Welcome back. You may remember some months ago, I wrote a series of pieces intended to gauge just how bad the Maple Leafs had been at drafting in the recent past and the conclusion I came to was that we'd been pretty bad. Either we drafted bad players or we drafted good players then traded them away before their picks could work out for us (c/r: Boyes, Brad; Rask, Tuukka). Before that, I also wrote something about this time last year where I took Daoust's Draft Database (cheap plug cheap plug) and used past history to take a stab at predicting how we'd do picking where we were in the 2011 Draft. People seemed to enjoy these posts. Not sure why. Either way, I'm doing another one. So you have some idea of what you're getting into, this is the fanpost I did for the 2011 draft. Join me after the jump and there is a chance I'll let the beat mmmmmmmmmdrrrrroooooop.
#5 - You know him, you love him, he's the most awkward man in history...
As you should all know, because Edmonton won the draft lottery (the tanking bastards), we'll be picking fifth and thus guaranteeing this is now a draft with four truly top-tier players and a lot of assorted scrubs who have never seen a hockey stick before in their lives and don't quite understand the logistics of a sport played on ice. Despite your immediate reactions, picking fifth has been surprisingly hit-and-miss over the last twenty years. There have been some good picks...there have also been some stinkers. Stanislav Chistov (2001, Anaheim) played just under two hundred games in the NHL between the Ducks and the Bruins, before leaving America and setting up shop in the KHL - by and large, not what you're hoping for with a pick this high. Raffi Torres (2000, Long Island) obviously hasn't been completely terrible, but it's hard to imagine any team picking a forward in the hope he'll grow to produce points at the mammoth rate of 0.401 per game.
But let's look at the positives, starting with the Philthy One, the Thrill, hockey's least comfortable superstar, Mr. Philip J. Kessel (2006, Boston). We've gone over the man's game to the point of insanity, but of the sample included in the database he's second in terms of points per game (0.717) and goals per game (0.362), behind only Thomas Vanek (2003, Buffalo) in both cases, who clocks in at 0.817 and 0.420 respectively. I think I'd sleep very happily if somebody guaranteed whoever we pick at #5 would turn into a player on their level. There was also only one goaltender picked at that spot and I wouldn't turn up my nose at him, even if Carey Price (2005, Montreal) does come with that horrible lingering Hab stink, like a wet, oily, post-kebab fart. It might seem surprising, given their shitty season, but Price finished the year with four shutouts, a GAA of 2.43 and a 0.916 save percentage - figures that I would gleefully maim for.
On a lower tier, there are still some pretty well-known names. Jeff O'Neill (1994, Hartford) had a nice long career with a fairly respectable 0.604 PPG figure when he hung up his skates; Daymond Langkow (1995, Tampa Bay) is rapidly approaching 1100 league games and is already well over that if you include playoff appearances; Tim Connolly (1999, Long Island) might be overpaid but is hovering around 0.6 PPG and Blake Wheeler (2004, Phoenix...I guess) was Winnipeg's top scorer this year and is only 25. None of the last three guys - Brayden Schenn, Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome - have had much opportunity to make an impact, but all three are still touted very highly nonetheless.
Unfortunately, all of those names so far have been forwards (and Carey Price [and Zoidberg]) because when you start talking about defensemen, it gets a smidge uglier. Don't get me wrong, of the seven d-men picked over the course of the sample only one is actively a bust - Ric Jackman (1996, Dallas) played 231 games, which would have been great for a fifth round pick but not a fifth overall pick - but at the same time, I don't think any of them scream top ten pick. Eric Brewer (1997, Long Island) is arguably the best of the bunch, playing over eight hundred games and being one of those guys perennially mentioned as being a solid, respectable blueliner, while Karl Alzner (2007, Washington) and our own Luke Schenn (2008) have plenty of time to improve, but I can't imagine any of them would be picked this high were the league to do a redraft for their years.
From my quick perusal, the majority of mock drafts have us taking either Filip Forsberg or Alex Galchenyuk, with the occasional vote for Matthew Dumba or Morgan Reilly, and prevailing opinion here is that most people would be happy with either. I was going to see what Gabe Desjardins' vaunted NHLe had to say about it, but there are two problems with this - one, Forsberg has been playing in the second tier of Swedish hockey and not doing too magnificently and two, Galchenyuk's been out all year with a concussion. Feel free to debate that point in the comments (which you would anyway).
Looking at the #5 spot from a "career player" perspective - Daoust defined it as a player who amassed over two hundred games in the big league - things look quite rosy. Jackman managed it, Alzner and Price will both make it, Schenn already has and I would be shocked if any of Schenn the Younger, Niederreiter or Strome failed to make it. But when you're picking this high, I don't think longevity alone can qualify it as a good pick - Rob Neidermayer (1993, Florida) left America with more than eleven hundred games under his belt, but I'd be fucking disappointing if that's who I ended up with. Discounting the three most recent picks leaves us with seventeen and, of them, I can only look at a few names and say they were a justified pick - Vanek, Kessel, Price, Langkow (a thousand-plus games and over six hundred points is nothing to sniff at), maybe Alzner, maybe Brewer and maybe O'Neill. At best, that's an average of .411, and that only rises to .500 if all three of the most recent picks justify their selections. It's not a fantastic average to be working with, in other words, and based on that I'd advocate taking whoever is the safer of the picks to fall to us.
At some point in the next few days, I'll do the same for our second-round pick. Probably.