With the potential that the 2020 NHL Draft may be coming sooner rather than later, it’s time to get fully on board with the draft hype, as we may finally have some kind of hockey content that doesn’t involve re-watching old hockey games.

One of my favourite parts about drafts is looking back on them several years later, and seeing how good or bad some teams did every year, as well as some of the busts in the early rounds and hidden gems found in later rounds.

So, I’m going to do just that with Draft Flashbacks. This series will take a look at each individual draft and re-examine every pick the Leafs made, and see who was the best pick available with the hindsight of seeing what kind of player they’ve turned into. And to finish it off, I’ll do a what if scenario based on the best possible drafts the Leafs could’ve had.

Today, it’s the 2011 draft, which has aged quite terribly for the Leafs, but should probably to be the surprise of nobody. That said, it did provide us with a couple of Leafs with very interesting careers here, but probably for the wrong reasons.


Round 1: 22nd overall & 25th overall

Who the Leafs picked: Tyler Biggs & Stuart Percy

Best player available (within 20 picks): John Gibson (Anaheim, 39th overall)

Best player available (overall): Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay, 58th overall)

The whole process for the Leafs with the 22nd overall pick is probably the most embarrassing thing that could’ve happened short of Brian Burke getting pants at the draft podium. The Leafs decided they needed to trade up because they really wanted Tyler Biggs (one of two first round picks that year to not play an NHL game), and in doing so, gave Anaheim a later first and an early second, which they used to draft Rickard Rakell and John Gibson.


Stuart Percy wasn’t much better of a pick three picks later, as aside from making the team briefly out of 2014-15 training camp and a brief stint during the tank year, he hasn’t been much of a success.

Ironically, the best player taken in the Leafs range was John Gibson, who is one of the best goalies in the league and helps makes the Ducks look slightly better than they are. About a whole round later was also Nikita Kucherov, who is the reigning Hart trophy winner and one of the best players in the league, so we’ll probably have to pick him up with that second first round pick.

Dec 7, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Josh Leivo (17) skates against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Round 3: 86th overall & Round 4: 100th overall

Who the Leafs picked: Josh Leivo & Tom Nilsson

Best player available (within 20 picks): Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary, 104th overall)

Best player available (overall): Johnny Gaudreau

This isn’t really meant to be an insult to Leivo, but the fact that he was the best player to come out of this draft says a lot about how bad this draft was for us, especially considering that he never got a chance with the Leafs to actually be a decent player. I also have no actual memories of Tom Nilsson, as he didn’t end up being much of a player even for the Marlies.

Meanwhile, shortly after drafting Nilsson, the Flames drafted some guy named Johnny Gaudreau, who’s also become one of the better players in the league. Wow, lots of amazing players in the league getting drafted right after the Leafs. This sucks.


Round 5: 130th overall

Who the Leafs picked: Tony Cameranesi

Best player available (within 20 picks): Andrew Shaw (Chicago, 139th overall)

Best player available (overall): Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay, 208th overall)

Apparently Cameranesi played some games for the Toronto Marlies, and I honestly don’t believe that. It was only 37 games so I don’t feel bad for missing that, but I still don’t believe it. Taken not long after him was Andrew Shaw, who isn’t an amazing player, but far from a bad one, and a key part to the Chicago Blackhawks Cup runs, before being sold high to a dumb team, signed to a bad deal, only for the Hawks to bring him back a few years later, as is the life of most Blackhawks players not a part of the main core.


Round 6: 152nd overall

Who the Leafs picked: David Broll

Best player available (within 20 picks): Josh Manson (Anaheim, 160th overall)

Best player available (overall): Ondrej Palat

This whole article has been a massive wake-up call to my Leafs nerdism, as I forgot that Broll played games for the Leafs. He ended up getting traded with Carter Ashton to Tampa for a conditional seventh, which sounds about right for his value. Anyways, the Ducks and Lightning continue their dominance in this draft, as Josh Manson becomes our best player available in this range, who’s gone on to become a steady shutdown defense that the Leafs oh-so desperately need.


Round 6: 173rd overall

Who the Leafs picked: Dennis Robertson

Best player available (within 20 picks): Dylan DeMelo (San Jose, 179th overall)

Best player available (overall): Ondrej Palat

Robertson somehow caused more harm than good for the Leafs despite not playing a game, as his only use for them was being a part of the trade that sent John-Michael Liles to Carolina for Tim Gleason, who played 39 games before getting bought out and being against the cap for four seasons (which was great for the cap crunched 2017-18 team). Meanwhile, DeMelo was drafted by the Sharks, but didn’t break out until playing with the basement dwelling Ottawa Senators, proving to be a steady blueline presence on a team that had none.

Oct 7, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks (40) blocks a shot during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Round 7: 190th overall & 203rd overall

Who the Leafs picked: Garret Sparks & Max Everson

Best player available (within 20 picks): Ondrej Palat

Best player available (overall): Ondrej Palat

Ah, Garret Sparks. What an adventure having you on the team was. For a mediocre at best backup goalie, you sure stirred up a lot of controversy on Leafs Twitter. Yet somehow, Sparks was the second best player the Leafs got in this draft. You also may have noticed that Palat has been lingering around as the best player available for a while, and in case you were wondering why I haven’t talked about him yet, it’s because he was drafted with the fourth last pick, and has become a great secondary piece to a dominant Tampa Bay Lightning team.


What If?

Ideal Draft

22nd – John Gibson

25th – Nikita Kucherov

86th – Jordan Binnington

100th – Johnny Gaudreau

130th – Andrew Shaw

152nd – Josh Manson

173rd – Dylan DeMelo

190th – Ryan Dzingel

203rd – Ondrej Palat

This probably doesn’t impact the current roster that much, as no one drafted by the Leafs in 2011 is on the team right now, but the one that probably does change is the Frederik Andersen trade. Not only does the Leafs having Gibson mean they probably don’t need to trade for Andersen, but also the Ducks not having Gibson means that Andersen isn’t expendable to them either. Also, assuming that Binnington’s career of not doing much in the minors to suddenly breaking out in the NHL still happens if he’s drafted by the Leafs, it’s likely he doesn’t get a chance to break out with the Leafs with Gibson on the team.

First off, my god, what a forward lineup. Matthews and Kucherov would destroy worlds, and whatever was left, Gaudreau, Tavares, and Marner would feast on. The defense still isn’t amazing, but the right side might be the best looking one we’ve got so far. And while it doesn’t show up in the WAR stats due to their bad seasons, a tandem of Andersen and Gibson is the best since… well, Andersen and Gibson.

Overall Evaluation

Holy crap, I knew this draft was bad going into it, but it was so much more worse than I thought. Josh Leivo is a good player, but shouldn’t be the best player that they drafted, especially since he was misused so horribly. Not only that, but they botched two first round picks, all while watching the Bruins take their actual first round pick and draft Dougie Hamilton. Brutal, that’s all I can use to describe this draft.

Grade: D