The Boston Bruins
are the latest team to prove that the road to the Stanley Cup runs through the Entry Draft.
Every team has had its ups and downs since the draft began in 1963. Here's a look at the hits (and some of the misses) for the five teams in the Northeast Division on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Ray Bourque (1979) --
Seven teams passed on the Montreal native before the Bruins grabbed him. By the following spring, Bourque was the Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie and a First-Team All-Star. Bourque continued to pile up goals, assists and honors until being traded by the Bruins to Colorado in March 2000, and one year later he retired after finally winning a Stanley Cup. His 410 goals and 1,579 points are the most by an NHL defenseman. Few players in any sport were so brilliant for so long.
Honorable mention: Glen Wesley
(1987), Glen Murray
(1991), Joe Thornton
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Howe (1974) --
Gordie's son was drafted by the Bruins, but wound up with Houston and Hartford in the WHA, then came to the NHL with the Whalers when that franchise joined the League in 1979. He was dealt to Philadelphia three years later and spent most of his career with the Flyers before finishing by playing three seasons with Detroit, his father's old team. The idea of Howe and Bourque on the same blue line would be mind-boggling.
Honorable mention: Bill Ranford
(1985), Milan Lucic
Best later-round pick: P.J. Axelsson (1995) --
The Bruins took Axelsson in the seventh round (No. 177) from Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, where he largely was a checker. That's the same role he played for most of his time in the NHL -- he spent 11 seasons with the Bruins, never scoring more than 17 goals or 36 points, but he was one of the League's most reliable checkers and penalty-killers.
Honorable mention: Mariusz Czerkawski
(1991), Hal Gill
Biggest disappointment: Yevgeni Ryabchikov (1994) --
The Bruins took Ryabchikov, a 20-year-old goaltender from Russia, with the 21st pick and sent him to Providence of the AHL, where he went 6-3-1 with a 3.49 goals-against average and a save percentage of just .879. He spent the next three years in the ECHL (except for two games with Providence) and one more in the low-level WPHL before returning to Russia without ever playing in an NHL game.
Honorable mention: Johnathan Aitken
(1996), Lars Jonsson
Best first-round pick: Gilbert Perreault (1970) --
The first pick in club history remains the best. Perreault gave the Sabres a star to build around -- and as the team improved, he became one of the NHL's elite players, centering the famed "French Connection" line that led the Sabres to the 1975 Stanley Cup Final. Perreault spent his whole career with Buffalo, finishing with 512 goals and 1,326 points on the way to a spot in the Hall of Fame.
: Phil Housley (1982), Tom Barrasso
(1983), Pierre Turgeon
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Danny Gare (1974) --
The Sabres snapped up Gare after he scored 45 and 68 goals in his last two junior seasons. He wasted no time showing those totals were no fluke, scoring 31 as a rookie to help the Sabres make the Stanley Cup Final, then becoming a 50-goal scorer in his second NHL season. Gare 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 with 354 goals and 685 points in 827 games.
Honorable mention: Ray Sheppard
(1984), Derek Roy
Best later-round pick: Ryan Miller (1999) --
Like the rest of the hockey-playing Millers, Ryan has had an excellent NHL career after starting as a lower-round draft pick. Ryan spent three seasons at Michigan State and most of three in the AHL before becoming the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender, a position he still holds. Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender last year after capturing the award as MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Honorable mention: Donald Audette
(1989), Brian Campbell
Biggest disappointment: Artem Kriukov (2000) --
The Sabres took Kriukov with the 15th pick, but he never came to North America. Instead, he played in the Russian League (now the KHL), most recently with St. Petersburg. Kriukov never reached double figures in goals -- the 8 he scored in 2008-09 matched his career best. He was one of three Russians picked by Buffalo in 2000 -- none of whom has ever played a game in North America.
Honorable mention: Joel Savage
(1988), Marek Zagrapan
Best first-round pick: Guy Lafleur (1971) --
Then-GM Sam Pollock had a knack for charming first-round picks out of struggling teams by sending them useful-but-not-star players in exchange for draft selections that often yielded a new generation of premium talent. That's how the Canadiens got the chance to draft Lafleur with the No. 1 pick of the draft and watch him become the backbone of the Habs' dynasty in the late 1970s. Lafleur was one of the most feared scorers in the NHL through most of the decade and cruised into the Hall of Fame.
Bob Gainey (1973), Saku Koivu
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrick Roy (1984) --
Little did the Canadiens know when they picked the unheralded kid from Granby in the QMJHL that they were getting one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. Roy stepped into the Habs' net in 1985-86 and promptly led the team to the Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. He repeated both in 1993, helping the Canadiens to their most recent championship. Two years later, he was traded to Colorado and led the Avs to two more Cups. He finished with 551 regular-season wins (a mark later surpassed by Martin Brodeur
) and 151 more (still an NHL record) in the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Larry Robinson
(1971), Chris Chelios
Best later-round pick: Mark Streit (2004) --
The Canadiens got far more than they ever dreamed of from Streit, a ninth-rounder who has become one of the NHL's best defensemen. He was a key to their League-leading power play in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and they missed him badly when he signed with the New York Islanders
in the summer of 2008. Streit arguably is the best Swiss-born NHL player of all time.
Honorable mention: Darcy Tucker
(1993), Andrei Markov
Biggest disappointment: Brent Bilodeau (1991) --
Bilodeau had a long hockey career after being selected with the 17th pick -- but none of it was with the Canadiens. While he played for nine franchises after turning pro two years after being drafted, none of them was an NHL team. Bilodeau ran the minor-league gamut, with stops in the AHL, IHL, ECHL and WCHL -- more than 800 games in all before finally retiring as a player in 2005. He then spent two seasons coaching in the Central League.
Ray Martyniuk (1970), Terry Ryan
Best first-round pick: Marian Hossa (1997) --
Hossa was part of the second generation of Senators who helped turn the franchise into a winner. He had four consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals before being traded to Atlanta in 2005 -- a deal that brought back two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley
-- and won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010.
Honorable mention: Alexei Yashin
(1992), Jason Spezza
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Fisher (1998) --
Fisher, a second-rounder (No. 44), has become one of the NHL's better two-way centers. After a slow start, he had 22, 22 and 23 goals from 2005-06 to 2007-08, slumped to 13 in 2008-09, but bounced back with 25 goals and 53 points in 2009-10 before being traded to Nashville midway through this past season. Fisher also had 5 goals and 10 points during Ottawa's run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
Honorable mention: Stan Neckar
(1994), Antoine Vermette
Best later-round pick: Daniel Alfredsson (1994) --
Alfredsson was a little-known Swedish forward when the Senators picked him in the sixth round. He's become the greatest player in franchise history, piling up 389 goals and 1,023 points in 1,056 games while helping the Senators grow from a laughingstock into a team that made the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons.
Honorable mention: Chris Neil
(1998), Brian Elliott
Biggest disappointment: Mathieu Chouinard (1998/2000) --
The Senators were determined to get Chouinard, a goaltender, that they picked him in the first round (No. 15) in 1998 and again in 2000 (No. 45) after failing to sign him two years earlier. But after keeping him in the minors for three years, the Senators opted to let him become a free agent -- he signed with Los Angeles and played in one NHL game, a three-minute relief stint in 2003-04.
Honorable mention: Alexandre Daigle
(1993), Jakub Klepis
Best first-round pick: Darryl Sittler (1970) -- Sittler was the backbone of the Leafs' teams in the 1970s and the first genuine star the franchise drafted. Beginning in 1973-74, he scored 36 or more goals in eight consecutive seasons, with a high of 45 in 1977-78 -- when he also set a career best with 117 points. The combination of Sittler and Lanny McDonald was one of the NHL's most dangerous pairings for much of the 1970s.
Honorable mention: Lanny McDonald
(1973), Wendel Clark
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Yanic Perreault (1991) --
The Leafs took Perreault with their first pick, a third-rounder, and dealt him to Los Angeles the next year, but brought him back twice more before his career ended in 2008. Perreault never was a big scorer, but he did have seven 20-goal seasons and finished with 247 career goals. Later in his career, he was better known as one of the NHL's best at winning faceoffs -- a skill that probably added a couple of years to his career.
Honorable mention: Todd Gill
(1984), Fredrik Modin
Best later-round pick: Tomas Kaberle (1996) --
The Leafs picked Kaberle in the eighth round and had to wait two years for him to come to North America from the Czech Republic. Since then, however, he's been among the NHL's most consistent offensive defensemen. Kaberle is an excellent point man who is most effective when paired with a big shooter -- he and Bryan McCabe
were an excellent pairing. He earned a Stanley Cup ring with Boston this spring after the Leafs dealt him to Boston in February.
Honorable mention: Dmitri Mironov
(1991), Sergei Berezin
Biggest disappointment: Brandon Convery (1992) --
The Leafs had big expectations for Convery after choosing him with the eighth pick. He appeared to be on his way to a solid NHL career after scoring 34 goals in the AHL in 1994-95, but he never was able to take the next step. Convery managed only 17 points in 50 games with the Leafs during parts of two seasons, had brief trials with Vancouver and Los Angeles, and played his last NHL game before his 25th birthday.
Honorable mention: Jeff Ware
(1995), Luca Cereda