There have been 53 NHL Drafts since they started in 1963. In those years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had some pretty good drafts.
That is not what this list is about. This is all about the bad ones, and boy has there been some stinkers. While has been no draft that the Leafs had none of their picks make the NHL, they have come pretty close to achieving the feat. These drafts will be ranked mostly on the success of having a long NHL career. That means that they didn’t have to be with the Leafs for the majority of the career.
Honorable Mention – 1965
The players available in this draft were not that good. Only 11 picks were made that year in total, none of them by the Leafs. Why is that? They chose not to participate at all with the players available.
10 – 2005
In the year where every NHL team had a chance at Sidney Crosby, the Maple Leafs didn’t have luck on their side and ended up with the 21st pick. They used that pick to select Tuukka Rask. Of course, he was traded before he could ever play a game with the Leafs. He would be one of two Toronto picks that would go on to make it in the NHL. The other one would be Anton Stralman in the seventh round (216th overall), who actually played 88 games with the Leafs before being traded.
The four other players the Leafs selected that year were Phil Oreskovic, Alex Berry, Johan Dahlberg and Chad Rau. Oreskovic played 10 games with the Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season while Rau played nine games with the Minnesota Wild in the 2011-12 season.
9 – 1996
The 1996 Draft did give the Maple Leafs Tomas Kaberle. Other than him, only two players would play in the NHL. Their first pick was not until the second round (36th overall), where they selected Marek Posmyk. He played 19 games in the NHL, all with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dmitriy Yakushin, selected with the 140th pick, played two games with the Leafs in the 1999-00 season.
The failure in this draft was that the Leafs had 14 picks and only hit on one of them. They didn’t have a first-round pick but had two picks in each of the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds. They even had three in the sixth round. Kaberle, the second-last player the Leafs selected, was the only hit. Usually, it’s pretty good if you find a player in the later rounds, but that’s usually on top of hitting with your first pick.
8 – 1988
Another draft that gave the Leafs one of their long-tenured players, the 1988 Draft gave the Leafs Tie Domi. Domi, their second-round pick, would go on to play 1,020 games in the NHL. Even their first-round pick would play for a good amount of time, as sixth overall pick Scott Pearson played 292 games. Both Pearson and Domi would have two tenures with the Leafs, although Pearson’s second tenure was only for one game.
After those two, the Leafs had more success than the past two selections but not by much. Peter Ing (48th overall) played 74 games. Ted Crowley (69th overall) played 34 games. Len Esau (86th overall) played 27 games while David Sacco played 35 games. No other of the Leafs picks played any games.
Interestingly, Sacco would be the first of two future NHL head coaches that they would select in that draft. Peter DeBoer was selected in the 12th round (237th overall).
7 – 1969
The most successful pick of this draft was Brian Spencer. He played 553 games and played for the Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Three other picks went on to play in the NHL, but only for a total of 49 games. 41 of those games were played by their third-round pick, Larry McIntyre. Three games were played by Doug Brindley and five were played by Frank Hughes.
6 – 1989
The failure in this draft was entirely in the first round. The Leafs had three picks in the first round and they used each and every one to select a member of the Belleville Bulls.
With the third overall pick, they selected Scott Thornton. He would only play 33 games for the Maple Leafs, also playing with the Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. he would go on to play 941 NHL games. With the 12th pick, the selected Rob Pearson. He played three seasons with the Leafs on the way to 269 games in the NHL. Steve Bancroft was selected with 21st pick and played six NHL games, five with San Jose and one with the Chicago Blackhawks. Their fourth-round pick, Matt Martin, played 76 NHL games as well.
The problem with this draft was all the players that the Leafs passed over. Eleven players drafted in 1989 went on to play more than 1,000 games. This draft featured players like Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, Adam Foote, Nik Lidstrom and Sergei Federov. Luckily, the Leafs did eventually trade for the first overall pick that year, Mats Sundin.
5 – 2011
Now we start a string of more recent drafts. While the most recent draft on this list, you can already tell how this draft has badly. Their first pick, Tyler Biggs, was traded to Pittsburgh alongside Phil Kessel. Tom Nilsson was part of a prospect/contract dump in the trade for Michael Grabner. David Broll, Dennis Robertson were traded away and have yet to play in the NHL.
The other four players selected all have maybes attached to them. Stuart Percy, the Leafs’ second first-round pick, has played 12 games with the Leafs, but maybe pushed out by depth as he is waiver-eligible next season. Josh Leivo has looked good in his 28 games with the Leafs, but has mainly been used as injury replacement. Tony Cameranesi just joined the Toronto Marlies after his college career was over and is not even signed by the Leafs yet.
The one player who has the biggest opportunity right now is Garret Sparks. He made a mark in his first game with the Maple Leafs, becoming the first Leafs’ goalie to record a shutout in his debut. While he struggled down the stretch, he’ll probably get more opportunities this coming season.
4 – 2010
This draft could have been a whole different story if not for the trade that brought the Leafs Phil Kessel. The first first-round pick the Leafs sent the Boston Bruins ended up being second overall, where they selected Tyler Seguin.
The rest of the draft didn’t go well for the Leafs either. They traded away then-prospect Jimmy Hayes to Chicago to recoup a second-round pick. They used that pick to select Brad Ross, who is currently playing in Germany. Greg McKegg played 19 games with the Leafs before being traded to the Florida for Zach Hyman. The other two picks that have played in the NHL so far are Petter Granberg (traded to Nashville) and Sam Carrick. Together, they have only played a combined 56 games.
Sondre Olden, Daniel Brodin and Josh Nicholls are no longer with the Leafs organization and never played in the NHL.
3 – 2003
In one of the best drafts in recent memory, the Leafs didn’t even have a first-round pick. The Leafs first pick didn’t come until 57th overall. They used that pick to select John Doherty, who last played for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.
The only pick to to reach a modicum of success has been John Mitchell, their fifth-round pick, who has been playing in the bottom six for Colorado for the past four seasons. He never did that well for the Leafs though. Their seventh-round pick, Jeremy Williams, played 32 NHL games and played this past season in Sweden.
Martin Sagat, Konstantin Volkov and Shaun Landolt never played in the NHL.
2 – 2004
One year later, things didn’t get better for the Leafs. In fact, they got worse. Only two players the Leafs picked have played in the NHL. Justin Pogge, who played well enough to convince the Leafs to trade Rask, was eventually traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He played seven games for the Leafs before being traded. He’ll be playing in the KHL next season.
Robbie Earl, who was selected in the sixth round, made news when he said that he believed that he should have been a first-round pick and would prove everyone wrong. He would go on to play nine games for the Maple Leafs and 38 for the Minnesota Wild.
Roman Kukumberg, Dmitry Vorobiev and Maxim Semenov all played in the KHL this past season. Jan Steber and Pierce Norton no longer play professionally.
1 – 1999
In defense of the Leafs, not many NHL teams had good drafts in 1999 as it was one of the worst NHL drafts in history. After all, the first pick was Patrik Stefan.
In total, the Leafs drafted nine players in 1999. Total games played in the NHL by those players: Three. Pierre Hedin played those three games in the 2003-04 season. There was some bad luck involved with their first-round pick. Luca Cereda was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in 2000 and would never make it to the NHL. He did play for the St. John’s Maple Leafs for three seasons.
Interestingly, Cereda is the last player the Leafs drafted out of Switzerland. That is, until the Leafs draft Auston Matthews.