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No. 1 picks have had mixed results in NHL debuts

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in 2005, Steven Stamkos struggled in 2008

by John Kreiser / NHL.com Managing Editor

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, the first player taken in the 2016 NHL Draft, likely will make his NHL debut Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports).

Opening nights have been tough on No. 1 picks making their NHL debuts, which is likely one reason why Toronto coach Mike Babcock said Matthews will begin the season as the No. 3 center.

Here's a look at how the past 12 players taken No. 1 in the draft have fared in their first NHL games:

 

Oct. 5, 2005: Alex Ovechkin (2004) and Sidney Crosby (2005)

Two top picks made their NHL debuts on the opening night of the 2005-06 season with different results.

Ovechkin, taken by the Washington Capitals with the first pick in 2004, scored his first two NHL goals in a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at MCI Center (now Verizon Center) in Washington. He tied the game 1-1 at 7:21 of the second period, then scored a power-play goal at 11:51 of the second to get Washington even at 2-2. Dainius Zubrus' power-play goal five minutes later was the game-winner in a 3-2 victory. Ovechkin finished with 52 goals and 106 points in 81 games and won the Calder Trophy.

Crosby, the top pick in 2005 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, had a much tougher evening. He made his debut in a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Devils led 4-0 before Crosby set up a power-play goal by Mark Recchi at 5:36 of the third period. Crosby had another assist in the next game and scored his first NHL goal in his third game. He finished with 39 goals and 102 points in 81 games.

Video: Ovechkin blasts one-timer for first NHL goal

 

Oct. 4, 2007: Erik Johnson (2006) and Patrick Kane (2007)

Johnson, a defenseman with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, was taken by the St. Louis Blues with the first pick in 2006. He spent the 2006-07 season at the University of Michigan and signed with the Blues on April 20, 2007. He had an assist on Keith Tkachuk's goal in the third period of a 3-2 road loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena (now Gila River Arena) in Glendale, Arizona, on opening night. He scored his first NHL goal two nights later. In 69 games he had 33 points, third among rookie defensemen.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the lottery in 2007 and moved from fifth to first, giving them the opportunity to take Kane, a forward with London of the Ontario Hockey League. Kane was in the lineup opening night and had two shots on goal in a 1-0 road loss to the Minnesota Wild. He had his first assist two nights later. He led all rookies with 72 points in 82 games, won the Calder Trophy and has helped the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships.

 

Oct. 4, 2008: Steven Stamkos

Stamkos, a center with Sarnia of the OHL, went first to the Tampa Bay Lightning and was in the lineup for their season-opening trip to the Czech Republic for two games against the New York Rangers. But before a full house at the O2 Arena in Prague, he was a minus-1 with two shots on goal in 8:25 of ice time in a 2-1 loss. The rematch the next day wasn't much better, with Stamkos getting one shot on goal in 14:53 of ice time in another 2-1 loss. Stamkos didn't get his first NHL point until his eighth game and didn't score a goal until his ninth game. He finished the season with 23 goals in 79 games, third among rookies.

Video: Steven Stamkos scores first two goals of NHL career 

 

Oct. 3, 2009: John Tavares

Tavares, chosen by the New York Islanders with the first pick of the 2009 draft, made an immediate impact in his first game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. He set up Mark Streit's first-period power-play goal, and then scored a power-play goal at 7:09 of the second period to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The Penguins came back to win 4-3 in a shootout, but Tavares finished his rookie season with 24 goals and an Islanders-high 54 points.

 

Oct. 7, 2010: Taylor Hall

Hall and forward Tyler Seguin were the top two players available entering the 2010 draft. The Edmonton Oilers settled the "Taylor or Tyler" debate by taking Hall, a star with Windsor of the OHL, with the No. 1 pick. He was in the lineup on opening night for the Oilers' 4-0 victory against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place. Hall didn't have a point, but in 16:59 of ice time, his nine shot attempts led the Oilers, and his four shots on goal tied for the most. He got his first point, an assist, in his next game, and scored his first goal in his eighth game. He finished with 22 goals, fourth among NHL rookies.

 

Oct. 9, 2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Despite adding Hall, the Oilers finished last in the League standings in 2010-11 and retained the first pick in the lottery. They took Nugent-Hopkins, a center from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, who was in the lineup opening night against the Penguins at Rexall Place and scored his first goal at 15:05 of the third period. The Oilers won 2-1 in a shootout. Nugent-Hopkins had a hat trick in his third game, finished the season with 52 points, tied for the rookie scoring lead and was second in voting for the Calder Trophy.

 

Jan. 20, 2013: Nail Yakupov (2012)

For the third season in a row the Oilers had the first pick, and they selected Yakupov, a Russian forward playing for Sarnia of the OHL. Yakupov's NHL debut was delayed by the lockout, but he was in the lineup when the Oilers opened their season with a 3-2 shootout win at the Vancouver Canucks. He was a minus-2 with one shot on goal in 16:20 of ice time. Yakupov scored a goal in each of his next two games and finished with 17, leading rookies and the most he's scored in his four seasons.

 

Oct. 2, 2013: Nathan MacKinnon

The Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery, moved from second to first and selected MacKinnon, a high-scoring forward with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. MacKinnon and the Avalanche had an opening night to remember; he had two assists and the Avalanche defeated the Anaheim Ducks 6-1 at Pepsi Center. MacKinnon had assists in each of his next two games, scored his first goal in his fifth game and won the Calder Trophy after leading rookies with 63 points.

 

Oct. 9, 2014: Aaron Ekblad

Ekblad, from Barrie of the OHL, became the first defenseman since Johnson to be taken with the No. 1 pick when he was selected by the Florida Panthers, who won the draft lottery and moved up from second to first. Ekblad has an assist in Florida's 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on opening night. He scored his first goal in his ninth game, led rookie defensemen with 12 goals and won the Calder Trophy.

 

Oct. 8, 2015: Connor McDavid

For the fourth time in six years the Oilers get to pick first and select McDavid, a star with Erie of the OHL who was regarded by many as a generational talent. In his first game, against the Blues at Scottrade Center, McDavid had two shots on goal in 18:07 of ice time in the Oilers' 3-1 loss at the Blues. His first point came when he scored a goal in his third game. He missed three months because of a broken left clavicle sustained Nov. 3, but finished with 48 points in 45 games and was third in voting for the Calder Trophy. McDavid was named Oilers captain Oct. 5; at age 19 years, 266 days he's the youngest captain in NHL history.

Video: EDM@DAL: McDavid scores his first career goal

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