By Zackery Robert
Coming up next we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, coming off a second round playoff exit the Leafs will now have a potentially quite interesting offseason that will kickoff with the draft on June 28th.
Looking back at previous drafts that the Leafs were in there have been some picks that have really paid off and have helped this franchise. The first one to mention is their current best player in Austin Matthews. This is one of the youngest best ever draft picks in this series and for the Leafs it really is just that, one of the best. Matthews has been their number one player since the 2016-2017 draft. He has been a threat every year and makes the Leafs much more competitive year in and year out. He has two Rocket Richard trophies to go along with the Calder for rookie of the year in the 2016-2017 season and one Hart and Ted Lindsay trophy respectively. He has already been one of the most successful Leafs players of all time and he’s only 26 years old.
Next up we will go to a draft where one of the most recognizable players in the franchise came from. In the 1970 draft the Leafs held the eight pick and used it to choose Darryl Sittler, Sittler would go on to play with Toronto from 1970-1982. Sittler was a four time 40 goal scorer and hit the 100 point plateau two times with the Leafs. Sittler would finish with a point per game or better in nine of his twelve seasons. His number would be retired by the Leafs in 1989.
The third and final person to talk about here wouldn’t necessarily be considered as one of the best picks of a franchise all the time, he wasn’t the most flashy or the one with all the awards or points but he was however the fab favourite for all his years in Toronto. A player that everyone wanted to be on the team and stay on the team. He was tough, he was a personality, he was Tie Domi. Originally drafted back in 1988 in the second round pick number 27 Domi played a majority of his career with the Leafs. However he only played two games with them before being traded away resulting in him playing away from the franchise for over five seasons until in 1995 when he was traded during the season back to Toronto. Upon his return to Toronto Domi became an instant favourite and would play out the remainder of his career with the Leafs from 1995-2006. In total Domi would play 777 of his 1020 games in the NHL, retiring with a legacy left in Toronto that many fans will remember for a long time.
Moving into picks that were not good picks by the Leafs we will funnily enough stay in the 1988 draft where at pick number six the Leafs chose winger Scott Pearson. Pearson struggled with the Leafs and subsequently in his NHL career, during his tenure with the Leafs Pearson played in 62 games registering 16 points, five goals and eleven assists. Pearson would be traded part way through the 1990-1991 season to the Quebec Nordiques for little help in the return. Looking back at the 1988 draft the Leafs made an immense error in taking Pearson at six because in the next four picks at number eight, nine, and ten we would see Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour, and Teemu Selanne selected.
Next up comes from the 2011 draft, and to no surprise it is 22nd overall pick Tyler Biggs. Biggs had lots of potential and was talked about quite a bit, at 6 ‘3 and over 200 pounds he was touted as a potential top six power forward. However that did not come to fruition, after the draft he went to Miami University (Ohio) and then onto the OHL for the Oshawa Generals. He went on to play in the AHL after that and went to the ECHL for many seasons after that and a bit of time in the EIHL before retiring at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season. Biggs never ended up playing in the NHL by the conclusion of his career.
Finally wrapping it up with the 1992 draft where the Leafs held pick number eight and used it on centre Brandon Convery. Convery would play another three and half seasons in the OHL and AHL before making his Leafs debut in the latter half of the 1996 season. In those 11 games he scored seven points, which was actually pretty good for a rookie in only a few games. Unfortunately for him that would be the best production wise he would be for the Leafs, on the next season he would struggle with 10 points in 39 games which would result in being relegated to the AHL team for the following year before being turfed that very same year to the Vancouver Canucks and then being in their farm team as well. Convery would eventually take his talents over to Europe where he would play until his retirement at the end of the 2004 season.
Taking a look at the 2023 Leafs you will find a team who had a disappointing second round exit in the playoffs which emulates their playoff struggles over the past 20 years. With their sites now focused on the 2023 draft we will see what they can do. They currently hold only three picks in this year’s draft but they do have a first round pick, 1st (BOS), 5th, 6th. This pick in the first round will be at pick number 28.
Looking at the Leafs’ prospect pool you will find a pretty empty pool, and for a team that is loaded up on forwards and lacking in both defence and goalie that is what they should target that deep into the first round. Players they can look at drafting can be USHL goalie Michael Hrabal, OHL defenseman Oliver Bonk, or SHL defenseman Theo Lindstein.
For more information on the 2023 NHL Draft class be sure to pick up your copy of the comprehensive DraftPro 2023 NHL Draft Guide.