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Best and worst by draft position

Thursday, 06.19.2008 / 9:00 AM / Columns

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

OTTAWA -- A look at the best picks in the history of the NHL Entry Draft, by where they were selected in the first round. (Up and coming includes players from 2003-07)

No. 1 – Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh, 1984) -- If the Penguins had not drafted Lemieux in 1984, the franchise likely would have left Pittsburgh two decades ago. Lemieux was brilliant from the day he arrived, and eventually the Penguins built a supporting cast that helped him lead the franchise to back-to-back Stanley Cups. Had he stayed healthy, it would have been interesting to see whether he could have broken some of Wayne Gretzky's scoring records. Perhaps the most physically talented player in NHL history.

Runners-up: Guy Lafleur (1971), Denis Potvin (1973)
Up and coming: Alex Ovechkin (2004), Sidney Crosby (2005)
Disappointment: Greg Joly (1974)

No. 2 – Brendan Shanahan (New Jersey, 1987) -- Still a useful player 21 years after he was drafted, Shanahan had 23 goals this past season with the Rangers, the fifth stop in a career that will end in the Hockey Hall of Fame. One of the great power forwards of his (or any era), with 650 goals, 1,340 points, 2,460 PIM and three Stanley Cups.

Runners-up:
Marcel Dionne (1971), Chris Pronger (1993)
Up and coming: Eric Staal (2003), Evgeni Malkin (2004)
Disappointment: Dave Chyzowski (1989)

No. 3 – Scott Niedermayer (New Jersey, 1991) -- As swift and smooth a skater as any defenseman in the last two decades, Niedermayer's offensive totals were held down somewhat because he played much of his career with the defense-first Devils. But there were benefits – he helped the Devils to three Stanley Cups, and then captained Anaheim to another in 2006. One of Lou Lamoriello's greatest trades – he dealt defenseman Tom Kurvers to Toronto in 1989 for the pick that turned into Niedermayer.

Runners-up: Denis Savard (1980), Pat LaFontaine (1983)
Up and coming: Jack Johnson (2005), Jonathan Toews (2006) 
Disappointment: Neil Brady (1986)
   
No. 4 – Steve Yzerman (Detroit, 1983) --Wings GM Jim Devellano actually had hoped to get Pat LaFontaine with the No. 4 pick in 1983 because LaFontaine had played locally and might help sell tickets. Instead, he had to "settle" for Yzerman, who came into the NHL as a high scorer but later showed he was willing to give up a few points to get some more wins. The result: Three Stanley Cups in six years, all of them with "Stevie Y" wearing the captain's "C."

Runners-up: Mike Gartner (1979), Ron Francis (1981)
Up and coming: Nikolai Zherdev (2003), Niklas Backstrom (2006)
Disappointment: Alexandre Volchkov (1996)

No. 5 – Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh, 1990) -- The Penguins missed a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in 1990 when they lost their season finale to Buffalo in overtime. Their consolation prize was Jagr, a Czech teenager who turned into the perfect sidekick for Lemieux and was a key to the Penguins' back-to-back Cup wins in 1991 and 1992. He has five NHL scoring titles, a Hart Trophy and seven First-Team All-Star berths, as well as five 100-point seasons. Few players have matched his combination of speed, skill and power.
No. 6 – Peter Forsberg (Philadelphia, 1991) -- The Flyers drafted Forsberg with the No. 6 pick, but let him mature in Sweden before trading him to Quebec a year later in the Eric Lindros deal. Forsberg became one of the NHL's toughest skill players, a center who could beat you with a shot or a pass as well as with his physical style of play. Imagine how good he'd have been if injuries hadn't slowed him down.

Runners-up: Phil Housley (1982), Vincent Damphousse (1986)
Up and coming: Milan Michalek (2003), Sam Gagner (2007)
Disappointment: Daniel Tkaczuk (1997)

No. 7 – Bernie Federko (St. Louis, 1976) -- At 6-foot and 178 pounds, Federko hardly was a physical presence, but he more than made up for any lack of physicality with his hockey skills, which helped him pile up 369 goals and 1,130 points in exactly 1,000 games on the way to the Hall of Fame. He was the first player in NHL history to earn at least 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons (1978-79 to 1987-88).

Runners-up: Bill Barber (1972), Shane Doan (1995)
Up and coming: Ryan Suter (2003), Rostislav Olesz (2004)
Disappointment: Ryan Sittler (1992)

No. 8 – Ray Bourque (Boston, 1979) -- Bourque stepped right into the NHL from junior hockey in 1979 and didn't step out until he skated away as a Stanley Cup champion with Colorado in 2001. Bourque holds all the NHL career scoring marks for defensemen (410 goals, 1,169 assists, 1,579 points), was a First-Team All-Star 13 times – including 2000-01, when he turned 41 – and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman five times. Bourque rarely was flashy, but almost always brilliant.

Runners-up: Grant Fuhr (1981), Jeremy Roenick (1988)
Up and coming: Braydon Coburn (2003), Peter Mueller (2006)
Disappointment: Rocky Trottier (1982)

No. 9 – Brian Leetch (New York Rangers, 1986) -- Arguably the greatest U.S.-born player in NHL history. Leetch joined the Rangers after a year at Boston College and a stint with the 1988 U.S. Olympic team and never stopped putting up points. He won the 1989 Calder Trophy, took home the Norris Trophy twice and led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup (their first since 1940) while becoming the first (and still only) American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP.

Runners-up: Cam Neely (1983), Rod Brind'Amour (1988)
Up and coming: Dion Phaneuf (2003), James Sheppard (2006)
Disappointment: Brett Lindros (1994)

No. 10 – Teemu Selanne (Winnipeg, 1988) -- No player has had a rookie season equal to Selanne, who announced his arrival in 1992 by shattering NHL records for first-year players with 76 goals and 132 points. He led the NHL in goal-scoring three times and was good enough to score 48 goals and 94 points at age 36, helping the Anaheim Ducks to their first Stanley Cup. If he doesn't come back in the fall, he'll retire with 552 goals and 1,158 points in 1,067 games.

Runners-up: Steve Vickers (1971), Bobby Holik (1989)
Up and coming: Andrei Kostitsyn (2003), Michael Frolik (2006)
Disappointment: Mikhail Yakubov (2000)

No. 11 – Jarome Iginla (Dallas, 1995) -- Six months after they drafted him, the Stars had to sacrifice Iginla to get Joe Nieuwendyk from Calgary, and the deal helped them win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1999. The long-term cost, though, has been steep: Iginla has gone on to become one of the NHL's top stars. He's won the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Lester B. Pearson trophies and was a Hart Trophy finalist this season after reaching the 50-goal mark for the second time and breaking the Flames' franchise record for goals in a career.

Runners-up: Brian Rolston (1991), Brendan Witt (1993)
Up and coming: Jeff Carter (2003), Anze Kopitar (2005)
Disappointment: David Cooper (1992)

No. 12 – Gary Roberts (Calgary, 1984) -- If it seems like Roberts has been around forever, that's because he has – at least by hockey standards. Roberts won a Stanley Cup with Calgary at age 23, scored 53 goals three years later, missed most of three seasons recovering from a serious neck injury, and still has managed to score 434 goals and 903 points. At age 42, he was a key locker-room presence in Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Runners-up: Kenny Jonsson (1993), Marian Hossa (1997)
Up and coming: Marc Staal (2005), Bryan Little (2006)
Disappointment: Josh Holden (1996)

No. 13 – Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Hartford, 1995) -- The last first-round pick in Whalers history had to make a couple of stops before finding success, but Giguere has been one of the keys to the Anaheim Ducks’ rise to prominence in recent years. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP in 2003 when Anaheim lost the Stanley Cup Final to New Jersey, and could have won again in 2006 after the Ducks topped Ottawa for their first Stanley Cup.

Runners-up: Mattias Ohlund (1994), Ales Hemsky (2001)
Up and coming: Dustin Brown (2003), Drew Stafford (2004)
Disappointment: Michael Henrich (1998)

No. 14 – Rick Middleton (New York Rangers, 1973) -- Middleton came up as the Rangers were entering a rebuilding phase and was sacrificed in a trade that brought Phil Esposito's long-time sidekick, Ken Hodge, to Broadway in 1976. It probably was the worst trade in Rangers history: Middleton had seven straight 30-goal seasons went on to score more than 400 goals with the Bruins, while Hodge lasted less than two more years in the NHL.

Runners-up: Brian Propp (1979), Sergei Gonchar (1992)
Up and coming: Brent Seabrook (2003), Kevin Shattenkirk (2007)
Disappointment: Jim Malone (1980)

No. 15 – Mike Bossy (New York Islanders, 1977) -- Twelve teams (including the Rangers and Toronto twice each) passed on Bossy because he was regarded as just another sniper from the run-and-gun Quebec League. Coach Al Arbour told GM Bill Torrey he could teach Bossy to play defense; he did, and the rest is history. Bossy scored 573 goals in just 10 seasons and was a key to the Isles’ four consecutive Cup wins before being forced to retire with back problems. Had Bossy stayed healthy, he – not Wayne Gretzky – likely would have broken Gordie Howe's all-time record for goals.

Runners up: Al MacInnis (1981), Joe Sakic (1987)
Up and coming: Robert Nilsson (2003), Alexander Radulov (2004)
Disappointment: Scott Kelman (1999)

No. 16 – Dave Andreychuk (Buffalo, 1982) -- At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Andreychuk was a presence in front of the net for more than two decades. He was a big scorer in the first half of his career, reaching the 30-goal mark seven times with Buffalo and getting 53 for Toronto in 1993-94, then remained a consistent scorer for another decade while improving his all-around game. He also became a leader and was captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Bolts won the Stanley Cup in 2004. He retired with 640 goals and 1,338 points.

Runners-up: Al Secord (1978), Markus Naslund (1991)
Up and coming: Steve Bernier (2003); Colton Gillies (2007)
Disappointment: Ty Jones (1997)

No. 17 – Bobby Clarke (Philadelphia, 1969) -- Clarke made it to the second round in 1969 largely because teams didn't want to take a chance on drafting a diabetic. The Flyers finally called his name at No. 17 and got more than they ever could have hoped for. The diabetes became a non-issue as Clarke became a star. He was named team captain at 23, at the time the youngest player ever to get the "C." Clarke's drive and skill led the Flyers to Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, and he retired in 1984 with 1,210 points, three Hart trophies as League MVP and a hatful of other honors.

Runners-up: Brent Sutter (1980), Kevin Hatcher (1984)
Up and coming: Zach Parise (2003), Martin Hanzal (2005)
Disappointment: Brent Bilodeau (1991)

No. 18 – Glen Murray (Boston, 1991) -- Murray has had two stints with the Bruins (sandwiched around time with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles), and suffice it to say the second was better than the first. Murray never had scored 30 goals in a season before returning to the Bruins in 2001-02 and then did it three times in a row, including a high of 44 in 2002-03. A solid player for a long time, he’s totaled 337 goals and 651 points in 1,009 NHL games.

Runners-up: Ken Daneyko (1982), Petr Sykora (1995)
Up and coming: Kyle Chipchura (2004), Ryan Parent (2005)
Disappointment: Jesper Mattsson (1993)

No. 19 – Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990) -- The Jets grabbed Tkachuk in 1990 and he made the NHL after one season at Boston University. Tkachuk became one of the NHL's best power forwards, a two-time 50-goal scorer and the first U.S.-born player to lead the NHL in goals when he had 52 in 1996-97. He continued scoring after being dealt to St. Louis in 2000-01, and reached the 500-goal mark on the final day of the 2007-08 season.

Runners-up: Craig Ramsay (1971), Olaf Kolzig (1989)
Up and coming: Ryan Getzlaf (2003), Lauri Korpikoski (2004)
Disappointment: Matthieu Descoteaux (1996)

No. 20 – Martin Brodeur (New Jersey, 1990) -- It may be hard to believe now, but Brodeur was not the first goaltender picked in 1990 (Calgary took Trevor Kidd at No. 11). Brodeur figures to wind up with the NHL career marks for wins and shutouts, and is regarded as the gold standard among goaltenders. He has three Stanley Cup rings and won his fourth Vezina Trophy at this year's NHL Awards Show. He may or may not be the greatest goaltender in NHL history, but he's in the conversation.

Runners-up: Larry Robinson (1971), Michel Goulet (1979)
Up and coming: Brent Burns (2003), Travis Zajac (2004)
Disappointment: Barrett Heisten (1999)

No. 21 – Kevin Lowe (Edmonton, 1979) -- The Oilers' first draft pick after the NHL-WHA merger was a good one. Lowe anchored the defense on a team that went on to win five Stanley Cups in seven years, then went on to provide stability on the blue line when the New York Rangers broke their 54-year drought by winning the Cup in 1994. Lowe never was flashy, but on an offense-first juggernaut, he was a huge stabilizing factor.

Runners-up: Patrick Flatley (1982), Saku Koivu (1993)
Up and coming: Wojtek Wolski (2004), Tuukka Rask (2005)
Disappointment: Evgeni Ryabchikov (1994)

No. 22 – Bryan Trottier (New York Islanders, 1974) -- The Islanders completed a Hall of Fame daily double when they picked Trottier, a center from Swift Current, with their second pick in 1974 (they took his future linemate, Clark Gillies, with their first pick). Trottier was the prototype two-way center – tough, strong, defensively diligent – but his offensive skills were off the chart. Trottier, Gillies and Mike Bossy formed one of the NHL's best lines for years, and after helping the Isles to four straight Cup wins in the 1980s, Trottier finished his career with two more Cups as a checking center in Pittsburgh.

Runners-up: Adam Graves (1986), Adam Foote (1989)
Up and coming: Matt Lashoff (2005), Claude Giroux (2006)
Disappointment: Nikos Tselios (1997)

No. 23 – Todd Bertuzzi (New York Islanders, 1993) --
Power forwards, like left-handed pitchers in baseball, often take more time than most players to mature. After two-plus NHL seasons, Isles GM Mike Milbury didn't want to wait any more and shipped Bertuzzi to Vancouver for Trevor Linden just before the Olympic break in 1998. Bertuzzi became one of the NHL's top forwards for a short span, reaching highs of 46 goals and 97 points with the Canucks in 2002-03.

Runners-up: Travis Green (1989), Ray Whitney (1991)
Up and coming: Ryan Kesler (2003), Andrej Meszaros (2004)
Disappointment: Craig Hillier (1996)

No. 24 – Daniel Briere (Phoenix, 1996) -- Despite his small size (5-10, 179), Briere has turned into one of the NHL's best centers. The Coyotes spent four seasons bouncing him between the NHL and the minors before he broke through with a 32-goal performance in 2001-02. Despite that, they dealt him to Buffalo the following season, and he blossomed into an elite player in 2006-07 with 32 goals and 95 points as the Sabres won the Presidents' Trophy. Briere signed with Philadelphia last summer and had 31 goals and 72 points, then went 9-7-16 as the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Runners-up: Doug Jarvis (1975), Sean Burke (1985)
Up and coming: Mike Richards (2003), T.J. Oshie (2005)
Disappointment: J-F Damphousse (1997)

No. 25 – Mark Howe (Boston, 1974) -- Gordie's son never did play for the Bruins. Instead, Mark and Marty Howe joined their dad in Houston, where they led the Aeros to a WHA title and made the club one of the league's flagship franchises in its early years. The Howes came to Hartford in 1977 and stayed with the Whalers through the merger with the NHL. Mark wound up shifting to defense and had a number of excellent seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. He wasn't as good as his father (who could be!), but adding his WHA and NHL totals, he scored more than 400 goals and had 1,246 points in 1,355 games.

Runners-up: Gilles Gilbert (1969), Brenden Morrow (1997)
Up and coming: Rob Schremp (2004), Andrew Cogliano (2005)
Disappointment: Mikhail Kuleshov (1999)

No. 26 – Claude Lemieux (Montreal, 1983) -- Lemieux somehow kept showing up when there were Stanley Cups to be won – he earned rings with Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado while also earning a reputation as one of the game's best Playoff performers (and most irritating players). Lemieux was on four Cup winners, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995, and finished his career with 379 goals and 785 points in the regular season, plus 80 goals and 158 points in 233 postseason contests.

Runners-up: Don Maloney (1978), Zigmund Palffy (1991)
Up and coming: Brian Boyle (2003), David Perron (2007)
Disappointment: Kevin Grimes (1997)

No. 27 – Joe Nieuwendyk (Calgary, 1985) -- Nieuwendyk started his NHL career with a bang, scoring 51 goals in each of his first two full seasons, the second of which ended with the Flames hoisting the Stanley Cup. Nieuwendyk had 45 goals in each of the next two seasons, and though he never reached 40 goals again, he was a consistent scorer for winning teams until retiring in 2006-07 with 564 goals and 1,126 points, plus 66 playoff goals and three Stanley Cup rings.

Runners-up: Scott Mellanby (1984), Scott Gomez (1998)
Up and coming: Jeff Tambellini (2003), Jeff Schultz (2004)
Disappointment: Ari Ahonen (1999)

No. 28 – Mike Richter (New York Rangers, 1985) -- Richter arguably is the best U.S.-born goaltender in history. He was in the net when the Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, led the United States to the World Cup two years later and to the silver medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He ended his career (prematurely, due to concussions) with 301 wins, the most in Rangers history, despite spending the first few years of his career platooning with John Vanbiesbrouck.

Runners-up: Guy Chouinard (1974), Justin Williams (2000)
Up and coming: Corey Perry (2003), Matt Niskanen (2005)
Disappointment: Adrian Foster (2001)

No. 29 – Danny Gare (Buffalo, 1974) -- The Sabres took Gare in the second round after he scored 45 and 68 goals in his last two junior seasons. Gare quickly showed those totals were no fluke, scoring 31 as a rookie to help the Sabres make the Stanley Cup Final, and reaching the 50-goal mark in his second season. He had a career-best 56 in 1979-80, when he was a Second-Team All-Star, and came back with 46 the next season. He finished his career in 1986-87 with 354 goals and 685 points in 827 games.

Runners-up: Stephane Richer (1984), Jonathan Cheechoo (1998)
Up and coming: Mike Green (2004), Steve Downie (2005)
Disappointment: Brian Wesenberg (1995)
   
No. 30 – Randy Carlyle (Toronto, 1976) -- The Leafs took Carlyle with their first pick (in the second round) in 1976, bounced him up and down between Toronto and the minors for two seasons and then dealt him to Pittsburgh in the summer of 1978. It was a deal they would come to regret, as Carlyle won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 1980-81, played in four All-Star Games and wound up playing 1,055 games and amassing 647 points with the Leafs, Penguins and Winnipeg Jets. He's done pretty well as a coach, too, leading Anaheim to the Cup last year.

Runners-up: Patrice Brisebois (1989), Sandis Ozolinsh (1991)
Up and coming: Matthew Corrente (2006), Nick Ross (2007)
Disappointment: Luke Sellars (1999)
   
Contact John Kreiser at jkreiser@nhl.com.



Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday