The NHL lockout of 2012 is robbing many aspiring hockey writers of notable things to talk about. With that said, as the NHL and NHLPA continue to argue about petty cash, this writer is going to focus on the draft.
In the event the entire NHL season is cancelled, the NHL will more than likely adopt a similar draft lottery they used when the entire 2004-05 season was wiped clean due to the lockout.
If that's the case, the Leafs will likely have one of the best shots at first overall and could conceivably have a shot at either defender Seth Jones, center Nathan MacKinnon or center Alexsander Barkov of Finland, amongst others.
As we look ahead to 2013, we look back at the last 20 years of the Leafs' drafting skills. Even as a biased Leafs fan, I can readily admit the Leafs before Brian Burke stunk at drafting.
They didn't invest in a scouting department, just relied on outspending teams pre-lockout 2004 and lastly, dealt away many high draft picks in an attempt to win now, rather than down the road.
What I consider a bust is a high draft pick that had little to no NHL impact. I'm only going to go back 20 years, as I want to focus on the game today, not the game of yesterday.
Here we go...
Jeff Ware was probably not my first pick if I was in charge of the Leafs back then, but he certainly still would have been on my radar.
A very good defensive defenceman, Ware was thought to be a potential defensive anchor for the club in the Derian Hatcher mold. At over 6'4" and 230 pounds, Ware had the size to be a very dominant NHL defenceman.
Ware though never really found himself in the NHL, only having brief visits to the NHL with the Leafs and the Florida Panthers.
His draft year wasn't very strong, so this screw up by the Leafs isn't that big of a deal because the draft class really wasn't all that special.
Players Taken After Ware: Petr Sykora, Sami Kapanen, Marc Savard, Michal Handzus, Miikka Kiprusoff, Stephane Robidas and Filip Kuba.
Luca Cereda, one of the first Swiss hockey players to ever be selected in the first round of the NHL draft, was expected to be a key cog in the Leafs attack for years to come.
However, an unexpected heart issue (congenital heart defect) forced Cereda to put his career on the back-burner, as he decided to retire from the game.
Blessed with good speed and a good shot, Cereda would likely have been a top nine player with the Leafs, but the heart issue really threw a wrench into those plans.
Players taken after Cereda: Martin Havlat, Ryan Malone, Ryan Miller, Martin Erat, Henrik Zetterberg, Radim Vrbata and Douglas Murray.
Landon Wilson might be best known as a prospect included in the Mats Sundin trade that brought quite possibly the greatest Leaf of all-time to the hockey mecca of the world.
Other than that, Wilson really didn't have much of an NHL career to make note of. He was a tough player who actually had a scoring touch to his game.
In his draft year, he scored 29 goals and added 36 assists for 65 points in 43 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints on the USHL. Did I mention he was also in the penalty box for over 284 minutes?
The Leafs saw a tougher than nails, scoring power forward. A hulking 6'3", 230-pound monster who could be a fan favorite. What they got was someone who couldn't hit their stride in the NHL and had his best years in the minors, and not up with an NHL team.
He called it a career after the 2009-10 season where he scored four goals and added an assist for five points in 11 games with the Dallas Stars' AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Players Taken After Wilson: Saku Koivu, Todd Bertuzzi, Jamie Langenbrunner, Bryan McCabe, Vinny Prospal, Miroslav Satan, Darcy Tucker, Andrew Brunette, Pavol Demitra, Kimmo Timonen and Todd Marchant.
No, not that Petr Svoboda. This is the other Czech defenceman Petr Svoboda.
This Petr Svoboda is not the defenceman who played over 1,000 games with four NHL teams, playing in over 127 NHL playoff games and had a career season of eight goals and 37 assists for 45 points as well as 147 PIM's and a plus-28 rating.
This Petr Svoboda had a career year with the St John's Maple Leafs, scoring seven goals and adding seven helpers for 14 points in only 38 games. He was also a plus-14 in those games.
However, Svoboda would never come close to re-igniting that career year he had.
He played a handful of games with the Leafs, 18 games played, to be exact, and another full season on the Rock with the Baby Leafs, before he called it a career because of personal illness.
He had a problem with a thymus gland, and it starved his body of energy, thus his poor play. He was never able to get his thymus gland fixed, which led to an end to his career.
At 6'3" and over 215 pounds, a good skater and a pretty good defensive defender, Svoboda had a good amount of potential. He just never hit that potential before his illness took over.
Players Taken After Svoboda: Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Erik Cole, Francois Beauchemin, Brian Gionta, Shawn Horcoff, Jaroslav Spacek, Mikael Samuelsson, Chris Niel, Anrei Markov, Pavel Datsyuk (ouch I might add) and Michael Ryder
It was a rather good 2006 draft for John Ferguson Jr. and the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a draft that saw the Leafs draft top six winger Nikolai Kulemin (44th) and Viktor Stalberg (161st, Blackhawks), as well as their starting goaltender James Reimer (99th), a good defensive defender out of Germany in Korbinian Holzer (111th) and pesky winger Leo Komorov (180th), the Leafs somehow managed to screw up their highest pick.
More notable these days for exposing himself on the Internet, Tlusty has enjoyed limited success at the NHL level.
Tlusty was dealt to the Carolina Hurrices for Phillippe Paradis, who was in turn included with Stalberg and Chris Didomenico in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks for Kris Versteeg, who struggled mightily with the Leafs, yet somehow found his scoring touch with one of the worst offensive teams in the league, the Florida Panthers.
Anyways, Tlusty was taken 13th overall in a relatively weak draft, but there were still better picks out there.
Players Taken After Tlusty: Chris Stewart, Claude Giroux, Patrik Berglund, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand.
How can you consider someone taken later in the second round a draft bust? Simply put, the 2003 NHL draft was one of the strongest drafts in recent memory, and the Leafs dealt away their first-round pick for aging forward Owen Nolan.
Included in the deal were Alyn MacCauley, Brad Boyes and their 2003 first-round pick (Mark Stuart).
Doherty, who was taken later in the second round, is a big, mobile defenceman who you'd like to believe would fit into the new NHL like a glove.
That wasn't the case, as Doherty has failed to even make an ECHL squad since he was drafted out of the college ranks.
The 6'4" 235-pound Doherty has not played professional hockey since 2007-08.
Players Taken After Doherty: David Backes (five picks later, ouch), Clarke MacArthur, Lee Stempniak, Joe Pavelski, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Moulson, Jaroslav Halak and David Jones.
Eric Fichaud was taken by the Leafs 16th overall in the 1994 NHL entry draft. Fichaud helped lead his very strong Chicoutimi Sagueneens to a QMJHL Championship.
One thing Fichaud did have was an amazing junior resume. His draft season, he was named top goaltender in the CHL and named the CHL Playoff MVP. With those kind of accolades, I'm not surprised the Leafs drafted him.
Maybe the Leafs thought they were drafting another Felix Potvin; after all, they played on the same junior clubs. A classic butterfly goalie in the mold of Patrick Roy, Fichaud was thought to be the next big thing coming out of the QMJHL.
However, Fichaud would never come close to what Potvin accomplished in the NHL, not by a long shot.
Fichaud never played a full season in the NHL and was never a No. 1 goalie for any NHL team he played on. He would struggle with shoulder injuries for most of his career and was never able to live up to the potential he had just after he was drafted.
In what I believe to be a fairly weak NHL draft in 1994, many teams really never hit
Players Taken After Fichaud: Jose Theodore, Patrik Elias, Sheldon Souray, Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, Marty Turco, Daniel Alfredsson, Evgeni Nabokov, Tomas Vokoun, Steve Sullivan and Tomas Holmstrom.
Even though he has played in over 310 NHL games, Luke Schenn cracks the top 10 on my list, and pretty high up there I might add.
Uniquely quipped the "Human Eraser" by NHL on NBC's color commentator Pierre McGuire at the 2007 World Juniors, Schenn so far has been more pencil eraser rather than the big eraser he was expected to be.
Schenn has endured a rather roller-coaster like start to his NHL career. Many ups, but more often than not, more downs to his NHL career.
Known to be an NHL defensive defenceman, Schenn was a career minus with the Leafs and was traded this offseason for power forward James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even with success at the NHL level, it's the players taken after him that make Schenn one of the biggest busts in the past 20 years.
Players Taken After Schenn: Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Jordan Eberle, Jacob Markstrom, Slava Voynov, Cody Hodgson, Colin Wilson, Jake Gardiner and John Carlson, amongst others.
After a an explosive offensive junior career, the sharp-shooting CHL star was drafted by the New York Islanders; however, his draft rights were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with draft pick Jim Carey.
The trade I think worked out OK, if you think Carey won the Vezina Trophy in 1995-96 with the Washington Capitals (rights acquired in the Grant Marshall trade in the same draft year). Carey would never recapture that kind of success, and just a few years later, fell of the face of the Earth and wasn't heard from again.
What makes this pick so terrible is who the Islanders selected with the Leafs' pick at fifth overall, Darius Kasparaitis. Kasparaitis would enjoy a long NHL career, as opposed to the two players he was traded for.
Kasparaitus was a dirty hockey player who punished opponents with questionable hits; however, he's one of those defenders every team wants. A player everyone on the team loves because he's tough as nails, but one who gets on the opposition's last nerve.
One pick after the Islanders selected, the Flames selected Cory Stillman, a decent scoring winger who played over 1,000 games in the NHL.
Convery never played a half season in his hockey career. He never lived up to the offensive potential he had coming out of junior. At least for the Leafs' sake, they didn't trade up to grab this guy; they traded down.
Players Taken After Convery: Sergei Gonchar, Jason Smith, Valeri Bure, Mike Peca, Mattias Norstrom, Robert Svehla, Jere Lehtinen, Adrian Aucoin, Nikolai Khabibulin, Anson Carter and Jonas Hoglund (sorry, I couldn't type this with a straight face).
Justin Pogge was easily the Leafs' most hyped about, talked about, buzzworthy goaltender they have drafted in the past 20 years.
After leading the Canadian Juniors to a gold medal on home soil in Vancouver, the Leafs' drafted netminder really cemented himself as one of the best junior goalies in Canada.
In 2005-06, Pogge was brilliant in net for the Calgary Hitmen, going 38-10-6 with a 1.72 GAA and a .926 save percentage. That is all well and good, but he also collected 11 shutouts with the Hitmen.
That same season, the Leafs drafted Tuukka Rask. That was before the season began, though.
John Ferguson, seeing that Pogge was hitting his stride in the CHL, decided to get some NHL ready help in net and dealt Rask for Andrew Raycroft, a former Calder Trophy winner.
Fast forward nearly eight seasons, and Leaf fans around the globe still look back at this trade and how it set the franchise back so many years.
Rask is now a starting goalie for the Boston Bruins, and Pogge, well, he's playing in Italy this season, and to be honest, he's tearing up the league, going 12-9 with a 2.17 GAA and a .930 save percentage, albeit, its against players that probably couldn't crack an AHL roster.
People might be asking themselves, how can you call someone who was drafted in the third round a bust?
Well, look at it this way. The Leafs dealt their first-round pick, Rask, to make room for Pogge to eventually be the club's future netminder. Pogge now essentially takes the place of Rask where he was picked in my mind. When you deal a first-round pick like that to make room for a guy who, in the end, played a handful of uninspiring NHL games, that is my definition of bust.
Players Taken After Pogge: Alex Edler (next pick), Johan Franzen (seven picks later), Ryan Callahan, Kris Versteeg, Mikhail Grabovski, Troy Brouwer, Pekka Rinne (mega steal, Predators, mega steal) and Mark Streit.