Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking Back on the 2003 NHL Entry Draft

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IMay 26, 2008

While everyone and their dog has an opinion on the Stanley Cup finals, and will choose to voice it over the next few weeks or so, I have chosen to stay somewhat quiet on the subject.

Really, I am simply enjoying the finals as a fan.  I don't necessarily have an allegiance to either team, although I certainly have my reasons to cheer both.

With all their youth, Pittsburgh is certainly exciting to watch. 

Detroit has a very close personal connection.  Someone who was very important to me in my life passed away this past March.  He was a big Red Wings fan,  So, my heart is cheering Detroit.

I also have tickets to game seven, so, here's hoping.

Anyways, with all the talented reporters already covering the finals, I decided to enjoy the games, and devote my time to other things. Namely, the Maple Leafs upcoming summer.  It may not be spectacular, but it will be busy. 

The first order of business is the NHL entry draft, held June 20th in Ottawa. 

Over the next week, I will be looking back five, 10 and 15 years into the past, to review the Toronto Maple Leafs drafts from 2003,1998 and 1993.

It will all culminate with my in-depth 2008 draft preview where I look at who the Leafs could, and should take this June.

Let's go back.  All the way back to 2003.

2003 NHL Draft In Review

57th Overall--John Doherty
91st Overall-Martin Sagat
125th Overall-Konstantin Volkov
158th Overall--John Mitchell
220th Overall--Jeremy Williams
237th Overall--Shawn Landolt

2003 has been described by many as one of the best drafts of all time,  so how on earth did Toronto end up with so many busts? (well, I know how they did, don't patronize me, it was a rhetorical question.)

John Doherty was their first selection, 57th overall (yes, no first round pick again.)  Doherty was a big hulking defensive defenseman when the Leafs called his name in the second round that year. 

Standing 6'4" and weighing in the neighborhood of 235lbs, he seemed destined to become a prototypical shutdown, bruising blueliner.  However, whether the post-lockout emphasis on speed and skill had anything to do with it or not, Doherty never played an NHL, or AHL game, and has spent his career in the ECHL for the most part.

91st Overall the Maple Leafs called Martin Sagat.  Sagat, a Slovakian winger, came over to North American after being drafted, and played in the WHL for the Kootenay Ice.  He put up respectable points with the Ice, scoring seasons of 43 points, and 63 in his final year in the WHL. 

He then joined the Marlies where, despite being quick and generating chances, didn't produce at his junior scoring clip.  Sagat mustered just 21 and 15 points respectively in his first two years with the Marlies. 

He has since gone home to Slovakia, where he is continuing his hockey career.  He is no longer Leafs property.

With the 125th selection, the Maple Leafs chose Konstantin Volkov.  Volkov was a 5'11" winger from Russia who had been playing his junior hockey with the Junior Dynamos when the Maple Leafs drafted him in the 4th round.  The Maple Leafs brass said that, despite the fact he didn't put up many points, he had real speed. He was a very intelligent player the Leafs thought could contribute at the NHL level. 

Unfortunately for Toronto, Volkov disappointed them, by deciding he would not come over from Russia.  He still hasn't stepped foot in North America.

158th overall the Toronto Maple Leafs selected John Mitchell from the Plymouth Whalers.  Mitchell showed signs he could be a junior scorer, putting up 55 points in his draft year.  His two years after being drafted he put up seasons of 82 points, and 75 points respectively. 

Mitchell is a hard nosed player who has a knack for the net.  This season he has been a big part of the Toronto Marlies and their impressive season.  He tallied 51 points in 79 games this year, and had 4 points in the clubs first seven playoff games.  Mitchell has so far only played one NHL game, but looking at the players drafted after him, the Leafs did alright getting him.  The remaining nine picks chosen in the round following Mitchell only have 137 career NHL games, and Brad Richardson has 136 himself. 

Jeremy Williams became a member of the Maple Leafs when they called his name 220th overall.  Williams was a member of the WHL's Swift Current Broncos when he was drafted by the Blue and White.

In his draft year he put up a very impressive 93 points, and for an encore scored 101 the following year, a total which included 52 goals.  Williams has appeared in the NHL a few different times for the Leafs, totalling 20 games.  He has four goals in that span. 

His latest stint with the big club was his longest, and by far his most impressive audition, which seen him even take shifts with captain Mats Sundin, as a reward for his strong play.  Williams will likely be a permanent member of the big club when the Maple Leafs open their 2008-2009 season.

Clearly hindsight is a beautiful thing, 20/20 in fact, but Shawn Landolt was chosen by Toronto 237th overall, just two picks before Tobias Enstrom, the rising Swedish star on Atlanta.  Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien was also chosen later that round.

The fact they only had six draft picks (out of a nine round draft) and three of them were late picks, who have contributed regularly, the Leafs deserve some credit, but there are two many gaffes in this one to give them anything close to a passing grade.

Tomorrow, we journey back ten years, to look at the 1998 NHL entry draft.


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