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Draft hits and misses: Metropolitan Division

by John Kreiser

Six of the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division have won the Stanley Cup at least once, and the New York Rangers came close to adding a fifth championship this spring. All of the championship teams during the past 40 years have been built on a base of solid work at the NHL Draft.

Every team has had its ups and downs since the draft began in 1963. Here's a look at the draft-day hits (and some of the misses) for the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division.


Best first-round pick: Ron Francis (1981) -- He earned two Stanley Cup rings as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Francis spent 16 of his 23 NHL seasons with the Hurricanes/Whalers franchise, piling up points and goodwill along the way. Only Wayne Gretzky has more career assists than Francis, and only Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Mark Messier finished their careers with more points. Francis returned to the Hurricanes in 2006, one year after he retired, and served in a variety of jobs before being named the team's executive vice president and general manager April 28.

Honorable mention -- Chris Pronger (1993), Jeff O'Neill (1994), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1995), Cam Ward (2002), Eric Staal (2003), Andrew Ladd (2004), Jack Johnson (2005), Jeff Skinner (2010).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Kevin Dineen (1982) -- Dineen, a third-round pick (No. 56) by the Whalers, made an immediate impression with 25 goals as a rookie in 1984-85, then had 33, 40, 25 and 45 goals in his next four seasons. He never reached 30 goals after his 30th birthday but remained in the NHL for a long time as an effective checker who could contribute offensively. Dineen finished his career with 355 goals and 760 points in 1,188 games. In his first season as an NHL coach, he led Florida to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011-12, their first postseason berth since 2000.

Honorable mention -- Geoff Sanderson (1990), Sami Kapanen (1995), Erik Cole (1998), Niclas Wallin (2000), Justin Faulk (2010).

Best later-round pick: Ray Ferraro (1982) -- Those who know Ferraro today as a television analyst and the father of Detroit Red Wings prospect Landon Ferraro missed seeing one of the biggest fan favorites in NHL history. A fifth-round pick (No. 88) by the Whalers, he was a 30-goal scorer in his second NHL season and had 41 goals three seasons later. The Whalers traded Ferraro to the New York Islanders in 1990, and he became immensely popular on Long Island while serving as an effective No. 2 center. Ferraro played 1,258 games for six teams in his 18 NHL seasons, finishing his career with 408 goals and 898 points.

Honorable mention -- Manny Legace (1993), Craig Adams (1996).

Biggest disappointment: Jeff Heerema (1998) -- No team expects to get a career minor-leaguer with the 11th pick in the draft, but that's what the Hurricanes got when they chose Heerema in 1998 after he scored 32 goals for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. Heerema spent two more seasons with Sarnia, then played seven seasons in the minor leagues, earning only a 10-game cup of coffee with Carolina in 2002-03 and a 22-game stint with the St. Louis Blues the following season. He had four goals and six points in 32 NHL games, and then played in the American Hockey League through 2007 before ending his career with five seasons in Europe, the last two with Nottingham of the English League.

Others -- Christopher Govedaris (1988), Nikos Tselios (1997).


Best first-round pick: Rick Nash (2002) -- The Blue Jackets knew what they were doing when they chose Nash with the draft's first pick 12 years ago. Despite playing on a team that struggled to score, Nash piled up 289 goals in nine seasons with Columbus. After being named team captain in March 2008, he responded with 40 goals and a career-best 79 points in 2008-09 to lead the Blue Jackets to their first playoff berth. Nash was traded to the Rangers in the summer of 2012 and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final this spring.

Honorable mention -- Rostislav Klesla (2000), Nikolay Zherdev (2003), Jakub Voracek (2007), Ryan Johansen (2010).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Steve Mason (2006) -- Mason, taken in the third round, was an instant hit as a rookie in 2008-09, leading the Blue Jackets to their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth and earning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie by winning 33 games with a 2.29 goals-against average and 10 shutouts. But Mason struggled for most of the next four seasons and was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the spring of 2013. He has rebounded in Philadelphia and helped the Flyers return to the playoffs this spring.

Honorable mention -- Adam McQuaid (2005), Kris Russell (2005), Jared Boll (2005).

Best later-round pick: Marc Methot (2003) -- Expansion teams need to find late-round gems to help them build, and the Blue Jackets have failed badly in this area. Among the few later-round players to see any kind of substantial playing time is Methot, a sixth-rounder (No. 168) who didn't become an NHL regular until 2008-09. He has 15 goals and 81 points in 368 games over the past six seasons with Columbus and the Ottawa Senators, after playing a total of 29 games in his first two seasons.

Honorable mention -- Petteri Nummelin (2000), Cam Atkinson (2008).

Biggest disappointment: Nikita Filatov (2008) -- The Blue Jackets had big hopes for Filatov when they took him with the sixth pick in the draft six years ago, and those hopes got even bigger when he had a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild during a brief stint with Columbus in 2008-09. But Filatov and then-coach Ken Hitchcock didn't see eye to eye, and after playing 13 games the next season, Filatov was allowed to return to Russia to play with his KHL team. He returned to North America but split 2010-11 between Columbus and the minors and then was traded to the Senators in June 2011 for a third-round pick. It didn't work out for Filatov in Ottawa, and he finished the 2011-12 season at home in Russia, where he has played since.

Others -- Pascal Leclaire (2001), Alexandre Picard (2004).


Best first-round pick: Martin Brodeur (1990) -- Looking back 24 years later, it seems incomprehensible that Brodeur wasn't even the first goalie picked in his draft year; the Calgary Flames chose Trevor Kidd nine picks earlier. The Devils took Brodeur with the 20th selection and got the winningest goaltender in NHL history, as well as the backbone of three Stanley Cup-winning teams. That's pretty good for a player who wasn't chosen until the next-to-last pick in the opening round. Brodeur, now 42, hopes to continue playing next season; however, he might have to do it with a franchise other than the Devils, the only team he's ever played for.

Honorable mention -- Brendan Shanahan (1987), Scott Niedermayer (1991), Petr Sykora (1995), Scott Gomez (1998), Zach Parise (2003), Travis Zajac (2004).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrik Elias (1994) -- The Devils took Elias, a Czech forward, in the second round (No. 51) in 1994. While first-rounder Vadim Sharifjanov never panned out, Elias has become a four-time 30-goal scorer and the leading point-producer in franchise history. He owns a pair of Stanley Cup rings and has 393 goals and 983 career points in 1,155 games, including 53 points in 65 games in 2013-14.

Honorable mention -- Jay Pandolfo (1993), Brendan Morrison (1993), Brian Gionta (1998), Paul Martin (2000), Adam Henrique (2008).

Best later-round pick: Steve Sullivan (1994) -- The Devils nabbed Sullivan, a speedy center, in the ninth round (No. 233) after a 51-goal season with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. He split two seasons between New Jersey and the minors, and then was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Doug Gilmour deal in 1997. Sullivan bounced around after that and battled back problems before finishing his career in New Jersey in 2012-13. He wound up with 290 goals and 747 points in 1,011 games, a tremendous career for a player who wasn't expected to make the NHL.

Honorable mention -- Kirk McLean (1984), Willie Mitchell (1996), Mark Fayne (2005).

Biggest disappointment: Neil Brady (1986) -- The Devils whiffed on the third pick in the 1986 draft when they chose Brady, a center from Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League. He scored two goals in 29 games in parts of three seasons for the Devils and was traded to the Senators in 1992. His NHL resume consists of nine goals in 89 games.

Others -- Jean-Francois Damphousse (1997), Ari Ahonen (1999), Adrian Foster (2001).


Best first-round pick: Mike Bossy (1977) -- Back troubles at age 30 did what no opponent ever could: Keep Bossy from putting the puck in the net. Bossy became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals as a rookie and he kept on scoring, piling up 573 goals in 10 seasons until back troubles prevented him from playing anymore. He had nine 50-goal seasons and was the top gun in the Islanders' dynasty of the early 1980s.

Honorable mention -- Denis Potvin (1973), Clark Gillies (1974), Pat LaFontaine (1983), Wade Redden (1995), Roberto Luongo (1997), Kyle Okposo (2006), John Tavares (2009).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bryan Trottier (1974) -- The Isles grabbed one future Hall of Fame member when they took Clark Gillies with the fourth pick in 1974; they got another when they took Trottier one round later. Trottier scored exactly 500 goals for the Islanders while leading them to four consecutive Stanley Cups and a record 19 consecutive playoff series victories. He then went to the Penguins and earned two more rings as a checking center in 1991 and 1992.

Honorable mention -- Travis Green (1989), Ziggy Palffy (1991), Zdeno Chara (1996), Travis Hamonic (2008).

Best later-round pick: Vladimir Malakhov (1989) -- After the Iron Curtain fell, the Islanders took a 10th-round flyer on Malakhov, a young Russian defenseman with a big shot. He was a sensation as a rookie in 1992-93, helping the Islanders end the Penguins' championship reign. Despite several injuries he had a lengthy, productive career that included winning the Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2000.

Honorable mention -- Stefan Persson (1974), Radek Martinek (1999), Andrew MacDonald (2006), Matt Martin (2008), Jared Spurgeon (2008).

Biggest disappointment: Scott Scissons (1990) -- The first five players chosen in the 1990 draft went on to play at least 900 NHL games; one (Jaromir Jagr) remains active. The sixth pick was Scissons, a center from Saskatoon of the WHL who was coming off a 40-goal, 87-point season. He spent one more season in Saskatoon (earning a one-game NHL call-up) and another with the Canada national team before heading for the Islanders' AHL team. Scissons played in one Stanley Cup Playoff game for the Islanders in 1993 and one regular-season game the following season, but he never scored a point for New York. A shoulder injury stemming from his time in junior hockey forced him to retire in 1995.

Others -- David Chyzowski (1989), Kristian Kudroc (1999), Ryan O'Marra (2005).


Best first-round pick: Brian Leetch (1986) -- The Rangers plucked Leetch out of a Connecticut prep school and waited while he spent a season at Boston College and played for the United States at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. He proved to be more than worth the wait: Leetch is the best defenseman in team history, arguably the best U.S.-born player to skate in the NHL, and he led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup while becoming the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. He was an easy selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and his No. 2 hangs from the rafters at Madison Square Garden.

Brian Leetch became the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. (Photo: Getty Images)

Honorable mention -- Brad Park (1966), James Patrick (1981), Alex Kovalev (1991), Marc Staal (2005).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Richter (1985) -- The Rangers snatched Richter, a Philadelphia-area native, in the second round (No. 28). He was a teammate of Leetch on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, and they joined the Rangers together after the Games in Calgary. Richter's 301 wins were the most in Rangers history until Henrik Lundqvist moved past him in 2013-14, and he's arguably the best American goaltender ever.

Honorable mention -- John Vanbiesbrouck (1981), Tony Amonte (1988), Doug Weight (1990), Fedor Tyutin (2001), Derek Stepan (2008).

Best later-round pick: Henrik Lundqvist (2000) -- Lundqvist was a complete unknown when he came to training camp in 2005; at most, the seventh-round pick (No. 205) from five years earlier was expected to play in the AHL while getting used to the North American game. Instead, he made the team, took the No. 1 job in a few weeks and has been one of the NHL's top goaltenders ever since. Lundqvist is the first goaltender in NHL history to begin his career with seven consecutive 30-win seasons, and he led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years this spring.

Honorable mention -- Sergei Nemchinov (1990), Sergei Zubov (1990), Todd Marchant (1993), Marek Zidlicky (2001).

Biggest disappointment: Hugh Jessiman (2003) -- The 2003 NHL Draft was one of the best of all time, but not because of Jessiman; until he got into two games with the Florida Panthers in 2010-11, he had been the only first-round pick from that year who had yet to play in the NHL. Jessiman, picked No. 12, appeared to have all the tools for success, but he never made it up to play with the Rangers and ultimately was traded to the Nashville Predators in 2008. He played more than 500 games in the minors before spending the 2013-14 season in Russia.

Others -- Michael Stewart (1990), Pavel Brendl (1999), Bobby Sanguinetti (2006).


Best first-round pick: Peter Forsberg (1991) -- The Flyers took Forsberg, a center from Sweden, with the sixth pick, but it was 14 years before he pulled on their jersey. A year after he was drafted, he was part of the package the Flyers sent to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for Eric Lindros. Forsberg didn't arrive in the NHL until 1994, but he made an immediate impact with 50 points in 47 games, good enough to win the Calder Trophy as top rookie. He then had 116 points in 1995-96 while helping the relocated Colorado Avalanche win the franchise's first Stanley Cup. He signed with the Flyers in 2005 and spent most of two seasons in Philadelphia. After a short stint with the Predators, he played two final seasons with the Avalanche, but totaled 11 games due to issues with his feet and ankles. He retired in 2011 with an Art Ross Trophy, a Hart Trophy and two Stanley Cup championships. He had 885 points in 708 regular-season games, but those numbers would have been higher were it not for injuries.

Honorable mention -- Bill Barber (1972), Brian Propp (1979), Mike Ricci (1990), Jeff Carter (2003), Mike Richards (2003), Claude Giroux (2006).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bobby Clarke (1969) -- Teams shied away from Clarke, a feisty center from Flin Flon of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League, because he was a diabetic. The Flyers took him in the second round (No. 17) of the third draft in team history and got a future Hockey Hall of Fame member whose offensive skills and will to win were the backbone of the only two Cup-winning teams in franchise history.

Honorable mention -- Scott Mellanby (1984), Mikael Renberg (1990).

Best later-round pick: Ron Hextall (1982) -- The Flyers had no idea when they picked Hextall in the sixth round (No. 119) that they were getting one of the best goalies in team history. The son of former NHL forward Bryan Hextall Jr., he won the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as a rookie in 1986-87. He finished his career with 296 victories in 13 seasons, 240 of them in 11 seasons with Philadelphia. He also was one of the best stickhandlers among goaltenders and became the first goalie in NHL history to shoot and score a goal, in the regular season and the playoffs. He joined the Flyers' front office as a scout after he retired in 1999. After a stint with the Los Angeles Kings as assistant general manager, he returned to the Flyers in 2013 and was named general manager in May 2014.

Honorable mention -- Rick Tocchet (1983), Dmitry Yushkevich (1991).

Biggest disappointment: Ryan Sittler (1992) -- The Flyers took the son of Hockey Hall of Fame member Darryl Sittler with the seventh pick, waited while he played two seasons at the University of Michigan, and then saw him turn into one of the great disappointments of all time. Sittler never played an NHL game and was out of pro hockey by age 25.

Others -- Steven Smith (1981), Maxime Ouellet (1999).


Best first-round pick: Mario Lemieux (1984) -- Had Lemieux's health matched his skill, it would have been interesting to see if he would have been able to surpass Gretzky's offensive records. As it was, Lemieux saved the franchise in the early 1980s and led Pittsburgh to its first two Stanley Cup championships, in 1991 and 1992. Despite injuries and illnesses, he scored 690 goals and had 1,723 points in 915 games. He saved hockey in Pittsburgh again when he put together a group to buy the franchise in 1999 and eventually raised the money to build Consol Energy Center, the Penguins' home since 2010.

Mario Lemieux led Pittsburgh to its first two Stanley Cup championships, in 1991 and 1992. (Getty Images)

Honorable mention -- Jaromir Jagr (1990), Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Evgeni Malkin (2004), Sidney Crosby (2005), Jordan Staal (2006).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Recchi (1988) -- Recchi's size (5-foot-10) probably kept him from being picked higher than the fourth round (No. 67), despite a 61-goal, 154-point season with Kamloops of the WHL in 1987-88. He had 50 goals in his first minor-league season and scored 30 as a rookie with the Penguins in 1989-90. He didn't stop scoring until announcing his retirement in June 2011, minutes after helping the Boston Bruins end a 39-year Stanley Cup drought. Recchi finished his career with 577 goals, 1,533 points and three Stanley Cup rings.

Honorable mention -- Mark Johnson (1977), Ryan Malone (1999), Alex Goligoski (2004), Kris Letang (2005).

Best later-round pick: Patrick Lalime (1993) -- The sixth-round pick (No. 156) made a splash as a rookie in 1996-97, setting an NHL record with 14 wins and two ties in his first 16 decisions. He finished 21-12-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average and three shutouts while making the All-Rookie team. But after a contract dispute, Lalime spent two seasons in the minors before returning to the NHL with the Senators in 1999. He had 36- and 39-win seasons with the Senators and retired in 2011 with 200 wins in 444 regular-season games.

Honorable mention -- Shawn McEachern (1987), Andrew Ference (1997), Rob Scuderi (1998), Maxime Talbot (2002), Matt Moulson (2003).

Biggest disappointment: Robert Dome (1997) -- Dome was a highly regarded Slovak teenager who came to North America and spent two seasons playing in the International Hockey League (then a top-level minor league with some NHL affiliations). The Penguins took him with 17th pick in the draft, but he never panned out, totaling seven goals and 14 points in parts of two seasons with Pittsburgh. He left North America in 2003-04 and spent the rest of his career playing in Europe.

Others -- Craig Hillier (1996), Milan Kraft (1998), Angelo Esposito (2007).


Best first-round pick: Alex Ovechkin (2004) -- No player in the past decade has put the puck in the net the way Ovechkin has. Ovechkin came to the NHL in 2005 and quickly became the most feared sniper in the League, topping 50 goals in four of his first five seasons. Ovechkin has become a physical force who's more than willing to run over an opponent. He was the only player to score 50 goals in 2013-14 and has 422 goals and 814 points in nine NHL seasons.

Honorable mention -- Mike Gartner (1979), Scott Stevens (1982), Olie Kolzig (1989), Mike Green (2004), Nicklas Backstrom (2006), Semyon Varlamov (2006).

Best pick, rounds 2-4: Michal Pivonka (1984) -- The Capitals selected Pivonka in the third round (No. 59) 30 years ago, but had to wait until 1986 for the Czech center to make it to North America. Though Pivonka never became the star some thought he'd be, he was a solid player for 13 seasons in Washington, putting up four 20-goal seasons, four 50-assist seasons and five seasons in which he had 60 or more points. After scoring 81 points in 1995-96, injuries during the next three seasons cut short his career.

Honorable mention -- Jason Woolley (1989), Steve Konowalchuk (1991), Michal Neuvirth (2006).

Best later-round pick: Peter Bondra (1990) -- When the Iron Curtain collapsed, it opened a new pool of hockey talent to NHL teams. The Capitals found a gem when they used an eighth-round pick (No. 156) on Bondra, a Ukraine-born Slovak who had starred in the Czech League. After scoring 12 goals as a rookie in 1990-91, Bondra began a streak of 14 seasons with at least 20 goals, highlighted by a 52-goal seasons in 1995-96 and 1997-98, when he helped lead Washington to its only trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Bondra finished his NHL career with 503 goals, 472 with the Capitals.

Honorable mention -- Andrew Brunette (1993), Richard Zednik (1994), Johnny Oduya (2001), Mathieu Perreault (2006).

Biggest disappointment: Alexander Volchkov (1996) -- The Russian-born center was picked No. 4 in the 1996 draft after a 37-goal season with Barrie of the OHL. He had 29 goals and 82 points for Barrie in 1996-97 before turning pro. However, his scoring touch completely disappeared. Volchkov never scored more than 13 goals in any season in the minors and wound up playing three games with the Capitals. He returned to Russia in 2000 and was out of hockey a year later.

Others -- Nolan Baumgartner (1994), Brad Church (1995), Anton Gustafsson (2008).


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