First Overall Shtick

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An article recently came out that the Leafs could potentially trade for the first overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Doesn’t it seem like the Leafs have a shot at the first overall pick every season? Well that’s because some writers say that they have a shot at the first overall pick almost every season.

Here’s a look back at the BS Leafs first overall pick rumours throughout the years.


I’m sure this trend predates 2008, but that’s when I noticed it starting to ramp up. After all, that’s also around the time when the Leafs started to finish near the bottom of the league’s standings on a consistent basis. Toronto had a top ten pick in 2008, so rumours of trading up to first overall were ripe for the picking.

And wow, wow, WOW did I find a good one.

“Want Stamkos? Trade Antropov” 

That was the headline of a Damien Cox piece in the Toronto Star from February 26, 2008.

This article is so incredibly hilarious that I’m breaking my rule of never linking to things that don’t deserve to be linked to. There are simply too many gems in it. Let’s start with the idea of using Nikolai freaking Antropov to trade up to get Steven freaking Stamkos.

My favourite tidbit from this little time capsule of Toronto history is Cox saying Nikolai Antropov is “a lot more competitive than Marian Hossa, that’s for sure.” That quote is worth the price of admission right there.

Let’s be fair though. I have the benefit of looking back on this and laughing at it (hysterically on the ground and crying) while Mr. Cox actually wrote this a few months before the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Another point worth mentioning is that the premise of Cox’s article technically wasn’t wrong. He said Antropov was the Leafs’ best chip to move up and he was at the time. Yeah, that team was pretty bad.

Still – did that deal happen? No. Did it come close to happening? I very seriously doubt that. Did that stop thousands of people from reading that rumour and talking about it? Probably not.


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This year was a gongshow.

It wasn’t some journalist with a hot tip or some columnist writing clickbait drivel. The buzz was created by none other than the Leafs’ President and General Manager at the time, Brian Burke.

“We’ll immediately attempt to move up.”

Brian Burke was about as subtle as a pink elephant dancing to Miley Cyrus on ‘shrooms. It was his first draft as Leafs GM and he just went completely balls to the walls right out of the gate. Burke told an extremely desperate city that he was going after the Leafs’ holy grail: A can’t-miss first overall pick born in the Great Toronto Area who played in the Ontario Hockey League and grew up a Leafs fan. Could this be the player that prophecies foretold of? Could this be the man to lead the Leafs back to the promised land or at very least not completely suck? 

What ensued was sports media anarchy.

A blog actually called “TorontoSportsMedia” wrote an excellent recap of the chaos on April 15, 2009. It’s definitely worth your time once you’re finished reading this. No outlet allowed Burke’s proclamation go quietly. It was in the Toronto Sun. Twice. It was in the Toronto Star. Twice. Many of the other outlets’ articles are no longer online but the National Post, Globe and Mail, Sportsnet – everybody was on this like Mikhail Grabovski on Max Pacioretty’s wrist.

The funny thing with this one was it wasn’t a case of the media hyping up a trade rumour to increase fan interest. For the most part, the coverage seemed to be explaining why Burke’s goal wasn’t realistic, which history obviously reflects.

In the end, the Leafs wound up selecting an excellent young possession player with decent production and a team-leading penalty differential scapegoat in Nazem Kadri with the seventh overall pick.

This post from Lighthouse Hockey is probably the best thing that came out of the Leafs-Tavares saga.


The Leafs’ most realistic shot at drafting first overall in recent memory came in 2010 when they finished second-last in the league and got the second overall pick… Of course that pick was actually traded to the Boston Bruins before the season began, so never mind.

What did the Leafs get out of that deal?

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I googled “Leafs first overall 2011” and got this. And I laughed and laughed. Then cried.

The Leafs ended up with two first round picks in 2011 but they were so late in the round that even the hackiest of hacks wouldn’t dare to poke the Leafs first overall pick hornet nest that year.


Once upon a time, the Leafs were going to trade Jake Gardiner to the Oilers.

This one was unique. With the Leafs picking fifth overall, rumours of the Leafs trading up would have been fairly believable and generated a ton of buzz.

Once again, the greatest Toronto sports writer of the past decade, Brian Burke, nipped narrative in the bud before it even started and began his own.

“I have no sense from Edmonton that that pick is in play,” Burke said in June of 2012. “I can tell you that. If someone is actively trying to get that pick it’s not us.”

What made 2012’s draft buzz unique was not the Torontonian hysteria of potentially trading up for the first overall pick, but rather the Edmontonian surprise at the lack thereof. 

Jonathan Willis, who writes for the Edmonton Journal and our fine sister site at, seemed to find Burke’s quote puzzling from the standpoint of the Oilers. David Staples, also of the Edmonton Journal, seemed more perplexed by the idea that Burke and the Leafs didn’t even seemed interested in moving up.

You’ve gotta love the Leafs. When the story isn’t about rumours, it’s about the lack of rumours.

The Leafs ended up staying with the fifth overall pick in 2012 and used it to select Morgan Rielly. No big deal, since Burke apparently had Rielly ranked first overall anyway.


I tried but I couldn’t find any rumours suggesting the Leafs were trying to grab the first overall pick in 2013. Thank goodness because the Leafs had the 21st overall pick. Could they have traded up 20 spots to get Nathan MacKinnon? No. Stop.


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This is me interviewing Aaron Ekblad when he was just 15-years-old. He was 6’2″, 205 lbs.

And now for Howard Berger.

This year’s rumour, courtesy of Berger, is the Leafs sending Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri, and the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft to the Florida Panthers in exchange for the 1st overall pick and Ed Jovanovski. That’s quite the large potential deal.

Hey – it could help both teams and it could be true, as Mr. Berger suggests.

You know what? That is a correct statement. The Leafs could potentially grab the first overall pick. The Leafs could also potentially be purchased by a Dubai billionaire and forced into rhythmic gymnastics. Whenever you hear somebody talk about something that could happen, they’re technically right.

Will it actually happen? I doubt it. You can’t really blame me for doubting it, can you? First overall pick hysteria is almost an annual tradition in Leaf Land.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t buy this trade rumour for one second, but that’s not Howard Berger’s fault. 

Maybe, just maybe, a rumour regarding a blockbuster Leafs trade is finally true! Unfortunately, I can’t do it anymore. Much like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, this is The Team That Cried First Overall Pick. Not biting. Sorry.

If it ends up being true, full marks to Howard Berger, of course. 

After all, the Leafs are due to pick first again.

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