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 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 eight teams in the Atlantic Division on draft day:
Best first-round pick: Ray Bourque (1979) -- The Bruins made Bourque the eighth player taken at the 1979 NHL Draft; by the following spring he was a First-Team All-Star and the Calder Trophy winner. Bourque continued to pile up goals, assists and honors for 20 seasons until being traded by the Bruins to the Colorado Avalanche in March 2000; 15 months later he retired after helping his new team win a Stanley Cup. His 410 goals, 1,169 assists and 1,579 points all are career-bests for NHL defensemen. Few players in any sport played at such a high level for so long.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Howe (1974) -- Gordie's son was drafted by the Bruins but signed with Houston of the World Hockey Association, where he played with his father. The Howes moved to the Hartford Whalers and were with that franchise when it joined the NHL in 1979. Mark Howe was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers three years later. He spent most of his career in Philadelphia before finishing with three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, his father's old team. Howe never played for the Bruins, but the idea of Howe and Bourque on the same blue line in Boston would have been mind-boggling.
Best later-round pick: Hal Gill (1993) -- The Bruins made the Concord, Mass., native an eighth-round pick (No. 207) 20 years ago, waited while he spent four seasons on the blue line at Providence College and had to be surprised when he became a regular in his first pro season. Gill has 36 goals and 184 points in 1,108 NHL games, but his size, strength and abilities as a shut-down defender have kept him in the NHL despite his offensive limitations.
Biggest disappointment: Johnathan Aitken (1996) -- The Bruins made Aitken, a big defenseman from Western Canada, the eighth pick of the 1996 draft but wound up getting all of three games from him. Aitken never had more than nine goals or 34 points in junior hockey, and he never managed more than two goals or 14 points during a pro career that saw him play more than 400 games in the minors and two seasons in Europe. He managed one assist during a 41-game stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003-04, giving him one point in 44 NHL games.
Best first-round pick: Gilbert Perreault (1970) -- The first draft pick in franchise history remains the best. Perreault gave the Sabres a star to build around, and as the team improved he became one of the NHL's elite players. Perreault centered the famed "French Connection" line that led Buffalo to the 1975 Stanley Cup Final. He spent his whole career with Buffalo, finishing with 512 goals and 1,326 points on the way to a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Danny Gare (1974) -- Gare scored 45 and 68 goals in his final two junior seasons, then wasted little time showing those totals weren't a fluke by scoring 31 as a rookie to help the Sabres make the Cup Final in 1975. He became a 50-goal scorer in his second season, had a career-best 56 goals in 1979-80, when he was named a Second-Team All-Star, and came back with 46 the next season. Gare finished his career with 354 goals and 685 points in 827 games.
Best later-round pick: Ryan Miller (1999) -- The youngest of the hockey-playing Millers has followed family tradition by having an excellent NHL career after starting as a fifth-round draft pick (No. 138). He spent three seasons at Michigan State and most of three seasons in the American Hockey League before becoming the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender, a position he held until being traded to the St. Louis Blues in late February. Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2010 after being named MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics. He's six wins short of 300 for his career.
Biggest disappointment: Marek Zagrapan (2005) -- The Sabres took Zagrapan, a center from Slovakia, with the 13th pick nine years ago after he scored 32 goals in his first season for Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He improved to 35 goals in his second season with Chicoutimi, then spent three seasons with the Sabres' AHL affiliates before opting to return to Europe, citing a lack of opportunity with Buffalo, and has played in Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic since then.
Best first-round pick: Steve Yzerman (1983) -- The Red Wings were hoping to land high-scoring center 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 Islanders one pick earlier, leaving Yzerman to the Red Wings. Yzerman 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 the Stanley Cup three times six seasons. He moved into the Red Wings' front office after retirement before leaving in 2010 to become vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nicklas Lidstrom (1989) -- The greatest defenseman in franchise history ranks as the biggest prize in one of the great drafts of all time. Lidstrom nearly was flawless in his 20 NHL seasons. He was a member of four Stanley Cup-winning teams and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman seven times, more than anyone not named Bobby Orr. Lidstrom also was the first European captain of a Cup winner, surpassed 1,000 points for his career early in 2009-10 and is in the conversation when the topic turns to the greatest defensemen of all time.
Best later-round pick: Pavel Datsyuk (1998) -- It's hard to believe Datsyuk actually went two years without being drafted. The Red Wings finally took a flyer on him near the end of the sixth round (No. 171) in 1998, but they didn't bring him from Russia to North America for another three years. Datsyuk arrived in the fall of 2001, just in time to help the Wings win the Stanley Cup the following spring, and he's become one of the best two-way players in NHL history, averaging nearly a point per game in 12 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.
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, his scoring touch in junior never translated to the pros; he had 18 and eight goals in two AHL seasons, and didn't do much better with Fort Wayne of the International Hockey League, where he had 25 and 21 goals before calling it a career in 1993.
Best first-round pick: Ed Jovanovski (1994) -- The Panthers made Jovanovski the first pick of the 1994 draft. He made his NHL debut during the 1995-96 season and was instrumental in Florida's stunning run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. Florida dealt him to the Vancouver Canucks in 1999 as part of the trade that brought Pavel Bure to the Panthers, and he later signed with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent. He stayed in the desert until re-signing with Florida again in the summer of 2011 and helping the Panthers end a 12-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought the following spring. Throughout his career he's been a productive top-pair defenseman, though he's never put up the kind of offensive numbers some expected.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Kristian Huselius (1997) -- The Panthers haven't done particularly well in rounds 2-4. Their best selection has been Huselius, who had two 20-goal seasons for the Panthers, then struggled and was traded to the Calgary Flames. His best season came with the Flames in 2006-07, when he had 34 goals and 43 assists in 81 games. He had 25 goals and 66 points for Calgary the following season, then 21 and 23 goals in two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets before injuries cut short his career. He finished with 190 goals and 451 points in 662 regular-season games.
Best later-round pick: Jaroslav Spacek (1998) -- Spacek saw a lot of NHL cities after the Panthers took him in the fifth round (No. 117) 16 years ago. The Czech Republic native spent his first two-plus seasons with Florida and then played for six other NHL clubs before retiring from the NHL two years ago after 880 games. Spacek never was a star, but he played more than 100 games for five teams and helped the Edmonton Oilers make the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.
Biggest disappointment: Denis Shvidki (1999) -- Florida took the Russian-born right wing with the 12th pick 15 years ago after he put up 35 goals and 94 points for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League in 1998-99. Shvidki improved to 41 goals and 106 points with Barrie in 1999-2000, then had 15 goals in 34 games for Louisville of the AHL in 2000-01, earning a half-season in Florida, where he scored six times in 43 games. But after bouncing between the Panthers and the minors for three more seasons and scoring five goals in 33 NHL games, Shvidki went back to Russia and played there for five seasons.
Best first-round pick: Guy Lafleur (1971) -- Sam Pollock, the Canadiens general manager in the 1960s and '70s, had a knack for keeping his team fresh by sending useful non-stars to weak teams in exchange for high draft selections in an effort to produce new generations of premium talent. That's how the Canadiens got the chance to draft Lafleur with the No. 1 pick in '71. Lafleur went on to become the backbone of the Montreal dynasty in the late 1970s. He was one of the most feared scorers in the NHL through most of the decade and cruised into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrick Roy (1984) – Roy was an unheralded netminder from Granby in the QMJHL when the Canadiens took him in the third round (No. 51). Roy stepped into the starting job in 1985-86 and led the team to the Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. He did it again in 1993, helping the Canadiens to their most recent championship. Two years later he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and led his new team to the only two Cups in franchise history, in 1996 and 2001. Roy finished his career in 2003 with a League-best 551 regular-season wins (a mark later surpassed by Martin Brodeur) and 151 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (still an NHL record). He returned to the NHL this season as a coach and led the Avalanche to the Central Division title.
Best later-round pick: Mark Streit (2004) -- The Canadiens got far more than they could have imagined from Streit, a ninth-rounder (No. 262) who has become an NHL regular on the blue line. He was a key to the Canadiens' League-leading power play in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and they missed him badly when he signed with the New York Islanders in the summer of 2008. Streit had four solid seasons with the Islanders (missing another due to injury), and was productive for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013-14. He's arguably the best Swiss-born player in NHL history.
Biggest disappointment: Brent Bilodeau (1991) -- Bilodeau had a long hockey career after being selected with the 17th pick in 1991, but none of it was in the NHL. He played for nine franchises after turning pro two years after being drafted, running the minor-league gamut, with stops in the AHL, IHL, ECHL and Western Canadian Hockey League, nearly 800 games in all, before retiring as a player in 2005.
Best first-round pick: Marian Hossa (1997) -- Hossa was part of the second generation of talent that helped turn the Senators into a winner. He had four consecutive 30-goal seasons before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005, a deal that brought back two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley. After short stops with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, he helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and again in 2013. He joined the 400-goal club in 2011-12 and will enter the 2014-15 season five points short of 1,000 for his career.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Fisher (1998) -- Fisher, a second-round pick (No. 44) 16 years ago, has been one of the NHL's better two-way centers for several years. After a slow start he had 22, 22 and 23 goals from 2005-06 to 2007-08. He slumped to 13 in 2008-09 but bounced back with 25 goals and 53 points in 2009-10 before being traded to the Nashville Predators midway through 2010-11. Fisher had five goals and 10 points in 20 games during Ottawa's run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and has been a 20-goal scorer in two of the past three seasons.
Best later-round pick: Daniel Alfredsson (1994) -- Alfredsson was a little-known Swedish forward when the Senators picked him in the sixth round (No. 133) 20 years ago. He went on to become the best player in franchise history, piling up 426 goals and 1,108 points in 1,178 games while helping the Senators grow from a laughingstock into a team that made the playoffs 14 times in his 17 seasons before he signed with the Detroit Red Wings last summer.
Biggest disappointment: Mathieu Chouinard (1998/2000) -- The Senators were so determined to get Chouinard, a goaltender, that they picked him in the first round (No. 15) in 1998 and in the second round in 2000 (No. 45) after failing to sign him the first time. He spent three seasons in the minors, after which the Senators opted to let him become a free agent. Chouinard signed with the Los Angeles Kings and played one NHL game, a two-minute relief stint in 2003-04.
Best first-round pick: Steven Stamkos (2008) -- Vincent Lecavalier owns all the Lightning goal-scoring records, but Stamkos figures to obliterate them. The first player chosen in the 2008 draft already has 51- and 60-goal seasons, and he scored 25 goals in 37 games in 2013-14 despite missing nearly four months with a broken leg. At age 24 he has 233 goals and figures to remain one of the elite goal-scorers in the NHL for years to come.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Brad Richards (1998) -- The Lightning chose Richards two rounds after taking Lecavalier, his junior-hockey teammate. Richards had his ninth 20-goal season in 2013-14, with the New York Rangers. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy after totaling 26 points in 23 games during Tampa Bay's run to the 2004 Stanley Cup and helped the Rangers to the Final this spring.
Best later-round pick: Pavel Kubina (1996) -- Tampa Bay took Kubina, a defenseman from the Czech Republic, in the seventh round (No. 179); by 1999 he had turned into a top-four defenseman with size and a big shot. He hit double-figures in goals five times, including 17 in Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup season of 2003-04. Kubina signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2006 and was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009-10, but returned to the Lightning in 2010-11 before being traded to the Philadelphia in February 2012. He played 980 NHL games and spent 2012-13 playing in Switzerland before retiring.
Biggest disappointment: Alexander Svitov (2001) -- The Lightning took Svitov with the No. 3 pick 13 years ago. He came to North America in 2002 and the Lightning traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets the following season. Svitov fared no better with Columbus, splitting time between the Blue Jackets and their AHL team in Syracuse. In 2007 he returned to Russia and has played there for the past seven seasons.
Best first-round pick: Darryl Sittler (1970) -- Sittler was the backbone of the Maple Leafs during the 1970s and was the first genuine star drafted by Toronto. Beginning in 1973-74 he scored at least 36 goals in eight consecutive seasons, with a high of 45 in 1977-78, when he also set a career best with 117 points. He also owns the NHL single-game record with 10 points (six goals, four assists), set Feb. 7, 1976. The combination of Sittler and Lanny McDonald was one of the NHL's most dangerous duos for much of the 1970s.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Yanic Perreault (1991) -- The Maple Leafs took Perreault with their first pick in the 1991 draft, a third-rounder (No. 47), and traded him to the Los Angeles Kings in 1994 after one season. However, they brought him back twice before his career ended in 2008. Perreault wasn't a big scorer but did have seven 20-goal seasons and finished with 247 career goals in 859 games. Later in his career he became better known as one of the NHL's best at winning faceoffs, a skill that probably added a few seasons to his career.
Best later-round pick: Tomas Kaberle (1996) -- The Maple Leafs picked Kaberle in the eighth round (No. 204) and had to wait two years for him to come to North America from the Czech Republic. Once he arrived he was among the NHL's most consistent offensive defensemen for a long time. Kaberle was one of the best point men of his generation. He was most effective when paired with a big shooter; Kaberle and Bryan McCabe were an excellent pairing with Toronto. Kaberle earned a Stanley Cup ring with Boston in 2011 and finished his NHL career with 87 goals and 563 points in 984 games.
Biggest disappointment: Brandon Convery (1992) -- The Maple Leafs and their fans had big expectations for Convery after Toronto selected him with the eighth pick in the first round 22 years ago. He appeared to be on his way to a solid NHL career after scoring 34 goals in the AHL in 1994-95 but never was able to take the next step. Convery managed 17 points in 50 games with Toronto during parts of two seasons, had brief trials with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, and played his last NHL game before his 25th birthday, though he played four more seasons in Europe.
Follow John Kreiser on Twitter: @jkreiser77NHL
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