…
We launched yesterday with Edmonton and we will have Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Winnipeg later this week and then some American teams next week.