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 Central Division on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Denis Savard (1980) – The Chicago Blackhawks got lucky at the 1980 NHL Draft when the Montreal Canadiens passed on Savard, a Montreal native, allowing him to fall to them at No. 3. Savard spent the first 10 seasons of his career with Chicago, breaking the 100-point barrier five times thanks to some of the most spectacular moves ever seen on an NHL rink. He finished his career with 473 goals and 1,338 points, the vast majority of them with the Hawks. Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane may pass him some day, but for now Savard remains the best first-rounder in franchise history.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Troy Murray (1980) -- Two rounds after landing Savard, the Blackhawks filled their No. 2 center slot by picking Murray, who came to Chicago full-time in 1982 after two seasons at the University of North Dakota, and gave the Blackhawks several excellent seasons, including a 45-goal, 99-point season in 1985-86. He finished his career with 230 goals and 584 points in 915 NHL games and now is a team broadcaster.
Best later-round pick: Dominik Hasek (1983) -- The Blackhawks spent a 10th-round pick on Hasek 30 years ago not knowing if he'd ever be able to leave Czechoslovakia. Hasek arrived in Chicago as a 26-year-old in 1990, backed up Ed Belfour a season later as Belfour led the Chicago to the Stanley Cup Final, then was traded to the Buffalo Sabres that summer. Unfortunately for Chicago, Hasek became perhaps the best 10th-round pick in draft history; the player they got from the Sabres, Stephane Beauregard, didn't last much longer in the NHL.
Biggest disappointment: Adam Bennett (1989) – There were big expectations in Chicago after the Blackhawks made Bennett, a defenseman from the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, the No. 6 pick 14 years ago -- but he never delivered. After scoring 18 and 21 goals in his final two seasons of junior hockey, Bennett did not score at all in two short stints with Chicago, nor did he generate much offense in the minors. Bennett did score three goals after being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in 1993, but was out of pro hockey by the time he was 25.
Best first-round pick: Rick Nash (2002) -- The fledgling Columbus Blue Jackets knew what they were doing when they chose Nash with first pick 11 years ago. Despite playing on a team that historically struggled to score, Nash had 289 goals in nine seasons in Columbus, including a high of 41 in 2003-04. He was named team captain in March 2008, and had 40 goals and a career-best 79 points in 2008-09 to lead the Jackets to their first playoff berth. He was dealt to the New York Rangers in the summer of 2012 and had 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games in 2012-13.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Steve Mason (2006) -- Mason, a third-round choice, was an instant hit as a rookie, leading the Jackets to their only playoff berth in 2009 and earning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie thanks to a 33-win season which also included a 2.29 goals-against average and 10 shutouts. He never came close to putting up those kinds of numbers after that, was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers late last season and signed a new contract with them.
Best later-round pick: Marc Methot (2003) -- Expansion teams need to find late-round gems, and the Blue Jackets have failed badly in this area. Among the few later-round players to see any kind of substantial playing time is Methot, a sixth-rounder who didn't become an NHL regular until 2008-09. He had seven goals and 47 points in 246 games in his final four seasons with the Blue Jackets before being traded to the Ottawa Senators in the summer of 2012.
Biggest disappointment: Nikita Filatov (2008) -- The Blue Jackets had big hopes for Filatov when they took him with the sixth pick five years ago, and those hopes got even bigger when he had a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild during a brief stint with Columbus in his first season. But Filatov and coach Ken Hitchcock didn't see eye to eye, and Filatov was allowed to return to Russia to play with his KHL team for the rest of the season. He returned to North America but split 2010-11 between Columbus and its AHL farm team in Springfield before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators in June 2011 for a third-round pick. He wound up being sent to Binghamton of the AHL, went home to Russia and played in the KHL in 2012-13.
Best first-round pick: Steve Yzerman (1983) -- The Red Wings actually wanted to choose Pat Lafontaine with the fourth pick, because he had played in the Detroit area and management felt he would help a struggling team sell tickets. But Lafontaine went to the New York Islanders at No. 3, meaning that the Red Wings had to "settle" for Yzerman. "Stevie Y" became the face of the franchise for a generation of Detroit fans, morphing from a high-scoring center on some non-winning teams to one of the best two-way centers on a franchise that won three Cups in six seasons. He moved into the front office after retirement before leaving three years ago to become GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nicklas Lidstrom (1989) -- The future Hall of Famer was the biggest prize in one of the great drafts of all time. Lidstrom made playing defense look easy throughout his 20 NHL seasons. He owns four Stanley Cup rings and seven Norris trophies, was the first European captain of a Cup winner, surpassed 1,000 points for his career early in 2009-10 and is in on the short list of the greatest defensemen of all time. His retirement last summer left a huge hole on the blue line that the Red Wings still are trying to fill.
Best later-round pick: Pavel Datsyuk (1998) -- It's incredible to think now that Datsyuk actually went two years without being drafted. The Red Wings finally took a flyer on him near the end of the sixth round in 1998, but didn't bring him from Russia to North America for another three years. He arrived in the NHL in the fall of 2001, just in time to help the Red Wings win the Cup the following spring, and he's become one of the best two-way forwards in NHL history, averaging 70 points in his 11 NHL seasons while winning the Selke Trophy three times and the Lady Byng four times. There is nothing he can't do on the ice, and he's a perfect fit for Detroit's style of play. He recently signed a three-year contract extension with the Red Wings.
Biggest disappointment: Kory Kocur (1988) -- Joey Kocur's cousin was a scorer, not a fighter -- the Red Wings chose him after a 34-goal season with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, and he put up 45 goals and 102 points in 1988-89 before turning pro. However, the scoring touch he showed in junior hockey never translated to the pros -- he had 18 and eight goals in two AHL seasons before being sent to Fort Wayne of the International Hockey League, where he had 25 and 21 goals before calling it a career in 1993 without coming close to joining his cousin in Detroit.
Best first-round pick: Ryan Suter (2003) – Suter and Shea Weber formed one of the NHL's best defensive tandems with the Predators until Suter opted to leave for the Minnesota Wild last summer after as an unrestricted free agent. Weber's big shot from the point got more attention, but Suter was far more than just the second banana in the partnership -- as he proved this season by being named a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Suter led the NHL in ice time in the regular season with 27:17 per game while putting up 32 points in 48 games.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Shea Weber (2003) -- Weber was the third of Nashville's second-round picks in 2003, but is the best of the three by far. Blessed with one of the NHL's biggest shots, Weber had 17 goals in 2006-07, slumped to six in an injury-plagued 2007-08, and then scored 23, 16, 16 and 19 goals in four seasons through 2011-12. Nashville matched a huge offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers last summer to keep its captain.
Best later-round pick: Pekka Rinne (2004) -- Rinne was eligible for the NHL Draft in 2001, but it wasn't until three years later that the Predators used an eighth-round pick on the 6-foot-5 Finnish goaltender. Rinne came to North America in 2005, spent two seasons with the Predators' AHL team in Milwaukee and became Nashville's starter in 2008-09. He owns the franchise record with 30 shutouts and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2011-12.
Biggest disappointment: Brian Finley (1999) -- Rinne might never have become a star if Finley had played the way the Predators expected him to. Nashville made him the sixth player taken in the 1999 NHL Draft, expecting him to become their goaltender of the future, but it never happened. Finley was forced to sit out the 2001-02 season due to a groin problem, and he had recurring injury issues throughout his career. Despite enjoying some success in the AHL, Finley played only two games in Nashville -- one in 2002-03 and the other in 2005-06. Boston signed him in the summer of 2006, but he played just two games and didn't get another contract.
Best first-round pick: Rod Brind'Amour (1988) -- The St. Louis Blues took Brind'Amour, a center, from Junior A hockey, with the No. 8 pick -- and he still was playing in the NHL more than two decades later, though he had long since left St. Louis. The Blues traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991 after he dropped from 26 goals and 61 points as a rookie to 17 and 49. The Flyers dealt him to the Carolina Hurricanes in 1999-2000, and Brind'Amour continued to put up numbers. He was team captain when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and he finished his career in 2010 with 452 goals and 1,184 points. He currently serves as an assistant coach in Carolina.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Brian Sutter (1976) -- The oldest of the six Sutter brothers was the first to make the NHL when he was selected by the Blues in the second round 37 years ago. As with all the Sutters, he was a tough, hard-nosed player (1,786 penalty minutes), who also had plenty of skill. He had at least 30 goals in six of seven seasons in the middle of his career, and finished with 303 goals. Not long after he retired in 1988, he was named coach of the Blues, a job he held for four seasons.
Best later-round pick: Doug Gilmour (1982) -- The Blues took Gilmour, an undersized center, in the seventh round after he had a 46-goal, 119-point season for Cornwall of the Ontario Hockey League. He put up 70 goals and 177 points in his final junior season before becoming an instant hit as a rookie in St. Louis -- fans loved his feistiness, and he also could put the puck in the net. The Blues traded him to the Calgary Flames after five seasons, and he became a key piece of their Cup-winning team in 1989. Gilmour wound up playing 1,474 games with seven teams, piling up 450 goals and 1,414 points before retiring in 2003. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
Biggest disappointment: Marek Schwarz (2004) -- The Blues took Schwarz, a Czech goaltender, with the 17th pick nine years ago, but he never made it full-time in the NHL. Schwarz yo-yoed between the Blues and the minor leagues after coming to the NHL in 2006, but played just six games for St. Louis, including a pair of relief stints totaling 15 minutes in 2008-09. He's played in his homeland and Finland since 2009-10.
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