The Leafs were pleasantly surprised to see Potvin still available in the second round of the deep 1990 NHL entry draft. Ht Leafs grabbed him with 31st overall pick. After a year of learning English and successful of apprenticeship in the American Hockey League (he was named as the top rookie, top goalie and first team all star) Felix made the move to Toronto in 1992-93.
Potvin took the NHL by storm once he arrived. In his rookie season Potvin led the league in goals against average with a 2.50 mark, and backstopped the Leafs not only to their first true mark of respectability since the 1970s, but to playoff success. Potvin was brilliant as the Leafs went on a magical playoff run, only to fall short in a 7 game conference finals against Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings. Had the Leafs been successful, the Stanley Cup would have been a classic showdown - Leafs vs. Habs, Potvin vs. Roy.
Potvin followed up his rookie season with a 34 win season, tying Johnny Bower's team record for most wins in a year. He represented the Leafs in the All Star game and was even named player of the month in October. Potvin led the Leafs deep into the playoffs again, this time falling short against the Vancouver Canucks in the conference finals. Potvin was brilliant, perhaps no more so than in the opening round against Chicago. Potvin and Eddie Belfour had a classic goaltender grudge match. Potvin prevailed, including 3 nail biting 1-0 shutouts!
The Leafs fortunes sagged after that season. Potvin continued to be the workhorse goalie, including setting a Leafs record with 74 games appeared in 1996-97. That season Felix also set a league record with the most shots faced with 2662. Somehow Felix saved almost 91% percent of those shots! Yet increasingly it was the shots that eluded him that were beginning to bother people. He could stop 35 pucks in a game, but somehow would often let in a soft goal or a goal at exactly the wrong time.
By the summer of 1998 the Leafs had signed Curtis Joseph as their goalie. Potvin was out of the Leafs goaltending picture, and soon dispatched to the lowly New York Islanders where he, like everyone else on Long Island, struggled. The Cat was then moved on to Vancouver where he was subsequently booed out of town before finding another of his 9 lives in Los Angeles and then Boston.
Felix was nicknamed The Cat not only because he obviously held the same name as the famous comic strip, but because he relied on his cat-like reflexes to stop pucks. Potvin tended to stay back in his net too much and struggled with his lateral mobility. Word quickly got around the league to shoot up high on him and make him move around. He would lose his angle and his cat-like reflexes weren't able to stop the onslaught. After a great start to his career, he fell from his status as one of the league's best goaltenders.