Skip to Main Content

Hits and misses at the draft by Atlantic teams

by John Kreiser

All five Atlantic Division teams have won multiple Stanley Cups -- and though the New Jersey Devils came up two wins short of a fourth championship in franchise history this season, they proved again that good drafting is the basis of NHL success. Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur and captain Zach Parise lead a core that mostly is homegrown, and the Devils' success at the draft table was a key to their ability to acquire Ilya Kovalchuk two years ago.

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 player who was passed over by 19 teams.

Honorable mention: Brendan Shanahan (1987), Scott Niedermayer (1991), Zach Parise (2003)

The Devils took Martin Brodeur with the 20th selection and got the winningest goaltender in NHL history. (Photo: Getty Images)

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 894 career points, including 78 in 2011-12.

Honorable mention: 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 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. Sullivan has 283 goals (17 with Pittsburgh in 2011-12) and 730 points in 969 games 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 (1996)

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 WHL. He scored twice in 29 games for the Devils before being traded to Ottawa in 1992. Brady's NHL resume consists of nine goals in 89 games.

Honorable mention: 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 reach the 50-goal mark as a rookie, and he just kept on scoring, piling up 573 goals in 10 seasons, until his back wouldn't let him play 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), John Tavares (2009)

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 for the Islanders while leading them to four consecutive Stanley Cups and a record 19 straight playoff series wins. For good measure, he went to Pittsburgh and earned two more rings as a checker with the 1991-92 Penguins.


Best-ever draft picks by Division

By John Kreiser  - Columnist looks at the best and worst picks of all-time by each of the 30 NHL franchises.

Honorable mention: Travis Green (1989), Ziggy Palffy (1991), Zdeno Chara (1996)

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. He 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.

Honorable mention: Stefan Persson (1974), Radek Martinek (1999), Andrew MacDonald (2006)

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 the Saskatoon Blades 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 Canadian National Team before heading for the Isles' AHL team in Troy, N.Y. He played in one playoff game for the Islanders in 1993 and one regular-season game the following season, but didn't score a point. A shoulder injury stemming from his time in junior hockey forced him to retire in 1995.

Honorable mention: Dave Chyzowski (1989), 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 year at Boston College and played for Team USA at the 1988 Winter 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 Cup while becoming the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Honorable mention: Brad Park (1966), James Patrick (1981), Alex Kovalev (1991)

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 (1990)

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 Hartford of the AHL while getting used to North America. 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 seven consecutive 30-win seasons and he's a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies this season.

Honorable mention: Sergei Nemchinov (1990), Todd Marchant (1993)

Mike Richter's 301 wins are the most in Rangers history, and he's arguably the best goaltender produced in the United States.(Photo: Getty Images)

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 in 2010-11, 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 ultimately was dealt to Nashville. He ended 2011-12 with the Abbotsford Heat, Calgary's AHL affiliate

Honorable mention: Michael Stewart (1990), Pavel Brendl (1999)


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 fewer than 26 goals and scoring 40 or more four times. He also was responsible defensively, 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 (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 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.

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 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 NHL seasons, 240 of them in 11 seasons with Philadelphia. He 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 (1991)

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 (1999)


Mario Lemieux totaled 690 goals and 1,723 points in 915 games. (Photo: Getty Images)

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 in the early 1980s and led Pittsburgh to its first two Stanley Cups, in 1991 and 1992. Despite injuries and illnesses, he totaled 690 goals and 1,723 points in 915 games. It's hard to conceive of a player who had more physical talent.

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, despite a 61-goal, 154-point season with Kamloops of the WHL in his final season of junior hockey. He had 50 goals in his first minor-league season, scored 30 as a rookie with the Penguins in 1989-90, and didn't stop scoring until announcing his retirement last June -- minutes after helping Boston 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)

Best later-round pick: Patrick Lalime (1993) -- A sixth-round pick, 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 goals-against average 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 seasons with the Senators and has 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 seventh pick in the opening round, 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.

Honorable mention: Craig Hillier (1996), Milan Kraft (1998), Angelo Esposito (2007)

View More