It's a common axiom that success in the NHL begins with solid drafting. The Boston Bruins
are just the latest team to illustrate the importance of success at the draft table.
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 Atlantic Division on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Martin Brodeur (1990) --
It seems incomprehensible now, but Brodeur wasn't the first goalie picked in his draft year (Calgary 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 winners. That's pretty good for a guy who was passed over by 19 teams.
Honorable mention: Brendan Shanahan
(1987), Scott Niedermayer
(1991), Zach Parise
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 passed the 300-goal mark in 2009-10.
: Brian Gionta
(1998), Paul Martin
Best later-round pick: Steve Sullivan (1994) --
The Devils found Sullivan, a speedy center, in the ninth round after a 51-goal season with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. They gave Sullivan two seasons in the minors, with a couple of quick trips to New Jersey, before trading him to Toronto as part of the Doug Gilmour
deal in 1997. He's produced 266 goals (10 with Nashville in 2010-11) despite battling injuries for much of his career -- he missed nearly two years with back problems before returning in 2008-09.
Honorable mention: Kirk McLean
(1984), Willie Mitchell
Biggest disappointment: Neil Brady (1986) --
The Devils whiffed on the third pick in the draft when they chose Brady, a center from Medicine Hat of the WHL. He scored just 2 goals in 29 games for the Devils before being traded to Ottawa in 1992; his NHL resume consists of only 9 goals in 89 games.
Honorable Mention: Ari Ahonen
(1999), Adrian Foster
Best first-round pick: Mike Bossy (1977) --
The only thing that stopped Bossy was back trouble, which forced him to retire at age 30 -- much to the relief of NHL goaltenders. Bossy became the first player in NHL history to reach the 50-goal mark as a rookie, and he kept on scoring -- finishing with 573 goals in just 10 seasons. He had nine 50-goal seasons and was the top gun in the Islanders' dynasty of the early 1980s.
: Denis Potvin
(1973), Pat Lafontaine
(1983), John Tavares
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bryan Trottier (1974) --
The Isles grabbed one future Hall of Famer when they took Clark Gillies
with the fourth pick in 1974; they snagged another when they took Trottier one round later. Trottier scored exactly 500 goals as an Islander while leading the Isles to four consecutive Stanley Cups and a record 19 straight playoff series wins. For good measure, he then went to Pittsburgh and earned two more rings as a checker with the '91 and '92 Penguins.
Honorable mention: Travis Green
(1989), Ziggy Palffy
(1991); Zdeno Chara
Best later-round pick: Vladimir Malakhov (1989) --
When the Iron Curtain fell, the Isles took a 10th-round flyer on Malakhov, a young Russian defenseman with a big shot. Malakhov was a sensation as a rookie in 1992-93, helping the Isles end Pittsburgh's championship reign, and despite several injuries, had a lengthy, productive career that included a Stanley Cup with New Jersey.
: Stefan Persson
(1974), Radek Martinek
Biggest disappointment: Scott Scissons (1990) --
Forever doomed to be known as the player taken immediately after Pittsburgh chose Jaromir Jagr
, Scissons' career was cut short by an injury. He wound up playing just two NHL games, and his pro hockey career was over before he was 25.
Honorable Mention: David Chyzowski
(1989), Ryan O'Marra
Best first-round pick: Brian Leetch (1986) --
The Rangers plucked Leetch out of a Connecticut prep school and waited while he spent a year at Boston College and played for Team USA at the 1988 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 led the Rangers to the 1994 Cup while becoming the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Honorable Mention: Brad Park
(1966), James Patrick
(1981), Alex Kovalev
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mike Richter (1985) --
The Rangers snatched Richter, a Philadelphia-area native, from under the noses of the Flyers in the second round. He was a teammate of Leetch on the 1988 U.S. Olympic squad, and they joined the Rangers together after the Games in Calgary. Richter's 301 wins are the most in team history, and he's arguably the best goaltender produced in the United States.
Honorable mention: John Vanbiesbrouck
(1981), Doug Weight
Best later-round pick: Henrik Lundqvist (2000) --
Lundqvist was a complete unknown when he came to camp in 2005 -- at most, the seventh-rounder from five years earlier was expected to play at AHL Hartford. Instead, he made the team, took the No. 1 job, 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 six consecutive 30-win seasons.
Honorable mention: Sergei Nemchinov
(1990), Todd Marchant
Biggest disappointment: Hugh Jessiman (2003) --
The class of 2003 is one of the great NHL drafts of all time, but not because of Jessiman -- until he got into a couple of games with Florida this past season, he had been the only first-rounder from that year who had yet to play in the NHL. Jessiman, picked No. 12, appeared to have all the tools for success but never made it, and was ultimately dealt to Nashville. The Panthers are his fourth NHL organization.
Honorable mention: Michael Stewart
(1990), Pavel Brendl
Best first-round pick: Brian Propp (1979) --
Propp was among the NHL's most consistent scorers for a decade with the Flyers, never finishing with less than 26 goals and scoring 40 or more four times. He also was defensively responsible, finishing plus-311 with Philadelphia while helping the Flyers make three trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He ended his career with 425 goals and 1,004 points in 1,016 games.
Honorable mention: Bill Barber
(1972), Peter Forsberg
(1991), Jeff Carter
and Mike Richards
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Bobby Clarke (1969) --
Teams shied away from Clarke, a feisty center from the Flin Flon Bombers, because he was a diabetic. The Flyers took him in the second round of the third draft in team history and got a future Hall of Famer whose offensive skills and will to win were the backbone of the only two Cup-winning teams in franchise history.
: Scott Mellanby
(1984), Mikael Renberg
Best later-round pick: Ron Hextall (1982) --
The Flyers had no idea when they picked Hextall in the sixth round that they were getting one of the best goalies in team history. The son of former NHL forward Dennis Hextall
, 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 NHL 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.
Honorable mention: Rick Tocchet
(1983), Dmitry Yushkevich
Biggest disappointment: Ryan Sittler (1992) --
The Flyers took the son of Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler
with the seventh pick, waited while he played two seasons at the University of Michigan, 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.
Honorable mention: Steve Smith
(1981), Maxime Ouellet
Best first-round pick: Mario Lemieux (1984) --
Had Lemieux's health been better, it would have been interesting to see if he would have been able to surpass Wayne Gretzky
's offensive records. As it was, Super Mario saved the franchise and led Pittsburgh to its first two Stanley Cups, in 1991 and '92. Despite injuries and illnesses, he still scored 690 goals and 1,723 points in just 915 games. It's hard to conceive of a player who had more physical talent.
Honorable mention: Jaromir Jagr
(1990), Evgeni Malkin
(2004), Sidney Crosby
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, despite a 61-goal, 154-point season with Kamloops in his final season as a junior. He had 50 goals in his first minor-league season, scored 30 as a rookie with the Penguins in 1989-90 didn't stop scoring until announcing his retirement last week, minutes after helping Boston end a 39-year Cup drought. He finished his career with 577 goals, 1,533 points -- and three Stanley Cup rings.
Honorable mention: Mark Johnson
(1977), Ryan Malone
Best later-round pick: Patrick Lalime (1993) --
Lalime, a sixth-rounder, made a splash as a rookie in 1996-97, setting an NHL record by going 14-0-2 in his first 16 decisions. He finished 21-12-2 with a 2.95 GAA and three shutouts while making the All-Rookie team. But after a contract dispute, he spent two seasons in the minors before returning to the NHL with Ottawa in 1999. He had 36- and 39-win with the Senators and has 200 wins in 444 regular-season games.
: Shawn McEachern
(1987), Maxime Talbot
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 the No. 7 pick in the opening round, but he never panned out, scoring just 7 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.
Honorable mention: Craig Hillier
(1996), Milan Kraft
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist