An interesting post by Aaron Chan over at Maple Leaf Muse got me thinking about the Leafs' track record at the draft. I've always felt like it was better than they got credit for. Aaron made some interesting points but I wanted to be a little bit more precise with how picks are compared to one another.
With that in mind, I looked at 10 years worth of draft data (1999 to 2008) and the results are impressive. Over this 10 year period, the Leafs had a first round bust rate of 14% (note: The only bust, Luca Cereda, is an interesting case. He was diagnosed with a heart defect the year after his draft.) Their median first round draft slot over this time was 21st which makes the low bust rate particularly impressive. When compared to the league-wide bust rate of 42% among first round draft picks, the Leafs' draft record stands out yet again. The Leafs' impact draft rate in the first round was over 70% compared against a league-wide average of roughly 39%.
In the second round, the Leafs had a bust rate that was slightly lower than league average and their record for drafting impact players (top-6 forwards or top-4 defense) was double that of the rest of the league.
In the interest of full disclosure, I combined the third and fourth round when looking at the Leafs' picks and compared those against third rounders of the rest of the league. I haven't parsed the entire league past the third round and the Leafs' third round numbers are abysmal relative to their fourth round numbers (which we'd clearly expect to normalize over time.) Basically, given the disparity between the two numbers, I think that the n is the issue and not that the Leafs have some mysterious hex placed on their third rounders.
Once again, the Leafs are two-and-a-half times more likely to find an impact player in these rounds than the league average and also have a slightly lower bust rate.
Over this 10 year period, the Leafs also added Ian White and Carl Gunnarsson in rounds 6 and 7 (where they have an 8% impact player rate -- the league-wide average is 4% by the third round.)
Below are graphs comparing the figures for the Leafs and the rest of the league:
In short, the Leafs don't have a drafting problem, they have a problem with trading away prospects and draft picks. During Dave Nonis' tenure as GM of the Vancouver Canucks, he hoarded prospects and picks which might be the best thing for the Leafs future given their success on the draft floor.