Fan can get most upset when high draft picks get traded away - it’s the mystery box effect. The traded pick could be anything, we don’t know where it will be at the draft, we don’t know who the Leafs would have selected, or who the Kings will, or how the player will develop. It’s all up to our imaginations, and that’s where we get into trouble.
Historically, the Maple Leafs have done well in the first round. Only 21 picks since the draft began in 1961 have not played 100 games for the Leafs, and 17 have played more than three seasons for the Leafs. That leaves 14 players who played between 100 and 240 games for the team. The Leafs also traded their first round pick five times, now six.
I went over the Leafs first round picks back in the summer, if you want to poke around their history:
The Maple Leafs are expected to, at minimum, play one or two rounds of the playoffs this season, and if they do this pick will be in the 15-28 range. I’ll review the players the Maple Leafs have taken in that range since the turn of the century.
2018 - Rasmus Sandin, D, 29th overall
Maple Leafs Stats: No games played
The Maple Leafs got this pick by trading down with the St. Louis Blues, moving from 25th to 29th. Sandin has been jumped over 2017 pick Timothy Liljegren on the depth chart by a lot of prospect watchers. Sandin is in his first AHL season, moving on from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Before he left to play for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he had five goals and five assists in 18 Marlies games. He’s been sitting out of games since the tournament, nursing a sprained elbow.
2017 - Timothy Liljegren, D, 17th overall
Maple Leafs Stats: No games played
The Leafs first non-lottery pick since 2013, Liljegren was a highly ranked defender coming into the draft, but ended up falling to the Maple Leafs. He’s currently in his second season with the Toronto Marlies - but like Sandin has played less than 20 games this season due to injury (high ankle sprain). He was sent down to the ECHL Newfoundland Growlers for a rehabilitation game where he suffered a setback according to Sheldon Keefe, and hasn’t returned to the Marlies line up yet.
2013 - Frederik Gauthier, C, 21st overall
Maple Leafs stats: 77 GP - 5G - 8A - 13Pts
A much maligned pick at the time, Gauthier has worked his way up and settled in to the fourth line centre role with the Maple Leafs this season. Since he left the Quebec junior league and went pro, Gauthier has played at least seven games for the Maple Leafs and this year he’s played 40 of 49. Drafting a fourth line centre in the first round isn’t a great plan, but at 77 games played, Gauthier is on track to be a successful first round pick.
2005 - Tuukka Rask, G, 21st overall
Maple Leafs stats: No games played
The 2005 draft was a lottery front to back after the Maple Leafs and 29 other teams decided to cancel the 04-05 season. The Leafs were picked to draft 21st and went on to pick Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask. Who was a worse prospect than Justin Pogge apparently. Moving on.
2002 - Alexander Steen, W, 24th overall
Maple Leafs stats: 253GP - 50G - 76A - 126Pts
Alex Steen played two seasons in the SHL before coming to the Maple Leafs, skipping the AHL entirely. He would play three seasons with the Maple Leafs before being traded to the St. Louis Blues early in the 2008-09 season along with Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak. He’s been with the Blues since the deal, and will play his 700th game with the team this season.
2001 - Carlo Colaiacovo, D, 17th overall
Maple Leafs stats: 111GP - 12G - 21A - 33Pts
Carlo was affectionately known as ‘Splodeybones’ among Maple Leafs fans, as he tended to be injured at least once each season. As mentioned above, he was the other half of the trade for Lee Stempniak.
2000 - Brad Boyes, RW, 24th overall
Maple Leafs stats: 60GP - 8G - 16A - 24Pts
Brad Boyes was GTA kid who grew up a Maple Leafs fan, and achieved his dream when he was a first round pick for the Leafs. He would also get to play for the Maple Leafs, just 16 years later. Boyes was traded during his first season with the AHL St. John’s Maple Leafs when he was included in a package to the San Jose Sharks for Owen Nolan. Boyes would play 762 NHL games with the Sharks, Bruins, Blues, Sabres, Islanders, and Panthers before signing with the Maple Leafs for the 2015-16 season and retiring after one season with the Maple Leafs.
Every pick since 2000 in this range for the Maple Leafs (before Liljegren) has turned into an NHLer, but for some it took a while to wear the blue and white, others had their careers in Toronto cut short, and one was traded before it happened.
The Leafs in the 2000’s haven’t had a lot of opportunity to pick in this range, but when they have, they’ve picked well. Hopefully, this is the year that a mid-20’s Leafs pick turns out to be a bust.
Or it ends up being 31st and who cares?