Prior to the salary cap era, the Toronto Maple Leafs were not known for being good at drafting and developing their own players. They tried to solve all their problems by throwing out huge money to big name free agents. They also weren't afraid to trade away first round picks for rental players. That may have provided them some success at the time, but today's NHL is a different game on and off the ice.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have proven that in order to have a team who contends for the Stanley Cup every year, you have to be able to create your own talent. The Leafs have finally realized this and have one of the more promising prospect pools in the entire league.
Going back to the time before the salary cap, its hard to blame the Leafs for trading away their high draft picks. When they did keep their first round picks, more often than not the player they selected turned out to be a huge mistake.When you have a draft history as long as the Toronto Maple Leafs, you are bound to make some mistakes at some point, but they made more than just some.
There are two different categories of mistakes teams can make when drafting a player. Firstly you have the straight forward busts. These are the type of players who excelled in junior hockey and were highly touted heading into their drafts. For various reasons they just don't make it in the NHL. Sometimes their skill set that worked in junior just doesn't translate to the pro game. A lot of times players are just unlucky and their careers are hampered by multiple injuries.
Secondly you have the players that just don't mesh with the team that drafted them, but find some success elsewhere in the NHL. Maybe they just needed a change of scenery or a better playing opportunity. Either way, it has the team feeling regretful for giving up on them so soon.
You will find both these types of drafting mistakes on this list. There is a good chance this list will look very different as the years go by, as the Leafs are bound make some more draft mistakes. The key is for the Leafs to learn from their history and not make so many mistakes.
Here are the biggest draft mistakes in Toronto Maple Leaf history.
15 Stuart Percy - 2011
14 Luca Cereda - 1999
The case of Cereda is unlike any other player on this list. The Maple Leafs drafted the native of Switzerland with the 24th overall selection. At the time he was drafted, he was already playing in the Swiss A League. He performed pretty well too, with 16 points in 38 games, which is not bad for a teenager playing against grown men. The future was looking bright for Cereda heading in to his first pro hockey camp with the Leafs. Unfortunately it was at that camp were he learned of a heart defect he had. He would undergo surgery and as a result he would miss the entire 2000-01 season.
He would make a comeback a year later for Toronto's farm team in St.John's. He continued to play in St. John's for three seasons before he headed back home to Switzerland. He retired in 2007 at the advice of doctors due to his heart condition, never have appearing in a single NHL game.
13 Trevor Johansen - 1977
Johansen was known as one of the better two-way defenders in junior. He had success representing Canada internationally at the junior level and The Leafs were hoping he would solidify their blueline for years to come. He had a good rookie season with the Leafs, but before he could build on that he was traded to the Colorado Rockies the following season. It was with the Rockies where his career took a turn for the worse when he would suffer multiple knee injuries. He would never be the same player after his injuries and would be forced to retired because of his bad knees in 1983. Unfortunately just three picks after the Leafs selected Johansen 12th overall, the Islanders selected one of the best pure goal scorers of all-time in Mike Bossy.
12 Laurie Boschman - 1979
11 Luke Schenn - 2008
10 Jiri Tlusty - 2006
9 Luke Richardson - 1987
Although Richardson would go on to have a long successful career as a rugged defender, his time with the Leafs was one to forget. He was selected 7th overall by Toronto and would play his first four seasons with the team. He never seemed to find his groove while with the Leafs and was eventually traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
8 Tyler Biggs - 2011
Biggs is the second player on this list from the 2011 draft. The Maple Leafs liked the big man so much they traded up 17 spots to select him at 22nd overall. They held high hopes that Biggs could develop into one of the leagues next dominant power forwards. During his rookie season with Toronto Marlies, Biggs struggled mightily and found himself mostly playing on the fourth line. The Leafs were hoping his terrible rookie season in the minors was just anomaly, but his sophomore season was equally as bad. He was even sent down to ECHL in hopes that he would gain some confidence.
After just two abysmal seasons he was shipped off along with Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
7 Drake Berehowsky - 1990
6 Scott Thornton - 1989
5 Gary Nylund - 1982
4 Eric Fichaud - 1994
3 Scott Pearson - 1988
2 Jeff Ware - 1995
1 Brandon Convery - 1992
Brandon Convery was an absolute stud playing for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL during his draft eligible year. He scored 40 goals in just 44 games played. That was enough for the Leafs to select him with the 8th overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. Convery impressed in very first pro season with the Leafs farm team in St.John's, recording a total of 71 points. Despite his success in the minors, he could never replicate it in the NHL. He would only play 50 games with the Leafs through four seasons before being shipped off to Vancouver in 1998. Convery was never able have success elsewhere in the NHL and was playing in Europe by 2000-01. A couple of noteworthy names that went later that first round were Sergei Gonchar and Martin Straka.
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