And really, this stat makes perfect sense. During one of the most pivotol points of a player's career, their introduction to professional hockey, they develop in the same atmosphere and with much of the same direction as their future teammates either had or will have. The Leafs' are currently not doing as bad in this respect as one might think. If we were to include the presently injured Mitchell and Gunnarsson, the Leafs have nine players on their roster that have been drafted and introduced to North American professional hockey by MLSE.
It would stand to reason that if the Leafs wish to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto, then the rentension and development of these drafted players would be of a high importance. But in recent years (recent being 16 or so), the running joke between Toronto hockey fans is that we've come to expect players drafted by our team to excel once being traded.
So I put this theory to test. I looked at all active TML drafted NHL'ers, compared stats from before and after they were traded and looked at the value they hold to their present team.
Having been selected in 1994, Fredrik Modin is the most veteran active NHL player drafted by the Maple Leafs. Including those that were selected the same year as this 6'3" Swede, the Leafs have drafted 128 prospects, 47 of which have played at least one game in the NHL, 27 are currently still playing in the NHL or AHL, and 11 of those are in the Leafs system. Out of the 16 remaining professional athletes, here's my Tuesday's Top 5:
(please read responsibly)
DRAFTED & DEPARTED LEAFS
#5. Anton Stralman (216th, 2005)
Stralman had as many Toronto fans cheering for him, as he played minutes in a game. But since being traded to the Blue Jackets, Anton's value has both been realized and appreciated. First and foremost he has received a permanent spot on the Columbus roster, something he never found in Toronto. His being placed on the second defensive pairing as well as the powerplay unit has resulted in a point production that puts him on pace for 60 this season. I don't want to name names, or point fingers - but I know a certain alternate captain picked up from Anaheim that I'd gladly give up for this former Leafs' draftee.
#4. Carlo Colaiacovo (17th, 2001)
Those of you who read last week's Tuesday's Top Five Unwelcome Leafs, you already know how I feel about the trade that sent Carlo and Alex Steen to St. Louis for Lee Stempniak. If you are one of the few that disagree, what would you say if I told you that Carlo's production on the Blues last year equalled that of Stempniak's contribution to the Leafs? Ouch. I'll trade you my Van Ryn for your Colaiacovo - heck, you can even have Stempniak back.
#3. Nikolai Antropov (10th, 1997)
Word on the street is that Burke's looking for a towering first line forward to centre Kessel and create net presence - hmmm. Nik is on pace for 80pts this year, and though all of us in Toronto know that he'll probably cut out around 60, was he really worth a deadline day deal that only brought in the Rangers' 2nd round pick? Leafs staff swore up and down that he was their guy if he could manage to stay healthy - well MLSE, he played 72 games in 07/08 and 81 in 08/09 and set career highs for points both times. Thanks.
#2. Tuukka Rask (21st, 2005)
Andrew Raycroft - need I say anymore? My favourite part of this trade is that the Leafs fans hated it from the minute it happened. Rask was noted to be the top goaltending prospects of not only his draft class, but the ones that surrounded it as well. On a team that had lost All-Star goaltender's Belfour and Joseph, and had seen success when drafting and developing goaltenders in the past (Felix Potvin), you would think the Leafs would want to have a couple goalies sitting in the wings at various stages of development. Sure, we already had Pogge - but how did that turn out? In his only game last year, Rask made 35 saves for a shutout. And this year? 11 games with a GAA of 2.02 and a .930 SV%. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure there isn't a single Leafs' goalie (NHL or otherwise) with numbers this impressive. I'll say it once again - Andrew Racroft.
#1. Brad Boyes (24th, 2000)
What irritates me the most is four of the five players on this list were selected in the first round, and not a single one of the trades brought in long term benefit (though the Antropov trade is a little early to judge). Who knew Brad Boyes was selected by the Leafs, anyone? Now can anyone tell me Boyes' point production in his rookie season? Sixty-nine (I type it out for emphasis). Last season Boyes, a good local boy from Mississauga, was a 30 goal scorer (33, actually) and ended the season with 72 points and playoff bound, the same season the Leafs lost 21 games by a single goal and missed the playoffs by 12 points - just sayin'.
Everyone agree's that hindsight is 20/20, but first round'ers? Common Leafs, you have to show us something better than that. And to the Leaf fans, I would think twice before you skoff at Jiri Tlusty and wonder why he is yet to be traded. Though drafted in 2000, Boyes did not see his first full season of NHL play until 05/06.
It takes time to develop a Stanley Cup winner. The fans of Toronto have shown their patience, I think it's about time management does the same.