"When I look back over the last 25 years I don't think I've seen a defenseman that can control the tempo of the game like him," Ken Daneyko, his defense partner with the New Jersey Devils, wrote for NHL.com when Niedermayer was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. "He'd slow it down, speed it up, whatever he wanted. He could make the whole game move in slow motion because he was that gifted and that good of a skater. Someone asked where I rated him, and he might be the best I've ever seen."
Few players picked at the 1991 NHL Draft at Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo approached Niedermayer's level of success. But with 25 years of hindsight, how would that draft go if the same players were made available today?
Note: Players listed with teams that drafted them; original draft position in parenthesis:
1. Scott Niedermayer, D, New Jersey Devils (3)
In addition to his four Stanley Cup championships, Niedermayer was an offensive threat who was considered the best skater of his generation. But Daneyko wrote that Niedermayer's 740 points (172 goals, 568 assists) in 1,263 games were a testament to his team-first mentality: "He probably sacrificed a lot of numbers. … He had 700-something points, but his numbers could have been way gaudier if it was up-tempo all the time. But I think it made him more of a complete player."
2. Peter Forsberg, C, Philadelphia Flyers (6)
Forsberg was a star before he reached the NHL; his shootout goal in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics was commemorated on a postage stamp in his native Sweden. He was drafted by the Flyers but was traded to Quebec Nordiques in 1992 before playing for them. When healthy he was dominant, and helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup twice (1996, 2001). His 885 points (249 goals, 636 assists) are third-most in the 1991 draft class but his 708 games are 31st. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.
3. Eric Lindros, C, Quebec Nordiques (1)
After forcing a trade to the Flyers, he dominated the League as a rookie in 1992-93 with 41 goals in 61 games. Concussions shortened his career, but he won the Hart Trophy in 1995, helped the Flyers reach the 1997 Stanley Cup Final and had four 40-goal seasons. His 372 goals are fourth among players in his draft class. His 1.14 points per game is 19th all-time; of the top 30 players on the list to play in at least 500 games and are eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lindros is one of two players (Kent Nilsson) not to be enshrined.
4. Alex Kovalev, RW, New York Rangers (15)
The native of Togliatti, Russia, was the first Russian-born player picked in the first round. In 1993-94, his first full NHL season, he helped the Rangers win the Stanley Cup and he and two Russian-born teammates were the first players from their country to have their names engraved on the trophy. Kovalev scored at least 20 goals 12 times and 30 or more goals four times in 19 NHL seasons. He leads players in his draft class with 430 goals and is second with 1,029 points and 1,316 games played.
5. Markus Naslund, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins (16)
After parts of three subpar seasons with the Penguins, Naslund was traded to the Vancouver Canucks and developed into one of the best Swedish-born players to skate in the NHL. He was a three-time First-Team All-Star and scored at least 30 goals six times in 12 seasons with the Canucks. His 395 goals are third among Swedish NHL players and second in the 1991 draft class.
6. Chris Osgood, G, Detroit Red Wings (54)
The third-round pick helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup three times (1997, 1998, 2008). His 401 wins are 11th all-time, and his 2.09 goals-against average in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is seventh among goalies to play at least 50 postseason games.
7. Glen Murray, RW, Boston Bruins (18)
Murray was a solid contributor in his first 10 seasons in the League. After four seasons with Boston to start his career, Murray returned to the Bruins during the 2001-02 season and was placed on a line with center Joe Thornton. Murray had back-to-back 40-goal seasons, and in parts of four seasons together, Murray had 233 points (123 goals, 110 assists) in 258 games. His 337 goals are sixth in the draft class.
8. Ray Whitney, LW, San Jose Sharks (23)
The former Edmonton Oilers stick boy was a second-round pick who played more games (1,330) and had more points (1,064) than any player drafted in 1991. He played 22 seasons for eight teams, highlighted by helping the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006.
9. Mike Knuble, RW, Detroit Red Wings (76)
The fourth-round pick hit his stride as a sturdy power forward as a 30-year-old in 2002-03 when he had 30 goals with the Boston Bruins. He scored at least 21 goals in eight straight seasons (2002-11) with the Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals, with a career high of 34 in 2005-06 with the Flyers.
10. Michael Nylander, C, Hartford Whalers (59)
Nylander scored at least 20 goals four times in his 15 seasons in the NHL. In 2005-06 with the New York Rangers, he was Jaromir Jagr's center when Jagr set Rangers records with 54 goals and 123 points.
11. Ziggy Palffy, RW, New York Islanders (26)
The second-round pick had three straight seasons of at least 43 goals and 87 points between 1995-96 and 1997-98. In 12 seasons with the Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, he finished in the top 10 in the League in goals three times and in points four times, and played in the NHL All-Star Game three times.
12. Sandis Ozolinsh, D, San Jose Sharks (30)
Ozolinsh scored 26 goals in his second season in the NHL in 1993-94 and then was a Norris Trophy finalist with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996-97, when he had 23 goals and 68 points. He also led defensemen with 19 points to help the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 1996. His 167 goals and 564 points are second among defensemen in his draft class.
13. Brian Rolston, LW, New Jersey Devils (11)
Rolston helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 1995 as a rookie, but had his best seasons later in his career with the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild. He scored at least 30 goals four times in six seasons between 2001-02 and 2007-08, and is fifth in his draft class with 342 goals.
14. Martin Lapointe, RW, Detroit Red Wings (10)
Lapointe won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, and scored a career-high 27 goals in 2000-01. In 17 seasons he reached double-figures in goals seven times, and played all 82 games four times.
15. Martin Rucinsky, LW, Edmonton Oilers (20)
After time with the Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche, he hit his stride in parts of seven seasons with the Montreal Canadiens (1995-02). He scored at least 20 goals four times and played in the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. He's in the top-12 in his draft class with 241 goals and 612 points.
16. Richard Matvichuk, D, Minnesota North Stars (8)
The stay-at-home defender helped the Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup in 1999, and followed that with his best offensive season in 1999-2000 with 25 points in 70 games to help the Stars reach the Cup Final.
17. Alexei Zhitnik, D, Los Angeles Kings (81)
A fourth-round pick, Zhitnik started his NHL career with back-to-back 12-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94, and had a career-high 15 goals in 1997-98 with the Buffalo Sabres. He played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1999 and 2002, and his 1,085 games are third among defensemen drafted in 1991.
18. Mariusz Czerkawski, RW, Boston Bruins (106)
Czerkawski is one of eight Polish-born players to reach the NHL. He scored at least 20 goals six times in 12 seasons, including back-to-back 30-goal seasons with the New York Islanders from 1999-2001, and played in the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. His 215 goals are in the top-15 for his draft class.
19. Yanic Perreault, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (47)
Perreault was a solid performer for 14 seasons with six teams. He scored at least 20 goals seven times and his 247 goals are 10th in the draft class. Later in his career, Perreault became a top faceoff man. Between 1997-98 and 2007-08, he won 61.1 percent, most among players to take at least 5,000 faceoffs in that span.
20. Brian Savage, LW, Montreal Canadiens (171)
An eighth-round pick, Savage scored at least 20 goals five times, setting a career high of 26 goals in 1997-98 with the Canadiens. His 192 goals are 15th in the draft class.
21. Sean O'Donnell, D, Buffalo Sabres (123)
The sixth-round pick was a dependable, stay-at-home defenseman for eight teams in 17 seasons. He played in the top four with the Anaheim Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team. His 1,224 games are fifth in his draft class, and second among defensemen.
22. Steve Konowalchuk, LW, Washington Capitals (58)
The third-round pick scored at least 20 goals twice in 14 seasons, and had five 40-points seasons. He also was one of the better defensive-minded forwards in his draft class; the Capitals had an 84.0-percent success rate killing penalties between 1993-94, his first full NHL season, and 2002-03, his last full season with them.
Missing first-round picks: Pat Falloon, San Jose Sharks (2); Scott LaChance, New York Islanders (4); Aaron Ward, Winnipeg Jets (5); Alex Stojanov, Vancouver Canucks (7); Patrick Poulin, Hartford Whalers (9); Tyler Wright, Edmonton Oilers (12); Philippe Boucher, Buffalo Sabres (13); Pat Peake, Washington Capitals (14); Brent Bilodeau, Montreal Canadiens (17); Niklas Sundblad, Calgary Flames (19); Trevor Halverson, Washington Capitals (21); Dean McAmmond, Chicago Blackhawks (22)