The best picks ever, 1-30

Monday, 06.15.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By John Kreiser - Columnist

Drafting is an inexact science -- for every late-round gem (Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk), there's a high pick that didn't work out the way the a team had planned (Patrik Stefan).

Here's a look at some of the best choices in the history of the Entry Draft, as determined by where they were selected among the top 30 picks. (Up and coming includes players taken from 2004-08)

No. 1: Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh, 1984) --
If the Penguins had not drafted Lemieux in 1984, the franchise likely would have left Pittsburgh two decades ago. Lemieux was brilliant from the day he arrived, and eventually the Penguins built a supporting cast that helped him lead the franchise to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991-92. Had he stayed healthy, it would have been interesting to see whether he could have broken some of Wayne Gretzky's scoring records. He was perhaps the most physically talented player in NHL history.

Runners-up: Guy Lafleur (1971), Denis Potvin (1973)
Up and coming: Alex Ovechkin (2004), Sidney Crosby (2005); Patrick Kane (2007)
Disappointment: Patrik Stefan (1999)

No. 2: Brendan Shanahan (New Jersey, 1987) -- Shanahan's career came full circle in 2008-09 when he re-signed with the Devils, the team he began his career with more than two decades earlier. He's one of the great power forwards of any era, with 656 goals, 1,354 points, 2,489 penalty minutes, three Stanley Cups -- and a Hall of Fame berth as soon as he's eligible, which could be soon depending on whether he plays next season.

Runners-up: Marcel Dionne (1971), Chris Pronger (1993)
Up and coming: Evgeni Malkin (2004), Drew Doughty (2008)
Disappointment: Dave Chyzowski (1989)

No. 3: Scott Niedermayer (New Jersey, 1991) -- Few defensemen in NHL history have had Niedermayer's wheels -- he's as swift and smooth a skater as you'll ever see. Niedermayer's offensive numbers were held down somewhat because he played much of his career with the defense-first Devils. There were benefits, however -- he helped the Devils to three Stanley Cups and then captained Anaheim to another in 2007. He became a Devil in one of Lou Lamoriello's greatest trades -- the New Jersey GM dealt journeyman defenseman Tom Kurvers to Toronto in 1989 for the pick that turned into Niedermayer.

Runners-up: Denis Savard (1980), Pat LaFontaine (1983)
Up and coming: Jack Johnson (2005), Jonathan Toews (2006) 
Disappointment: Neil Brady (1986)
No. 4: Steve Yzerman (Detroit, 1983) -- It's hard to believe now, but then-Wings GM Jim Devellano actually hoped to get Pat LaFontaine with the fourth pick in 1983, because LaFontaine had played locally and might help sell tickets. Instead, the Wings had to "settle" for Yzerman, who came into the NHL as a high scorer but later showed he was willing to trade individual points for team wins. The result was three Stanley Cups in six seasons, all of them with Yzerman as captain.

Runners-up: Mike Gartner (1979), Ron Francis (1981)
Up and coming: Nicklas Backstrom (2006)
Disappointment: Alexandre Volchkov (1996)

No. 5: Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh, 1990) --
Missing the playoffs on the last night of the regular season is painful, but the Penguins' consolation prize for their near-miss in 1990 was Jagr. The Czech teenager turned into the perfect sidekick for Mario Lemieux and was a key to the Penguins' back-to-back Cup wins in 1991 and '92. He owns five NHL scoring titles, a Hart Trophy and seven First-Team All-Star berths, as well as five 100-point seasons. His combination of speed, skill and power is matched by very few players in NHL history.

Runners-up: Scott Stevens (1982), Tom Barrasso (1983)
Up and coming: Carey Price (2005); Luke Schenn (2008)
Disappointment: Daniel Dore (1988)

No. 6: Peter Forsberg (Philadelphia, 1991) -- Talk about the one that got away -- the Flyers drafted Forsberg with the sixth pick, but traded him to Quebec a year later in the Eric Lindros deal. Forsberg became one of the NHL's toughest skill players, a center who could beat you with a shot, a pass or just by running over you. It's hard to imagine how good he'd have been if injuries hadn't slowed him down and ultimately cut short his career.

Runners-up: Paul Coffey (1980), Phil Housley (1982)
Up and coming: Derek Brassard (2006), Sam Gagner (2007)
Disappointment: Daniel Tkaczuk (1997)

No. 7: Bernie Federko (St. Louis, 1976) -- At (maybe) 6 feet tall and all of 178 pounds, Federko hardly was a physical presence, but he more than made up for any lack of physicality with his hockey skills, which helped him pile up 369 goals and 1,130 points in exactly 1,000 games on the way to the Hall of Fame. He was the first player in NHL history to earn at least 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons (1978-79 to 1987-88).

Runners-up: Bill Barber (1972), Shane Doan (1995)
Up and coming: Rostislav Olesz (2004); Kyle Okposo (2006)
Disappointment: Ryan Sittler (1992)

No. 8: Ray Bourque (Boston, 1979) -- Bourque stepped right into the NHL from junior hockey in 1979 and didn't step out until he skated away as a Stanley Cup champion with Colorado in 2001. Bourque holds all the NHL career scoring marks for defensemen (410 goals, 1,169 assists, 1,579 points), was a First-Team All-Star 13 times -- including 2000-01, when he turned 41 -- and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman five times. Bourque rarely was flashy, but almost always brilliant.

Runners-up: Grant Fuhr (1981), Jeremy Roenick (1988)
Up and coming: Devin Setoguchi (2005), Peter Mueller (2006)
Disappointment: Rocky Trottier (1982)

No. 9: Brian Leetch (N.Y. Rangers, 1986) -- Leetch, who spent most of his career with the Rangers, arguably is the greatest U.S.-born player in NHL history. He joined the Rangers after one season at Boston College and a stint with the 1988 U.S. Olympic team and never stopped putting up points. Leetch won the 1989 Calder Trophy, took home the Norris Trophy twice and led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup (their only one since 1940) while becoming the first (and still only) American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in June.

Runners-up: Cam Neely (1983), Rod Brind'Amour (1988)
Up and coming: James Sheppard (2006); Josh Bailey (2008)
Disappointment: Brett Lindros (1994)

No. 10: Teemu Selanne (Winnipeg, 1988) --
In terms of raw offensive numbers, Selanne had the greatest rookie season of all time. He announced his arrival in 1992 by shattering NHL records for first-year players with 76 goals and 132 points. The Finnish Flash led the NHL in goals three times and was good enough to score 48 goals and 94 points at age 36, helping the Anaheim Ducks to their first Stanley Cup. He had 27 goals for Anaheim this season and likely will go past 600 for his career if he comes back next season.

Runners-up: Steve Vickers (1971), Bobby Holik (1989)
Up and coming: Michael Frolik (2006); Cody Hodgson (2008)
Disappointment: Mikhail Yakubov (2000)

No. 11: Jarome Iginla (Dallas, 1995) -- The Stars traded the future for the present when they sacrificed Iginla to get Joe Nieuwendyk from Calgary. Landing Nieuwendyk helped them win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1999, but the long-term cost has been steep -- Iginla has become one of the NHL's top stars. He's won the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Lester B. Pearson trophies and was a Hart Trophy finalist in 2007-08 after reaching the 50-goal mark for the second time. He owns the Flames' franchise records for career goals and points.

Runners-up: Brian Rolston (1991), Brendan Witt (1993)
Up and coming: Anze Kopitar (2005); Brandon Sutter (2007)
Disappointment: David Cooper (1992)

No. 12: Gary Roberts (Calgary, 1984) --
If it seemed like Roberts was around forever, that's because he was -- at least by hockey standards. Roberts won a Stanley Cup with Calgary at age 23, scored 53 goals three seasons later, missed most of three seasons recovering from a serious neck injury, and still managed to score 438 goals and 910 points in 1,224 games. At age 42 he was a key locker-room presence in Pittsburgh's run to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, and he played briefly with Tampa Bay before retiring this season.

Runners-up: Kenny Jonsson (1993), Marian Hossa (1997)
Up and coming: Marc Staal (2005), Bryan Little (2006)
Disappointment: Josh Holden (1996)

No. 13: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Hartford, 1995) -- The last first-round draft selection in Whalers history had to make a few stops before finding success, but Giguere has been one of the keys to the rise of the Anaheim Ducks. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2003, when Anaheim lost the Stanley Cup Final to New Jersey, and he could have won again in 2007 after the Ducks topped Ottawa for their first Stanley Cup.

Runners-up: Mattias Ohlund (1994), Ales Hemsky (2001)
Up and coming: Drew Stafford (2004); Jiri Tlusty (2006)
Disappointment: Michael Henrich (1998)

No. 14: Rick Middleton (N.Y. Rangers, 1973) -- Want to make a Rangers fan groan? Mention Middleton, who came up as the Rangers were entering a rebuilding phase and was sacrificed in a trade that brought Phil Esposito's long-time sidekick, Ken Hodge, to the Big Apple in 1976. The Rangers traded Middleton's future for Hodge's past -- Middleton had seven straight 30-goal seasons and went on to score more than 400 goals with the Bruins, while Hodge was out of the League 18 games into his second season in New York.

Runners-up: Brian Propp (1979), Sergei Gonchar (1992)
Up and coming: Kevin Shattenkirk (2007), Zach Boychuk (2008)
Disappointment: Jim Malone (1980)

No. 15: Mike Bossy (N.Y. Islanders, 1977) -- Twelve teams (including the Rangers and Toronto twice each) passed on Bossy because he was regarded as just another sniper from the run-and-gun Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Isles coach Al Arbour told GM Bill Torrey he could teach Bossy to play defense; he was right, and the rest is history. Bossy scored 573 goals in just 10 seasons and was a key to the Isles' four consecutive Stanley Cups before being forced to retire in 1987 due to back problems. Had Bossy stayed healthy, it's likely he -- not Wayne Gretzky -- would have broken Gordie Howe's all-time record for goals.

Runners-up: Al MacInnis (1981), Joe Sakic (1987)
Up and coming: Riku Helenius (2006), Erik Karlsson (2008)
Disappointment: Scott Kelman (1999)

No. 16: Dave Andreychuk (Buffalo, 1982) -- At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Andreychuk was a presence in front of the net for more than two decades. He was a big scorer in the first half of his career, totaling 30 or more goals seven times with Buffalo and getting 53 for Toronto in 1993-94. He remained a consistent scorer for another decade while improving his all-round game. He also became a leader and was captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning when they won the 2004 Stanley Cup. Andreychuk retired with 640 goals and 1,338 points in 1,639 games.

Runners-up: Al Secord (1978), Markus Naslund (1991)
Up and coming: Petteri Nokelainen (2004), Colton Gillies (2007)
Disappointment: Ty Jones (1997)

No. 17: Bobby Clarke (Philadelphia, 1969) -- Clarke fell to the second round in 1969 because teams didn't want to take a chance on drafting a diabetic. The Flyers called his name at No. 17 and got a Hall of Famer. The diabetes became a non-issue as Clarke became a star. He was named team captain at 23, at the time the youngest player ever to get the "C." Clarke's drive and skill led the Flyers to Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75, and he retired in 1984 with 1,210 points, three Hart trophies and a hatful of other honors.

Runners-up: Brent Sutter (1980), Kevin Hatcher (1984)
Up and coming: Martin Hanzal (2005), Trevor Lewis (2006)
Disappointment: Brent Bilodeau (1991)

No. 18: Glen Murray (Boston, 1991) -- Murray had two stints with the Bruins (sandwiched around time with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles); suffice it to say the second was better than the first. Murray never had scored 30 goals in a season before returning to the Bruins in 2001-02, and then did it three times in a row, including a high of 44 in 2002-03. A solid player for a long time, he had 337 goals and 651 points in 1,009 NHL games.

Runners-up: Ken Daneyko (1982), Petr Sykora (1995)
Up and coming: Kyle Chipchura (2004), Ryan Parent (2005)
Disappointment: Jesper Mattsson (1993)

No. 19: Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990) -- The Jets grabbed Tkachuk in 1990 and he made the NHL after one season at Boston University. Tkachuk became one of the NHL's best power forwards -- a two-time 50-goal scorer and the first U.S.-born player to lead the NHL in goals when he had 52 in 1996-97. He continued scoring after being dealt to St. Louis in 2000-01, reached the 500-goal mark on the final day of the 2007-08 season and was a big reason the Blues surprisingly made the playoffs in 2008-09.

Runners-up: Craig Ramsay (1971), Olaf Kolzig (1989)
Up and coming: Lauri Korpikoski (2004); Jakub Kindl (2005)
Disappointment: Matthieu Descoteaux (1996)

No. 20: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey, 1990) -- It may be hard to believe now, but the winningest goaltender in NHL history was not the first goalie picked in 1990 (Calgary took Trevor Kidd at No. 11). Brodeur passed Patrick Roy for the wins record this season and figures to surpass Terry Sawchuk's mark of 103 shutouts early in 2009-10. He has three Stanley Cup rings, four Vezina trophies and is regarded as the gold standard among NHL goaltenders.

Runners-up: Larry Robinson (1971), Michel Goulet (1979)
Up and coming: Travis Zajac (2004), Michael Del Zotto (2008)
Disappointment: Barrett Heisten (1999)

No. 21: Kevin Lowe (Edmonton, 1979) -- The Oilers' first draft pick after the NHL-WHA merger was a superb choice. Lowe anchored the defense on a team that won five Stanley Cups in seven years, then provided stability on the blue line when the New York Rangers broke their 54-year drought by winning the Cup in 1994. Lowe wasn't flashy, but on an offense-first juggernaut, he was a huge stabilizing factor.

Runners-up: Patrick Flatley (1982), Saku Koivu (1993)
Up and coming: Wojtek Wolski (2004), Tuukka Rask (2005)
Disappointment: Evgeni Ryabchikov (1994)

No. 22: Bryan Trottier (N.Y. Islanders, 1974) --
The Islanders completed a Hall of Fame daily double when they picked Trottier, a center from Swift Current, with their second pick in 1974 (they took his future linemate, Clark Gillies, with their first pick). Trottier was the prototypical two-way center -- tough, strong, defensively diligent -- but his offensive skills were off the chart. Trottier, Gillies and Mike Bossy formed one of the NHL's best lines for years. After scoring 500 goals and helping the Isles to four straight Stanley Cups in the 1980s, Trottier finished his career with two more Cups as a checking center in Pittsburgh.

Runners-up: Adam Graves (1986), Adam Foote (1989)
Up and coming: Matt Lashoff (2005), Claude Giroux (2006)
Disappointment: Nikos Tselios (1997)

No. 23: Ray Whitney (San Jose, 1991) -- The second draft pick in team history is 37 but still going strong, with 24 goals and a team-high 77 points for Carolina (his sixth NHL team) in 2008-09. That moved the Edmonton native past 300 goals and 800 points for his career -- not bad for a kid whose first hockey claim to fame was being the Oilers' stick boy in Wayne Gretzky's last season in Edmonton (1987-88). That's pretty good for a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder who was told he was too small to make it in the NHL.

Runners-up: Travis Green (1989), Todd Bertuzzi (1993)
Up and coming: Andrej Meszaros (2004), Simeon Varlamov (2006)
Disappointment: Craig Hillier (1996)

No. 24: Doug Jarvis (Toronto, 1975) -- No one was better at showing up for work every night than Jarvis, who broke into the NHL on opening night of the 1975-76 season and suited up for 964 consecutive games, a record that's not likely to be broken. Jarvis scored as many as 20 goals only once, but was one of the NHL's best checkers and combined with Bob Gainey and Doug Risebrough to form one of the League's top shut-down lines during the Canadiens' dynasty of the late 1970s.

Runners-up: Sean Burke (1985), Daniel Briere (1996)
Up and coming: T.J. Oshie (2005)
Disappointment: J-F Damphousse (1997)

No. 25: Mark Howe (Boston, 1974) -- Gordie's son never did play for the Bruins. Instead, Mark and Marty Howe joined their father in Houston, where they led the Aeros to a WHA title and made the club one of the league's flagship franchises in its early years. The Howes went to Hartford in 1977 and stayed with the Whalers through the merger with the NHL. Mark shifted to defense and had a number of excellent seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. He obviously wasn't as good as his father, but totaling his WHA and NHL numbers, he scored more than 400 goals and had 1,246 points in 1,355 games.

Runners-up: Gilles Gilbert (1969), Brenden Morrow (1997)
Up and coming: Andrew Cogliano (2005), Patrik Berglund (2006)
Disappointment: Mikhail Kuleshov (1999)

No. 26: Claude Lemieux (Montreal, 1983) -- Lemieux somehow kept showing up when there were Stanley Cups to be won -- he took home rings with Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado. He also earned a reputation as one of the game's best playoff performers (and most irritating players). Lemieux was on four Cup winners, earned the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995, and stunned the hockey world by making a comeback with San Jose this season at age 43. He has 379 goals and 786 points in the regular season, plus 80 goals and 158 points in 233 postseason contests.

Runners-up: Don Maloney (1978), Zigmund Palffy (1991)
Up and coming: Cory Schneider (2004), David Perron (2007)
Disappointment: Kevin Grimes (1997)

No. 27: Joe Nieuwendyk (Calgary, 1985) -- Nieuwendyk started his NHL career with a bang, scoring 51 goals in each of his first two full seasons, the second of which ended with the Flames hoisting the Stanley Cup. Nieuwendyk had 45 goals in each of the next two seasons, and though he never reached 40 goals again, he was a consistent scorer for winning teams until retiring in 2006-07 with 564 goals and 1,126 points, plus 66 playoff goals, and Stanley Cup rings with three different teams.

Runners-up: Scott Mellanby (1984), Scott Gomez (1998)
Up and coming: Jeff Schultz (2004), Ivan Vishnevskiy (2006)
Disappointment: Ari Ahonen (1999)

No. 28: Mike Richter (N.Y. Rangers, 1985) -- Richter arguably is the best U.S.-born goaltender in history. He was in net when the Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, led the United States to the World Cup two years later and to the silver medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He ended his career (prematurely, due to concussions) with 301 wins, the most in Rangers history, despite spending the first few seasons of his career splitting time with John Vanbiesbrouck.

Runners-up: Guy Chouinard (1974), Corey Perry (2003)
Up and coming: Matt Niskanen (2005), Viktor Tikhonov (2008)
Disappointment: Adrian Foster (2001)

No. 29: Danny Gare (Buffalo, 1974) --
The Sabres took Gare in the second round after he scored 45 and 68 goals in his last two junior seasons. He quickly showed those totals were no fluke, scoring 31 as a rookie to help the Sabres make the Stanley Cup Final, and he reached the 50-goal mark in his second season. He had a career-best 56 in 1979-80, when he was a Second-Team All-Star, and came back with 46 the next season. He finished his career in 1986-87 with 354 goals and 685 points in 827 games.

Runners-up: Stephane Richer (1984), Tepp Numminen (1986)
Up and coming: Mike Green (2004), Steve Downie (2005)
Disappointment: Brian Wesenberg (1995)
No. 30: Randy Carlyle (Toronto, 1976) -- The Leafs took Carlyle with their first pick (in the second round) in 1976, bounced him up and down between Toronto and the minors for two seasons, and then dealt him to Pittsburgh in the summer of 1978. It was a deal they would come to regret, as Carlyle won the 1981 Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, played in four All-Star Games and wound up scoring 647 points in 1,055 games with the Leafs, Penguins and Winnipeg Jets. He's done pretty well as a coach, too, leading Anaheim to the Cup in 2007.

Runners-up: Mark Hardy (1979), Patrice Brisebois (1989)
Up and coming: Matthew Corrente (2006), Nick Ross (2007)
Disappointment: Luke Sellars (1999)
Contact John Kreiser at [email protected]