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Second Overall Proves First Rate: The 80s and 90s

Part 2 of a series that takes a look at how second overall picks have shaped franchises

by Bill Meltzer @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

Bill Meltzer continues his series examining how owning and selecting 2nd overall in the NHL Draft has changed a franchise. In the sections below, we examine the golden scoring era of the Eighties and the defensive era of the Nineties.

The 1980s (Brian Bellows, Kirk Muller, Brendan Shanahan, Trevor Linden)

The 1982 Entry Draft turned out much like the 1974 edition, as the top overall pick, defenseman Gord Kluzak, never really got to show what he could do in the NHL due to injury problems. Kluzak, a surprise selection by Boston, was felled repeatedly by serious knee injuries. He was also injured in a lopsided fight against the Flyers' Dave Brown. 

Originally, most prognosticators figured that high scoring Kitchener Rangers right winger Brian Bellows would be taken first overall. Instead, he went second to the Minnesota North Stars. Bellows went on to have four seasons with at least 40 goals (including a 50-goal campaign) and nine with at least 30 goals on his way to scoring 485 goals during his long NHL career.

The next year, the draft went down much like the 1970 draft with a second pick (Sylvain Turgeon by the Hartford Whalers) who had a decent enough NHL career but had the misfortune of being severely eclipsed by the players who followed him on draft day - Pat LaFontaine, Steve Yzerman and Tom Barrasso. Turgeon (like Bellows) was known as something of a one-dimensional player, but had three seasons with 30 or more goals, including a 40-goal season before heading to Europe for the final six years of his career.

To many fans, any discussion of the 1984 Draft class begins and ends with the Penguins' selection of Mario Lemieux with the top pick. While second overall pick Kirk Muller could never hope to match Lemieux's legacy in the sport, he was an outstanding leader on and off the ice and a fine two-way player for the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. A five-time selection to the NHL All-Star Game, Muller had 959 points in his 1,349 game career and owns a Stanley Cup ring from the 1992-93 season with the Montreal Canadiens.

The 1987 Draft saw arguably the finest power forward of the last 20 years, Brendan Shanahan, taken second overall by New Jersey after the Islanders chose Pierre Turgeon with the first selection. 

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Shanahan collected 656 goals, 1,345 points and 2,489 penalty minutes during his career. Remarkably, over the latter years of his career, the power winger only had to scale back slightly on the punishing physical style that made him such a force for the Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers and Detroit Red Wings. He belied the once-common belief that power forwards inevitably broke down by their early 30s.

Meanwhile, the top two of the 1988 Entry Draft bore a similarity to contrast between Lemieux and Muller in 1984. Mike Modano, a future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, went first overall. While second overall pick Trevor Linden did not put up comparable point totals to Modano's, he was regarded as one of the NHL's best natural leaders and accomplished two-way players of his era. 

A six-time 30-goal scorer during his first of two lengthy stints with the Vancouver Canucks, Linden did not quite find the same success during his time with the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals. Late his career, he had a revival in Vancouver. albeit in more of a strictly defensive role than in his prime.

The 1990s (Chris Pronger, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin)

Even a top three pick in the draft can take time to hit his stride in the world's top hockey league. That's the case with many of the best second overall picks of the 1990s.

Ottawa's first overall pick of the 1993 draft, Alexandre Daigle, never came close to living up to the lofty expectations placed upon him after a spectacular junior career. 

Today, it's easy to forget that the second pick by the Hartford Whalers, defenseman Chris Pronger, was also widely considered a disappointment after his first four NHL seasons, which were split between the Hartford Whalers and St. Louis Blues after being traded for Brendan Shanahan. 

Thereafter, Pronger emerged as one of the most dominant and intimidating defensemen in modern NHL history. He spent the final two-plus seasons of his storied career with the Flyers before a severe eye injury and post-concussion syndrome prematurely ended his career. Pronger was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

In 1997, after the Boston Bruins selected highly touted center Joe Thornton with the top overall pick, the San Jose Sharks chose Seattle Thunderbirds standout Patrick Marleau with the second pick. Twenty years, 508 goals and 1,082 points in 1,493 games later, Marleau was still a Shark. As the fates would have it, Marleau and Thornton ended up teammates in San Jose in 2005-06 and were still together 11 years later.

The 1999 draft saw the Atlanta Thrashers choose center Patrik Stefan first overall. Stefan never lived up to expectations. The second overall pick by Vancouver, Daniel Sedin, entered the league with a lot of hype as he and twin brother Henrik (picked third overall by the Canucks) broke into the league together. The twins played inconsistent hockey for their first few seasons in the league, but found their rhythm and became stars. 

Most notably, Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy in 2010-11 and was selected by his fellow NHL players as the Ted Lindsay Award winner. Come the 2017-18 season, Daniel will need just 14 points to achieve the coveted 1,000 career points milestone. Henrik has 1,021 career points through the 2016-17 campaign.

Stay tuned to PhiladelphiaFlyers.com for Part 3, which will examine the 2000s and today's game from 2010 and on… 

PART 1: The 60s & 70s

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