Brad Ross and the Second Round Blunders of Toronto

Sounds like a really bad musical act, doesn’t it? Well, in Toronto, it’s more of a nightmare for a scouting team.

Announced on May 29th, the 2010 43rd overall selection made by the Maple Leafs, Brad Ross, signed with the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutschen Eishockey Liga (DEL). The 23-year-old left winger split time between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears last season.

Back in 2010, the Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke was so high on Ross, he sent prospect Jimmy Hayes, who the Leafs drafted in 2008 in the second round (60th overall), to the Chicago Blackhawks to obtain the 43rd overall pick. While Ross never played a game in the NHL, Hayes played for the Blackhawks in 43 games over three seasons before heading over to the Florida Panthers. Last season, Hayes appeared in 72 games and scored 19 goals.

Now before going further down memory lane, it’s only fair to bring up the statistic that only 20% of kids drafted in the second round play 200 games and while pundits will throw out names also drafted in 2010 like Tyler Toffoli (selected 47th), Radko Gudas (selected 66th) and Brendan Gallagher (selected 147th), they won’t dare mention that guys like John Mcfarland (selected 32nd), Ludvig Rensfeldt (selected 34th) or Derek Forbort (selected 15th) have all not played a single game in the NHL to date.

Bad picks can be made at any time and it’s easy to look back on it five years later when hindsight is 20/20 and pretend like we would have known better, but in playing the whole memory lane game, we can’t help but notice just how poorly the Maple Leafs have done with their second round selections.

To find the last time a player was drafted by Toronto in the second round that became a noteworthy name at the NHL level, you’d have to go back to 2006 when they selected Nikolay Kulemin with their 44th selection. Before that? You’re looking back to their 2002 57th overall pick who turned out to be Matt Stajan.

Again, to be fair and play devil’s advocate, Toronto has made quite the habit of trading away their second round picks. Since 2000, the Maple Leafs have only picked ten times in the second round, with just Stajan and Kulemin to account for, which meets the 20% efficiency rate that was mentioned earlier. Even better if you count Hayes into the mix, although he was traded before getting his fair shake.

Unfortunately, the Leafs second round picks from 2008 to 2010 (Jesse Blacker, Kenny Ryan and Ross) have a combined total of one NHL game under their belt, while their 2012 second-rounder, Matt Finn, also split time between the AHL and ECHL last season, a similar situation to Ross.

The Ross selection was a bad one and most scouting experts knew it at the time his name was called. It should come to no surprise that Brendan Shanahan and crew cleaned house and fired most of their scouting team early this April. You can only make so many mistakes before management loses faith in you, which can also be the reason why Burke got canned when he did. Yes, he set the table for the Maple Leafs but he also built a team that turned out to be quite different from the one he was preaching about creating upon his hiring as the club’s general manager.

After all, he traded a prospect like Anton Stralman in a package to obtain Wayne Primeau and a 2nd round pick in 2011, then sent that 2nd round pick to Chicago for a 2010 second round pick. Chicago picked Brandon Saad. Toronto also traded the 2010 second round pick in the trade that brought Phil Kessel to Toronto. Lots of revisionist history; it’s easy now to play this game and think what could have been.

It’s a new era now and with Shanahan at the helm, the young Kyle Dubas assisting, Mark Hunter as the director of player personnel, and head coach Mike Babcock leading the charge and teaching the young up-and-comers (and hopefully some old dogs new tricks), the Toronto Maple Leafs future starting with the 2015-16 regular season looks as promising as ever. All they can really do now is sell their fans on a new hope.

So long, Brad Ross. Best of luck to you in Germany.

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