The year was 2005. Â George W. Bush was still in office (yes, somehow Americans voted for him, twice), Hurricane Katrina was doing catastrophic damage to New Orleans, and the vatican was naming a new pope after the passing of John Paul II.
In the sports world, the New England Patrios would win yet another Super Bowl, this time against the Eagles, the Washington Nationals would begin operation as Major League Baseball’s newest team, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indy 500, and the Chicago White Sox ended a lengthy championship drought, winning the world series in four straight over the Houston Astros.
Oh, and there was this one other thing too. Â NO HOCKEY.
Embattled in a bitter labour dispute, the NHL shut down operations for an entire year in search of cost certainty, something they would eventually get, although the opinion on whether the design is flawed or not is still out to be deliberated.
For fans of the NHL, the June 2005 entry draft was more than just a weekend in June in which young players would be drafted, making their way into the beginning of their National Hockey League careers. Â It was a new beginning for the world of the NHL. Â A new season was about to kick off in earnest.
Really, it’s crazy to think that it’s been five years since the Pittsburgh Penguins were so lucky to win the lottery and draft Sidney Crosby. Â Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke made out alright too. Â As then the GM of the Anaheim Ducks, Burke was busy drafting Bobby Ryan second overall, who turned out to be quite the consolation prize.
The entire order of the NHL draft that year was set by lottery, with of course certain teams having odds weighted in their favours. Â The Toronto Maple Leafs had their ping pong ball drop 21st overall in the first round. Â And while everyone in Toronto was of course hoping for a higher numbers, the ’05 draft had a depth to it that would allow the Leafs to likely grab a quality player in the opening round.
And they did. Â With a twist of course. Â As only the Maple Leafs could deliver.
1st round: Tuukka Rask, 21st overall
Watching the draft at his home in native Finland with his girlfriend, Tuukka Rask was drafted 21st overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, a pick that was largely gushed over by many analysts at the time.
With the Leafs in a transition period in between the pipes, with Ed Belfour getting long in the tooth, the Leafs felt they had a gem when they took Rask 21st overall in 2005. Â And to their credit, they were not wrong. Â At least not about him being a gem on draft day.
Rask’s development would be seemingly fast tracked following the Leafs calling his name. Â Rask went on to have a solid season in the Finnish league before having a coming out party in Vancouver at the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship, where he was a star for the Finnish team, willing them along throughout the event.
Rask won the goaltender of the tournament award at the event.
Unfortunately for Leafs fans, he wasn’t the only goalie having a coming out party on that stage in Vancouver, as Justin Pogge was playing well for an albeit much better Canadian squad.
The rest, is of course, history. Â History that will be brought up every time a Leafs fan meets up with some supporters of other teams in bars, or message boards. Â Rask was traded for the rights to Andrew Raycroft at the following years NHL entry draft, a deal that was much debated at the time. Â The results, however, should have been foreshadowed by the genuine hush and shock that befell the draft floor when the trade was announced.
2nd round: No Selection
3rd round: Phil Oreskovic, 82nd overall
After sitting out the second round of the NHL entry draft by way of trading the pick, the Leafs returned to the podium for round three, and used the 82nd overall selection to take Phil Oreskovic, a hulking, bruising defenseman from the Ontario Hockey League.
Oreskovic had been a member of the Brampton Battalion, and had shown a penchant for being a physical, nasty, and mean defenseman, something the Leafs were seemingly always looking for (but then again, what team isn’t?) Â While the pick somewhat flew in the face of the new mantra of speed in the “new” National Hockey League, Oreskovic has developed at about the pace the Leafs were likely hoping when they drafted him.
Management at the time categorized him as someone who would be a project prospect. Â A player who would need to work on several things if he were ever to make the jump consistently in the NHL. Â While Oreskovic hasn’t made that planned jump into the league yet, he has shown signs of being that steady, edgy defender they were hoping for when they called his name in 2005.
Oreskovic has been solid for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, and held his own during a brief call up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Â He’s a player who may be lost in the shuffle on the Leafs back end, which is now seemingly loaded with defensive players.
4th round: No Selection
5th round: Alex Berry, 153rd overall
With the 153rd selection in the 2005 NHL Entry draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Alex Berry. Â The casual fan will surely meet that comment with the retort “who?” and perhaps rightfully so. Â The Leafs were looking for size and a player with hockey acumen to make their team better in their own zone.
Berry played four years in the NCAA, and put up point totals of 2,13, 17, and 30 respectively. Â While he was never a big goal scorer (his best was eleven in his final year of collegiate play) he did show signs of being a player who was willing to pay the price at the cost of team success.
Berry moved to the AHL recently, but his time with the Toronto Marlies has not been an easy transition for him, or the organization. Â While he still is someone who will do the little things right, he simply doesn’t have the talent it takes to make it onto the NHL roster. Â A fringe player on a depleted Marlies squad, Berry would really have to come around in order to make himself into a regular NHL player. Â His career seems destined for the minors.
6th round: Johan Dahlberg, 173rd overall
A Swedish born left winger, Dahlberg was someone the Leafs management felt confident taking a flyer on. Â A big, physical forward with an often short temper, Dahlberg was considered by many as a player who could develop into an agitator type player in the National Hockey League.
Dahlberg, however, never did come over from Europe, and wasn’t signed. Â It is believed that the Leafs lost his rights. Â In choosing Dahlberg, the Maple Leafs left players Tim Kennedy, Brett Sutter, and Matt D’Agostini available.
7th round: Anton Stralman, 216th overall
And now, a cautionary tale.
This is an example of how sometimes, certain teams, their fans, and the situations that accompany them, can tend to blow things out of proportions. Â Drafted 216th overall, the Maple Leafs selected Anton Stralman, a 6’2″ smooth skating Swedish defenseman who, rightly or wrongly, was drawing comparisons in his homeland to Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom.
After a few seasons with Timra of the Swedish Elite League, Stralman made the jump to North America, where he made a moderately good adjustment.
Stralman showed promise of the things that were debated of him while he was honing his skills in the leagues of the Tre Kronor. Â He had good skating, solid passing ability, and showed a decent amount of poise for a young defender. Â Stralman would spend two seasons between the Maple Leafs and the Marlies, and was traded to the Calgary Flames in a highly debated deal that saw the Leafs obtain Wayne Primeau, a player who proved to be a steadying veteran for the young Maple Leafs this past season.
Stralman, for his part, was subsequently traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he has since struggled with his confidence in his own end. Â He did, however, post 34 points in 73 games with the Blue Jackets.
7th round: Chad Rau, 228th overall
Chad Rau was a player who, just a few short years ago, appeared poised to be someone who could have an impact on the Leafs bottom six. Â He skated well, played a physical game, and also has proven leadership capabilities, captaining his collegiate team on occasion.
Rau was also at one time on the shortlist for the Hobey Baker finalists. Â However, the Leafs failed to obtain his rights last season, and he is now a member of the Minnesota Wild organization.