The NHL draft is fast approaching and with it comes a sense of excitement regarding the future prospects of each team. While building a Cup winner solely through the draft is nearly impossible these days, the effect of a single bad draft can set a franchise back for years.
The Toronto Maple Leafs played their way into the playoffs this season for the first time in nearly a decade. There were many factors that contributed to the Leafs fall from contention. Most involved poor personnel decisions in one way or another.
The trading of young prospects for veteran help in an effort to bolster playoff runs helped to drain the Toronto farm system of talent. This problem was compounded by the inability to properly restock the system during the draft. The best example of this shortcoming was Toronto’s 1999 draft class.
Of the nine players drafted by Toronto in 1999, only one ever played a game in the NHL. Eighth-round pick Pierre Hedin played a total of three games in the NHL per hockeydb.com.
Toronto had the 24th pick in the first round, the 60th pick in the second round and two fourth-round picks that year. Hitting on elite players is not a requirement for every draft, but acquiring some players who can contribute on the NHL level is a must.
The failure of this draft to produce any players to be penciled into the Toronto lineup reared its head a few years down the road when Toronto had few players deserving of promotion to the big club and even fewer they could use to acquire desperately needed talent.
The 1999 draft was not the only draft to disappoint, nor was it the sole reason for the Maple Leafs playoff drought. What that draft represents is how poor personnel decisions can haunt a club for a long period of time. The 1999 draft, coupled with other personnel choices, left the Leafs with few young assets to try and build on.
The Maple Leafs have finally overcame the decisions from the past to get themselves back into the discussion of playoff contenders. What they need most from this draft is to acquire players who are going to make it to the NHL in the next 4-to-5 years.
Hit on some of the picks and Toronto will gain useful assets whether on the ice or to be used in acquiring other players. Miss on the biggest portion of the picks, and the path to future success becomes much more difficult.
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