Revisiting John Ferguson Jr.’s Draft – 2005

The 2005 NHL Draft was another dark year for the Toronto Maple Leafs when it came to drafting their future assets. After all, they were led into the event by, then, general manager John Ferguson Jr. who didn’t exactly impress at 2004’s edition of the NHL draft.

Related: Revisiting John Ferguson Jr.’s Draft – 2004

That said, Ferguson Jr. was at the helm again in 2005 in a draft that saw the likes of Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan and Carey Price go among the top five picks.

The draft saw a total of 111 players suit up for an NHL game. That’s just over 48 percent of the players selected in that year’s draft. Of those, 30 played over 500 games so far with the final pick of the draft being one of the most interesting – Nashville’s selection of Patric Hornqvist at 230th overall.

However, in this piece we’ll be looking at the selections made by the Maple Leafs and Ferguson Jr. From a franchise goalie who never suited up for the Maple Leafs to a defenceman with longevity, this may have been one of his better years as the team’s general manager – at least from a drafting standpoint.

Early Rounds (1-3)

Round 1, 21st Overall – Tuukka Rask, G (Ilves, SM-Liiga)

It may have been the best pick of his Maple Leafs’ tenure when the Ferguson and the team selected goaltender Tuukka Rask with their first selection in the 2005 NHL Draft and 21st overall.

Rask was an interesting pick having played just four games with Ilves Tampere to go along with a 4.46 goals against and .875 save percentage in 2004-05. That said, he turned that around the following season and it made Ferguson look like a genius having drafted a future franchise goalie. Only it wasn’t for the Maple Leafs.

Tuukka Rask Bruins
Tuukka Rask was easily Ferguson Jr.’s best pick in the 2005 NHL Draft. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

In June 2006, the Maple Leafs dealt Rask to the Bruins for goaltender Andrew Raycroft with the understanding that previous third-round pick Justin Pogge would be their goaltender of the future. After Raycroft fizzled out and Pogge never took ownership of the crease, the Maple Leafs were left with nothing from the deal, while Rask has gone on to have quite the career.

To go along with his record of 265-150-58 in 495 regular season games, Rask has posted a 2.28 career GAA and .921 SV% with 45 shutouts. As for his postseason career, he has played in 89 career games with a 50-39 record. He carries a 2.19 GAA and .927 SV% while taking the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018-19 most recently.

Missed Opportunity: None

The Maple Leafs didn’t really miss on this pick. It was the trade to Boston that ended up costing them. While T.J. Oshie was taken three picks later by the St. Louis Blues, a franchise goalie is far more valuable than an offensive winger.

Round 2 – No Pick

While the Maple Leafs hit on their first pick in 2005, they didn’t have a chance to make a second-round pick. The pick – which would’ve been 40th overall – was traded to the New York Rangers as part of the Brian Leetch deal in March 2004.

With it, the Rangers took defenceman Michael Sauer who went on to have 18 points in 98 regular season games over parts of three seasons. Sauer also finished his career with 96 penalty minutes before his NHL career came to a close.

Missed Opportunity:

  • Justin Abdelkader, LW – Drafted 42nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings
  • Paul Stastny, C – Drafted 44th overall by the Colorado Avalanche
  • Adam McQuaid, D – Drafted 55th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets
Vegas Golden Knights Paul Stastny
The Maple Leafs might’ve missed out on selecting Paul Stastny. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Without having a pick, almost anything is better. That said, there was some key role players that the Maple Leafs missed out on in the second round of the 2005 NHL Draft. That includes Abdelkader, Stastny and McQuaid.

Abdelkader is a force – a physical asset in the Red Wings lineup now – could’ve added character to the Maple Leafs’ lineup. Stastny would’ve been an addition offensively. And McQuaid would’ve added strength and physicality to their back end, but the team didn’t have a pick. Think of the possibility of having had any of these guys in the lineup. Instead, the Maple Leafs got 15 games out of Leetch.

Round 3, 82nd Overall – Phil Oreskovic, D (Brampton Battalion, OHL)

With their third-round pick, the Maple Leafs took defenceman Phil Oreskovic out of the Ontario Hockey League at 82nd overall. After floating around in the AHL and ECHL for a few years, Oreskovic finally made his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season with the Maple Leafs. But it was short-lived.

He suited up for just 10 games that season and tallied one goal and two points to go along with 21 penalty minutes before he was sent back down. From there, Oreskovic jumped back into the AHL before stints in the ECHL and EIHL, most recently having played with the ECHL’s Brampton Beast in 2014-15.

Missed Opportunity:

  • Ben Bishop, G – Drafted 85th overall by the St. Louis Blues

Goaltending, again. That’s right, it seemed to be an on-going discussion for the Maple Leafs during the early 2000s. Once again, the Maple Leafs may have missed out with their pick of Oreskovic when they passed over goaltender Ben Bishop.

While the Maple Leafs did take Rask in the first round, which certainly swayed their decision in the third round, Bishop could’ve been a great goaltending prospect for the team to have in their system – that or a bargaining chip in trade talks down the line.

Middle Rounds (4-6)

Round 4 – No Pick

Once again, in the fourth round, the Maple Leafs went without a pick. The 101st overall selection, which originally belonged to Toronto was traded to Carolina in the Ron Francis deal in 2004, who then swapped it with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The pick was eventually used by the Blue Jackets to take Jared Boll with the 101st overall pick, but it left the Maple Leafs without a chance to bolster their back end yet again having missed on a couple of other big-time defenceman who are still in the NHL.

Missed Opportunity:

  • Keith Yandle, D – Drafted 105th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson, D – Drafted 108th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks

Either way you look at it, not having a pick in the fourth round certainly didn’t help the Maple Leafs. There wasn’t a handful of players to come out of the final four rounds of the draft, but the Maple Leafs did miss out on drafting Keith Yandle and Niklas Hjalmarsson – both of whom have had solid NHL careers.

Keith Yandle Florida Panthers
The Maple Leafs missed out another couple of stud defensemen in Keith Yandle and Niklas Hjalmarsson. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Say what you will about offence, but chances are the Maple Leafs would’ve loved to have had either of these two defensemen in their lineup had they had the opportunity to draft them.

Round 5, 153rd Overall – Alex Berry, RW (Boston Junior Bruins, EJHL)

In the fifth round, the Maple Leafs took right winger Alex Berry with the 153rd overall pick. Berry finished his collegiate career at UMass-Amherst in 2008-09 before joining the AHL Toronto Marlies for eight games to finish the season.

From there, he played in the AHL, ECHL before playing overseas. Most recently, he played for Egna HC in Italy in 2014-15, but he never suited up for an NHL game.

Missed Opportunity:

  • Ryan Reaves, RW – Drafted 156th overall by the St. Louis Blues

Called it a miss or not, but Ryan Reaves was one of the few players to go in the remainder of the fifth round that cracked the NHL and he has suited up for over 500 games to date. He’s a grinder and an enforcer that has found a way to survive in a league that has abandoned the role and while he isn’t the most offensively-skilled player, he would’ve been an asset for the Maple Leafs had they picked him over Berry in 2005.

Round 6, 173rd Overall – Johan Dahlberg, LW (Modo Hockey Jr., Sweden)

One round later, the Maple Leafs took left winger Johan Dahlberg with the 173rd overall pick. Like Berry, Dahlberg never appeared in the NHL and his last recorded stats were with Sundsvall IF in Sweden in 2006-07.

Missed Opportunity: None

While Dahlberg never suited up for the Maple Leafs or any NHL franchise for that matter, the team didn’t exactly miss anything in the sixth round. Beyond their pick, players like Brett Sutter, Tim Kennedy and Matt D’Agostini were selected, but none of them ever really became major impact players during their short tenured NHL careers.

The Seventh Round

Round 7, 216th Overall – Anton Stralman, D (Skovde IK, Sweden)

The team had two picks in the seventh round. The first was the 216th overall selection in which they took Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman. The pick itself was a great late-round selection. But, like Rask, the Maple Leafs never really gave Stralman the opportunity.

Stralman made his debut for the Maple Leafs in 2007-08 as a 21-year-old and tallied three goals and nine points in 50 games that year. He played another 38 games for the team in 2008-09 and notched a goal and 13 points, but was traded to Calgary following that season.

Anton Stralman
Anton Stralman only got a taste of hockey in Toronto. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

With stops in Columbus, New York and Tampa Bay, Stralman’s career numbers are now sitting at 749 regular season games and 242 points to show for it. He has seen the playoffs in six of his 12 seasons with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-15 as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He’s become a reliable defensive defenceman with relatively good offensive numbers that has made him one of the better picks in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Draft – it was the fact that the Maple Leafs traded him – before he reached any sort of prime – for Wayne Primeau that is the more disappointing aspect of this pick.

Round 7, 228th Overall – Chad Rau, C (USNTDP, NAHL)

With their second pick in the seventh round, the Maple Leafs took center Chad Rau with the 228th overall pick. Rau played four years with Colorado College before making the jump to the AHL following his draft year.

Related: 5 Best Drafts Steals in Maple Leafs History

In 2011-12, Rau got a taste of NHL action with the Minnesota Wild, playing nine games and scoring two goals. But that was it for him. From there, he re-joined the AHL’s Houston Aeros and played around the league before jumping overseas.

Most recently, he played for the KHL’s Bratislava Slovan in 2018-19.

Missed Opportunity:

  • Patric Hornqvist, RW – Drafted 230th overall by the Nashville Predators

Arguably the most valuable pick came with the final pick of the 2005 NHL Draft when the Nashville Predators took Patric Hornqvist with the 230th overall selection. Hornqvist, who has played over 700 games in the NHL, has had incredible success at the NHL level and could’ve been a major addition to the Maple Leafs lineup.

His size, physicality and grit has helped him to two Stanley Cups in his career and his offensive numbers are just a bonus to what he could’ve brought to the Maple Leafs. While the scored with Stralman, in a way, the Maple Leafs missed on their pick of Rau in the seventh round – a pick they could’ve used for Hornqvist.

Final Grade: B-

Let’s be honest, it wasn’t the greatest of drafts. While they barely even got a taste of Maple Leafs’ hockey, or didn’t at all in the case of Rask, the Maple Leafs and Ferguson did grab to key NHLers in the 2005 NHL Draft.

This could’ve easily been another failed draft on the part of Ferguson Jr., but having chosen Rask with their first selection and Stralman in the seventh round may have saved it from being another failure.

*All stats from Hockey-Reference and HockeyDB