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High Five

Selecting No. 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 overall in the NHL Draft change the fates and faces of a franchise. Take a spin through the upper echelon of past draft orders

by Andy Eide / @AndyEide / nhl.com/kraken

During the 4 p.m. hour Wednesday the Kraken and general manager Ron Francis will learn what selection the team will have during the first round of July's 2021 NHL amateur draft.

No matter how the lottery balls align during Wednesday's NHL Draft Lottery, the Kraken do know they'll end up somewhere in the top five picks per this year's rules. Once the first round is complete July 23, the Kraken will be slotted third in each of Rounds 2 through 7 on July 24.

Having the top pick is the most ideal as the Kraken would get to choose their guy and history tells us that usually a franchise player comes at the top. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins who snagged Sidney Crosby with the first overall pick in 2005 and, before that, Mario Lemieux in 1984.

Pittsburgh subsequently have gone on to win multiple Stanley Cups (including two straight in 1991 and 1992 with Lemieux and the Kraken's own Francis as teammates).

Tweet from @NHL: Patience is a Sidney Crosby virtue. pic.twitter.com/ApPgV8hzrL

Fun fact to impress the draftniks in your life: Wayne Gretzky was not drafted in the NHL because he was playing with the Edmonton Oilers in the World Hockey Association when they merged into the NHL.

This is not to suggest elite players can't come from other slots in the draft. Seattle will be able to find quality in the top five. The general thought among this year's draft prognosticators is this summer there is no sure-fire No. 1 pick. Rather, five or six players could end up being the first chosen in this year's draft class.

Here's a look at some of the more notable players selected at each of the top five slots over the past 20 seasons.

 

With the first pick in the NHL Draft ...

Connor McDavid is considered the best player in the world right now and is coming off an unbelievable season with 105 points in 56 games, perhaps tarnished just a bit by Winnipeg's sweep of Edmonton in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tweet from @NHL: CONNOR MCDAVID 🤯It just NEVER gets old seeing him do this kind of thing... pic.twitter.com/pPsfRhiSs2

McDavid was the top pick by the Oilers at a deeply talented 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, FL. Kraken fans will get their fill of McDavid as he stars for a Pacific Division rival beginning this fall.

The NHL is lucky to have a number of marquee players who were top picks. A year after McDavid was selected, the Toronto Maple Leafs took Auston Matthews first overall (he led the NHL in goals this season, 41 in 52 games, but just exited the playoffs after only one round himself Monday).

Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon was the top pick at the 2013 Draft (he and teammates are up one game in a spotlight postseason series versus Vegas). The No. 1 pick list over the last two decades includes names like John Tavares (2009, New York Islanders), Steven Stamkos (2008, Tampa Bay Lightning), and Patrick Kane (2007, Chicago Blackhawks).

It's rare for goalies to go in the first round, much less as the first pick, but in 2003 the Pittsburgh Penguins took a shot a Marc-Andre Fluery out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and that worked out pretty well with three Stanley Cup wins.

 

With the second pick in the NHL Draft ...

Tweet from @NHL: Honestly, you can't not love this @Barkovsasha95 goal. ������������(Aleksander Barkov) pic.twitter.com/Rwg05tNBSy

Missing out on the first spot can be frustrating but, in some cases, it works out just fine for the runner-up. In 2013, the Florida Panthers missed on a chance to land MacKinnon but ended up selecting Aleksander Barkov, who just led Florida to one of its best seasons in franchise history.

The Lightning didn't get to draft Tavares in 2009 - imagine the defending champs with a Tavares in their top six - but made out more than OK with Victor Hedman with the second overall pick. All Hedman has done is become one of the league's top defenseman and won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP during Tampa's Cup championship last season. Tavares is still waiting to win his first Cup.

The Carolina Hurricanes have advanced into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and are led by Andrei Svechnikov, who is one of the league's most exciting young players. Carolina drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

 

With the third pick in the NHL Draft ...

In 2014, the Oilers held the third pick and watched as Florida opened the draft picking defenseman Aaron Ekblad while Buffalo took Sam Reinhart at number two. That left Leon Draisaitl from the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders for the Oilers. Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy for the 2019-2020 season when he piled up 110 points. Teaming up with McDavid, Draisaitl gives the Oilers two of the best scoring forwards in the NHL.

Tweet from @Sportsnet: 2������🚨, 2������🍏 on the night for Leon Draisaitl. We are halfway through the game. #NHLonSN pic.twitter.com/c2FAU386O7

Other impressive third overall picks include defenseman Miro Heiskanen to the Dallas Stars, Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau, and last year's third pick, Tim Stutzle, of the Ottawa Senators. Stutzle went straight to the NHL and outscored the first overall pick, Alex Lafreniere.

 

With the fourth pick in the NHL Draft ...

The Nashville Predators chose a defenseman in 2013 with the fourth pick, Seth Jones from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Jones, now with Columbus, has turned into one of the league's better blueliners (a theory he might well test as a 2022 free agent).

In the 2015 Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to pick up Mitch Marner at No. 4. Marner is now a key running mate of Auston Mathews for the high-scoring Leafs, though both fell short of expectations in the 2021 first-round playoff series upset by Montreal.

Nicklas Backstrom was the fourth overall pick for the Washington Capitals in 2006 and that helped bring a Stanley Cup to D.C. for the first time, making teammate Alex Ovechkin (No. 1 in 2004) both a surefire Hall of Famer and Cup winner. Another huge Cup-winning piece was acquired by the St. Louis Blues when they nabbed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with the fourth pick in 2008.

 

With the fifth pick in the NHL Draft ...

Tweet from @Sportsnet: Carey Price doing Carey Price things. #ItsOn pic.twitter.com/DkKSisom1k

Slot No. 5 has netted highly promising talent which, including the Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson picked in the spot during the 2017 draft. Pettersson is one of the league's top offensive threats who will be flying around Climate Pledge Arena as division rival of the Kraken.

On defense, Toronto was also able to pick one of their top defenders when they picked the stalwart Morgan Rielly at the 2012 Draft.

Montreal took a swing at a goaltender with the fifth selection in 2005, picking Carey Price from the Tri-City Americans. He is one of the NHL's elite goalies and the main reason top-seeded Toronto lost in the opening divisional round this spring.

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