As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to draft another highly talented prospect to bring into the TML fold, I thought I would take a look at the history of #5 pick. These players are the top 10 on my list that were selected with the 5th overall pick. You’ll notice that there is a bit of a Toronto Maple link to some of these picks.
10. Tim Connolly – 1999 – New York Islanders
Although his last season was anything but impressive, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tim Connolly was a solid 5th overall pick for the New York Islanders in 1999. Connolly’s tenure in Buffalo was impressive, but he has been injury prone. Connolly has not played in a full season since his first year in Buffalo in 2001-02. Despite this, he has mostly been a solid two way player who can play on both sides of the special teams pendulum. In a fairly weak draft class, Connolly ranks 5th in games played with 697 and 6th in points with 431.
Biggest Miss – New York could have had Henrik Zetterberg who ended up going at the 210th pick.
9. Ryan Strome – 2011 – New York Islanders
Ryan Strome has not a played a game in the NHL yet, but I have added him to this list because of the sheer potential that he oozes for the Niagara Ice Dogs. He has magic hands and although his season was shortened this year due to injury, the Islanders can be sure that with Strome they have a true offensive talent who can bring it.
In 172 career OHL games he has scored 201 points and at 6’1 he has the size it takes to make it at the NHL level, now it’s just a matter of when. The Islanders, who are set to select at the 4 spot this season, will likely go with a defenseman at this year’s draft simply due to the fact that with Tavares, Niedereiter and now Strome they are absolutely locked down on offense.
Biggest Miss – It is far too early but the Islanders could have selected Sean Couturier with the 8 pick who has had an immediate impact in Philadelphia. When it’s all said and done, Strome could end up being the best player in this draft year.
8. Phil Kessel – 2006 – Boston Bruins
One thing is sure; Phil Kessel followed some great names at the draft in 2006. Jonathan Toews who was the best player at the 2010 Olympics bar none is one of them. But Phil Kessel was by far the fastest player selected in 2006. He has blazing speed and when he gets a head of steam, nobody can stop him.
Toronto did pay a lot to get the former 5th overall pick, but they liked what he could bring and in Toronto he has brought it. He finished with 82 points last season in Toronto which was good enough for 6th in the league. This is a great total for a team who failed to qualify for the post season. At 456 games played, Kessel leads his draft class in Games Played, Goals and is second only to Nicklas Backstrom in points with 327. A year ago, he was the last player selected at the All-Star game, but as he matures, he is becoming one of the most lethal offensive right wingers in the league.
Biggest Miss – The biggest names that stickout of the 2006 draft class after Phil Kessel are Claude Giroux who is a bit of a late bloomer but clearly one of the league’s best players selected at #22, and Milan Lucic who is perhaps the toughest guy in the league selected 45 picks later at #50.
7. Carey Price – 2005 – Montreal Canadiens
Taking Carey Price was by no means going off the board for the Montreal Canadiens. Price was highly touted and although Goalies don’t typically go this early in the draft, Price was a calm, collected netminder that the Habs just couldn’t pass up. While not too many things are going right in Hab land, the one that is going right is goaltender Carey Price. Upon joining the Montreal franchise, Price helped the Hamilton Bulldogs to an AHL championship which was a terrific step in the right direction for the young goalie from small town B.C…
As the debate heats up for who should be the starting goaltender at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, my bet is that Price will not only be in the conversation, he will be the guy. Price is a great goalie, but what makes him standout that much more is that he is a top notch goalie in front of the league’s most critical fan and he has prevailed.
Biggest Miss – Not that you can really make this qualification as Price is clearly one of the elite goalies in the league, but recently crowned Anze Kopitar was selected with the 11th pick and all-star blue-liner Kris Letang was selected 57 picks later at #62 overall.
6. Tom Barrasso – 1983 – Buffalo Sabres
A Calder and Vezina trophy winner for the Buffalo Sabres in 1984, Barrasso was really one of the first great American high school players who made it into the NHL. Barrasso played in 21 NHL Seasons for the Sabres, Penguins, Senators, Hurricanes, Leafs and Blues. His biggest claim to fame had to be the 2 seasons in which he helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup in 1990-91 and 1991-92. Barrasso was a Maple Leafs for a very brief time, but the moment captured in the below youtube.com clip is likely a positive memory for many Leaf fans who are old enough to remember it.
Biggest Miss – When the Sabres selected Barrasso at #5, they passed on Cam Neely who went on to be one of the best Boston Bruins of all time despite an injury shortened career. They also passed up on Dominik Hasek who also became one of the best Sabres goalies of all time.
5. Petr Svoboda – 1984 – Montreal Canadiens
Montreal definitely went off the board with this selection. Little did they know that Svoboda would end up being one of the better players in the 80’s. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of Czech influence, so selecting Svoboda with the 5th overall pick was definitely a little risky. Svoboda was a solid blue liner for many years in the birthplace of professional hockey. In his career he played 1028 total games scoring 399 points.
Biggest Miss – Let’s face it although Svoboda was a good selection, the Habs could have had Patrick Roy who went 51st overall, Brett Hull at 171st overall and Luc Robitaille at #171.
4. Rick Vaive – 1979 – Vancouver Canucks
The first player in Toronto Maple Leafs history to score 50 goals, Rick Vaive did it 3 times. He also managed to become the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs and was really the face of the franchise through the mid 80’s. He was part of the blockbuster trade that saw the Leafs ship Vaive, Steve Thomas and Bob McGill to the Chicago Blackhawks for forwards Al Secord and former #3 overall selection Ed Olczyk. Vaive has always stayed close to the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise and did some work for the Toronto Maple Leafs TV. Although he will not get a nomination into the hockey hall of fame, Rick Vaive is bar none one of the best Leafs’ of all time.
Biggest Miss – this hindsight is definitely going to sting a little. When the Vancouver Canucks selected Vaive with the 5th overall pick, they skipped up on Raymond Bourque who went to Boston with the 8th overall selection. Mark Messier who is known to be one of the best hockey leaders of all time went to Edmonton with the 48th selection. Perhaps the biggest miss on the board at the #5 pick.
3. Bill Guerin – 1989 – New Jersey Devils
Bill Guerin was one of the most solid 5th overall selections of all time. He could score, pass, hit and fight and if memory serves he would score the bejesus out of opposing players with his overall grit. Guerin is the 4th highest scoring player from the 1989 draft year with 429 goals, 427 assist for 856 points in 1263 games played. He won the Cup with the Devils in 1994-95 under the leadership of Jacques Lemaire finishing with 11 points in 20 playoff games. Guerin scores big goals and he plays hard which makes him one of the top #5 overall selections in NHL draft history.
Biggest Miss – It’s hard to say that the Devils missed with their selection, but knowing that they could have had Nik Lidstrom who ended up going with the 53rd pick or even Pavel Bure with the 113th pick makes you wonder at least a little.
2. Scott Stevens – 1982 – Washington Capitals
This man is one of the toughest body checkers of all time. Point blank, he ended the career of Eric Lindros and many others. But when it comes to the draft, Stevens has to be one of the best #5 selections in history. While he started his career in Washington, Stevens really cemented himself has a perennial top notch defenseman for his time in the New Jersey Devils organization. He has creamed many of the best players in the NHL and he always took care of his own zone first which is why so many people wanted him. The Devils in particular won 3 cups with Stevens in the fold and he was an invaluable member of those teams. Stevens is ranked 7th all-time in games played with 1635 just 4 behind fellow draft mate and former Toronto Maple Leaf Dave Andreychuk.
Biggest Miss – It’s hardly a miss, but the Capitals could have selected Doug Gilmour who ended being Steven’s teammate in Jersey and who eventually became the highest scoring player from this draft with 1414 points in 1474 games.
1. Jaromir Jagr – 1990 – Pittsburgh Penguins
There is absolutely no question that Jagr is the best 5th overall selection of all time. The 1990 is perhaps one of the best drafts all time with the likes of Martin Brodeur, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Sergei Zubov & Petr Bondra who were drafted after Jaromir, not to mention Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau and Mike Ricci who were all drafted ahead of him. Jagr leads his draft class with 1653 points on 665 goals and 988 assists and in 1346 games. Many thought Jagr was done a few seasons ago, but he managed to find a new home in Philadelphia this past season and he continues to shine with 54 points in 73 games last season. Although he is now 40 years of age, Jagr is one of the league’s best all time players of all time.
Biggest Miss – Martin Brodeur could have been had with the 20 overall pick. But in this case, I’ll rather say that it was Quebec, Philly, Vancouver and Detroit that really missed out by not picking Jaromir Jagr.
One thing is for sure. The player available with the 5th overall selection will be of a high calibre, now it’s just up to Brian Burke and Company to make the right choice. No Pressure.
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Stephen is a writer for thehockeywriters.com covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and other Hockey Matters. Stephen attended Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario where he studied Broadcast Journalism and covered local sports for both Radio and Television. This included news coverage for the OHL’s North Bay Centennials. In his personal time, Stephen blogs for his several fantasy hockey leagues.