Drafting Skill: Toronto Maple Leafs

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Toronto Maple Leafs

 

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Tyler Biggs (RW) 22nd overall – Well, starting off with one of the worst picks in Leafs history. This one is entirely on Brian Burke. His ‘tenacity, grit, trucluence’ era. Biggs has never played an NHL game, and likely never will. He’s now playing in the ECHL, after being traded in the Phil Kessel trade. The worst part of this pick, is that the Leafs gave up 2 picks to MOVE UP and draft Biggs. Those two picks? Rickard Rakell and John Gibson. Biggs is one of two players to have never played an NHL game from the 1st round of the 2011 draft. Awul, awful pick.

Round 1 – Stuart Percy (D) 25th overall – Another swing and miss by the Leafs in this draft. Percy has played all of 12 NHL games since being drafted. He was let go by the Leafs after the 2015-2016 season, and signed by the Penguins. He’s played all of this year in the AHL, and doesn’t look like he’ll crack the Penguins roster. This was another miss for the Leafs, in a year where there were plenty of NHLers drafted after them.

Round 2 – This pick was traded to Anaheim, who used it to take current starting goaltender John Gibson. These types of trades are why the Leafs are just finally turning the corner.

Round 3 – Josh Leivo (LW)  86th overall – This pick is still up in the air for Leafs fans. Leivo has played a handful of games this year, and looked like a real NHLer when he’s cracked the lineup. The problem? He hasn’t played enough. He has a big league shot, and has played well enough defensively, but the Leafs boasts plenty of forward prospects, which make it hard to tell if he’ll ever find full time work in Toronto.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Morgan Rielly (D) 5th overall – Hard to argue with the Leafs pick here. The team was in desperate need for help defensively (still is), and Rielly was the best option available. He’s become the team’s #1 defender, and while some question if he truly is a #1 defender in the NHL, he has improved in each season. There were plenty of defensemen taken in the 1st round in 2012, and Rielly ranks 1st in games played, 4th in goals, and 1st in points. This pick has panned out great for the Leafs, and not many would change it for any other player.

Round 2 – Matt Finn (D) – 35th overall – Another Leafs draft pick who looks like a bust. He’s currently playing in the ECHL, after being dealt in 2015 as a package that brought in Michael Grabner. It’s tough to predict 2nd rounders as having success at the NHL level, but it doesn’t even appear that Finn can make an impact at the AHL level. With plenty of picks after Finn having played over 100 games in the NHL, it’s hard not to be frustrated with this pick.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to LA for Sondre Olden (originally picked in 2010). This pick was used to select Jimmy Vesey, who was a free agent that the Leafs took a big run at this past summer. Plenty of missed opportunities for the Leafs in recent drafts.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Frederik Gauthier (C) 21st overall – It would seem as though the Leafs again went after size here, rather than skill. Most believe Gauthier is still too slow to play in the NHL. He made an appearance in 21 games for the Leafs this year, and while he was a large upgrade over Ben Smith on the 4th line, the Leafs still felt they needed to upgrade him to Brian Boyle. If Gauthier couldn’t crack the lineup this year, will he ever? The Leafs are poised to only get better, so unless Gauthier makes strides in the offseason, he may miss his chance in Leaf-land.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Chicago with a couple others to bring in Dave Bolland. He only played 23 games before being injured, and then signed with Florida the following offseason. Hard to accept this trade, knowing how little impact he had on the team, and giving up 3 picks to get him.

Round 3 – Carter Verhaeghe (C) 82nd overall – Verhaeghe was traded to the Islanders in 2015 after only playing 2 games for the Marlies. He was part of the package for Grabner, and since he’s still currently bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, it appears the trade was good for the Leafs. The draft selection? Not so much.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – William Nylander (C) 8th overall – I don’t know many Leafs fans who aren’t ecstatic about this pick. Nylander is part of the big 3 rookies changing the entire Leafs landscape. He’s been on fire since early 2017, and is one of the driving forces of the future in Toronto. His defensive game has come a long way, and he’s got a very high potential. For the Leafs to have gotten him at 8th, it’s a steal.

Round 2 – Traded to Anaheim in the Peter Holland package. Holland would play the better parts of 2 seasons for the Leafs, in a limited role most times. He was traded to Arizona this season, after being a healthy scratch for most of the year. The Leafs needed a player like Holland when the trade was made, so in my opinion it was a worthy trade.

Round 3 – Rinat Valiev (D) 68th overall – Valiev is a player many people are unsure of. He’s shown flashes that he could develop into an NHL defensemen, but also has shown signs that he won’t. I’m on the team that he won’t. He’s still young, but I don’t believe we’ll see him in a Maple Leafs uniform.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Mitch Marner (RW) 4th overall – Another pick by the Leafs that fans LOVE. Marner reminds many of Patrick Kane, with his high-end skill set and smaller frame. Marner dominated in junior, and has had many jaw-dropping moments in his first NHL season. He’s definitely the real deal. He’s part of that big movement in Toronto, along with Nylander and Auston Matthews, that will be driving the Leafs forward. He’s on the verge of breaking a Leafs rookie record for assists, and appears to not have a ceiling on his potential.

Round 2 – Travis Dermott (D) 34th overall – Dermott is one of the few bright spots the Leafs currently have in terms of defensive prospects. Dermott is playing his first full year pro in the AHL, and has been great. He’s currently at 23 points in 50 games, and plays a well-rounded game. Depending what happens this off-season, we could see Dermott as early as next season as far as some NHL games go. He’s a smooth skater, which will transition well into the NHL. (This pick was acquired in the Jonathan Bernier trade from LA)

Round 2 – Jeremy Bracco (RW) 61st overall – Bracco is a small framed forward, with high end playmaking ability. He’s torching the OHL, with 147 points (101 assists) in 106 games. He’s likely to play a year in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL, especially with the depth the Leafs have at forward prospects. He impressed this year at the World Juniors, playing for team USA. He’s got the skillset to be a dominant NHL forward, but he may need to add size before making the jump. (Pick was acquired from Philadelphia in a combination of picks trade).

Round 3 – Andrew Nielsen (D) 65th overall – Nielsen is another bright spot on the back-end. He’s currently at 36 points in 63 games in his first full year as a pro. He’s a big body at 6’3”, 207 pounds but still possesses a great skating ability. He projects as a future NHL player, making the jump in the next couple of seasons. The Leafs need help on the back-end, and they’re hoping Nielsen can help fill a void in the next few years.

Round 3 – Martins Dzierkals (RW) 68th overall – Dzierkals is currently in his second year in the QMJHL, where he finished with 49 points in 47 games. These aren’t great numbers for a young player in junior, but it’s still early for Dzierkals. He’s likely a long-shot to make the jump to the NHL, and will likely play junior again next season before trying to crack the AHL roster. That being said, it doesn’t hurt your organization to have players like Dzierkals waiting in the wings.

 

All-in-all, the Leafs are a hard team to really grade as far as recent draft performance. They’ve had some AWFUL picks and trades, but it appears they’ve turned a corner back in 2014 starting with Nylander. Rielly was a great pick as well, but they followed that up with Gauthier the year after. Since 2014, they’ve made plenty of great picks, enough to stock the cupboard – which was once completely bare – for the future. They seem to finally have figured out how to hire a smart front-office.

 

Info: hockeydb.com; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years

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