Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Redrafting the Maple Leafs 2011 first round and fixing some of the team’s biggest misses
By James Reeve3 months ago
Redrafting the Toronto Maple Leafs is back and the 2011 Draft is one that the team will undoubtedly be keen to forget, with two disappointing selections made in the first round that year.
Ahead of the 2011 Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs were coming off their sixth-consecutive season without making the playoffs, finishing fourth in the then-Northeast Division with a 37-34-11 record under head coach Ron Wilson, whose future with the team would not see the end of the following campaign.
Phil Kessel led the team in offensive production in 2010-11, scoring 32 goals and registering 64 total points, followed by Clarke MacArthur (21 goals, 62 points), Mikhail Grabovski (29 goals, 58 points), and Nikolai Kulemin (30 goals, 57 points).
With the team struggling through years of mediocrity, and needing to secure its future, the Toronto Maple Leafs made two selections in the first round and had a chance to truly influence the path ahead.
First Original Pick: Tyler Biggs
With the 22nd pick in the 2011 Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected forward Tyler Biggs out of the US National Development Program, where he had captained the Under-18s team as well as the Juniors in the USHL, combining for 42 points (26 goals, 16 assists) in 75 games).
During his draft year, Biggs had also donned an alternative captain’s ‘A’ at the Under-18 World Junior Championships, earning a gold medal with two goals and an assist in six games.
The following year, Biggs headed to the University of Miami (Ohio) to further his development. He featured in 37 games, registering 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in what would be his sole season there.
He then took his big frame to the Ontario Hockey League to play for the Oshawa Generals, picking up 53 points (26 goals, 27 assists) in 60 games. He also made his AHL debut that season, playing four games with the Toronto Marlies.
That year, he also won a World Juniors gold medal with Team USA, though he had little impact on the team with just one assist in seven games.
From there, Biggs played two seasons in the AHL with the Marlies, but that is the closest he ever came to playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His career then saw him play lengthy spells in the ECHL with a handful of teams before finishing out his playing career in the United Kingdom with the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL, earning nine points (four goals, five assists) in 24 games.
A player who was hyped up significantly when he was drafted, Biggs never lived up to his billing and while he had a respectable professional career, he is a certified bust from a Leafs draft pick point of view.
What makes this pick even harder to swallow in hindsight is the fact that the Leafs traded up to 22, sending the 30th overall pick and the 39th overall pick to the Anaheim Ducks in return.
The two players selected with those picks? Rickard Rakell and John Gibson.
First Redraft Pick: Nikita Kucherov
Given the opportunity to travel back in time to rectify their past mistakes, the Leafs would undoubtedly select Nikita Kucherov with their first pick in the first round, giving the team a player who has been at the very pinnacle of the league for a number of years.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Kucherov has picked up plenty of individual accolades throughout his career, earning the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross and even the Ted Lindsay – all three coming as a result of his 128-point 2018-19 campaign.
Kucherov has topped 100 points on three occasions through his ten seasons in the league to date and is still producing at an elite level, with 11 goals and 23 points through 14 games to start the 2023-24 season, a 135-point pace if he maintains his consistent production through 82 games.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 Draft, Kucherov is easily one of the biggest steals of the class and would have been a transformative player for the Leafs in the same way Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have been since they entered the league.
It took him a while to head over to break into the NHL, having continued to play in Russia for a year before playing in the QMJHL for a further season, so he would not have saved Ron Wilson’s job as head coach, but he could have altered the trajectory of the team a few years earlier than the current core did.
Second Original Pick: Stuart Percy
Just three picks after selecting Biggs, the Leafs opted to take defenceman Stuart Percy 25th overall.
Percy was a player that showed flashes of potential early in his professional career. After being drafted, he continued to develop in the OHL for two more seasons before jumping up to the AHL full-time.
He established himself as a regular contributor with the Toronto Marlies, playing 172 games over three seasons between 2013 and 2016. He dipped in and out of the Toronto Maple Leafs line-up across the latter two seasons, featuring 12 times for the NHL club, but he could not hold down a place with an established group consisting of Dion Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Roman Polák and Stéphane Robidas.
With options limited, and Percy not able to truly impress the Leafs enough to give him more opportunities, the Oakville, Ontario native was allowed to hit free agency in the summer of 2016, signing a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He would then find himself playing for four different AHL teams over the next four seasons, never again suiting up for an NHL game.
Since 2020, Percy has been playing successfully in Europe, first in the SM-Liiga with Sport before moving to Czechia, where he currently plays for HC Viktovice. Yet another player that was drafted with a lot of promise but did not live up to expectations as hoped.
Second Redraft Pick: Johnny Gaudreau
While there are some solid defensive options that were not selected until later in the draft, such as Dylan DeMelo and Josh Manson, the Leafs should jump at the chance to supercharge their offensive options with the selection of Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau has been a consistent threat in opposing zones, regularly eclipsing 60 points and even topping out at 115 in the 2021-22 season and would be the perfect addition to a team that struggled to generate much offence in that era of the franchise, partnering well with Nikita Kucherov in this new redraft.
Gaudreau has amassed 691 points (233 goals, 458 assists) across 702 regular season appearances for both the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets and, while he has not been at his best so far this season, he has been one of the most consistent performers in the league since making his debut back in the 2013-14 season.
He finished third in Calder Trophy voting during his first full season in 2014-15, losing out to Aaron Ekblad and Mark Stone, and has been a regular feature on Lady Byng voting lists and won the trophy after the 2016-17 season.
With Phil Kessel leading the team in points in the 2010-11 season, and the likes of Mikhail Grabovski, and Clarke MacArthur also hitting over 20 goals, adding two certified elite offensive players may have changed the fortunes of the Leafs through the 2010s, and are the most logical choices to make if given this future knowledge back in 2011.
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