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.
Today: The best No. 18 pick: Ken Daneyko, New Jersey Devils, 1982
The New Jersey Devils made their debut at the 1982 NHL Draft, which was held at the Montreal Forum. The Colorado Rockies, who became the Devils, made a trade the season before with the Boston Bruins, which ended up costing the Devils the No. 1 pick.
Instead, with the No. 18 selection, the Devils selected Ken Daneyko, a big, strong defenseman who was playing in the Western Hockey League. He was the second pick in New Jersey history, after Rocky Trottier at No. 8.
Daneyko spent the 1981-82 season in the WHL with the Seattle Breakers, and it became the most prolific offensive season of his career, with 60 points in 69 games. He started the 1983-84 season in the NHL, but he broke his fibula in November 1983, after 11 games, and when he was healthy he was returned to the WHL, where he helped the Kamloops Junior Oilers reach the Memorial Cup.
He split the next two seasons between the NHL and the Devils' American Hockey League team, the Maine Mariners.
He stuck with the Devils for good at the start of the 1986-87 season. For 16 seasons after that, he never really left the lineup.
In Daneyko's first eight seasons as a full-time NHL player (1986-87 to 1993-94), he missed a total of 13 games, and played every game of a season five times. He did so with a robust, physical style, earning at least 170 penalty minutes in each season, and more than 200 five times.
The 1994-95 season saw Daneyko play 25 games, but he returned healthy in time to help the franchise win its first Stanley Cup. He had one goal in 20 postseason games and was a plus-9.
Partnered mostly with future Hall of Fame member Scott Stevens and playing in the long shadow of another future Hall of Famer, Scott Niedermayer, Daneyko remained a physical force who always drew the toughest defensive assignments.
That was the case during the 1999-2000 season, when Daneyko played 78 of 82 regular-season games and chipped in with six assists, then had his best playoff run, with a goal and two assists 23 games as the Devils won the Stanley Cup.
Long years of hard, physical play began to catch up with Daneyko as the millennium dawned. He played 67 games in 2001-02, and 69 in 2002-03. After skating in every playoff game in franchise history, he was made a healthy scratch during the quarterfinals and for the first six games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks. But for Game 7, coach Pat Burns wrote Daneyko's name into the lineup, and he was on the ice when the final horn sounded to celebrate his third Stanley Cup.
He retired not long after the Cup win as the franchise leader in games played (1,283) and penalty minutes (2,516). He skated in the most playoff games in club history (175). Daneyko became the second New Jersey player to have his number retired, in 2006, when his No. 3 was raised.
The sum total of Daneyko's career is why he was the choice of 10 members of NHL.com's 13-member Dream Draft panel.
"It was a no-brainer for me," "NHL Live" host E.J. Hradek said. "[Daneyko] spent his entire career in New Jersey, helping establish the Devils franchise, winning three Stanley Cups along the way. It's no mistake his No. 3 is hanging in the rafters in Newark."
Voting: Ken Daneyko, New Jersey (1981) 10; Glen Murray, Boston (1991) 3