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.
The five teams in the Northwest Division have found their share of all-time NHL legends, from Al MacInnis
to Mark Messier
to Pavel Bure
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 Northwest teams on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Al MacInnis (1981)
-- Think of MacInnis, the 15th pick of the '81 draft, and the first thing that comes to mind is one of the great slap shots in NHL history -- he was one of the few players who made goalies shudder any time he got near the red line. But MacInnis developed from merely a guy with a booming shot to a well-rounded player who was one of the NHL's most effective defensemen. He was dealt to St. Louis in 1994 and retired a decade later with 340 goals and 1,274 points. Few goalies were sorry to see him go.
Honorable mention: Gary Roberts (1984), Cory Stillman (1992), Dion Phaneuf (2003)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Joe Nieuwendyk (1985)
-- The Flames whiffed on their first-rounder (Chris Biotti
), but more than made up for it by taking Nieuwendyk, a slick center from Cornell, in the second round (No. 27). Nieuwendyk turned pro late in the 1986-87 season, then became the first player since Mike Bossy
to begin his career with back-to-back 50-goal seasons. He never hit 50 again, but was among the NHL's most consistent scorers for nearly two decades, winning Cups with Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey before retiring in 2006 with 564 goals.
Honorable mention: Mike Vernon (1981), Robert Reichel (1989)
Best later-round pick: Theo Fleury (1987)
-- Back-to-back 60-goal seasons in junior should have made Fleury much more than an eighth-round pick (No. 166) -- but most teams couldn't overlook his lack of size (he was only 5-foot-6). The Flames finally did, and got a player who set franchise records for goals and points (since broken by Jarome Iginla
). Fleury helped the Flames win the Cup as a rookie in 1989, had a 50-goal season and broke the 100-point mark twice before being dealt to Colorado in 1999. He played three seasons with the Rangers and one with Chicago before ending his NHL career with 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1,084 games.
Honorable mention: Stu Grimson (1985), German Titov (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Brent Krahn (2000)
-- The Flames made Krahn the second goalie taken in the 2000 Entry Draft when they chose him with the No. 9 selection after a brilliant first season in juniors. They were very patient with him -- Krahn played three more seasons in junior, then spent five seasons in the minors, battling a host of injuries while showing just enough to convince Calgary he might make it. The Flames finally gave up last summer, and Krahn signed with Dallas. He made his NHL debut with the Stars late in the season, playing one period and allowing three goals.
Honorable mention: Jesper Mattson (1993), Daniel Tkaczuk (1997)
Best first-round pick: Joe Sakic (1987)
-- Sakic actually wasn't the franchise's first pick in '87 -- defenseman Bryan Fogarty
went ninth, six spots earlier than Sakic at No. 15. Few players in NHL history have been more consistent than Colorado's long-time captain, the last vestige of the franchise's tenure in Quebec. He's scored every one of his 625 goals for the same franchise while leading the Avs to a pair of Stanley Cups. If he doesn't return in the fall, he'll be a Hall of Famer as soon as he's eligible.
Honorable mention: Michel Goulet (1979), Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (1990)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Milan Hejduk (1994)
-- The Avs found Hejduk in the fourth round (No. 87), and though he didn't come to North America for another four years, the Czech forward turned out to be well worth waiting for. Hejduk has 312 goals in his 10 NHL seasons, including 41 in 2000-01, when the Avs won their most recent Stanley Cup, and a League-high 50 in 2002-03, when he also topped the NHL with a plus-52 rating.
Honorable mention: Anton Stastny (1979), Chris Drury (1994)
Best later-round pick: Valeri Kamensky (1988)
-- Quebec took a flyer on Kamensky in the seventh round (No. 129), hoping the young Russian star might become available. It happened three years later, meaning he was 25 when he arrived in North America. Kamensky was useful in the franchise's last four seasons in Quebec but really turned it on after the move to Colorado, scoring a career-high 38 goals and 85 points in 1995-96, then adding 10 goals and 22 points to help the Avs win the Cup. He added 28- and 26-goal seasons after that and finished his career with exactly 200 goals -- pretty good production for a pick that low.
Honorable mention: Claude Lapointe (1988), Samuel Pahlsson (1996)
Biggest disappointment: Daniel Dore (1988)
-- Quebec swung and missed with the No. 5 pick in 1988 when it selected Dore, a forward from Drummondville of the QMJHL. Dore had 33 goals and 91 points in his last full junior season after being drafted and got a chance to play with the Nordiques before his 20th birthday, playing 16 games in 1989-90. He played only one NHL game the following season, never showed much of a scoring touch in the minors and was out of pro ice hockey before his 25th birthday (he did play three years in roller hockey before retiring in 1996).
Honorable mention: Bryan Fogarty (1987), Jonas Johansson (2002)
Best first-round pick: Paul Coffey (1980)
-- Coffey, the No. 6 pick, was a perfect fit for a team that relied on speed and skill. Perhaps the fastest defenseman in NHL history (certainly the fastest whose last name wasn't Orr), Coffey had five consecutive seasons of 29 or more goals with the Oilers -- including an NHL-record for defensemen of 48 in 1985-86, when he piled up 138 points. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1987, beginning an odyssey that would see him play with seven other teams before retiring in 2001 with 396 goals and 1,531 points, plus four Cups.
Honorable mention: Kevin Lowe (1979), Grant Fuhr (1981), Jason Arnott (1993)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Messier (1979)
-- After picking Kevin Lowe
in the first round, the Oilers went for Messier, a kid center they'd faced in the WHA, in the third (No. 48) -- never dreaming they had picked one of the NHL's all-time greats. Messier wasn't a big scorer at first, but became a 50-goal scorer in 1981-82, had six 100-point seasons and turned into one of hockey's all-time leaders. His 1,887 points are second only to Wayne Gretzky
, but he has six Cups to The Great One's four.
Honorable mention -- Glenn Anderson (1979), Jari Kurri (1980)
Best later-round pick: Kelly Buchberger (1985)
-- The Oilers drafted Buchberger in the ninth round (No. 188) for his physical play, but he became far more than just a guy who would bang bodies and protect teammates. He had enough skill to become a 20-goal scorer, enough speed and grit to become an effective penalty-killer, and a contributing member on a pair of Stanley Cup winners. He finished with 105 goals -- and 2,297 penalty minutes in 1,182 games.
Honorable mention -- Shjon Podein (1988), Miroslav Satan (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Scott Allison (1990)
-- Allison was part of one of the worst drafts of all-time -- not one of the 11 players chosen by the Oilers in 1990 played as much as one game in the NHL. Allison played two more seasons in junior after being taken by the Oilers with the 17th selection, then began an odyssey through the minors (AHL, IHL, ECHL) during which he never scored 20 goals or 40 points. Allison went to Europe and played several years in the British League and returned in 2004 for a season in the CHL before retiring.
Honorable mention -- Jason Bonsignore (1994), Michael Henrich (1998)
Best first-round pick: Marian Gaborik (2000)
-- The first draft pick (No. 3) in Wild history is still the best. Though he's been plagued throughout his career by groin and leg injuries and played in a defense-first organization, Gaborik is one of the NHL's elite talents. His 219 goals and 437 points are franchise records, as are his 42 goals and 83 points in 2007-08. Gaborik is a free agent this summer, and his offensive numbers could take off if he stays healthy and plays in a more attack-oriented system.
Honorable mention -- Mikko Koivu (2001), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2002), Brent Burns (2003)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nick Schultz (2000)
-- Schultz, the second player ever drafted by the Wild (second round, No. 33), became an NHL regular on defense at age 19 and remains one seven years later. He's not a big offensive contributor (his career bests are 6 goals and 16 points in 2003-04), but he's solid in his own zone, rarely misses a game (17 in the last six seasons) and has flourished in the Wild's defense-first system.
Honorable mention -- Stephane Veilleux (2001), Patrick O'Sullivan (2003)
Best later-round pick: Derek Boogaard (2001)
-- The Wild haven't done well in the later rounds of the draft. Boogaard, a seventh-rounder (No. 202) in 2001, provides muscle up front but little offense. Still, he's one of only two players drafted after the fourth round by the Wild who's played in more than 164 games (two full NHL seasons).
Honorable mention -- Lubomir Serekas (2000)
Biggest disappointment: A.J. Thelen (2004)
-- The Wild took Thelen, a defenseman playing at Michigan State, with the 12th pick in 2004. It had the potential for a great story -- local kid makes good -- but never turned out that way. Thelen was dismissed from school in the middle of the 2004-05 season, went to Prince Albert of the WHL and didn't impress the Wild enough to earn a contract offer. He's played the last two seasons in the ECHL and would have to improve to get an AHL offer, let alone a chance to play in the NHL.
-- None. Every first- and second-round pick from 2000-03 has made the NHL, as have the first-rounders in 2005, '06 and '07.
Best first-round pick: Trevor Linden (1988)
-- Few players were as identified with their team as Linden, the No. 2 pick (behind Mike Modano
) in 1988. Linden was a 30-goal scorer as a rookie in 1988-89, led the Canucks to the seventh game of the 1994 Final (and scored both goals in the 3-2 loss to the Rangers) and became an icon in Vancouver, where he played more than 15 of his 19 NHL seasons. He retired after the 2007-08 season, and the Canucks wasted little time raising his No. 16 to the rafters at G.M. Place.
Honorable mention -- Cam Neely (1983), Petr Nedved (1990), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (1999)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Michael Peca (1992)
-- The Canucks took Peca in the second round (No. 40) in '92, but traded him in the summer of 1995 in a deal that brought back Alexander Mogilny
. Peca has never scored the way he did in junior (he had 50 goals in 1993-94), but the two-time Selke Award winner has been one of the NHL's best defensive centers and broke the 20-goal mark four times. Injuries have limited his effectiveness in recent seasons.
Honorable mention -- Stan Smyl (1978), Brent Ashton (1979)
Best later-round pick: Pavel Bure (1989)
-- Bure was one of the best young players in the world when the Canucks drafted him in the sixth round (No. 113) in 1989 -- not knowing if they would ever have him. He was a Canuck two years later and quickly set about filling the net. He had back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and '93-94, then cracked the 50-goal mark again in 1997-98. He had 58- and 59-goal seasons after being traded to Florida in 1999, but a string of knee injuries forced him to retire by the time he was 32. Bure finished with 437 goals in just 702 NHL games.
Honorable mention -- Igor Larionov (1985), Adrian Aucoin (1992)
Biggest disappointment: Nathan Smith (2000)
-- The pick they used on Smith was part of the return the Canucks received when they sent Pavel Bure
to Florida. They chose him 23rd in 2000 with hopes he would become a solid NHL contributor, but it hasn't happened. Smith played only four games in three call-ups with the Canucks, spending five seasons with the AHL Manitoba Moose. He played 13 games with Pittsburgh in 2007-08, but wasn't re-signed and spent 2008-09 with Colorado's AHL affiliate, missing a lot of time with a knee injury.
Honorable mention: Jason Herter (1989), Josh Holden (1996)