If there's one lesson recent Stanley Cup winners have taught the teams trying to dethrone them, it's the value of building from within. The core of championship teams continues to be players who are drafted and developed by that franchise.
But finding the right talent isn't always easy. Every team has had its ups and downs since the draft began in 1963. Here's a look at the hits (and some of the misses) for the five teams in the Atlantic Division on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Martin Brodeur (1990) -- It seems incomprehensible now, but Brodeur wasn't the first goalie picked in his draft year (the Calgary Flames chose Trevor Kidd nine picks earlier). The New Jersey Devils took Brodeur with the 20th selection and got the winningest goaltender in NHL history, as well as the backbone of three Stanley Cup winners. Brodeur will retire with virtually every goaltending record worth having. That's pretty good for a player who was passed over by 19 teams.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrik Elias (1994) -- The Devils took Elias, a forward from the Czech Republic, in the second round (No. 51) in 1994. While first-rounder Vadim Sharifjanov never panned out, Elias has become a four-time 30-goal scorer and the leading point producer in franchise history. He owns a pair of Stanley Cup rings and has 930 career points, including a franchise single-season best 96 in 2000-01 and 36 in 48 games this season.
Best later-round pick: Steve Sullivan (1994) -- The Devils nabbed Sullivan, a speedy center, in the ninth round after he scored 51 goals with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. They gave Sullivan two seasons in the minors, with a couple of quick trips to New Jersey, before trading him to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Doug Gilmour deal in 1997. Sullivan has 290 goals and 747 points in 1,011 games despite battling injuries for much of his career; ironically, he wound up returning to the Devils at the NHL Trade Deadline in April.
Biggest disappointment: Neil Brady (1986) -- The Devils whiffed on the third pick in the 1986 NHL Draft when they chose Brady, a center from Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League. He scored twice in 29 games spread across three seasons for the Devils before being traded to the Ottawa Senators in 1992. Brady's NHL resume consists of nine goals in 89 games.
Best first-round pick: Mike Bossy (1977) -- Back troubles at age 30 did what no opponent was able to do -- keep Bossy from putting the puck in the net. Bossy became the first player in NHL history to reach the 50-goal mark as a rookie, and he just kept on scoring, piling up 573 goals in 10 seasons until his back wouldn't let him play anymore. He had nine 50-goal seasons and was the top gun in the New York Islanders' dynasty of the early 1980s.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bryan Trottier (1974) -- The Islanders grabbed one future Hall of Famer when they took Clark Gillies with the fourth pick in 1974; they snagged another when they took Trottier one round later. Trottier scored exactly 500 goals for the Islanders while leading them to four consecutive Stanley Cups and a record 19 consecutive playoff series wins. For good measure, he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins and earned two more rings as a checker in 1991 and 1992.
Best later-round pick: Vladimir Malakhov (1989) -- When the Iron Curtain fell, the Isles took a 10th-round flyer on Malakhov, a young Russian defenseman with a big shot. He was a sensation as a rookie in 1992-93, helping the Islanders end Pittsburgh's championship reign. Despite several injuries, Malakhov had a lengthy, productive career that included a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils.
Biggest disappointment: Scott Scissons (1990) -- The first five players chosen in the 1990 NHL Draft went on to play at least 900 games in the League; one (Jaromir Jagr) remains active. The sixth pick was Scissons, a center from the Saskatoon Blades who was coming off a 40-goal, 87-point season. He spent one more season in Saskatoon (earning a one-game NHL call-up) and another with the Canadian National Team before heading for the Islanders' American Hockey League team in Troy, N.Y. Scissons played in one Stanley Cup Playoff game for New York in 1993 and one regular-season game the following season, but didn't score a point before a shoulder injury stemming from his time in junior hockey forced him to retire in 1995.
Best first-round pick: Brian Leetch (1986) -- The Rangers plucked Leetch out of a Connecticut prep school 27 summers ago, then waited while he spent a season at Boston College and played for the United States at the 1988 Winter Olympics. He proved to be more than worth the wait: Leetch is the best defenseman in team history, arguably the best U.S.-born player to skate in the NHL -- and he led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup while becoming the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Richter (1985) -- The Rangers snatched Richter, a Philadelphia-area native, from under the noses of the hometown Flyers in the second round. He was a teammate of Leetch on the 1988 U.S. Olympic squad, and they joined the Rangers together after the Games in Calgary. Richter's 301 wins are the most in team history, and he's arguably the best goaltender produced in the United States.
Best later-round pick: Henrik Lundqvist (2000) -- Lundqvist was a complete unknown when he came to training camp in 2005 -- at most, the seventh-rounder from five years earlier was expected to play at Hartford of the AHL while getting used to North America. Instead, he made the team, took the No. 1 job and has been one of the NHL's top goaltenders ever since. Lundqvist is the first goaltender in NHL history to begin his career with seven consecutive 30-win seasons. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 2012 and was a finalist for the honor again this season.
Biggest disappointment: Hugh Jessiman (2003) -- The 2003 NHL Draft was one of the best, but not because of Jessiman; until he got into a couple of games with the Florida Panthers in 2010-11, the former Dartmouth star had been the only first-rounder from that year who had yet to play in the NHL. Jessiman, picked No. 12, appeared to have all the tools for success but never made it, and ultimately was dealt to the Nashville Predators. He spent 2012-13 with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League and has played nearly 500 AHL games – though he's never totaled more than 20 goals or 47 points.
Best first-round pick: Brian Propp (1979) -- Propp was among the NHL's most consistent scorers for a decade with the Philadelphia Flyers, never finishing with fewer than 26 goals and scoring 40 or more four times. He also was responsible defensively, finishing plus-311 with Philadelphia while helping the Flyers make three trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He ended his career with 425 goals and 1,004 points in 1,016 games.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bobby Clarke (1969) -- Teams shied away from Clarke, a feisty center from Flin Flon of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League, because he was a diabetic. The Flyers took him in the second round of the third draft in franchise history and got a future Hall of Famer whose offensive skills and will to win were the backbone of the only two Cup-winning teams in franchise history.
Best later-round pick: Ron Hextall (1982) -- The Flyers had no idea when they picked Hextall in the sixth round 31 years ago that they were getting one of the best goalies in team history. The son of former NHL forward Bryan Hextall Jr., he won the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as a rookie in 1986-87. He finished his career with 296 victories in 13 NHL seasons, 240 of them in 11 seasons with Philadelphia. Hextall was one of the best stickhandlers among goaltenders and became the first goalie in NHL history to shoot and score a goal.
Biggest disappointment: Ryan Sittler (1992) -- The Flyers took the son of Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler with the seventh pick in 1992, waited while he played two seasons at the University of Michigan, then saw him turn into one of the great disappointments of all time. Sittler never played an NHL game and was out of pro hockey by age 25.
Best first-round pick: Mario Lemieux (1984) -- Lemieux started his career by stripping the puck from future Hall of Famer Ray Bourque and scoring on his first NHL shift. Goaltenders couldn't stop him, but injuries and illness were another matter. Had Lemieux's health been better, it would have been interesting to see whether he would have been able to surpass Wayne Gretzky's offensive records. As it was, Lemieux saved the franchise in the early 1980s and led Pittsburgh to its first two Stanley Cups, in 1991 and 1992. Despite his maladies, he totaled 690 goals and 1,723 points in 915 games. The NHL may never have had a player who had more physical talent.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Recchi (1988) -- Recchi's size (5-foot-10) probably kept him from being picked higher than the fourth round despite a 61-goal, 154-point season with Kamloops of the WHL in his final season of junior hockey. He had 50 goals in his first minor-league season, scored 30 as a rookie with the Penguins in 1989-90, and didn't stop scoring until announcing his retirement minutes after helping Boston end a 39-year Stanley Cup drought in 2011. Recchi finished his career with 577 goals, 1,533 points, and three Stanley Cup rings.
Best later-round pick: Patrick Lalime (1993) -- The Penguins grabbed Lalime in the sixth round and had to be stunned at the splash he made as a rookie in 1996-97 -- Lalime set an NHL record by going 14-0-2 in his first 16 decisions. He finished 21-12-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average and three shutouts while making the All-Rookie team. After a contract dispute he spent two seasons in the minors before returning to the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in 1999. He had 36- and 39-win seasons with Ottawa and ended his career in 2011 with 200 victories in 444 regular-season games.
Biggest disappointment: Robert Dome (1997) -- Much was expected when the Penguins took Dome, a highly-regarded Slovak teenager, with the 17th pick in the first round in 1997. Dome had come to North America and spent two seasons playing in the International Hockey League (then a top-level minor league) to get ready for the NHL. But he never panned out, totaling seven goals and 14 points in parts of two seasons with Pittsburgh. He left North America after the 2003-04 season and spent the rest of his career playing in Europe.
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