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Take your pick: History on Devils' side

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

North American rankings: Skaters | Goalies
European rankings: Skaters | Goalies
Time will tell which way the Devils go on draft day, but they’re well-positioned to land an elite young player when they choose fourth overall on June 24.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the consensus top-ranked player and most mock drafts have him wearing an Oilers jersey once his name is called at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Colorado and Florida will also get their turn at the podium before the Devils announce their choice.

Will the Devils go with a center? A winger? A defenseman? History shows the pick has been used equally on all three. Exactly 10 prospects at each position have been selected fourth overall since 1980, plus one goaltender (Roberto Luongo, 1997). Click here to the see the full list.

The Devils, who won this year’s draft lottery to move up from eighth, will have their highest pick since 1991 when they selected Scott Niedermayer third overall.

The fourth selection has produced a wealth of top-level NHL talent, including several Hall of Famers. Of the 31 selections since 1980, 16 went on to play 500 or more NHL games, with six appearing in 1,000 and three reaching the 1,500-game plateau.

They’ve also accounted for a bundle of Stanley Cup rings.

Larry Murphy (1980) won four Cups, though none with the team that originally drafted him: the Los Angeles Kings. He was traded three times before going all the way with Pittsburgh in 1990-91 and 1991-92. He went back-to-back again with Detroit in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Steve Yzerman (1983), who captained those Red Wings squads, added his third title in 2002. He finished his career with 692 goals, though that’s not the highest total by a fourth overall pick. That honor goes to Mike Gartner (1979, Washington) and his 708, which rank him sixth all-time.

Ron Francis (1981, Hartford), a two-time champion with the Penguins, has the most points (1,798; fourth all-time) and games played (1,731; third all-time).

Other Hall of Famers in the group include Steve Shutt (1972, Montreal), Lanny McDonald (1973, Toronto) and Clark Gillies (1974, NY Islanders). Shutt won five rings with the Habs, including four straight from 1975-76 to 1978-79. The next year, Gillies and the Islanders dynasty captured the first of four in a row. McDonald hoisted the Cup with Calgary in 1989.

Andrew Ladd (2004, Carolina) already has two Cups (Carolina, Chicago) in eight seasons. Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom (2006) is one of the game’s top centermen, cracking the 100-point mark in 2009-10.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (2008) potted 11 goals and 32 assists in 2010-11, his first full NHL campaign. Another blossoming star, Evander Kane (2009) has amassed 33 goals and 36 assists during his first two seasons with Atlanta.

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