Draft Schmaft I: 1963-1967 – The first 5 NHL Amateur Drafts.
Draft Schmaft II: 1968-1970 – Brad Selwood, Ernie Moser, Darryl Sittler
Draft Schmaft III: 1971-1972 – George Ferguson
Draft Schmaft IV: 1973 – Lanny McDonald, Bob Neely, Ian Turnbull
Draft Schmaft V: 1974-1977 – Jack Valiquette, Don Ashby, John Anderson, Trevor Johansen
Draft Schmaft VI: 1978-1980 – Laurie Boschman
Draft Schmaft VII: 1981-1983 – Jim Benning, Gary Nylund, Russ Courtnall
Draft Schmaft VIII: 1984 – Al Iafrate
The NHL began a universal amateur draft of players in 1963. Later renamed the NHL Entry Draft in 1979, the draft is a central component to player acquisition and franchise-building. Much of the attention focuses on the first round of the draft, not surprising as the players thought to be the best available tend to be drafted with the early selections.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been eligible to participate in every NHL draft. The franchise has something of a mixed reputation when it comes to their first-round draft performances. Some picks were used on players who never became full-time NHL players. At other times, the franchise seemed not to value their picks, such in 1996 as when then-GM Cliff Fletcher first uttered the words “Draft, schmaft.” Yet, the first round alone has produced for the Leafs some of their most memorable star players.
This series looks back at the how the Toronto Maple Leafs have fared in the first round of the NHL Amateur and Entry Drafts. Note some installments cover a number of years, others only 1 or 2 drafts. You will find that some drafts were significant for the franchise, while others were almost forgettable.
Each article will look at the Maple Leafs and their first round selections. If picks were acquired or lost through trade, the article will describe the trade and compare the relative values of the traded components. The article will include information as to players that were available to be drafted with the picks the Leafs had, but only up to their next pick. There would be no use in discussing Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby – the Leafs did not own picks high enough to draft those players. Similarly, there would be no discussion of the Leafs ‘missing’ on Nik Lidstrom in the 1989 first round, because he was still available when they made their second selection. Finally, the article will trace how the player was lost to the organization, to attempt to derive the full value (or lack thereof). In some cases, such as with Wendel Clark, that will be a somewhat complicated picture, given his place in Leaf history. The articles will not attempt to grade the Leafs relative to other franchises in terms of success, as it would simply be too large an undertaking.
I hope you enjoy this series, and feel free to post any feedback you may have via our comments below.
A graphic designer and production artist by trade, Mark is a long-time hockey fan. He was a Maple Leafs contributor to TheHockeyWriters.com for over 2 years, and has written for other websites. You can follow him on Twitter @MarkAscione