Review of the Maple Leaf Drafts, 1997-2001

By David Agosta

About Missed Picks:

Hindsight is 20/20. “Missed Picks” refers to who
the Leafs could have chosen instead. Only players taken in the same round were
used, and only if they are significantly better.


1997 NHL Draft:

1997 was a change in direction for the Leafs at the draft. Trader Cliff’s era was almost over but
the damage remained. To add insult to injury Toronto‘s
first pick would be 57th not 4th overall. Toronto‘s
first two picks had been traded a way in a futile attempt to get an
over-the-hill team one more shot. The defining moment was the NY Islanders
using Toronto‘s pick to take Roberto
Luongo. Unfortunately this rebuilding draft was not kind to the Leafs as only
Jeff Farkas remains a viable asset. However redemption is possible due to
trades in Aki Berg (via Adam Mair) and Markus Seikola (via Jonathan Hedstrom).

Missed Picks:
Maxim Afinogenov, Shane Willis, Magnus Arvedson, David Aebischer, Andrew
Ference, Karel Rachunek

Draft Grade: C

Hindsight Grade: E


3rd Round:

Jeff Farkas, C, Boston College – 57th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

Farkas was considered to be first round material by some,
but slipped to the 3rd round mainly due to concerns about his size. After great
College career he joined St. Johns and had a good rookie year. However his play
fell considerably this past season and there is growing concern of his
determination to play though physical punishment. Fakas must soon show Toronto
that the NHL is where he belongs or he may end up a career AHL’er.


4th Round:

Adam Mair, C, Owen Sound – 84th Overall

Current Club:
Los-Angeles Kings

Leadership is the quality that attracted Toronto
to Mair. Mair has been a team leader at every level he has played. Mair may have
been ready for the NHL when he was traded to the Kings as part of the Aki Berg
deal. He should have a fine career as a third line center.


5th Round:

Frantisek Mrazek, C, Ceske Budejovice – 111th Overall

Current Club: Ceske

Mrazek has size at 6’4″ 220lbs and showed good skills
in the WHL, but that’s where his potential ended. He was envisioned as a power
forward for the top two lines, but was unable to raise his game after leaving
Junior. After failing to make an impact in two AHL seasons he left St.
to rejoin his original club Ceske


6th Round:

Eric Gooldy, LW, Detroit – 138th Overall

Current Club:

Gooldy had size (6’2 200lbs), but unlike Mrazek not skills.
He left hockey after 4 average years with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.


7th Round:

Hugo Marchand, D, Victoriaville – 165th Overall

Current Club:
South-Carolina Stingrays

Though he is a big (6’4 210lbs) physical defenseman Marchand
is having trouble finding a spot in the AHL due to his production.


Shawn Thornton, RW, Peterborough – 190th Overall

Current Club: Norfolk

Thornton is a
player who was drafted for his hands, or more accurately his fists. Thornton
was seen as Toronto‘s next enforcer
but his limited hockey skills and Tie Domi’s improved play in Toronto
made him expendable. Thornton was
traded to Chicago for current Leaf
Marty Wilford on September 30, 2001


8th Round:

Russ Bartlett, C,
Phillips-Exeter – 194th Overall

Current Club: St.
Lawrence University

Bartlett had
some potential to be a late round find. Like most picks in this draft he was
selected because of size. However his production in the NCAA was average at
best except for 2000-2001 when he had 18 goals & 43 points. However his
totals fell back to earth in 2001-2002 (4 goals & 22 points). Bartlett
was left unsigned and is now a free agent.


9th Round

Jonathan Hedstrom, W,
Skelleftea – 221st

Current Club: Lulea

Hedstrom’s value to the Leafs was not his play, but his
trade value. The Leafs his traded his rights to Anaheim
at the 2000 Draft for a 6th and 7th 
round pick in that Draft. Those picks became Vadim Sozinov and Markus
Seikola respectively. Not bad for a winger who is yet to crack the Mighty Ducks


1998 NHL Draft:

The 1998 draft featured Mike Smith as GM, This time Toronto
had a pick in every round (2 in the 8th). Toronto‘s
themes at this time were size, Euro’s and surprises. This draft resulted in 2
NHL’ers, a potential NHL’er and the invisible man.

Missed Picks:
Simon Gagne, Ossi Vaananen, Erik Cole, Petr Schastlivy, Tomas Kloucek, Pavel

Draft Grade: C+

Hindsight Grade: D


1st Round:

Nikolai Antropov, C,
Ust-Kamenogorsk – 10th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

Toronto traded
with Chicago to move down two spots
from 8th to 10th. They then shocked most other teams by going off the board to
select the 6’5″ center from Vost. Antropov spent a year developing with
the Moscow Dynamo before coming to Canada.
He was a late cut from the 1999-2000 training camp, but returned to Toronto
when Mats Sundin went down with a ankle injury. He played well collecting 30
points in 66 games including his first Hat Trick against Florida.
Unfortunately a knee injury set back his play and he spent most of 2001-2002 in
St. Johns. His play there improved
greatly until another knee injury ended his season. If he can stay healthy the
he will make an impact for Toronto
in the future.


2nd Round:

Petr Svoboda, D, Havl
Brod – 35th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

There was no surprise with Svoboda’s selection, as he was
regarded to be 2nd round material. He has NHL size and puck skills, and some
scouts see him as a top 4 defenseman and powerplay specialist. That was then,
now Svoboda is a defense oriented defenseman. After an 18 game tryout with
Toronto Svoboda was sent to St. Johns.
He has failed to live up to potential for 3 seasons in the AHL, and while he
still has a shot at the NHL he is quickly being overtaken by other Leaf


3rd Round:

Jamie Hodson, G,
Brandon – 69th Overall

Current Team:
South-Carolina Stingrays

With Eric Fichaud traded away the Leafs needed a new future
backup for Felix Potvin. The hoped Jamie Hodson could one day fill that roll.
However Hodson has failed to stick with the St. Johns
roster and has bee passed by Mikael Tellqvist & Sebastien Centomo in the
depth charts. A very good year with South Carolina
may have opened the door to a career with another team, but a career in the
minors may be his only potential.


4th Round:

Alexi Ponikarovsky,
W, Dynamo 2 – 87th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

The Leafs went to Ukraine
for this pick and definitely got a player. Ponikarovsky is a hard worker who
has done his time in St. Johns
refining both his offense and defense. He was considered St.
Johns best forward by the coaching staff. A big two way forward with a physical
edge he should be a fixture on Toronto‘s
third line, and can occasionally man the second line.


5th Round:

Morgan Warren, RW, Moncton – 126th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

This brash right winger was selected from Moncton
of the QMJHL. Has spent 2 seasons with St. Johns
and will likely not progress past the AHL.


6th Round:

Allan Rourke, D,
Kitchener – 154th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

Rourke posted major offensive numbers in the OHL but has yet
to match that level in the AHL. Had a poor offensive season in 2002 where his
points decreased by 17. If he rediscovers his offence he might have a shot as a
powerplay specialist.


7th Round:

Jonathon Gagnon, C, Cape Breton – 181st Overall

Current Team: Memphis

Drafted as a point a game player out of the QMJHL, Gagnon has
failed to even make St. John’s.
While his play has been very good with Memphis
of the CHL, he literally seems out of his
in the AHL.


8th Round:

Dwight Wolfe, D,
Halifax – 215th Overall

Current Team: Knoxville

This hulking 6’5″ defenseman had great size, but that’s
all he had. He left the QMJHL to attend Dalhousie
and has since entered
the UHL. Like Eric Gooldy in 1998 this was a totally wasted pick.


Mihail Travnicek, W,
Litvinov Jr. – 228th Overall

Current Team:
Litvinov CHP HC

After a few years with out a Bill Berg type of player the
Leafs were looking for someone nasty and Travnicek fit that bill. Travnicek is
the kind of player who will take you down and is not above dirty play. This
year he took his trouble home with him leaving St. Johns
and rejoining Litvinov.



9th Round:

Sergei Rostov, D,
Moscow Russia-2 – 236th Overall

Current Team:
Krylja Sovetov (2001)

This 6’3” Defenseman from Murmansk
is a virtual unknown.


1999  NHL Draft:

This draft started out with so much promise. With its first
5 picks Toronto thought it got a #2
or 3 center, an offensive defenseman, a physical defensive defenseman and a
two-way defenseman. In the end only two of these nine picks might make the NHL
and one of those is no longer with Toronto.

Missed Picks:
Martin Havlat, Jan Lasak, Martin Prusek, Radim Vrbata

Draft Grade: B-

Hindsight Grade: D-


1st Round:

Luca Cereda, C,
Ambri-Piotta – 24th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

For the second year in a row the Leafs went off the board for
there 1st pick (though not as far as in 1998). He was picked after receiving
Rookie of the Year honors in Switzerland
and getting the stamp of approval from Pierre Page. Some scouts even said his
game was more suited to North America. He came to Canada
and had an excellent performance in the Prospects Tournament. Then the bomb
dropped, a physical uncovered a defective valve in his heart. He returned to Switzerland
for the operation which was successful. Cereda’s development was stalled for 2
years due to his health, as a result the entire

2001-2002 season boiled down to a training camp. During the
year he made excellent progress defensively and near the end began to show the
playmaking skills that first attracted Toronto.
Incidentally doctors believe his heart condition had cut his stamina by half. With
his heart repaired and body back in game shape who knows what heights the
2002-2003 season may hold.


2nd Round:

Peter Reynolds, D, London – 60th Overall

Current Team: Lowell
Lock Monsters

Reynolds was a so called “safe pick”. He did
everything well but nothing outstanding. The real payoff would come if he could
develop his offense. Though he had good showings in the Prospect Tournament he
never sustained that level during the season. After two unimpressive seasons
the Leafs did not sign him. He reentered the 2001 draft and was taken by Carolina
in the 9th round. He split this year between the Lowell Lock Monsters &
Florida Everblades, and seems to be ECHL bound.


4th Round:

Mirko Murovic, LW, Moncton – 108th Overall

Current Team:

The first of two 1999 4th rounder’s, Murovic had some
potential. Though he had good size at 6’3″ he also had the uncanny ability
to squeeze through traffic, a fact that earned him the nickname Slinky. He was
a point a game player in the QMJHL but mostly as a playmaker than a scorer. The
Leafs did not see enough improvement in his game and left him unsigned. He
reentered the 2001 draft and went undrafted.


Jonathan Zion, D, Ottawa – 110th Overall

Current Team: Ottawa
67’s (OHL complete)

The Leafs drafted Zion
with hopes he could be a offensive defenseman & powerplay quarterback in Toronto.
He put up good offensive numbers with the 67’s, and was signed to a pro
contract. Zion was unable to crack
the St John’s roster and was assigned
to ECHL. Zion did not take his
demotion well. He broke the contract (becoming a UFA)
and returned to Ottawa as an overage
player. The irony is with Pilar’s call up he would
have gotten his shot in St Johns.
Now finished in the OHL, without a pro contract, and carrying the stigma of a
holdout player his NHL dream may be over. They say good things come to those
who wait, Zion may never know.


5th Round:

Vaclav Zavoral, D,
Litvinov – 151st Overall

Current Team: Flint

A defenseman with good size, strength and a penchant for big
hits. Zavoral was drafted by Saulte Ste. Marie where he played two OHL seasons.
Those two season proved what was already suspected, Zavoral had no offensive
upside. Zavoral appears happy as a defensive defenseman and could play in the
NHL some day (AHL at worst). However it appears that he has fallen out of favor
with Toronto and is buried under
other prospects. If he gets his shot it won’t likely be with us.


6th Round:

Jan Sochor, RW,
Slavia Prague – 161st Overall

Current Team:

A little known prospect from the Czech
, Sochor has done nothing
to attract attention to himself. With out exceptional speed, size or skill his
average play has caused him to drop off the Leafs prospect radar. Not likely to
come to North America.


7th Round:

Vladimir Kulkov, G,
RUSSIA 2 – 211th Overall

Current Team: Memphis
Riverkings (2001)

From draft day steal to draft day dud Kulkov was an enigma
from day one. Kulkov slipped to the 7th round because CSS had him listed as a forward,
and therefore teams had nothing on him. Well Anders Hedberg recognized the
goalie formerly from CSKA Moscow, who had just completed a 32-6-2 1.79 GAA
season for the Meadville HS Bulldogs (North America). The
Leafs were allowed to select him despite protests from other teams. He returned
to CSKA Moscow before being assigned to the Memphis Riverkings. After a short
and unsuccessful start in Memphis Kulkov seems to have disappeared. He is likely
out of hockey.


8th Round:

Pierre Hedin, D, MoDo
– 239th Overall

Current Team:

In Hedin Toronto was looking for another possible Kaberle,
now their looking for him to cross the pond. He was drafted after already
playing 3 years in the SEL and since then he has played 3 more. Hedin’s numbers
have been stable (about 13-16 points) for 4 years, but he had an excellent
playoff with 8 goals & 10 points. The Leafs would like to see him build on
that and take the next step in North America.


9th Round:

Peter Metcalf, D, Maine – 267th Overall

Current Team:
NCAA complete – Awaiting assignment

This steady defenseman was Toronto‘s
last selection for 1999. Metcalf’s play was average most of his NCAA career,
but in his final year he was named captain and elevated his game scoring more
than double his career best. So how will he look in Blue and White? We’ll
probably never know, Metcalf rewarded the Leafs patience by signing with Boston.


2000 NHL Draft:

Finally a draft where Toronto
seemingly could do no wrong. Strangely enough 2000 was a weak crop but the
Leafs uncovered quite a few good picks. They got a #1-2 center, a potential top
3 defenseman and great goalie prospect. In fact the Leafs didn’t miss a better
pick until the 9th round.

Missed Picks:
Simon Gamache

Draft Grade: B

Hindsight Grade: B+


1st Round:

Brad Boyes, C, Erie – 24th Overall

Current Team: Erie

In Boyes the Leafs got there best current prospect and a
future top two line player. He has dominated the OHL for years winning multiple
awards, and helped Canada
to a 2001 WJC Silver medal. Scouts commented on his character talent and elite
hockey sense. Responsible defensively, and deadly offensively he will be one of
the Leafs most potent weapons for years to come.


2nd Round:

Kris Vernarsky, C, Plymouth – 51st Overall

Current Team: Plymouth

In Vernarsky the Leafs had the proto-typical checking
center, in fact shutting down the oppositions top line is where he excelled. There
was some hope that he might develop a scoring touch, but it never occurred. He
had the skating, size, and defensive responsibility to be a future 3rd line
center for the Leafs. However they were unable to agree to a contract and his
rights were traded to Boston on May 14th 2002 for defenseman Richard


3rd Round:

Mikael Tellqvist, G,
Djurgarden – 70th Overall

Current Team: St.
Maple Leafs

The team with no future after Cujo found one. Tellqvist was
drafted after a great season in which he led Djurgarden to the SEL championship,
and followed this up with a second straight SEL title. He had a difficult
rookie season and took a while to adjust to the North American game, however he
started to improve near seasons end. Look for him to rebound to form next
season when he and Sebastien Centomo compete for the starting role.


Jean-Francois Racine,
Drummondville – 90th Overall

Current Team: Drummondville

Racine was the
other goalie chosen by Toronto in
2000. He has had an average and some what inconsistent QMJHL career and must
improve his play if he is to make the jump to the AHL. Like virtually all goalies
Racine is a long term prospect, but
since he has been signed the Leafs must believe he can make it.


4th Round:

Miguel Delisle, RW, Ottawa – 100th Overall

Current Team: Ottawa

Taken all the way at 100th overall Delisle has progressed
into one of the OHL’s most feared snipers. His offense improved every year and
under Brian Kilra so did his defensive play. Unfortunately he chose not to sign
with Toronto. The lure of a weak draft
has him thinking of a first round selection & first round cash. He may get
the former (though I don’t think so) but not the latter.


6th Round:

Vadim Sozinov, C, Novokuznetsk – 179th Overall

Current Team:
Metallurg Novokunetsk

This was the first of two draft picks acquired in the
Jonathan Hedstrom trade. Sozinov was drafted by the Ottawa
67’s into the OHL due to his strong play in international tournaments. He
started slow but had a strong finish with 21 goals. Unfortunately it seems
Sozinov did not like his taste of North American hockey and returned to Russia.
The Kazakhstan
native was a former teammate of Nik Antropov which may have led to his


7th Round:

Markus Seikola, D,
TPS JR. – 209th Overall

Current Team: TPS

The second pick acquired in the Jonathan Hedstrom trade is
where the Leafs struck gold. In Seikola they drafted a tough physical defensemen
with good offensive upside. His game still has rough edges due to his late
start in hockey at age 15, but he is improving rapidly. He played well at the
2001 WJC and was a physical force on Finland‘s
blueline. Many consider him one of Toronto’s
top 5 prospects, and a future top 3 defenseman.


Lubos Velebny, D,
Zvolen – 223rd Overall

Current Team: Belleville

Physical play and a solid 2 way game is what attracted Toronto
to this Slovak defenseman. After a year in the USHL he was drafted by London
of the OHL and latter traded to Belleville
for fellow Leaf prospect Jan Chovan. He continued to refine his 2 way game and
solidify Belleville‘s blueline. If
Velebny continues to improve at this rate a shot at the NHL is in his future.


8th Round:

Alexander Shinkar, C,
Cherepovets Severstal – 254th Overall

Current Team:
Salavat Yulayev

Shinkar is a long shot prospect. Due to a late growth spurt
he has NHL size, but requires major improvement to his offensive game and
skating. However his biggest concern is a lack of discipline as he takes too
many penalties, a problem which may have cost him a place in the WJC. With no
deadline to sign him the Leafs can be patient with Shinkar and hope he can
become a player.


9th Round:

Jean-Philippe Cote,
Cape Breton – 265th Overall

Current Team: Cape
Screaming Eagles

A once highly regarded defense prospect that fell heavily in
the draft, Cote has become mainly a defensive defenseman.
He showed no progress after two years in the QMJHL, in fact his point totals
fell in 2001-2002. A good risk for a 9th round pick that just didn’t pan out.
He has been left unsigned and will re-enter the 2002 draft.


2001 NHL Draft:

Weak and strong drafts share a problem, too many prospects
evenly rated. This allowed a couple of great prospects to fall to Toronto. The
year of the defenseman has to be considered a success already. Colaiacovo is considered
by some to be top 3 material, Harrison has already made the AHL and Pilar has
already reached the NHL. On top of that 9 of the 11 players drafted played in
the 2001 WJC.

Missed Picks:
Pasi Nurminen

Draft Grade: B+

Hindsight Grade: N/A


1st Round:

Carlo Colaiacovo, D,
Erie – 17th Overall

Current Team:
Erie Otters

After going across the pond for its 98 & 99 first rounder’s,
Toronto made it back to back picks from their backyard in 2000 & 2001.
Though he doesn’t have the size to be a #1 defender he has a great 2 way game
and excellent work ethic. Colaiacovo played a major roll in Erie’s OHL championship
and was outstanding for Team Canada at the 2001 WJC. To paraphrase a scout,
Colaiacovo is the kind of player you use in the final minutes of a game whether
your leading or trailing.


2nd Round:

Karel Pilar, D,
Litvonov – 39th Overall

Current Team:
Toronto Maple Leafs

When Toronto drafted Pilar a collective “WHO?” ran through Leaf fans. Well
we know who he is now. Drafted due to his age and readiness for the NHL, he was
supposed to be insurance incase contract talks stalled with Kaberle. He started
the season slowly in St. John’s but improved by midseason. He finished with
Toronto as a replacement for Yushkevich when he went down. His play continued
to get stronger every game, and played well in the Playoffs but was lost to a
broken thumb. Expect him to nail the #4 spot in 2002 if no UFA is signed.


3rd Round:

Brendan Bell, D,
Ottawa – 65th Overall

Current Team:
Ottawa 67’s

Bell is a defenseman with one setting – offense. Drafted for
that quality he may yet become a powerplay specialist. He is a good skater and
playmaker but sometimes shies away from physical play. Bell was expected to
lead Ottawa’s defense until former Leaf Jonathan Zion returned. To reach the
NHL he must improve his defensive play and find a physical edge or he will be
left behind by Toronto’s other top 2001 picks.


Jay Harrison, D,
Brampton – 82nd Overall

Current Team: St.
John’s Maple Leafs

At one time Harrison was considered a top pick for 2001. He possessed
great size, skating and a mean streak to go along with adequate offensive
abilities. What caused him to drop to the 3rd round was his undisciplined play.
However, he proved his detractors wrong in the following season with a career
year offensively and very disciplined play. He signed a Pro contract after
Brampton’s season was over and finished with St. John’s. He played though the
end of the season and AHL playoffs, and never looked out of place.


Nicolas Corbeil, C,
Sherbrooke – 88th Overall

Current Team:
Sherbrooke Castors

This Leafs traded Igor Korolev to Chicago to get the 88th
pick and select Corbeil. While QMJHL players have been a disaster for the Leafs
recently, Corbeil my buck the trend. Toronto was attracted to the pivot due to
his hard nosed play style of play more expected in a 6’2″ center than a
5’11” one. If Corbeil can improve his skating and offense he may make the
NHL on the 3rd line.


5th Round:

Kyle Wellwood, C,
Bellville – 134th Overall

Current Team:
Windsor Spitfires

Wellwood is a purely offensive player. How does someone who
has a 118 point season in the OHL (a whopping 67 point increase) fall to the
5th round? Simple his 5’9″ frame and suspicions that he benefited from his
line mates scared teams off. While his totals did drop to 75 points this year
he also played 14 less games. Wellwood was traded to Windsor midseason for Jason
Spezza. Ironically he led Windsor to the third round (where Boyes &
Colaiacovo ended their season), while Bellville was eliminated in the second.


6th Round:

Maxim Kondratiev, D,
Russia – 168th Overall

Current Team:
Lada Togliatti

This tall lanky defenseman plays a stay at home game. He is position-ally
sound and a good skater but without any offense. He will have to fill out his
frame to even entertain thoughts of crossing the pond. Not a flashy player but dependable.
He played well on the Russian gold medal WJC team.


Jaroslav Sklenar, W,
Brno Jr. – 183rd Overall

Current Team:
Znojemsti Excalibur Orli

Sklenar was drafted by the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL but only
played 4 games before returning to Europe due to homesickness. He then bounced
through 3 European teams and also represented the Czech Republic at the WJC. A
forward with two speeds fast & faster, if Sklenar can learn to use his
passing & shooting skills at top speed he might become a good prospect. Hopefully
he will return to North America soon.


7th Round:

Ivan Kolozvary, W,
Trencin – 193rd Overall

Current Team:
Dukla Trencin

Kolozvary is a long shot. Though he has good overall
abilities he must gain considerable weight & strength to get a shot in North
America. He had a dismal year in Slovakia where he wasn’t able to create much
offense, but raised his game in the WJC. 


Jan Chovan, G, Belleville
– 213th Overall

Current Team: London

Chovan was drafted on the promise he showed in Belleville.
However this season saw his play slip. He was traded to London
and then lost the starters job to rookie sensation Chris Houle. Chovan must not
only regain the starters roll but also improve on his 1999-2000 performance to
have a future with Toronto.


8th Round:

Tomas Mojzis, D, Moose Jaw – 246th Overall

Current Team: Seattle

It was surprising to find Mojzis available in the 8th round
(I figured he go in the 5th or 6th). The sole Leaf prospect in the WHL, Mojzis
is another two-way defenseman who can throw some great checks. His offensive
abilities must improve if he is to rise in a Toronto‘s
steadily deepening pool of defensive prospects. One concern is that he did not
raise his game in the playoffs when Seattle
lost Matthew Spiller.


9th Round:

Michael Koepfli, W, Georgetown Tier 2 Jr.- 276th Overall

Current Team:
Cornell Big Red

Any time you take someone before they even play in junior
your looking long term. Koepfli already has NHL size and has shown some strong
offensive abilities. He will have a larger role for Cornell in 2002-2003. The
jump from Tier 2 Jr to the NCAA is a big one, and with his rookie season under
his belt this year will show the Leafs if he was worth the gamble.