Leafs look to pick great late

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

The Maple Leafs could end up choosing a Hall of Famer when they finally get around to making their first draft selection on Saturday.

Of course, when picking in the unstable sixties, one should specify the famous building in Cooperstown or Yonge St.

Just think of the Los Angeles Kings, who bet on a Boston-area kid named Tom Glavine at 69th in 1984, long before names such as Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille were chosen. Glavine didn’t score an NHL goal, but he won 305 games on the mound. Ditto the Winnipeg Jets, who figured Kirk McCaskill of Kapuskasing, Ont., would follow in his father’s pro hockey path and took him 64th in 1981, but he walked to the hill instead when the California Angels handed him the ball the next year.

Those are favourite story when the scouts get together for a pint, but the Leafs can’t be joking around this weekend at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. They are aiming to come up with something at 62nd overall they can use on the ice a little ways down the road.

One name that has risen in their estimation as the scouting season wore on is Devante Smith-Pelly, a point-a-game winger for Mississauga St. Mike’s. At 5-foot-11, he’s not the monster that general manager Brian Burke craves up front. But depending on what happens with big men rated around the late 50s and early 60s, such as 6-foot-2 German winger Tom Kuehnhackl and Russian-born Saginaw OHLer Ivan Telegin, there could be a compromise.

Kuehnhackl is the son of German great Erich Kuehnhackl (the Leafs just added a German in defenceman Korbinian Holzer) and another famous offspring they will look at is Christian Thomas, whose father Steve knew his way to the net. The Oshawa Generals winger and centre Freddie Hamilton from Niagara could also get up to the ‘60s range with New Jersey high schooler Kenneth Agostino, a left winger, and Chilliwack centre Kevin Sundher.

Gems uncovered in the 60s, or if you prefer, the third round, include such incredible finds as Jarri Kurri and Glenn Anderson at 69th, Brad Richards at 64th or Mark Recchi at 67th. All have their names on the Stanley Cup, with Kurri and Anderson in the Hall.

But the picks could just as easily become Bjorn Skaare, who played one game for Detroit in 1978-79 after it took him 62nd, though Skaare was later saluted as a pioneer of Norwegian hockey.

Burke, privately stinging from constant criticism that overpaid with a first and second rounder for Phil Kessel, made it clear he expects to land a solid prospect with his first choice, if he doesn’t make a deal to move up the order. With the scouts refering to this as the deepest draft in years - okay, they tell us that all the time - Burke says fans should then expect someone who can play in Toronto in coming years, and not just with the Marlies.

Though the Leafs have been in this pickle before with no first or second pick, perhaps killing time with a euchre game while every table around them is buzzing, they haven’t had many success stories from this spot in the draft order.

Rank-and-file NHLers such as Fredrik Modin, Matt Martin and Jeff Reese have been about as good as it gets, though in fairness, Toronto has been much better at pulling out late-round rabbits from a hat. Since 1992, when picking after 200th overall, they have scooped Nathan Dempsey, Sergei Berezin, Danny Markov, Tomas Kaberle, Staffan Kronwall, Jeremy Williams and Anton Stralman.

Some hit and miss players at 62 have included Toronto-born Red Wings’ multi-Cup winner Kris Draper, Devils’ defenceman Paul Martin and most recently St. Louis forward David Backes.

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The Maple Leafs don't pick until 62nd at the draft in Los Angeles. A list of QMI Agency's top three picks per positions 60 to 69 in draft history.

60. Brandon Dubinsky (NYR ‘04), Dan Ellis (Dal 2000), Denis Arkhipov (Nsh ‘98)

61. Maxim Lapierre (Mtl ‘03), Jason Woolley (Wash ‘89), Johnny Boychuk (Col. ‘02)

62. Kris Draper (Det 1989), Paul Martin (NJ ‘02), David Backes (Stl ‘03)

63. David Krejci (Bos ‘04), Tomas Fleischmann (Det. ‘02), Peter Budaj (Col. ‘01)

64. Brad Richards (TB ‘98), Kent Nilsson (Atl. ‘76), Don Saleski (Phil’69)

65. Kirk Maltby (Edm. ‘92), Krzystof Oliwa (NJ ‘93), Nathan Lafayette (StL ‘91)

66. Peter Schaefer (Van . ‘95), John Ogrodnick (Det. ‘79) Mark Johnson (Pitt. ‘77)

67. Mark Recchi (Pitt. ‘88), Ulf Samuelsson (Htd. ‘82) Rob Brown (Pitt. 86)

68. Ken Morrow (NYI ‘76), Tony Amonte (NYR. ‘68), Jarkko Ruutu (Van ‘98)

69. Jari Kurri (Edm. ‘80), Glenn Anderson (Edm. 69), Maxim Afinogenov (Buff ‘97)


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