The 2019 NHL draft will be held this weekend. Normally, this would be the time where I would be writing about what player the Toronto Maple Leafs should select in the first round of the draft. But, with the Leafs currently not owning a first round pick this year, because of the Jake Muzzin trade, I thought it would be more interesting for me to look back at past NHL drafts and make my own decisions on who the Leafs should have chosen with their first pick, with the benefit of hindsight.
I do have a couple rules for this exercise though. I can only choose a player available when the Leaf pick came around that year, and I will only go through draft years where I feel the Leafs could have made a better choice.
I will start with the 2008 draft. That year, Toronto had the fifth overall pick, and chose defenceman Luke Schenn. Though Schenn was solid in the four seasons he played with the Leafs, and the Leafs were able to trade Schenn for scorer James van Riemsdyk later, knowing how the future turned out, I would have taken a different person. In this 2008 redraft, I chose defenceman Erik Karlsson. In the 2008 draft, Karlsson was chosen 10 spots later than Toronto’s pick by the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson is the former captain of the Senators and is a two time winner of the James Norris trophy, which is annually given out to the player deemed the season’s best defenceman. Comparing stats, Karlsson has put up 563 points in his career, while Schenn has 145 points.
Moving on to the 2010 draft. That year, Toronto’s first pick was in the second round, 43rd overall, and they chose winger Brad Ross. Ross never played a regular season game with the Leafs, or even in the NHL, so, I think it is safe to say, this pick did not work out for Toronto. I would’ve taken a goaltender chosen by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round, Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer has played 138 regular season games in the NHL. He helped the Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018 as their backup, and was later traded to Colorado where he became their starter.
So, to recap so far, in the world of this exercise, Toronto could have had a top two defenceman in Karlsson and a future starter in Grubauer. So, now, let’s finish this off with the 2013 draft.
That year, Toronto’s first round pick, 21st overall, was big centre Frederik Gauthier.
I will note, I did write before about how I was happy Gauthier finally made the Leafs full time this past season, as the fourth line centre. Though, a fourth liner is not what teams typically go after in the first round of a draft, so, I think Toronto could have made a better choice. I would have chosen defenceman Shea Theodore. Theodore was chosen five picks after the Leafs’ slot in 2013 by Anaheim. This past season, Theodore had his best year offensively, scoring 12 goals, and 37 points for the Vegas Golden Knights. Since becoming a member of the Knights, Theodore has been a regular in the top four of their defence core. As Leaf fans have probably seen from the way this past season played out, an NHL team can never have too many capable defencemen.
As the annual draft approaches, it has been interesting to look back at what the Leafs could have had, knowing the information we have now, and what their roster could have looked like. Enjoy the 2019 NHL draft fans!
It never ceases to amaze me how a long playoff run by a Canadian sports team can bring the entire country together in support of that team.
In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed that in 2015 and 2016, when the Toronto Blue Jays made it all the way to the American League Championship Series (ALCS), and when the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team won gold in 2010 and 2014. I’m witnessing it happening again, now with the Toronto Raptors.
What I noticed during the Olympic and Blue Jay experiences is the competition or series was a topic of conversation everywhere from business offices to people’s living rooms; by everyone from regular viewers of these teams to those who just started watching them because of the potential of a championship victory. People who didn’t watch any sports, or those who didn’t usually watch that particular sport, were tuning in, to find out if there was a reason to celebrate, and were talking to their friends about it. People from all walks of life were sporting jerseys of those teams to show their support.
Now, Canada is coming together to support the only NBA team in this country. Recently, the CN tower glowed Raptors’ red, and the “We the North” slogan was displayed on the tower as well. Similar to what I mentioned in the above paragraph, I have been seeing a lot more people wearing Raptors gear in the last couple weeks.
In both the playoff runs I mentioned before this Raptors run, I was the fan avidly watching the team or sport long before the playoff success. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started, but I have watched Blue Jay games since I was in my tween years. Also, people who regularly read this column will know how much I have enjoyed watching hockey games over the years, cheering on the Toronto Maple Leafs and celebrating Canada’s success internationally in the sport. But, what may surprise people, since I am such a big sports fan, is that, up until recently, I have never watched a Toronto Raptors game, or even an NBA game.
Professional basketball never really interested me enough in the past for me to watch a game. But, since the Toronto Raptors were making their first trip to the NBA finals in their franchise history, I decided to watch the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the series, and I found it to be quite exciting. It is one thing to just read the scores of the games and know of some of the best players in the game, but it is yet another thing to see those players in action, and how the game ended up with that score.
I found myself captivated by the defensive blocks and the shots players were able to make.
It was because of this experience I decided to watch Game 2 of the series in its entirety.
It was probably the first time I experienced watching a professional playoff series game as a “casual fan.”
No matter if the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors, to win the NBA championship, or not, at the very least the team can say they united an entire country behind them, and got me to watch a professional basketball game.
Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy