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Hits and misses by Northwest Division teams

Wednesday, 06.26.2013 / 9:00 AM / 2013 NHL Draft

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Hits and misses by Northwest Division teams
With the importance of the draft when it comes to team-building, NHL.com takes a look at the best and worst picks by Northwest Division teams.

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 Northwest Division on Draft Day.

ATLANTA/CALGARY FLAMES

Best first-round pick: Al MacInnis (1981) -- When you think of MacInnis, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the great slap shots in NHL history -- he was one of the few players who made goalies shudder as soon as he got near the red line. But MacInnis developed from a player known only for his booming shot who was a terror on the Calgary Flames' vaunted power play into a well-rounded blueliner who became one of the NHL's most effective defensemen. He was dealt to the St. Louis Blues in 1994 and retired a decade later with 340 goals and 1,274 points, totals that landed him in the Hall of Fame. Few goalies were sorry to see him hang up his skates.

Honorable mention: Gary Roberts (1984), Cory Stillman (1992), Dion Phaneuf (2003)

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Joe Nieuwendyk (1985) -- The Flames whiffed on their first-rounder in 1985 (Chris Biotti), but more than made up for it by taking Nieuwendyk, a slick center from Cornell, in the second round. Nieuwendyk turned pro late in the 1986-87 season and became the first player since Mike Bossy to begin his NHL career with back-to-back 50-goal seasons. He never hit 50 again, but was among the NHL's most consistent scorers for nearly two decades, winning Cups with Calgary, the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils before retiring in 2006 with 564 goals -- earning a berth in the Hall of Fame.

Honorable mention: Mike Vernon (1981), Robert Reichel (1989); Toni Lydman (1996)

Best later-round pick: Theo Fleury (1987) -- A 61-goal season with Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League should have made Fleury much more than an eighth-round pick, but most teams couldn't overlook his lack of size (he was only 5-foot-6). The Flames did, and got a player who set franchise records for goals and points (since broken by Jarome Iginla). Fleury helped the Flames win the Cup as a rookie in 1989, and he had a 50-goal season and broke the 100-point mark twice before being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in 1999. He played three seasons with the New York Rangers and one with the Chicago Blackhawks before ending his NHL career with 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1,084 games.

Honorable mention: Stu Grimson (1985), German Titov (1993), Travis Moen (2000)

Biggest disappointment: Brent Krahn (2000) -- Krahn was the second goalie taken in 2000, when the Flames chose him with the No. 9 selection after a brilliant first season in junior hockey. They were very patient with him -- Krahn played three more seasons in junior, then spent five seasons in the minors, battling a host of injuries while showing just enough to convince Calgary he might make it. The Flames finally gave up in 2008 and Krahn signed with the Dallas Stars. He made his NHL debut with the Stars late in the 2008-09 season, playing one period and allowing three goals in what proved to be his only appearance in the NHL. Krahn spent 2009-10 with the Texas Stars of the AHL and was the losing goaltender in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals, then played 12 more games with Texas in 2010-11.

Honorable mention: Jesper Mattsson (1993), Daniel Tkaczuk (1997), Kris Chucko (2004)

QUEBEC NORDIQUES/COLORADO AVALANCHE

Best first-round pick: Joe Sakic (1987) -- Sakic wasn't the franchise's first pick in 1987 -- highly-touted defenseman Bryan Fogarty went ninth, six spots earlier. However, few players in NHL history were more consistent than the Colorado Avalanche's long-time captain, the last vestige of the team's tenure in Quebec. He scored every one of his 625 goals for the same franchise while leading the Avs to a pair of Stanley Cups. Sakic finally called it a career after the 2008-09 season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame last November and now serves as the team's executive vice president of hockey operations.

Honorable mention: Michel Goulet (1979), Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (1990), Matt Duchene (2009); Gabriel Landeskog (2011)

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Milan Hejduk (1994) -- The Nordiques found Hejduk in the fourth round (15 picks after choosing Chris Drury), and though he didn't come to North America for another four years, the Czech forward turned out to be well worth the wait. Hejduk has 375 goals in his 14 NHL seasons, including 41 in 2000-01, when the Avs won their most recent Stanley Cup, and a League-high 50 in 2002-03, when he also topped the NHL with a plus-52 rating.

Honorable mention: Anton Stastny (1979), Chris Drury (1994), Paul Stastny (2005)

Best later-round pick: Valeri Kamensky (1988) -- Quebec took a flyer on Kamensky in the seventh round 25 years ago, hoping the young Russian star might become available -- and he did, three years later, meaning he was 25 when he arrived in North America. Kamensky was useful in the franchise's last four seasons in Quebec, but really turned it on after the move to Colorado, scoring a career-high 38 goals and 85 points in 1995-96, then adding 10 goals and 22 points to help the Avs win the Cup. He added 28- and 26-goal seasons after that and finished his career with exactly 200 goals -- pretty good production for a pick that low.

Honorable mention: Claude Lapointe (1988), Samuel Pahlsson (1996), Radim Vrbata (1999); John-Michael Liles (2000)

Biggest disappointment: Daniel Dore (1988) -- The Nordiques swung and missed with the No. 5 pick a quarter of a century ago when they selected Dore, a forward from Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Dore had 33 goals and 91 points in his last full junior season after being drafted and got a chance to skate with the Nordiques before his 20th birthday, playing 16 games in 1989-90. But he played only one NHL game the following season, never showed much of a scoring touch in the minors and was out of pro ice hockey before his 25th birthday. He did, though, play three years of roller hockey before retiring in 1996.

Honorable Mention: Bryan Fogarty (1987), Jonas Johansson (2002)

EDMONTON OILERS

It didn't take Paul Coffey long to establish himself as one of the greatest offensive defensemen to ever play in the NHL. (Getty Images)

Best first-round pick: Paul Coffey (1980) -- Coffey, the Edmonton Oilers' first pick (No. 6) in their second NHL draft, was a perfect fit for a team that relied on speed and skill. Perhaps the fastest defenseman in hockey history (at least the fastest whose last name wasn't Orr), Coffey had five consecutive seasons of 29 or more goals with the Oilers -- including an NHL-record 48 in 1985-86, when he piled up 138 points. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1987, beginning an odyssey that would see him play with seven other teams before retiring in 2001 with 396 goals and 1,531 points, plus four Stanley Cups.

Honorable mention: Kevin Lowe (1979), Grant Fuhr (1981), Jason Arnott (1993), Ryan Smyth (1994), Jordan Eberle (2008), Taylor Hall (2010)

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Messier (1979) -- After choosing Kevin Lowe with the first pick in the franchise's NHL history, the Oilers went for Messier, a player they had faced in the WHA, in the third round -- never dreaming they would end up with one of the NHL's all-time greats. Messier wasn't a big offensive force at first, but he became a 50-goal scorer in 1981-82, had six 100-point seasons and turned into one of hockey's greatest leaders with the Oilers and later with the New York Rangers. His 1,887 points are second only to Wayne Gretzky -- but he has six Cups to the Great One's four.

Honorable mention: Glenn Anderson (1979), Jari Kurri (1980), Jarret Stoll (2002)

Best later-round pick: Kelly Buchberger (1985) -- The Oilers drafted Buchberger for his physical play, but he became far more than just someone who could bang bodies and protect teammates. Buchberger had enough skill to become a 20-goal scorer, enough speed and grit to become an effective penalty-killer, and turned into a contributing member on a pair of Stanley Cup winners. Buchberger finished his career with 105 goals and 2,297 penalty minutes in 1,182 games. That's pretty good production from a ninth-round pick.

Honorable mention: Shjon Podein (1988), Miroslav Satan (1993)

Biggest disappointment: Scott Allison (1990) -- Allison was part of perhaps the poorest draft of all-time -- not one of the 11 players chosen by the Oilers in 1990 ever dressed for an NHL game. Allison played two more junior seasons after being taken by the Oilers at No. 17, then began an odyssey through the minors (AHL, IHL, ECHL) during which he never scored 20 goals or 40 points. Allison went to Europe and played several seasons in the British League. He returned to North America in 2004 for a season in the CHL before retiring.

Honorable Mention: Jason Bonsignore (1994), Michael Henrich (1998), Jesse Niinimaki (2002)

MINNESOTA WILD

Best first-round pick: Marian Gaborik (2000) -- The first draft pick in Wild history remains the best. Though he's been bothered throughout his career by groin and leg injuries and played in defense-first organizations, Gaborik is one of the NHL's elite talents. His 219 goals and 437 points are franchise records, as are his single-season marks of 42 goals and 83 points in 2007-08. Gaborik left the Wild in the summer of 2009 to sign with the New York Rangers as a free agent, and matched his career best with 42 goals in his first season in New York. He was limited to 22 in 2010-11, but bounced back with 41 goals as the Rangers enjoyed their longest playoff run in 15 years. He struggled after offseason shoulder surgery in 2012-13 and was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he'll look to bounce back again in 2013-14.

Honorable Mention: Mikko Koivu (2001), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2002), Brent Burns (2003)

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nick Schultz (2000) -- Schultz, the second player drafted by the Wild, became an NHL regular on defense at age 19 and remained one with the Wild until being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers late in the 2011-12 season. He's not a big offensive contributor (his career bests are six goals in 2003-04 and 20 points in 2009-10), but he's solid in his zone and rarely misses a game (27 in the past 10 seasons).

Honorable mention: Stephane Veilleux (2001), Cal Clutterbuck (2006), Justin Falk (2007)

Best later-round pick: Derek Boogaard (2001) -- The Wild have hurt themselves due to their inability to find talent in the later rounds of the draft. Boogaard, a seventh-rounder, provided muscle up front but little offense. Still, he's one of only two players drafted after the fourth round by the Wild who's played in more than 164 games (two full NHL seasons). Boogaard signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in the summer of 2010, but missed most of the season with injuries and died in the summer of 2011.

Honorable mention: Lubomir Sekeras (2000)

Biggest disappointment: A.J. Thelen (2004) -- The Wild took Thelen, a Minnesota-born defenseman playing at Michigan State, with the 12th pick in 2004. It had the potential for a great story -- local kid makes good -- but never turned out that way. Thelen was dismissed from Michigan State during the middle of the 2004-05 season, went to the Western Hockey League and didn't impress the Wild enough to earn a contract offer. He spent most of his career in the ECHL, though he did get nine games with Rochester in the AHL in 2009-10. He had 29 points in 65 games for Kalamazoo of the ECHL in 2010-11, his last pro season.

Honorable mention: James Sheppard (2006)

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

In addition to captaining the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, Trevor Linden had his number retired in Vancouver. (Getty Images)

Best first-round pick: Trevor Linden (1988) -- Few players have been as identified with their team as Linden, the No. 2 pick (behind Mike Modano) in 1988, was with the Vancouver Canucks. Linden was a 30-goal scorer as a rookie in 1988-89, led the Canucks to the seventh game of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final (and scored both goals in the 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers), and became an icon in Vancouver, where he played 16 of his 19 NHL seasons. He retired after the 2007-08 season, and the Canucks wasted little time raising his No. 16 to the rafters at Rogers Arena.

Honorable mention: Cam Neely (1983), Petr Nedved (1990), Daniel Sedin (1999), Henrik Sedin (1999), Cory Schneider (2004)

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Alexander Edler (2004) -- The Canucks grabbed Edler, a Swedish defenseman, with the 91st pick in 2004, took their time with him and have been amply rewarded. Edler spent a season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League and two with the Manitoba Moose, then the Canucks' AHL affiliate, before earning a full-time NHL job in 2007. He's been a consistent point producer while playing more than 21 minutes a game in each of the past six seasons.

Honorable mention: Stan Smyl (1978), Brent Ashton (1979), Michael Peca (1992), Mason Raymond (2005)

Best later-round pick: Pavel Bure (1989) -- No one doubted Bure's skill -- he was one of the best young players in the world in the late 1980s. But only the Canucks were willing to risk as much as a sixth-round pick on him because they didn't know if the speedy Russian ever would be free to play in the NHL. Vancouver's timing was perfect -- Bure was a Canuck two years later and quickly started filling NHL nets. He had back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94, then cracked the 50-goal mark again in 1997-98. He had 58- and 59-goal seasons after being traded to the Florida Panthers in 1998, but a string of knee injuries forced him to retire by the time he was 32. Bure finished with 437 goals in just 702 NHL games, but that was enough to earn him induction into the Hall of Fame last November.

Honorable mention: Igor Larionov (1985), Adrian Aucoin (1992), Brent Sopel (1995), Jannik Hansen (2004)

Biggest disappointment: Jason Herter (1989) -- The Canucks took Herter with the No. 8 pick in the 1989 draft after a solid freshman season at North Dakota, and he turned pro after his junior season -- though his college coach thought he'd be better off coming back for one more year. Maybe the coach was right, because although Herter had a long professional career, he played only one NHL game, for the New York Islanders in 1995. Hip and groin injuries hampered him early in his career, and he spent several seasons in the minors before finishing with four seasons in Germany.

Honorable mention: Josh Holden (1996), Nathan Smith (2000); Patrick White (2007)