Now that both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks are eliminated from the playoffs, we know the final draft position of the Toronto Maple Leafs: 25th overall. Both of those teams finished with fewer points, so they move into place in the draft order ahead of the Leafs.

We know that on average, drafting at 25th is likely to get you someone who will play in the NHL, but it’s very unlikely to get you a star. It can also get you someone who never makes it. There is very little difference between the 25th overall and a second round pick in terms of probability of future value.

While the historical chance of a first-round pick turning into an NHLer is around 80%, that depends on how you define NHLer, and also is heavily driven by the sure things in the top half of the draft.

Not every draft is the same, of course, but most rumours of “deep drafts” are grossly overstated, and usually apply to the top ten, not the hundreds of players taken after.  The 1999 draft of nothing but the Sedins remains as the most unusual, but there doesn’t seem to be a reverse version where every player in the top 100 was a star.

It doesn’t matter what position a team drafts at, the job is the same: know the players who might be available, have a plan if your player isn’t there anymore, and be ready if your GM suddenly trades your pick. But it helps to have reasonable expectations.

From the incomparable Hockey Reference, this is every 25th overall player taken in the draft since 1969.

25th Overall Picks via Hockey Reference

YearTeamPlayerNat.PosAgeAmateur TeamAmateur Lg.GPGAPTS
2017MTLRyan PoehlingUSC18St. Cloud StateNCHC
2003FLAAnthony StewartCARW18KingstonOHL262274471
2002CARCam WardCAG18Red DeerWHL66811112
2001MTLAlexander PerezhoginSULW18Avangard OmskKHL128151934
2000DALSteve OttCAC18WindsorOHL848109179288
1998DETJiri FischerCSD18HullQMJHL305114960
1997DALBrenden MorrowCALW18PortlandWHL991265310575
1996COLPeter RatchukUSD19Shattuck-St. Mary'sHigh-MN32112
1995COLMarc DenisCAG18ChicoutimiQMJHL349066
1994NJDVadim SharifijanovSULW18Salavat Yulayev UfaKHL92162137
2004EDMRob SchrempUSC18LondonOHL114203454
2005EDMAndrew CoglianoCALW18St. Michael's Jr. BOJHL866157211368
2006STLPatrik BerglundSEC18VasterasSweden-2694168154322
2016DALRiley TufteUSLW18BlaineHigh-MN
2015WINJack RoslovicUSC18USA U-18USHL325914
2014BOSDavid PastrnakCZRW18SODERTALJESweden-225494109203
2013MTLMichael McCarronUSRW18USA U-18USHL69268
2012STLJordan SchmaltzUSD18Green BayUSHL22033
2010FLAQuinton HowdenCAC18Moose JawWHL9710717
2009BOSJordan CaronCARW18RimouskiQMJHL157121628
2008CGYGreg NemiszCARW18WindsorOHL15011
2007VANPatrick WhiteUSC18Tri-CityUSHL
1993BOSKevyn AdamsUSC18Miami (Ohio)CCHA5405977136
2011TORStuart PercyCAD18Mississauga St. Michael'sOHL12033
1999COLMikhail KuleshovSULW18CherepovetsKHL3000
1992OTTChad PenneyCALW18North BayOHL3000
1978PITMike MeekerCARW20PeterboroughOHL4000
1977MNSDave SemenkoCALW20BrandonWHL5756588153
1976STLJohn SmrkeCALW20TorontoOHL103111728
1975CHIDaniel ArndtCASaskatoonWHL
1974BOSMark HoweUSD19TorontoOHL929197545742
1973MNSJohn RogersCARW20EdmontonWHL14246
1972BUFLarry CarriereCAD20Loyola College366167490
1971MTLTerry FrenchCAGrand Falls
1970NYRMike MurphyCARW20TorontoOHL831238318556
1979NYITomas JonssonSED19MoDo OrnskoldsvikSweden55285259344
1980TORCraig MuniCAD18KingstonOHL81928119147
1981CHIKevin GriffinCALondonOHL
1991WSHEric LavigneCAD18HullQMJHL1000
1990PHIChris SimonCALW18OttawaOHL782144161305
1989WINDan RatushnyCAD18CornellECAC1011
1988PITMark MajorCALW18North BayOHL2000
1986PITDave CapuanoUSLW18Mount St. CharlesHigh-RI104173855
1987CGYStephane MatteauCALW18HullQMJHL848144172316
1985VANTroy GambleCAG18Medicine HatWHL72011
1984TORTodd GillCAD18WindsorOHL100782272354
1983DETLane LambertCARW18SaskatoonWHL2835866124
1982TORPeter IhnacakCSC25Sparta PrahaCzech417102165267
1969MNSGilles GilbertCAG20LondonOHL416099

What can we learn from this list? The good news is, you can get a player at 25th overall who will play over 1,000 NHL games. The Leafs are the team that did it with Todd Gill. Following on his heels for time in the league at over 900 games is Brenden Morrow — who seems to be the star of the group on historical performance — and Mark Howe.  Andrew Cogliano, a very reliable utility checking line player is also coming up on 900 games.

If you judge by points, there’s Howe, Morrow, Mike Murphy and Cogliano. Points come with longevity, and you can’t guess that on draft day, so how about points per game played? I assume you can guess who rises right to the top.

Leaving aside the one game wonder with one assist, the top man by points per game is, of course, David Pastrnak. And he will, in time, be the best player on this list. But he just barely beats Howe, a defenceman, so perhaps Howe is the star after all. Next is Murphy, then comes the man who paved the way for Pastrnak to play NHL hockey. Peter Ihnacak, taken by the Leafs in 1982 from Czechoslovakia, had .64 points per game in 417 NHL games and was a pioneer of European integration into the NHL. Next up is Tomas Jonsson, a Swede taken in 1979 by the Islanders who had .62 points per game in 552 games. You usually need to look a lot harder today to find players that other teams have overlooked. But it’s certainly not impossible.

On the bad side of the ledger for 25th overall picks, there are six players on the list who have never played in the NHL. One is Ryan Poehling, taken by the Canadiens last year, and another is Riley Tufte, drafted by Dallas the year before, so let’s ignore those. But there are also 12 players who played less than 40 games. There are two good players just breaking into the NHL in that number, Jack Roslovic with the Jets, and Jordan Schmaltz with the Blues, but the rest are players who never made it, including Stu Percy, taken by the Leafs in 2011.

There’s a couple of names that stand out to me for those that seem to have played a lot of NHL hockey.  A deeper look at their careers might make the picture less rosy. Michael McCarron of the Canadiens and Jordan Caron of … well, who is he with these days? Krefeld Pinguine of the DEL.

Both of these players illustrate a form of stubbornness around first-round picks. The Canadiens keep trying to develop the now 23-year-old McCarron into an NHL player. He has a Josh Leivo-esque career of playing a dozen or two games each year for three years, and he has Josh Leivo-esque fans who believe passionately that he’ll make it (largely because he’s big).  He keeps playing about like a good AHLer so far. He might make it, he’s not out of the age bracket where that’s still possible, but if he were a second round pick, he might never have seen so much fruitless NHL time.

Jordan Caron is older, and at 27, he’s not a mystery anymore. But when he was McCarron’s age, he got passed around from Boston, who drafted him, to two other NHL teams, who just kept trying to play this first round pick, and he just kept on putting up .18 points per game. That’s Roman Polak’s career NHL point pace.

There’s other examples of this: Quinton Howden traveled from team to team putting up Polak numbers, and now he’s in the KHL. Anthony Stewart wandered through some bad teams, including the Atlanta Thrashers, racking up 262 games and only 71 points. He finished his career recently with a few years in Europe.

Alexander Perezhogin played parts of two seasons in Montréal, badly, before going back to Russia and having an excellent KHL career. He played this year on a good team, and at 34, he’s slowing down, but he’s a real player. Just not an NHL player.

If we put the cutoff on this list at players who put in over 300 games, players who had real NHL careers, there are 18 of them. And the ones to come, of course. But removing the players who absolutely were given a chance, over and over, and just failed, the chances of getting a career NHLer of note at 25th overall is less than half. The slim chance of getting David Pastrnak, however, is exactly why picks in the first round, even ones with this chance of success, are rarely traded.

The Leafs have four main options for this pick, one I think is so unlikely as to be laughable, but I’ll include it: What should they do with this pick?

What should the Leafs do with their first-round pick

Pick a player with it and get the next Pastrnak570
Trade up for a better pick177
Trade down for two second rounders453
Trade the pick as part of a package for a player1046