To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, NHL.com assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. NHL.com will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Ups and downs are a part of every NHL career, whether you're a top-line superstar or a fourth-liner working to grind out one last shot at the big time.
Some, like Scott Gomez, have found themselves at both ends of the spectrum. From the high of two Stanley Cup championships to the low of having his contract bought out and struggling to find a job this season, Gomez was back on a high again, playing a key role for the San Jose Sharks.
It might not have been a smooth ride, but 12 of the 13 members of NHL.com's Dream Draft panel believe Gomez is the best No. 27 first-round pick.
The New Jersey Devils had the final two picks of the first round of the 1998 NHL Draft, selecting defenseman Mike van Ryn at No. 26 then opting for Gomez, a center who had 49 points in 47 games with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, at No. 27.
Gomez spent one more season in the WHL, when he had 108 points in 58 games and added 10 points in six games for the United States at the 1999 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The next season he made his NHL debut and it went as well as anyone could have hoped. He scored his first goal in his sixth game, Oct. 16, 1999, against the New York Islanders, and in his first game at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 26, 1999, had a hat trick against the New York Rangers. He finished the season with a League-rookie-high 70 points and was voted the Calder Trophy winner. He added 10 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Devils capped the 1999-2000 season by winning their second Stanley Cup.
Gomez continued to develop into one of the game's best playmaking centers, totaling at least 40 assists in six of his first seven seasons and helping the Devils win the 2003 Stanley Cup. He showed he could score goals, finding the back of the net a career-best 33 times in 2005-06, when he also had a personal-high 82 points.
He moved across the Hudson River in the summer of 2007, signing a seven-year, $51.5 million contract with the Rangers. He spent two seasons in New York, averaging 16 goals and 64 points per season, then was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in June 2009.
Things went south quickly for Gomez after he had 12 goals and 59 points in 78 games with the Canadiens in 2009-10. He had seven goals in 2010-11, and two in 38 games the next season, going through a goal drought that lasted 369 days.
In January, the Canadiens bought out the final two seasons of Gomez's contract, and after spending time with his hometown Alaska Aces in the ECHL, he signed with the Sharks on Jan. 23. Playing on the third and fourth lines, Gomez had two goals and 13 assists in 35 regular-season games, and was second on the team with a 55.9-percent success rate on faceoffs. He missed the Sharks' first two playoff games with an injury, but played a big role during San Jose's run, which ended with a Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Despite the ups and downs, the breadth of Gomez's NHL accomplishments earned him a near-unanimous selection from NHL.com's 13-member Dream Draft panel. The other player to receive a vote was Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, the No. 27 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft.
"I really appreciate what Scott Gomez did for the New Jersey Devils early in his career," NHL.com senior managing editor Shawn P. Roarke said. "He won his first Cup as a rookie in 2000 after having an immediate impact on the club that regular season. He won another Cup in 2003 and missed, by a Game 7 loss, yet another Cup in 2001. He is still just 33 and he has already played 149 Stanley Cup Playoff games and counting."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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