The 2017 NHL Draft is under a week away and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be selecting 17th overall. Now, there has been plenty of debate about who the Leafs could take with that pick. Will it be a defenseman to fill the Leafs’ biggest need? Or will they take the best player available? But the biggest question is, what are the chances that a 17th overall pick will be successful in the NHL?
Historically, the chances are actually pretty good. There have 43 drafts with a 17th overall pick, the first being in 1974. Excluding the last three years, there have only been five players that were drafted at that spot that never played in the NHL. The better news is that another five players went on to play 1,000 games or more and that list should grow in the next couple of seasons.
Here’s a look at the players taken with the 17th overall pick in the NHL Draft, sorted by games played.
0-250 Games Played
Ron Chipperfield (1974), Mark Suzor (1976), Jiri Dudacek (1981), Alfie Turcotte (1983), Chris Biotti (1985), Kory Kocur (1988), Shayne Stevenson (1989), Scott Allison (1990), Brent Bilodeau (1991), Sergei Bautin (1992), Brad Church (1995), Jaroslav Svejkovsky (1996), Robert Dome (1997), Alexei Mikhnov (2000), Marek Schwarz (2004), Alexei Cherepanov (2007), David Rundblad (2009), Joey Hishon (2010), Nathan Beaulieu (2011), Tomas Hertl (2012), Curtis Lazar (2013), Travis Sanheim (2014), Kyle Connor (2015), Dante Fabbro (2016)
Now, the one thing you have to remember about this list is that players like Sanheim and Fabbro haven’t even started their careers. Connor played two games this season. Hertl is only one game away from 250 and Beaulieu isn’t too far behind. Meanwhile, Rundblad left the NHL to play in Switzerland and Hishon’s NHL career never really started thanks to injuries.
251-500 Games Played
Bob Sauve (1976), Carlo Colaiacovo (2001), Jake Gardiner (2008)
Sauve spent most of his career with the Buffalo Sabres before becoming a goalie coach and then a player agent. Colaiacovo was drafted by the Leafs from the Erie Otters. He is mostly remembered for being a part of one of the worst trades in Leafs history when he was sent to the St. Louis Blues along with Alex Steen in exchange for Lee Stempniak. Gardiner is, of course, one of the Leafs’ top two defensemen.
501-750 Games Played
Kevin McCarthy (1977), Dave Hunter (1978), Duane Sutter (1979), Jason Allison (1993), Boyd Gordon (2002), Martin Hanzal (2005), Trevor Lewis (2006)
McCarthy played 10 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Vancouver Canucks and is now an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. Hunter played for 11 seasons, with Edmonton Oilers for all but 93 games. Sutter is the third oldest of the Sutter brothers to play in the NHL. He played for the New York Islanders, alongside his brother Brent, before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. Allison played for the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings before finishing his career with the Leafs in 2006.
Gordon played 13 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season. Hanzal played his career with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes before being traded to the Minnesota Wild at the 2017 trade deadline. Smith has been a reliable depth player for the Kings since 2010.
751-999 Games Played
Wayne Primeau (1994), Martin Skoula 1998), Barret Jackman (1999), Zach Parise (2003)
Primeau moved around quite a bit during his career, playing for seven teams. He finished his career with the Leafs in 2010. Skoula was a Leaf for about 24 hours after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins and was then traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2010. Jackman spent all but one of his 14-year career with the St. Louis Blues. Parise plays for the Minnesota Wild.
1,000+ Games Played
Brent Sutter (1980), Murray Craven (1982), Kevin Hatcher (1984), Tom Fitzgerald (1986), Andrew Cassels (1987)
Sutter played for the Islanders and Blackhawks, just like his brother Duane, and is now the head coach and general manager of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. Craven was a longtime Flyer, but later player for the Hartford Whalers, Canucks, Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. Hatcher played most of his his career with the Capitals, but eventually played two seasons with his younger brother Derian in Dallas.
Fitzgerald is one of few NHL players to be selected in two different expansion drafts, first by Florida and then by Nashville. He is now the assistant general manager with the New Jersey Devils. Cassels played for 16 seasons, including three with the Canucks, who picked his son Cole in the 2013 NHL Draft.
The most interesting thing about this list is that five of these players played for the Leafs at some point in their career: Colaiacovo, Gardiner, Jason Allison, Primeau and Fitzgerald. Skoula would have made it six if he played a game before being traded.
Also of note is that two brothers from the famed Sutter family were picked 17th in successive years. It could be one more as Brian Sutter, the eldest, was drafted only three picks later in 1976.
As you can see from that list, there has been a lot of good players taken at this spot, including skilled players and role players. Fitzgerald and Allison were both captains of Nashville and Boston respectively, before playing for the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs are looking for another young piece to add to their growing core. With the 17th pick, history says that the Leafs have pretty good odds at finding someone who will have an impact in the NHL. The only question that remains is: Who will it be?