Skip to main content Blog: Leafs lose much more than second overall pick for Kessel

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

We all know Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke will forever defend the 2009 deal that cost Toronto two first round draft picks and a second-rounder in exchange for Phil Kessel. Burke has maintained that position over and over again, even when it became clear the first instalment going to the Boston Bruins was either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.

Sure, Kessel is young (22) and has 50-goal potential (36 and 30 goals the past two seasons), but I think Burke is just being a stubborn Irishman in his outward admittance the trade is one he’d do again in a heartbeat.

Was it bad fortune or destiny the Leafs finished 29th this season, thereby resulting in the first first-rounder being second overall? The degree of probability is high that both Hall and Seguin are premium players in the NHL for the next 15-plus seasons. Their upside is as good, if not better, than Kessel’s.

Thing is, the Leafs owe the Bruins two more instalments as compensation. What are those building blocks worth and what are the Leafs missing out on?

The second-rounder going Boston’s way is the 32nd overall pick at this June’s draft in Los Angeles. I did a quick study of the 25 players selected 32nd overall from 1980 to 2004 and determined there’s a one in three chance that prospect will develop into a full-time NHLer.

Eight of those 25 players selected 32nd overall had or are having lengthy NHL careers. They include Tony Hrkac, Eric Weinrich, Bob Boughner, Jamie Pushor, Jim Carey, Jay Pandolfo, Derek Roy and Dave Bolland.

Another seven from that group of 25 played between 83 and 366 NHL games, most notably Kevin Lavallee. Another seven had a cup of coffee (23 games or fewer) and three never played.

So there’s a 60 percent chance that second-rounder becomes, at the very least, a contributor for one or two seasons.

Then next year, the Leafs again give up their first-rounder to Boston. Second overall again? Not likely.

But let’s say the Leafs improve to 22nd overall and the Bruins get the ninth overall pick in 2011.

Looking at the 25 ninth overall picks from 1980 to 2004 (it’s too early to properly judge recent draft picks), there’s a 68 percent chance that prospect becomes a bonafide NHLer. Seventeen of those 25 picks taken ninth overall became full-time NHLers, ranging from Cam Neely and Brian Leetch at the top end of the spectrum to Todd Harvey and Ruslan Salei at the serviceable end.

If you’re more optimistic about Toronto’s chances to improve next season, here’s what the Leafs would give up if they were to make the playoffs and finish 13th in the NHL. Boston would then receive the 18th overall pick in 2011 as the final instalment of the Kessel deal.

Fourteen of the 25 picks from 1980 to 2004 went on to solid NHL careers. That’s a 56 percent chance, ranging from Ken Daneyko and Glen Murray at the ideal end of 18th overall to Dmitri Kalinin and Eric Fehr at the serviceable end.

So it’s a lot more than just Hall or Seguin for Kessel. It’s either of those two sure-fire prospects and two more good opportunities to select future NHL mainstays.

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Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can find his blog each weekend.

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