It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to attempt an extremely ambitious rebuild. The young players acquired by the franchise will be heavily relied upon as the Maple Leafs begin to transition over and properly right the franchise. Hitting on your first round picks is almost essential for the survival of an NHL team.
The Blue and White have struggled in the past with their first round picks. Either they didn’t pan out the way they were supposed to or the Leafs traded them away when they were still young in order to acquire some type of veteran help in the present.
With an important draft coming up, I decided to take a look at the last four years of Leaf first round picks to see where they are now and how well their development is progressing.
2011 NHL Entry Draft: Tyler Biggs (22nd Overall) and Stuart Percy (25th)
2011 was the last time the Maple Leafs had two first round picks. The first was used on Tyler Biggs, who the Leafs traded up to get. Biggs is looking very much like a draft day bust, and has yet to play a game for the big club. What makes matters worse for the Buds is that the two Leaf picks that were traded in order to select Biggs have turned into NHL players John Gibson and Rickard Rakell.
Stuart Percy on the other hand, is a much different story. The young defender managed to get into nine of the Maple Leafs games this season. He displayed good poise, smooth skating and showcased a little bit of offence. Percy looks to be one of the prospects on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues.
2012 NHL Entry Draft: Morgan Rielly (5th Overall)
Arguably the most significant drafted player in recent history for the Maple Leafs, Morgan Rielly has done nothing but impress in his time with the Blue and White. The young defenseman has shown maturity beyond his years and is looked to as one of the young leaders on the club.
Leaf fans were treated to some of his wonderful play this past season. He has shown improvement each season he’s with the big club and although it is early in his NHL career, it looks as if the Buds hit a home run with this pick.
2013 NHL Entry Draft: Frederik Gauthier (21st Overall)
The Maple Leafs were criticized for taking the big, defensive centre with their first rounder in 2013. Since the pick, Gauthier has improved in leaps and bounds. He now has a World Junior gold medal to his credit and is currently playing for the Memorial Cup.
Gauthier’s hockey sense and defensive awareness are unparalleled. He’s also excellent on draws and has really made improvements on his skating.With the right coaching, Gauthier can be the productive, shut-down centre of the future for the Leafs.
2014 NHL Entry Draft: William Nylander (8th Overall)
In terms of pure offensive talent, William Nylander might be the best forward prospect in the Leafs organization. The Swede is a dynamo with the puck is is always looking for the best opportunity to make a skilled play in the offensive zone.
Regarded as a future fixture of the Maple Leafs offense, Nylander will be looked to as one of the young forwards tasked with turning around the fortunes of the club.
It is all but essential for the Maple Leafs to hit jackpots on their first round picks in the upcoming draft. Those players, combined with the others already drafted, are forming the future of the organization. The Maple Leafs need to be patient and make sure to develop them properly. If that is done correctly, the rebuild will go a lot smoother from here on out.