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NHL Draft: History shows No. 8 can be great

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

Later this week, Blue Jackets management will wait for their turn to make the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

This year marks the 53rd draft in NHL history and, according to many scouts, there is a deep pool of talented prospective players.

There is plenty of speculation surrounding who the Blue Jackets will select with their first pick. Of course, the decision will depend on which players are available, how their master list is set up and who best fits the needs of the team. Things can change quickly. Anything could happen.

Historically, there have been some very talented players chosen eighth overall. And whoever the Blue Jackets select could very well go on to make hockey history and make an imapct like the men before them.

In order to better understand the significance of the Blue Jackets’ pick, let’s take a look back at the history of the eighth overall pick.

Hall of Fame Worthy - Eighth Overall Selections
The first NHL Draft was held in 1963 and was originally known as the “NHL Amateur Draft” up until 1979. Since that time, four players who were picked eighth overall have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Darryl Sittler, Bob Gainey, Ray Bourque and Grant Fuhr.

Darryl Sittler
Sittler was the Toronto Maple Leafs' first pick and eighth overall in the 1970 Entry Draft. In 1972-73, he began to establish himself as a star, finishing with 77 points -- a total he would better in all but three of his subsequent 12 seasons in the NHL. At the age of 24, he became the second-youngest captain in team history. On February 7, 1976, he produced the greatest offensive game in league history when the Leafs beat the Bruins 11-4; Sittler had two assists in the first period, three goals and two assists in the second and another hat trick in the third. The total of six goals and four assists set a league record for points in one game (10) that had previously been held by Maurice "Rocket" Richard with eight. Sittler ended his NHL career with 1096 games played, 484 goals and 637 assists for a total of 1121 points. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.

Trophy Case: Second All-Star Team (1978)

Bob Gainey
Gainey was drafted eighth overall in 1973 by the Montreal Canadiens. He brought many elements to the Canadiens during his 16-year NHL career and helped the team win the Stanley Cup five times between 1976 and 1986. He played in a total of 1160 NHL games, scored 239 goals and notched 262 assists for a total of 501 points.

After leaving the NHL, with some time in between, he was named GM of the Minnesota North Stars in January 1992 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame later that year. The Stars won the Presidents' Trophy for having the most points in the NHL in 1998 and 1999. In the second of these seasons, Dallas won the first Stanley Cup in the history of the franchise in a thrilling series against the Buffalo Sabres.

Trophy Case: Conn Smythe Trophy (1979)
Frank J. Selke Trophy (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981)

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Ray Bourque
Bourque was chosen by the Boston Bruins with their first selection, eighth overall, in the NHL's 1979 Entry Draft. That fall, Bourque made his NHL debut and he racked up 65 points, the most for a rookie defenseman in NHL history at the time. He was the obvious choice for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year and also earned selection to the NHL's First All-Star Team, becoming the first non-goaltender to win both honors in the same season. He went on to play 20 seasons with the Bruins.

It took 22 seasons, but Bourque finally achieved his lifelong hockey goal as part of the Colorado Avalanche's Stanley Cup championship team in 2001. He retired later that summer. During an extraordinary NHL career, Bourque collected 410 goals and 1,169 assists for 1,579 points in 1,612 regular season games. 

After 22 years, Ray Bourque (center) won his first Cup with Colorado in 2002.

In honor of his contributions to the game, both the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche retired Bourque's No. 77 jersey. In 2004, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in only his first year of eligibility.

Trophy Case: Calder Memorial Trophy (1980)
Canada Cup All-Star Team (1987)
James Norris Memorial Trophy (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1992)
Lester Patrick Trophy (2003)
NHL First All-Star Team (1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2001)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1999)

Grant Fuhr
Fuhr was drafted eighth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1981 and led the Oilers to five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990. One rare, offensively-focused note: during the 1983-1984 season, Fuhr collected 14 points, which still stands as the single-season record for most points by a goaltender.

Prior to the 2000-01 season, Fuhr announced his retirement from professional hockey. In a total of 868 NHL games, he collected 403 wins and 295 losses. In Fuhr's first year of eligibility, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Trophy Case: NHL First All-Star Team (1988)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1982)
Vezina Trophy (1988)
William M. Jennings Trophy (1994)

Blue Jackets in the first round, eighth overall...
Since the inception of the franchise, the team has only had the eighth overall pick two other times, first in 2001 and then again in 2004.

In 2001, the Blue Jackets selected Pascal Leclaire eighth overall, which was coincidentally also hosted in Sunrise, Florida. Leclaire had an outstanding 2007-08 season in net for the Blue Jackets. But luck was not on Leclaire's side during his NHL career. Throughout a six-year career, he suffered numerous injuries that held him back from cementing a No. 1 goaltending job for more than a handful of seasons.

In 2004, Alexandre Picard was chosen by the Blue Jackets eight overall at the NHL Draft. Over five seasons with the Blue Jackets, he played only 67 games.

More recently, in 2011, the Blue Jackets traded their first round pick (eighth overall) the 2011 NHL Draft in the Jeff Carter deal.

This year...
It’s hard to predict what will happen at the draft. Some first round selections will go on to be superstars, and many do not. But, as seen above, the No. 8 spot at the draft has produced some stellar talent. Only time will tell if the same can be said for *insert Blue Jackets draft pick here.*

Oh, and, make sure you’re watching it all live at the best watch party in the city: the Blue Jackets Draft Party.

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