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 Northeast Division on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Ray Bourque (1979) -- Seven teams passed on the Montreal native before the Boston Bruins made him the eighth player taken at the 1979 NHL Draft. By the following spring, Bourque 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; one year later, he retired after finally winning a Stanley Cup. His 410 goals and 1,579 points are the most ever by an NHL defenseman. Few players in any sport were so brilliant for so long.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Howe (1974) -- Gordie's son was drafted by the Bruins, but wound up with Houston and Hartford in the WHA, then came to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers when that franchise joined the NHL in 1979. He was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers three years later and spent most of his career with them before finishing with three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, his father's old team. The idea of Hall of Famers Howe and Bourque on the same blue line would be mind-boggling.
Best later-round pick: Hal Gill (1993) – The Bruins made the Concord, Mass., native an eighth-round pick 20 years ago, waited while he spent four seasons at Providence College and had to be surprised when he became a regular on the blue line in his first pro season. Gill has 36 goals and 184 points in more than 1,100 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: Yevgeni Ryabchikov (1994) -- The Bruins took Ryabchikov, a 20-year-old goaltender from Russia, with the 21st pick and sent him to Providence of the American Hockey League, where he went 6-3-1 with a 3.49 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. He spent the next three seasons in the ECHL (except for two games with Providence), and one more in the low-level Western Professional Hockey League before he returned to Russia without ever playing in an NHL game.
Best first-round pick: Gilbert Perreault (1970) -- The first draft pick in the history of the franchise 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, centering the famed "French Connection" line that led Buffalo to the 1975 Stanley Cup Final. Perreault 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) -- The Sabres snapped up Gare after he scored 45 and 68 goals in his final two junior seasons. He wasted no time showing those totals were no fluke, scoring 31 as a rookie to help the Sabres make the 1975 Stanley Cup Final, and then becoming a 50-goal scorer in his second season. He 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. He finished his career with 354 goals and 685 points in 827 games.
Best later-round pick: Ryan Miller (1999) -- Like the rest of the hockey-playing Millers, Ryan has had an excellent NHL career after starting as a lower-round draft pick. He spent three seasons at Michigan State and most of three seasons in the AHL before becoming the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender, a position he still holds. Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2010 after being named MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Biggest disappointment: Artem Kriukov (2000) -- The Sabres took Kriukov with the 15th pick in 2000, but he never came to North America. Instead, he played in the Russian League (now the KHL), most recently with Avtomobilist this season. Kriukov never reached double-figures in goals -- the eight he scored in 2008-09 matched his career best. He was one of three Russians picked by Buffalo in 2000, none of whom has ever played a game in North America.
Best first-round pick: Guy Lafleur (1971) -- Sam Pollock, the Montreal 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 that often yielded a new generation of premium talent. That's how the Canadiens got the chance to draft Lafleur with the No. 1 pick of the 1971 NHL Draft, and then watched him become the backbone of the Habs' dynasty in the late 1970s. Lafleur was one of the most feared scorers in the NHL through most of the decade and cruised into the Hall of Fame.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrick Roy (1984) – The Canadiens couldn't have known what they had when they picked the unheralded netminder from Granby in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the third round of the 1984 NHL Draft. Roy stepped into the starting job in 1985-86 and promptly led the team to the Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. He repeated both in 1993, helping the Canadiens to their most recent championship. Two years later he was traded to Colorado and led the Avs 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 more (still an NHL record) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
NHL DRAFT: HITS AND MISSES
Best later-round pick: Mark Streit (2004) -- The Canadiens got far more than they could have imagined from Streit, a ninth-rounder who has become one of the NHL's better defensemen. He was a key to their 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, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month, arguably is the best Swiss-born NHL player of all time.
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 with the Canadiens. While he played for nine franchises after turning pro two years after being drafted, none of those was an NHL team. Bilodeau ran the minor-league gamut, with stops in the AHL, IHL, ECHL and WCHL -- nearly 800 games in all -- before finally retiring as a player in 2005. He then spent two seasons coaching in the Central Hockey League.
Best first-round pick: Marian Hossa (1997) -- Hossa was part of the second generation of Ottawa Senators who helped turn the franchise into a winner. He had four consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005 -- a deal that brought back two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley -- won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and another one this spring. He joined the 400-goal club in 2011-12 and should end his career with well over 1,000 points.
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Fisher (1998) -- Fisher, a second-round pick (No. 44) 15 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, 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 during Ottawa's run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
Best later-round pick: Daniel Alfredsson (1994) -- Alfredsson was a little-known Swedish forward when the Senators picked him in the sixth round at the 1994 draft. He's gone on to become the greatest 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.
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 -- and this time, the Senators opted to let him become a free agent. Chouinard signed with the Los Angeles Kings and played one NHL game, a three-minute relief stint in 2003-04.
Best first-round pick: Darryl Sittler (1970) -- Sittler was the backbone of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1970s and was the first genuine star the franchise drafted. Beginning in 1973-74, he scored 36 or more goals in eight consecutive seasons, with a high of 45 in 1977-78, when he also set a career best with 117 points. 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 Leafs took Perreault with their first pick, a third-rounder (No. 47), and dealt him to the Los Angeles Kings in 1994 after one season -- but they brought him back twice more before his career ended in 2008. Perreault never was a big scorer, but he did have seven 20-goal seasons and finished with 247 career goals. 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 Leafs picked Kaberle in the eighth round 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, who played 10 games with the Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13, was one of the best point men of his generation and was most effective when paired with a big shooter -- he and Bryan McCabe were an excellent pairing with the Leafs. Kaberle earned a Stanley Cup ring with Boston in 2011, and he has 87 goals and 563 points in 984 NHL games.
Biggest disappointment: Brandon Convery (1992) -- The Leafs had big expectations for Convery after choosing him with the eighth pick in the first round 21 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 the Leafs 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.