Another brief history of the Leafs’ draft positions

With the Penguins taking down the Cup yesterday evening, the Leafs’ picks for this month’s draft have finally been locked in. And with that, we can do more to look at how they might turn out. 

One of the easiest things to do is simply look back and see how those selections have turned out over the last number of years. We’ve dug into some more in-depth things like pick valuations and specific prospects who might fall within the team’s grasp over the last few weeks, but this is more so just a fun exercise to get an idea of how picks have turned out at these points in the draft, and perhaps have a little laugh (or cry) at some big whiffs.

For the purpose of keeping this short and reasonable, the Leafs’ first three picks in the draft – 1st, 30th, and 31st overall – will be covered.



I actually laughed out loud compiling this list. Obviously it’s littered with franchise players and guys who will surely be Hall of Fame bound when they call it quits. It’s first overall!

But there are a few (relative) busts, notably Patrik Stefan and, to an extent, Yakupov and Johnson. DiPietro falls into that bust category too, but considering injuries wrecked his career I don’t want to be too hard on him. Also, taking a goalie with the top pick is absolutely insane, and thankfully we don’t have to worry about it. Toronto will take Matthews and win the draft on Friday night.

Moving along.


It’s nearly impossible for the Leafs to get first overall wrong, but 30th is obviously a different story, or at least it has been historically. 


It looks thin, but this is a stark reminder that in the first round you’re really not guaranteed anything after the first few picks. In fact you’re more likely to miss. 

Then again, at a quick glance it seems in recent years teams have fared better here. Let’s hope that continues for Hunter and co.



Yeah, this is atrocious. I feel like 31st overall must be some anomaly or prospect black hole, because this whole group has turned out 95 combined NHL points. Keeping in mind THE LIST GOES BACK TO NINETEEN-NINETY-SEVEN. 

Good lord. Trade this pick to the Habs, or just skip it altogether. Save yourself the embarrassment and wasted time. [I’m joking…I think.]


In all seriousness, we know that once these picks are made they become prospects, and then these numbers really don’t mean anything. But these lists are worth looking at just to show how difficult it is to hit a homerun in what most of us would still consider early in the draft at 30 and 31. It also helps build the case for trading away from these selections and perhaps moving down (or packaging to go way up), as we get into magic bean territory.

Lists and numbers compiled from and Justin Fisher’s Draft Book

  • Newleafs

    If you noticed Patrick Kane is one of the recent #1 picks with more than a point per game.

    Pointing this out because Matthews broke his scoring record by 15 points. A record that stood for almost 10 years. For reference Eichel did not break Kane’s record and put up 56 points as a rookie.

    1. Auston Matthews 2014-15 117

    2 Patrick Kane 2005-06 102

    3 Phil Kessel 2004-05 98

    4 Matthew Tkachuk 2014-15 96

    5 Jeremy Bracco 2014-15 94

    6 Andy Hilbert 1998-99 89

    7. Jack Eichel 2013-14 87

    8. Sonny Milano 2013-14 87

    9. Phil Kessel 2003-04 82

    10. Clayton Keller 2014-15 82

    Get ready for Matthews to shock the NHL at how good he will be.

    I believe that Matthews could be a top 3 center in the NHL.

  • Capt.Jay

    I’m excited about Mathews. Some have said skip Mathews, sign Laine and then sign Stamkos. That to me is a bad idea as Stamkos best days are behind him. Even if they weren’t however he’s got 3-4 years left at being elite before age catches up. He’s 30 in 4 years.

    Mathews for 10 years of eliteness sounds great to me.

  • DSP

    I say Mathews is the third best player. There are two ahead of him and Patrik Laine is one. To say Stamkos is on the down is a stupid statement. He is at his peak and will stay there for at least 3-4 years. The argument for Mathews and Stamkos signed is he will be able to mentor him to take over like Vinny did for him. You want a center go Mathews but Laine I think is better.

    • Gary Empey

      You bring up a very interesting point regarding Stamkos. Winning the lottery has changed the rebuild strategy. As we really won’t know whether we can sign Stamkos until after the lottery, puts the Leafs in a bit of a bind. I don’t think anyone would argue we need a number one center. Nylander may be that guy or more likely will be a great second line center. If we were to pass on Matthews and choose Laine. then unable to sign Stamkos, where does that leave us? I believe both Matthews and Laine will quickly become elite players in the NHL. Matthews is our best choice for the rebuild at this point in time. If the Leafs surprise us and choose Laine, I won’t be disappointed. I wish we could have both.

      • DSP

        I understand also that if Stamkos signs and they take Laine you are in the same shape now at center in three years. However how many times have you seen a second line center who was a decent passer play with a great winger. Oats and Hull come to mind. Plus any center who played with Iginla. Those two are off the top of my head. Ovi put up points for years without a great center as well. Laine has a extreamly high potential rating which begs to be given a good look too. However with Mathews you won’t have that issue in three to four years but you may not have a winger at the time to add that support. It’s still a win win who ever you take though.

    • Newleafs

      Laine is not even close to Matthews. Using small sample sizes Laine does slightly better but with large sample sizes Matthews crushes Laine.

      Matthews put up way higher points per game (and more goals per game). In a tougher league.

      • DSP

        Laine played in the SM Liga which is in the top 5 leagues in the world under the NHL, KHL, DEL, then that. Where he won the playoffs out shot every player in the playoffs by a long shot and won the MVP. Tougher league? Please, you can say it was close but not tougher.

      • Gary Empey

        Your estimate of Laine is completely off the mark. I watched him a lot in the recent worlds. The first thing I noticed was the respect every opposing team showed him. Every time his line came on the ice it looked like the opposition when into a virtual penalty killing mode. Corry Perry was so impressed, he attempted to take Laine’s knee out, after the whistle, on a line change. I seen him score two goals, with wrist-shots, from just inside the blueline, I have never seen anyone score goals like those, in the NHL. I seen him make a pass through skates, sticks, and legs right on the tape for a great assist. Laine is truly a major threat to score every time he is on the ice. After some of his goals a lot of players from both teams were standing around starring a Laine, cause they just couldn’t believe his shot. I only seen his one timer once. The media awarded him MVP for a good reason. The Directorate awarded him best forward in the tournament for a very good reason. Let’s not forget we are talking about 18 year olds here. Those awards never go to 18 year old kids. The Swiss league is far from being the tougher league.

        At the same time Matthews also had a great tourney. He showed us he can also play with the big guys. In my humble opinion Matthews and Laine both out-preformed McDavid who actually also played very well for a 19 year old.

        • Newleafs

          Laine 0.71 PPG
          Matthews 1.27 PPG

          Matthews scored more than .56 points per game than Laine… over a full season. getting close to almost twice as much.

          Hockey Abstract ranks the NLA as a tougher league.

          If you compare a small tournament where Laine played on a far better team with far better “laine”-mates, yea, he put up slightly more points. But over the course of the season it wasn’t even remotely close. Matthews was nearly voted the MVP of a tougher league than Laine played in. With a larger sample size that’s more impressive than a short tournament.

          Laine is a great player. But he’s far from being as good as Matthews.

          Here is the comparison of leagues:

        • Capt.Jay

          That’s not what I said. I said we should draft Mathews and not Laine. Then my rebuttal was you saying my comment was stupid for saying his numbers are down when in fact the stats say they are. I don’t mind Stamkos but I think he hinders a true rebuild. I also don’t want to saddle the team with a max money and term contract if that what it takes to get him

          If you read my comment, and this time actually read it, you’ll see I refer to not drafting Laine and passing on Mathews because we signed Stamkos.

          You calling my statement stupid for saying Stamkos best days are behind him without doing your homework is dumber. I also said if there was chance they weren’t behind him they will be in 3-4 years.

          My statement was in defence of drafting Mathews instead of the alternative. Read boy read

          • DSP

            You need to re-read my comment then yours, then my rebuttal. You missed the mark big time. Also you rely to much on stats and not everything surrounding those stats. His stats are down on a team he was asked to lead when it was going in a drought with not much hope. They had a good season this season but it wasn’t great. He didn’t have much support up front, Infact I’d say the Leafs have a better top six then TB, the struggle this season was more on the back side of the blue line and inexperience. Don’t make him a captain, and take some of the teams pressure off him and watch him destroy the league. I’ve never said Mathews is a bad pick, just Laine may be the better player. Both we be great for fans to watch for years however.

          • DSP

            Lol That’s a thought! I do believe they will take Mathews no matter as the hoard of fans have demanded it, but I do enjoy Laine. Also trying to prepaid a few here in case they do take Laine. Ohh the hate that will flow if they do.

          • Capt.Jay

            You would say leafs have a better top 6 than tb?? Hahahaha that doesn’t really make me real confident in your assessment of Matthews and Laine. Matthews is the more complete player by a long shot and if the media didn’t need to hype up some sort of draft controversy,there would be no discussion on this topic at all.

  • Gary Empey

    Well Ryan what you have pointed out here is the reality and value of picking 30th and 31st. It is hard to see any team willing to move down to grab those picks, unless we are including an A prospect.

    Fortunately for us Hunter’s specialty is being one of the best at assessing junior players that will continue to develop their game to a high degree.
    I think most if not all his picks last year exceeded expectations.

  • Brent Wisken

    If the chances associated with the 31st pick are atrocious, should we be concerned that last year the Leafs flipped their 24th pick for the 34th, 61st, and 68th picks? Granted, quantity increases number of chances, but if the 31st pick is atrocious then isn’t the 34th pick also so (and presumably the 61st and 68th are downright horrendous)? How atrocious was their chances with their original 24th pick before they traded down? (Note: I actually like Travis Dermott picked with the 34th pick).

  • DSP

    You wheel and deal both of these picks to move up into the low twenties and you have a better chance of landing the big defenceman Stanley or the swift skating Russian who was so spectacular in the Quebec league.

    • DSP

      Don’t know a team that would take that trade. Also bye the Russian D-man you mean the one slotted to go much earlier. He will be picked before 20, or should be.

    • Gary Empey

      I agree with your strategy. Now for the hard part. You would have to include one of our good prospects to close the deal. We definitely need more defence in the pipeline. Who would you dangle with the picks to get some action?

      I may be setting you up to get trashed for your reply.

      • DSP

        I don’t know if we agree a lot Gary but tonight we are both in sync here. To grab one of those picks it would take more than a couple 2nds as teams would be worried about the higher gamble and would want something that they think will definitely give them some return. 2nd round picks usually make great AHL players but it’s a larger gamble then say the 20th or 23rd pick.