The Toronto Maple Leafs have been struggling of late. That’s why I wanted to either make any Leafs fans reading this either feel worse or, with a hint of miracle and faith in the Leafs drafting skills, make them feel better. Why not cover how the Leafs have scored or messed up their “What the heck” 7th round picks since 2005.
2005: Chad Rau
Now in the 7th round, the Leafs also picked none other than Anton Stralman. I decided to pick Rau cause A. I didn’t want to cry about the Leafs today, and B. Rau was the Leafs last pick of the draft. Unlike most 7th rounders, Chad Rau played in a few NHL games and scored, twice! But this wasn’t for the Maple Leafs. The Minnesota Wild picked him up as a free agent, meaning Toronto gave him and two possible NHL goals in 9 possible NHL games away. Even after trading him, the Wild got a ECHL/AHL winger in Curt Gogal. Rau now plays in Europe and the only sign of his time with the Leafs, is his Wikipedia/HockeyDB page that says when he was drafted. Two picks behind Rau, the famous last pick, Patric Hornqvist. Ouch, that stings.
2006: Leo Komarov
“But Spencer! Komarov was a 6th round pick!” Yes I know that, but the Leafs didn’t actually have a 7th round pick that year, just three 6ths instead. So I chose the later one. Leo Komarov, the All-Star! The Leafs last pick! But what people tend to forget is that, he didn’t play for the Leafs until 2012-13! Years after he was drafted, they signed him to an entry level contract. I don’t think they would’ve taken that risk if they knew he’d be the guy they’d send to the All-Star game years later. Among people they could’ve chosen were Derek Dorsett and Erik Condra. I think the Leafs made a good call here.
2007: Carl Gunnarsson
This time we have a 7th round pick. Remember Carl Gunnarsson? Ah, those were the days. Anyways Gunnarsson played parts of 5 seasons with the Maple Leafs, making an impact, something rarely found in last round picks. Even after those seasons, he was traded (with a 4th round pick) for Roman Polak. Who (unfortunately) is a regular for the Leafs. Polak, along with Nick Spaling, were involved in a trade for Raffi Torres who we can just forget was ever on contract with the Leafs, a 2nd in 2017 (Which was a more minor half of the trade that fetched us FREDERIK ANDERSEN!) and a 2nd in 2018. In short, this pick fetched 5 years of Gunnarsson, a major part of the Roman Polak trade, a piece that got us a minor piece of the Frederik Andersen trade, a 2nd round pick this year AND also a piece that got us to take Raffi Torres’ contract. Notable players picked after Gunnarsson were Justin Braun, Paul Postma and Frazer McLaren. This was quite the steal.
2008: Andrew MacWilliam
MacWilliam actually played all of his 12 NHL games with Toronto, registering two assists. Hey, that’s 12 more games than expected, but not great. After three seasons in the Leaf’s organization, MacWilliam started switching between teams in the AHL via free agency, three teams in three seasons so far. Notables picked behind him include Anders Lindback and Matt Bartkowski. This wasn’t one of the Leafs’ best choices.
2009: Barron Smith
Smith never played a single NHL game. Two years after he was drafted, the Leafs decided to let him go. He wasn’t picked up by any other team. The only proven player from that draft is Nic Dowd, wouldn’t it be nice to have him on our team. This pick was just a full on flop, but it’s not like one can expect every pick to play in the NHL.
2010: Josh Nicholls
Nicholls also never played a single NHL game. Although he showed promise in the WHL, he was eventually let go in free agency to play for the New York Rangers’ ECHL and AHL affiliates. Notables picked after him, Zach Trotman and none other than Frederik Andersen (Note, this is the first time he was drafted, eventually he re-entered into the draft and was picked in the 3rd round by Anaheim. (Who let him go the first time? The Carolina Hurricanes).
2011: Max Everson
As this list goes sadder as we go down, here’s another player who never played an NHL game. After uncertainty over his career after having to unenroll from Harvard for cheating, Max Everson was traded to the Bruins and was sent to their affiliate in the ECHL for future considerations, those considerations I haven’t been able to find a trace of. Among people drafted after him, names that may sound famillar are: Ryan Dzingel, Alexey Marchenko, Scott Wilson and, of course, Ondrej Palat. Talk about salt in the wound.
2012: Viktor Loov
This pick wasn’t as bad. I remember Loov once being a major defensive prospect. He was part of a stacked Marlies team too, so he never had much of a chance. In 4 games he did play with the Leafs he scored 2 assists. He was traded for Sergey Kalinin, who ended up playing 19 AHL games and scored two goals and two assists before moving back to Russia. Loov was a good pick, but due to extreme lack of luck, he didn’t have much of a chance, also worth noting being the 3rd last pick there was a lack of good options to choose from.
2013: Andreas Johnsson
This pick may ring a bell. Andreas Johnsson is one of the Leafs many offensive prospects who will eventually make an impact on the Leafs roster. So far he’s been producing in the AHL, and he’s on pace to beat the numbers he posted last season! The only player drafted after him who’s played an NHL game is MacKenzie Weegar. So I think from now it’s hard to predict if any pick is a mistake or not.
2014: Pierre Engvall
Engvall made a case for being the newest major Leafs prospect before this scary injury by going on a bit of a offensive break through, but hasn’t done as much since coming back. Engvall is still a prospect to watch, but it’s worth noting that Ondrej Kase has already made a mark in the NHL.
2015: Nikita Korostelev
The Leafs took a huge chance on Korostelev, letting him walk and re-enter the draft. For some reason, he went undrafted in 2016 too, so he was invited to the Leafs development camp, and even got to participate in the rookie tournament. Although he is a very talented player, I do not expect Korostelev to play for the Leafs, judging by the influx of offensive talent scattered all over the world that the Leafs have rights to. Still someone to watch in the near future though. Although it’s WAY too early, I should add that Markus Nutivaara has already played 100 games with Columbus.
2016: Nikolai Chebykin
Chebykin has been a force in Russia’s equivalent to the AHL and ECHL. He’s already had experience in the KHL too, not bad for a 7th round pick. Although Chebykin seems like a steal for the Leafs, I doubt he will shift to North America any time soon, like the case of Korostelev, the Leafs have way too much talent up front to put every talented forward in the lineup for a while. The 2016 draft was just 2 years ago, it doesn’t surprise me that no one from the 7th round has played in the NHL yet. In fact, the only players with NHL experience from the 3rd round and after are breakout candidates Jesper Bratt and Victor Mete, two of the most intriguing storylines of the first half of this season.
2017: Ryan O’Connell
O’Connell was the Leafs last pick just last draft, so there really isn’t much to go on. O’Connell spent a while playing in St. Andrew’s College (Anyone else get commercials for that school?), a bit of an unorthodox to be drafted from, then went to another unorthodox place to play as an NHL prospect, the BCHL for this year, and has already committed to playing at Boston University next year. O’Connell seems like an outside bet to be a Leaf, but who knows when we’ll need more defensive prospects. 2017 was just last year, meaning this is everyone’s rookie season if drafted that year. Still though, there has been one person from that round who has played in the NHL already. Anyone remember Dylan Ferguson? The Vegas pizza boy who they bought to be a goalie once? He was drafted several picks before O’Connell.
Looking back, maybe the Leafs late round drafting wasn’t the problem here. (Stares at Tyler Biggs, Stuart Percy).