The NHL Draft has come a long way from its origins at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in June 1963, a day on which six teams conducted a four-round selection procedure to choose 21 prospects who were not already members of team-sponsored junior clubs. The 50th NHL Draft, scheduled to be held at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on June 22-23, will see 211 players chosen by the League's 30 teams -- and will be staged in front of thousands of fans and televised around the world.
Obviously, a lot has changed since that first draft; we've gone from six teams to 30, and the number of players selected is 10 times larger. Junior teams are no longer sponsored by NHL clubs, and the teams now select from a worldwide pool of players. But the goals are still the same -- to find the next generation of NHL talent.
Here's a numerical look at the 50 years of the NHL Draft:
0 -- Players taken by the St. Louis Blues in the 1983 draft. After an ownership squabble, the Blues did not send a representative to Montreal and became the only team in the post-1969 era of the draft that did not select a single player.
1 -- Players from U.S. high schools who were taken with the first choice in the draft. Brian Lawton, a center from Mount St. Charles H.S. in Rhode Island, went No. 1 to the Minnesota North Stars in 1983. Lawton played 483 games in the NHL, finishing with 112 goals and 256 points. His best NHL season was 1986-87, when he had 21 goals and 44 points.
2 -- Goaltenders taken with the No. 1 pick since 1969, the first draft held after the sponsorship of junior teams was discontinued. The New York Islanders took Rick DiPietro from Boston University in 2000, and Pittsburgh selected Marc-Andre Fleury from Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the first pick in 2003.
3 -- Most consecutive years in which a team has had the No. 1 pick. Quebec picked first from 1989 through 1991, nabbing Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros. The Edmonton Oilers have the No. 1 pick in this year's draft after picking first in 2010 (Taylor Hall) and 2011 (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).
4 -- Consecutive years in which a Canadian-born player was taken with the No. 1 pick. That streak -- the longest since Canadians went No. 1 from 1984-87 -- could end this year. Russian Nail Yakupov, a forward who plays with the OHL's Sarnia Sting, was first in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of draft-eligible players for 2012.
5 -- Players taken in the first draft (then called the Amateur Draft) who wound up playing in the NHL. Peter Mahovlich, the second player taken in 1963 (by Detroit), was the only one to win a Stanley Cup and the only one to score more than 250 goals or 700 points -- in fact, his offensive totals were higher than any player taken from 1963-68.
6 -- Years since a defenceman has been picked with the first selection in the draft. St. Louis took Erik Johnson with the first choice in 2006; before that, no defenceman had been taken No. 1 since Chris Phillips by Ottawa in 1996.
7 -- Rounds in the draft since 2005, when the most recent collective bargaining agreement was adopted. The number has been whittled down over the years from a high of 25 in 1974.
9 -- Round in which the Los Angeles Kings took future Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille in the 1984 NHL Draft. Robitaille finished his career with 668 goals, 10th on the all-time list, and is the lowest-selected player in the 50 years of the draft to score more than 500 goals.
11 -- Fewest players ever taken in the draft. In 1965, the six teams chose only 11 players; only two (defenceman Pierre Bouchard and forward Michel Parizeau) made the NHL. Bouchard was the only one to have a substantial career, playing 590 games and playing on five Stanley Cup winners with Montreal.
15 -- Brother combinations that have been selected in the first round of the draft. The Sutters (Duane, Brent, Rich, Ron) are the only family with four first-round choices, one more than the Staals (Eric, Jordan, Marc). There have never been two brothers who were chosen with the No. 1 pick; the closest were the Turgeons -- Hartford chose Sylvain with the second pick in 1983 while Pierre went No. 1 to Buffalo in '87.
22 -- Consecutive years in which the draft was held in Montreal before the NHL opted to hold it in other cities. The draft was held in four different venues in Montreal before being staged in Toronto in 1985. It has never been held in the same city in consecutive years since then.
23 -- Round in which the New York Rangers took defenceman Jim Warner in 1974. Warner played 32 games with Hartford in 1979-80 to become the lowest-drafted player (by round) to make it to the NHL. The lowest-drafted player to score an NHL goal was Warren Miller, taken by the Rangers two rounds before Warner. Miller had 40 goals and 90 points in four seasons with the Rangers and Whalers.
69 -- Draft picks from the University of Minnesota, tops among all U.S. colleges. Michigan, coached by former NHL star Red Berenson, is second with 68.
172 -- Players selected from the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes, the most taken from a junior team in any of Canada's three major junior leagues. Dale MacLeish, taken in the fourth round by Toronto in 1966, was the first. The Petes are the only major junior team to have at least one player taken in each of the last 30 years.
291 -- Draft position of defenceman Jonathan Ericsson (Detroit, 2002) and goaltender Brian Elliott (Ottawa, 2003), the lowest-picked players ever to make the NHL. Ericsson was the last player picked in '02; Elliott was next-to-last the following year.
535 -- Players from Russia and the former Soviet Union taken in the draft, the most of any non-North American country. Sweden is second with 532 and could move into first place this year -- there were 25 Swedes taken last year, compared with just six Russians.
Author: John Kreiser