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.
When the Philadelphia Flyers arrived at the 1990 NHL Draft, they had a skinny Czechoslovakian forward at the top of their board, and when their turn with the fourth pick came up, Jaromir Jagr was there waiting for them. Instead, Flyers general manager Russ Farwell got nervous about picking a European player so high and opted for Canadian center Mike Ricci.
With the next pick, the Pittsburgh Penguins were more than happy to select Jagr. Two Stanley Cups and a treasure trove of trophies later, NHL.com's Dream Draft panel voted Jagr the best No. 5 first-round pick.
Jagr made an immediate impact in Pittsburgh on and off the ice. He played a key role in the team winning the Stanley Cup in his first two seasons, and his productivity -- along with his iconic, thick, black mullet -- made him one of the most popular players in team history.
Jagr moved from complementary piece to a starring role in 1992-93 with the first of back-to-back 90-point seasons. In the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, he won his first of five Art Ross trophies with 70 points in 48 games.
Jagr was even better in 1995-96, setting career-highs with 62 goals and 149 points, each second to teammate Mario Lemieux among League leaders.
With Lemieux retiring after that season, Jagr became the Penguins' top star. He hit the 100-point mark again in 1997-98, with his 102 leading the League and winning the first of four straight Art Ross trophies. His best season in that span was 1998-99, when he had 127 points and was second with 44 goals. He won the Hart Trophy as League MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the League's most outstanding player as voted by the players.
He won the Pearson/Ross duo in 1999-2000, and in 2000-01 won his fifth Art Ross with 121 points, to go with 52 goals. But with the Penguins unable to meet Jagr's contract demands, he was traded to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001, ending an 11-season run in Pittsburgh that saw him total 439 goals, 640 assists and 1,079 points in 806 games, numbers that rank second to Lemieux in each category.
Jagr signed a seven-year, $77 million contract, then led the Capitals in scoring in each of his two full seasons in Washington. However, he never scored more than 80 points, got the team into the playoffs once, and with the Capitals looking to cut costs, was traded to the New York Rangers on Jan. 23, 2004.
After playing in Europe during the 2004-05 lockout, Jagr returned to New York re-energized and finished second in the League with 54 goals and 126 points, each a single-season Rangers record. He finished second in voting for the Hart Trophy and won the Pearson for the third time.
Named captain prior to the 2006-07 season, he responded by scoring a goal on his first shift, 29 seconds into a season-opening 5-2 win against the Capitals at Madison Square Garden. He went on to have his 10th 90-point season and led the team with 30 goals, 66 assists and 96 points, eighth-highest in the League.
Along the way he scored his 600th goal and 1,500th point, and tied Mike Gartner's NHL record with his 15th straight 30-goal season.
Jagr left the Rangers after the 2007-08 season and spent the next three playing in Russia. He returned to the NHL at age 39 with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and had 54 points in 73 games while serving as a respected leader. He signed with the Dallas Stars in the summer of 2012 and was leading the team with 14 goals and 26 points when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. Four months past his 41st birthday, Jagr remains a vital contributor to the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Jagr ranks 10th in NHL history in goals (681) and eighth in points (1,688), and is one of 12 players with more than 1,000 assists. He's the leading scorer among non-Canadian players.
"Happily, for various reasons, the perception of Jaromir Jagr the person has now evolved to match the reality: that he is a hard worker who deeply cares about the game and his teammates," NHL Vice President of Public Relations and former Rangers beat writer John Dellapina said. "The talent never has been in question, an extremely rare combination of dazzling skill and overwhelming strength. And anybody with access to an NHL Guide and Record Book must acknowledge that there have been only a handful of players in League history who have been more relentlessly productive.
"There were some brilliant players chosen fifth overall. Jagr is a cut above. Jagr is special."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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