First, the disclaimer: as an Original Six franchise that has been around since the NHL was established in 1917, many of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best-ever players arrived in the league before the advent of the draft in 1963.
So, you won’t find Leafs legends such as (take a deep breath) Syl Apps, Charlie Conacher, Tim Horton, Ted Kennedy, Dave Keon, Borje Salming, King Clancy, Turk Broda, Busher Jackson, George Armstrong, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower, Allan Stanley, Joe Primeau, Babe Dye, Bob Pulford, Goride Drillon, Carl Brewer, Jimmy Thomson, Norm Ullman, Hap Day, Red Kelly and many others on Toronto’s all-time all-drafted team – for the simple reason that they were never drafted.
That’s not to say, though, that the Leafs haven’t landed some great players at the draft. For all of Toronto’s well-documented woes – headlined by the franchise’s inability to win a Stanley Cup since 1967 – the Maple Leafs have done pretty well picking and developing prospects, especially at forward. The team hasn’t won a Cup in more than five decades, but they’ve definitely got a championship contender in their all-time all-drafted team.
Let’s get into it.
It’s an old-school first line, with those ’70s stars Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald joined by fan-favorite Wendel Clark. A supremely talented center between two hardnosed wingers who were premier goal-scorers. This trio might bag 50 goals apiece…if Clark stays healthy, of course.
The second line is more current. Center Auston Matthews and right winger Mitch Marner don’t have the career body of work as the other players on this roster, but there’s no denying their sublime offensive skill. They get a 1970s-style assist from honest left winger John Anderson, who has spent most of the past 30 years in the coaching ranks, so he’ll handle the defensive duties for this unit.
Next is the checking line, or at least what passes for one. Nazem Kadri is definitely an offense-first center, but he’s shown an ability to crack down on opponents in the past. Plus, Kadri dishes out hits, both clean and dirty, and his generally gritty style befits an all-time third line. He skates between right winger Rick Kehoe, a one-time 55-goal scorer, and Alex Steen, who can get red-hot and score in bunches, but whose biggest asset is his two-way play.
Finally, there’s still more scoring on the fourth line, with Vincent Damphousse lining up between Russ Courtnall and Gary Leeman. Call it a tribute to the late ’80s.
The defense corps is decent, but not overwhelming. (Sound familiar?) The Leafs haven’t turned up any Bobby Orrs at the draft, but they’ve collected a number of solid-to-stellar blueliners over the years. In the end, we went with Ian Turnbull and Al Iafrate on the first pair, a free-skating, big-shooting tandem that feels right for this offensively inclined club. Plus, Iafrate brings the ‘Wild Thing’ factor, which should help keep things lively. The second pairing is Randy Carlyle and Morgan Rielly, a one-time Norris Trophy winner and a potential future Norris winner (according to Leafs fans, anyway). Again, this duo is best-suited when Toronto has the puck, but they know their way around the defensive zone, too. The third pairing sees Tomas Kaberle and Craig Muni, one was great with the puck and the other was great without it. OK, perhaps “great” is a stretch but this is a solid third pair. (A note on Kaberle: he’s the only player on this team who wasn’t drafted in the first or second round – he was taken in the eighth round, which no longer exists, at 204th overall.)
As for the goaltending, there’s no easy way to say it: Tuukka Rask is the best netminder the Leafs have ever drafted – in fact, it’s not even close – and, in hindsight, trading him for Andrew Raycroft in the belief that Justin Pogge would eventually take over the starting job was, well, bad. Felix Potvin takes the backup job ahead of Mike Palmateer and Ken Wregget. Tough to leave Palmateer off this team, but Potvin had a better career.
There were other difficult decisions in compiling the Leafs’ all-time all-drafted team. Here are other skaters, by position, who were considered. At center: Doug Jarvis (24th, 1975), Yanic Perreault (47th, 1991), Walt McKechnie (sixth, 1963), Pat Boutette (139th, 1972) and George Ferguson (11th, 1972). Right wing: William Nylander (eighth, 2014), Brad Boyes (24th, 2000), Nik Antropov (10th, 1998), Tie Domi (27th, 1988) and Stewart Gavin (74th, 1980). Left wing: Laurie Boschman (ninth, 1979), Frederik Modin (64th, 1994), Nikolay Kulemin (44th, 2006), Tiger Williams (31st, 1974), Errol Thompson (22nd, 1970), Alexei Ponikarovsky (87th, 1998), Gerry Meehan (21st, 1963) and Sergei Berezin (256th, 1994). Defense: Kenny Jonsson (12th, 1993), Joel Quenneville (21st, 1978), Anton Stralman (216th, 2005), Danil Markov (22rd, 1995), Luke Richardson (seventh, 1987) and Dmitri Mironov (160th, 1991).
Here’s a look at Toronto’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.
Darryl Sittler (8th, 1970)
Auston Matthews (1st, 2016)
Nazem Kadri (7th, 2009)
Vincent Damphousse (6th, 1986)
Lanny McDonald (4th, 1973)
Mitch Marner (4th, 2015)
Rick Kehoe (22nd, 1971)
Russ Courtnall (7th, 1983)
Wendel Clark (1st, 1985)
John Anderson (11th, 1977)
Alex Steen (24th, 2002)
Gary Leeman (24th, 1982)
Al Iafrate (4th, 1984)
Ian Turnbull (15th, 1973)
Randy Carlyle (30th, 1976)
Morgan Rielly (5th, 2012)
Tomas Kaberle (204th, 1996)
Craig Muni (25th, 1980)
Tuukka Rask (21st, 2005)
Felix Potvin (31st, 1990)