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Third Pick's the Charm

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche holds the No. 3 overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 26-27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. That could be a very good sign if past success in the No. 3 position is any indication.

Since 2000, the majority of the players tabbed in that slot have gone on to enjoy successful NHL careers.

The Colorado/Quebec franchise has previously selected in that position once, choosing defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn in 1988. Leschyshyn totaled 141 points (34g/107a) in 522 games for the Avalanche/Nordiques and was a member of Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup championship team.

Keeping in mind that it may be too soon to completely pass judgment on some recent selections, the following is a look at how No. 3 overall selections have fared since the turn of the century.

By the Numbers
A closer look at the nine players selected with the No. 3 overall pick since 2000.

5 – Forwards

4 – Defenseman

0 – Goaltenders

2 – Players selected out of both the WHL (Barker, Bouwmeester) and OHL (Bogosian, Horton)

2,037 – Combined regular season games

504 – Goals

662 – Assists

1,166 – Points

1,659 – Penalty minutes amassed

6 – All-Star Game selections (Gaborik and Bouwmeester have two apiece, while Keith and Toews have each received one nod)

+63 – Plus/minus rating of the five forwards

+11 – Bogosian’s plus/minus rating, making him the only defenseman of the group with a positive rating

2008: Zach Bogosian - Atlanta
The Thrashers may have hit the nail on the head with their selection of Bogosian last summer. The defenseman stepped right into Atlanta’s lineup this season and finished third among team blueliners in scoring with 19 points (9g/10a) despite playing in only 47 games due to a fractured fibula suffered in late October. A two-year standout with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, Bogosian’s nine goals led all NHL rookie defensemen in 2008-09.

2007: Kyle Turris – Phoenix
The highly sought after forward played at the University of Wisconsin the year following his selection and earned WCHA All-Rookie Team honors while posting 35 points (11g/24a) in 36 games for the Badgers. After completing his freshman season, Turris turned pro and played in Phoenix’s final three games of the 2007-08 season. The 19 year old totaled just 20 points (8g/12a) in 63 games during the 2008-09 campaign, but has shown flashes of brilliance. One such example came in a March 17 contest against San Jose, when Turris posted a four-point (2g/2a) performance in a 4-3 Phoenix victory.

2006: Jonathan Toews - Chicago
It didn’t take long for Toews to prove his value after being selected by the Blackhawks following his freshman season at the University of North Dakota. Toews stayed in Grand Forks for his sophomore campaign before turning pro prior to the 2007-08 season. Teaming up with Patrick Kane – the No. 1 overall choice in 2007 - Toews has helped to rejuvenate the Blackhawks franchise, leading the team with 34 goals in 2008-09. The Winnipeg native was named Chicago’s captain last summer, making him the third-youngest player (20 years, 79 days) to earn that honor in the history of the NHL.

2005: Jack Johnson - Carolina
A sturdy defenseman who plays with a mean streak, Johnson was traded by the Hurricanes to the Los Angeles Kings before he ever set foot on NHL ice. Johnson played two seasons at the University of Michigan before finishing out the 2006-07 season by skating in the Kings’ final five contests. During the 2007-08 campaign, his first full NHL season, he put up 11 points (3g/8a) in 74 games and was selected as the Kings’ Best Newcomer and Outstanding Defenseman. Johnson missed 41 games this season with a shoulder injury, but still matched his rookie season point total by notching six goals and five assists.

2004: Cam Barker - Chicago
After splitting time equally between the Chicago Blackhawks and their AHL affiliates the past two seasons, Barker had his most successful NHL campaign in 2008-09. The blueliner spent the first seven games of the season with the Rockford IceHogs before being recalled by the big club in late October. Since then, he’s become a vital part of the Blackhawks’ defensive unit. The Winnipeg native suited up in 68 of Chicago’s final 74 games and notched 40 points (6g/34a) to finish third among Chicago defenseman, trailing only All-Star blueliners Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith. Barker’s five power-play goals during the regular season topped all Chicago defenders and ranked fifth on the team overall.

Other Recent Notable No. 3 Picks
Since 1990

Henrik Sedin (1999 - Vancouver)
Brad Stuart (1998 – San Jose)
Olli Jokinen (1997 – Los Angeles)
J.P. Dumont (1996 – N.Y. Islanders)
Radek Bonk (1994 - Ottawa)
Scott Niedermayer (1991 – New Jersey)
Keith Primeau (1990 - Detroit)
2003: Nathan Horton – Florida (from Pittsburgh)
The Panthers originally owned the No. 1 pick in the 2003 Entry Draft, but swapped with Pittsburgh to move down two slots. There, the Panthers tabbed Horton, who was coming off a solid two-year stint with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals. Horton jumped straight to the NHL after being drafted and has somewhat quietly become an impact player for the Panthers. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound forward has reached the 20-goal plateau in each of the last four seasons, a streak which included a career-high 31 tallies in 2006-07.

2002: Jay Bouwmeester – Florida (from Columbus)
It was widely believed the Panthers – who originally owned the No. 1 overall pick in the draft – would select the puck-moving Bouwmeester in that spot. However, Florida struck up a draft-day trade to swap picks with the Columbus Blue Jackets, owners of the No. 3 selection. The Blue Jackets selected Rick Nash first overall, and after the Atlanta Thrashers tabbed goaltender Kari Lehtonen with the No. 2 selection, Florida got their man. Bouwmeester has gone on to become one of the league’s top blueliners and a two-time NHL All-Star, having notched 203 points (53g/150a) in 471 NHL contests.

Hall of Famers
Two players selected at the No. 3 overall spot have been enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Denis Savard was tabbed third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1980 and went on to score 473 goals during a 17-year NHL career that also included stints with Montreal (where he picked up a Stanley Cup title in 1993) and Tampa Bay.

In 1983 the New York Islanders chose Pat LaFontaine with their first-round selection. The center spent his first eight NHL seasons on Long Island and also played for the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers. In 865 career games, LaFontaine totaled 1,013 points (468g/545a).
2001: Alexander Svitov – Tampa Bay
Svitov is the one player on this list that provided almost no dividends at the NHL level. The center made his NHL debut for the Lightning in 2002-03, providing eight points (4g/4a) in 63 games. He was traded to Columbus during the 2003-04 season, but didn’t fare much better. All told, Svitov notched 37 points (13g/24a) in 179 NHL games. Currently, the Omsk, Russia native is skating with Omsk Avangard of the KHL. Players chosen shortly after him include Stephen Weiss (4th overall – Florida),  Mikko Koivu (6th overall – Minnesota), Mike Komisarek (7th overall – Montreal) and Pascal Leclaire (8th overall – Columbus).

2000: Marian Gaborik – Minnesota
The first draft pick in Minnesota Wild history proved to be a good one, as the club selected Gaborik, a speedy skater from Slovakia. Gaborik has been with the Wild ever since and owns a franchise record 437 points (219g/218a) in 502 career NHL games. Though he’s been slowed by injuries recently, Gaborik is only one year removed from a career season. During the 2007-08 season, he posted highs in goals (42), assists (41) and points (83). He is also the most recent NHL player to score five goals in a game (and the first in Wild history), achieving the feat on Dec. 20, 2007, against the New York Rangers.
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