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What Can Maple Leaf Fans Expect With the Fifth Overall Pick?

04/26/2012 at 10:51am EDT

With the conclusion of the NHL Draft lottery last week, reality has begun to set in for Toronto Maple Leaf fans as they were not able to move up to the first pick in the upcoming draft. I thought I would take some time to look back at past fifth overall picks to see what kind of player the Maple Leafs might expect to get with this draft position.

I reviewed the last 33 NHL drafts from 1979 - 2011 and there are some very recognizable names that have been drafted with the fifth pick including Scott Stevens, Jaromir Jagr and Phil Kessel. There are also some names that I have never heard of like Daniel Dore.

In performing my analysis it was important that I made things as statistically driven as possible. To do this I developed the following player rating criteria:

100 – Star player: top 3 forward, top pair defenseman or an elite starting goalie.
50 – Good player: top 6 forward, top 4 defenseman or a starting goalie over multiple seasons.
25 – Role Player: forward or defenseman with 200+ games or a goalie with 100+ starts.
10 – Depth Player: forward or defenseman with 51-199 games or a goal with 51-99 starts.
5 – Minor League Player: forward or defenseman with 1-50 games or a goalie with 50 or less starts.
0 – Bust: drafted player with zero NHL games.

Using a rating system that relies on someone’s opinion will always generate some debate, but as I went through the list of players I didn’t have many tough decisions to make.

After rating each player I came up with the following results:

100 – 16.7%
50 – 36.7%
25 – 40.0%
10 – 3.3%
5 – 3.3%
0 – 0.0%

Nearly 20% of the 30 fifth overall picks from 1979-2008 have turned out to be star players in the NHL and more than 50% have gone on to be at least good NHL players. This is very encouraging for Maple Leaf fans as Brian Burke and his staff approaches the draft.

2012 will mark the second time that the Maple Leafs have had the fifth overall pick in the past five years. The last time they drafted in this position they had to trade up from the seventh pick and they went safe with defenseman Luke Schenn. Schenn is a rugged defenseman that the scouts could easily see transition to the pro game. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, Schenn is closer to a role player at this point in his career than a top 4 defenseman and in my opinion I don\‘t think he will end up being much more than what he is right now.

Since greater than 90% of the players drafted with the fifth overall pick have turned out to be at least role players (greater than 200 games in the NHL), it is important for the Maple Leafs to make this pick based on potential, even if the player has inherent risks. There are two players that come to mind: Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk. Grigorenko is a big center that has been compared to Evgeni Malkin at times, but scouts question his work ethic and desire. He has a ton of upside but will he turnout like Malkin or Viktor Kozlov? Galchenyuk missed almost the entire season in 2011-12 due to a knee injury. Past injuries are always a concern when investing so much into a young player, but Galchenyuk had 83 points as a 16 year old rookie in the OHL in 2010-11 and has as much upside as anyone in this draft.

There is no guarantee that either Grigorenko or Galchenyuk will be available when the Leafs take their turn at number five, but if one of them is sitting there, the Maple Leafs will be wise to take a risk for possible a large reward.

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