The Entry Draft remains the basis for building a team in the National Hockey League. A top-flight draft can set up a team for years to come. A bad one -- sometimes even just a bad pick or two -- can set a franchise back for a long time.
For the five teams in the Northeast Division, the province of Quebec and the QMJHL have supplied a wonderful amount of talent, from Raymond Bourque
to Patrick Roy
and a number of others.
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 Northeast teams on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Ray Bourque (1979)
-- Seven teams passed on the Montreal native before the Bruins grabbed him at No. 8. By the following spring, he 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 even after being traded by the Bruins to Colorado in March 2000. One year later, he retired after finally winning a Stanley Cup. His 410 goals and 1,579 points are the most ever 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 (1997)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Howe (1974)
-- Gordie's son was drafted by the Bruins in the second round (No. 25), but wound up with Houston and Hartford in the WHA, then came to the NHL with the Whalers when the 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 have been mind-boggling.
Honorable mention: Bill Ranford (1985), Joe Juneau (1988), Milan Lucic (2006)
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's played for most of his time in the NHL -- he's spent 11 seasons with the Bruins, never scoring more than 17 goals or 36 points, but has been one of the NHL's most reliable checkers and penalty-killers.
Honorable mention: Mariusz Czerkawski (1991), Hal Gill (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Yevgeni Ryabchikov (1994)
-- The Bruins took Ryabchikov, a 20-year-old goaltender from Russia, with the 21st pick in 1994 and sent him to Providence of the AHL, where he went 6-3-1 with a 3.49 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. He spent the next three seasons in the ECHL and low-level WPHL (except for two games with Providence) before returning to Russia having never played an NHL game.
Honorable mention: Johnathan Aitken (1996), Lars Jonsson (2000)
Best first-round pick: Gilbert Perreault (1970)
-- The first pick in club history and first pick of the '70 draft 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.
Honorable mention: Phil Housley (1982), Tom Barrasso (1983), Pierre Turgeon (1987)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Danny Gare (1974)
-- The Sabres snapped up Gare in the second round (No. 29) after he scored 45 and 68 goals, respectively, in his last two junior seasons. He wasted no time showing those totals weren't a fluke, scoring 31 as a rookie to help Buffalo make the Stanley Cup Final, and then became a 50-goal scorer in his second season. Gare had a career-best 56 goals 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 (2001)
Best later-round pick: Ryan Miller (1999)
-- Miller has had an excellent NHL career after starting as a lower-round draft pick (fifth round, No. 138), similar to other members of his family. Ryan spent three seasons at Michigan State and three in the AHL before becoming the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender, a position he still holds. He's won 140 games in the last four seasons -- including 34 in 2008-09 despite a late-season injury that likely kept the Sabres out of the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Donald Audette (1989), Brian Campbell (1997)
Biggest disappointment: Artem Kriukov (2000)
-- The Sabres took Kriukov with the 15th pick nine years ago, but he's never come to North America. Instead, he's spent the entire time in the Russian League (now the KHL), most recently with St. Petersburg. Kriukov never has reached double figures in goals -- the eight goals he scored this season matched his career best. He was one of three Russians picked by Buffalo in 2000 -- none of whom has ever played a professional game in North America.
Honorable mention: Joel Savage (1988), Marek Zagrapan (2005)
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, who went first in '71 and was 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 1970s and cruised into the Hall of Fame.
Honorable mention: Bob Gainey (1973), Saku Koivu (1993)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Patrick Roy (1984)
-- Little did the Canadiens know when they picked an unheralded kid from Granby of the QMJHL in the third round (No. 51) 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 all-time NHL records of 551 regular-season wins (surpassed this season by Martin Brodeur
), and 151 more in the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Larry Robinson (1971), Chris Chelios (1981)
Best later-round pick: Mark Streit (2004)
-- The Canadiens got far more than they ever dreamed of from Streit, a ninth-rounder (No. 262) 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
last summer. Streit arguably is the best Swiss-born player of all time.
Honorable mention: Darcy Tucker (1993), Andrei Markov (1998)
Biggest disappointment: Brent Bilodeau (1991)
-- Bilodeau had a long hockey career after being selected with the No. 17 pick -- but none of it 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's now coaching in the Central Hockey League.
Honorable mention: Ray Martyniuk (1970), Terry Ryan (1995)
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 straight 30-goal seasons before being traded to Atlanta in 2005 -- a deal that brought back two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley
-- and has averaged nearly 38 goals in the four seasons since then.
Honorable mention; Alexei Yashin (1992), Jason Spezza (2001)
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 before slumping to 13 this past season. Fisher also had 5 goals and 10 points during Ottawa's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.
Honorable mention: Stan Neckar (1994), Antoine Vermette (2000)
Best later-round pick: Daniel Alfredsson (1994)
-- Alfredsson was a little-known Swedish forward when the Senators picked him in the sixth round (No. 133) 15 years ago. He's become the greatest player in franchise history, piling up 355 goals and 921 points in 932 games while helping the Senators grow from a laughingstock into a team that (until 2008-09) had made the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons.
Honorable mention: Pavol Demitra (1993), Sami Salo (1996)
Biggest disappointment: Mathieu Chouinard (1998/2000)
-- The Senators were determined to get the goaltender -- they picked him in the first round (No. 15) in 1998 and again in the second round (No. 45) in 2000 after failing to sign him two years earlier. After keeping him in the minors for three seasons, 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 (2002)
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
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 (No. 8). 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 (1985)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Yanic Perreault (1991)
-- The Leafs took Perreault with their first pick, a third-rounder (No. 47), in 1991 and then dealt him to Los Angeles the next season. They brought him back twice before his career ended in 2008. Perreault was never a big goal-scorer, but he did have seven 20-goal seasons and finished with 247 career goals. Later in his career he was known as one of the NHL's best at winning faceoffs -- a skill that probably added a couple of seasons to his career.
Honorable mention: Todd Gill (1984), Fredrik Modin (1994)
Best later-round pick: Tomas Kaberle (1996)
-- The Leafs picked Kaberle in the eighth round (No. 204) in 1996 and had to wait two years for him to come to North America from Slovakia. Since then, however, he's been among the NHL's most consistent offensive defensemen. Kaberle is an excellent point man who's most effective when playing with a big shooter -- he and Bryan McCabe
were an excellent pairing -- and does a quietly efficient job.
Honorable mention: Dmitri Mironov (1991), Sergei Berezin (1994)
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 never was able to take the next step. He managed only 17 points in 50 games with the Leafs during parts of two seasons, had brief trials with Vancouver and Los Angeles, and had played his last NHL game by his 25th birthday.
Honorable mention: Jeff Ware (1995), Luca Cereda (1999)