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NHL Draft: The All-Steal Team

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
So much of the NHL Entry Draft’s buzz every year centers on who will be chosen first overall and which teams will get the players who can single-handedly turn around a franchise. But if you believe that there isn’t value in the closing rounds of the draft, the players below would probably disagree; each member of the “All-Steal Team” was chosen in the sixth round or later, yet have a combined 20 All-Star Game appearances, three MVP awards and – most importantly – six Stanley Cup rings between them.

Goaltender: Dominik Hasek (199th Overall – Chicago Blackhawks, 1983)

The 1983 Entry Draft was an exceptionally strong year for goaltenders. Tom Barasso, who backstopped two Stanley Cup teams in Pittsburgh, went fifth overall, ahead of Hall of Famer Vladislav Tretiak and All-Star Darren Puppa.

But “The Dominator’s” career surpasses them all. The tenth-round pick was twice named the league’s MVP (1997-98), given the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie six times (1994-95, ‘97-99, 2001) and – most importantly – took home two Stanley Cup championships. He retired with 389 wins, 81 shutouts and a .922 save percentage – the best career save percentage ever recorded by a goaltender.

Honorable Mentions: Nikolai Khabibulin (#204 – 1992), Tim Thomas (#217 – 1994), Evgeni Nabokov (#219 – 1994)

Defense: Andrei Markov (162nd Overall Montreal Canadiens, 1998) and Brian Campbell (156th Overall – Buffalo Sabres, 1997)

Although he was unheralded when drafted in 1998, Markov had built himself into one of Russia's top offensive defensemen before coming to North America in 2000. While his defensive game has steadily improved since his NHL debut, Markov's blend of skill and toughness has made him Montreal's most consistent defenseman. The two-time All-Star was second among NHL d-men in points this season (64), while setting new career highs in points, assists (52) and game-winning goals (3).

In contrast, Campbell grew into one of the league's premier defensemen after having already played parts of five seasons in the NHL; since the lockout, he has tallied 206 points (33 G, 173 A) in his last four seasons. The three-time All-Star led all Blackhawks defensemen in points this season (52) as the Blackhawks went to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1995.

Honorable Mentions: Pavel Kubina (#179 – 1996), Stephane Robidas (#164 – 1995), Mark Streit (#262 – 2004)

Left Wing: Henrik Zetterberg (210th Overall – Detroit Red Wings, 1999)

With an aging roster featuring the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov and Igor Larianov, many hockey commentators at the time criticized the Wings for “mortgaging their future” by trading away so many early round picks in the 1999 entry draft. What they didn’t count on was the Wings picking up a franchise cornerstone in the sixth round: little-known Swedish prospect Zetterberg, who Detroit’s scouts noticed while watching his teammate Mattias Weinhandl.

Zetterberg has definitely given Detroit their money’s worth and more. The two-time All-Star has been a key cog in the Red Wings’ offensive machine since his debut in 2002, scoring 405 points in 432 regular-season games (183 G, 222 A). He’s been even more lethal in the postseason, tallying 76 points (39 G, 37 A) in 85 playoff games and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008, when Detroit won the Stanley Cup.

Honorable Mention: Luc Robitaille (#121 – 1984)

Center: Doug Gilmour (134th Overall – St. Louis Blues, 1982)

Although Doug Gilmour displayed obvious scoring ability during his days in juniors – he was the Ontario Hockey League’s leading scorer in 1983 - most NHL teams were wary of his small stature, allowing St. Louis up to pick the two-way center in the seventh round of the draft.

Gilmour’s career took off after he was traded to Calgary before the 1988-89 season. He netted the championship-winning goal in the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, won the Selke Trophy, made the All-Star Game twice and was a finalist for the league’s MVP award in 1993. Gilmour, a former Maple Leafs captain, still holds several of Toronto’s scoring records, including most points (127) and most assists (95) in a season.

Honorable Mentions: Igor Larianov (#214 – 1985), Pavel Datsyuk (#171 – 1998)

Right Wing: Brett Hull (112th Overall – Calgary Flames, 1984)

“The Golden Brett” didn’t always seem destined to carry on his father’s legacy as a great forward; the younger Hull was only offered a chance to play on a Tier II junior hockey team, one level below major junior hockey.

Landing in St. Louis after three years of being shuffled up and down in Calgary’s system, the future Hall of Famer began his career in earnest and became one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL. The 1991 league MVP and eight-time All-Star scored 741 goals in his career, third-most all-time, and won a championship with Dallas and Detroit. He and Bobby are the only father-son combination in NHL history to each surpass the 600-goal mark.

Honorable Mentions: Steve Larmer (#120 – 1980), Glenn Anderson (#69 – 1979)

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