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.
During the 1996-97 season, 17-year-old Marian Hossa made his debut in the top professional league in his native Slovakia, scoring at a point-per-game clip while playing against older, more physically developed men.
The Ottawa Senators noticed his outstanding play against high-level competition as a teenager and selected him with the 12th pick of the 1997 NHL Draft. The gamble paid off; Hossa's strong play as a teen was a precursor to an outstanding NHL career that has seen him play 1,000 games, skate in five NHL All-Star Games, and win a Stanley Cup.
Hossa made the Senators' opening-night roster in 1997-98 and made his NHL debut Oct. 1, 1997, totaling one shot on goal in 19:07 of ice time. He had one point in seven games before he was assigned to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He had 45 goals and 80 points in 53 WHL games, was named the WHL Rookie of the Year, and helped Portland win the Memorial Cup.
A knee injury sustained in the Memorial Cup championship game sidelined him for the first two months of the 1998-99 season, but he had 15 goals and 30 points in 60 games and finished second to Chris Drury of the Colorado Avalanche in voting for the 1999 Calder Trophy.
In 2000-01, Hossa had his first 30-goal season, set a career-best with 75 points and skated in his first All-Star Game. In 2002-03, he hit the 40-goal mark for the first time, with his 45 goals leading the team and placing him fourth in the League. The Senators won the Presidents' Trophy and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final as Hossa had 16 points in 18 games.
He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, and playing on a line with Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk had 92 points, and in 2006-07 had 43 goals and 100 points to help the Thrashers reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the only time in team history.
The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Hossa from the Thrashers in 2008 to bolster their postseason hopes. He scored the series-clinching goal in Game 5 of the conference semifinals against the New York Rangers, and had a goal and three assists in Game 5 of the conference final against the Philadelphia Flyers to get the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1992. Hossa had seven points in six games in loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Final, and finished the postseason third in goals (12) and points (26).
He signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings in the summer of 2008, and in 2008-09 had his third 40-goal season. His 15 points in 23 games helped the Red Wings return to the Cup Final, only to see them lose in seven games to the Penguins.
In the summer of 2009, Hossa agreed to a 12-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Rehabilitation from shoulder surgery kept him out until the end of November, but he proved to be worth the wait, scoring twice in his first game with them. He finished that season with 51 points in 57 games, then had 15 points in 22 playoff games to help the Blackhawks advance to the Cup Final. His third trip to the Final in three seasons with three teams proved to be the charm, and after the Blackhawks won the Cup with an overtime win in Game 6 in Philadelphia, he was the first person handed the Stanley Cup by captain Jonathan Toews.
Now in his fourth season with the Blackhawks, he's continued to be an outstanding presence at both ends of the ice. In 2012-13 he had 17 goals, 31 points and a plus-20 rating in 40 games, and played in his 1,000th NHL game March 3. His 14 points through the first three rounds of the playoffs tied for the team lead as the Blackhawks advanced to the Cup Final again.
"[Hossa] has been an elite two-way player at the NHL level for over a decade," NHL.com deputy managing editor Brian Compton said. "He's 66 goals shy of 500 in his career and 65 points away from 1,000. He's a borderline Hall of Famer right now and hopefully still has some real good years left."