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The Top 5 at 15

by Mike Lewis / FloridaPanthers.com

On June 25, the Florida Panthers will select 15th overall for the first time in the franchise's 25-year history.

President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon will have a number of choices available to him as the Panthers select right in the middle of the first round. In recent years, picking 15th has been a path leading teams to finding mainstay NHL players like J.T. Miller (2011 - New York Rangers), Cody Ceci (2012 - Ottawa Senators), Ryan Pulock (2013 - New York Islanders) and Dylan Larkin (2014 - Detroit Red Wings). Of the 10 picks selected at 15 since 2008, eight of them are currently playing in the NHL.

Looking at the history of the 15th overall pick, it has yielded a total of three Hockey Hall of Famers, seven NHL All-Stars, seven Stanley Cup Champions and six players to reach 1,000 NHL games. FloridaPanthers.com takes a look at five of the most memorable 15th overall selections in the NHL Draft's history.

1977 - Mike Bossy (New York Islanders)

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Arguably one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the NHL, Bossy reached 50 goals in nine of his 10 NHL seasons, reaching the 60-goal mark in five of those seasons. He missed 70 goals in a season by one goal in his career best 69-goal season in 1978-79. Over his career, Bossy led the NHL in goal scoring twice (1978-79 & 1980-81).

Bossy was a crucial part of the Islanders dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups, from 1980-83, scoring the game-winning goal to clinch two of them. Spending his entire career with the Islanders, he holds numerous League records including most consecutive 50-goal seasons (9) and is tied with Wayne Gretzky for the most career 50-goal seasons and 60-goal seasons. In the 1980-81 season, he scored 50 goals in 50 games, becoming the second player in NHL history after Maurice "The Rocket" Richard to do so. The Hockey Hall of Famer's legacy is one of goal-scoring prowess, sportsmanship and renowned offensive production.

Position: Right Wing

Stanley Cups: New York Islanders (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)

Individual Awards: Calder Memorial Trophy (1977-78), Conn Smythe Trophy (1981-82), Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86)

Accolades: No. 22 retired by New York Islanders, Hockey Hall of Fame (1991), NHL 100 Greatest Players (2017)

Number of All-Star Games: 7

1981 - Al MacInnis (Calgary Flames)

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Defenseman Al MacInnis anchored the Calgary blueline for 12 seasons, helping lead the Flames to a 1989 Stanley Cup Championship. During the Flames run to the Stanley Cup, MacInnis posted 31 points (7-24-31) in 22 playoff games and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts.

Among the most dominant blueliners to play the game, the native of Inverness, Nova Scotia, ranks third all-time for goals (340), assists (934) and points (1,274) recorded by a defenseman. MacInnis' slap shot was legendary, assisting him in reaching the 20-goal mark in seven different seasons. On January 17, 1984 against St. Louis, his slap shot split the mask of Blues goaltender Mike Liut en route to a goal. At the NHL All-Star Skills Competitions, MacInnis was a main attraction as he won the hardest shot competition seven times between 1991 and 2003 and was widely known for registering upwards of 100 mph on his slap shots.

Following his time in Calgary, MacInnis spent the next 10 seasons of his career with the St. Louis Blues. It was in the 1998-99 season that MacInnis earned his first James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. He serves today as the Blues Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Position: Defense

Stanley Cups: Calgary Flames (1989)

Individual Awards: Conn Smythe Trophy (1988-89), James Norris Memorial Trophy (1998-99)

Accolades: No. 2 retired by St. Louis Blues, No. 2 honored by Calgary Flames, Hockey Hall of Fame (2007), NHL 100 Greatest Players (2017)

Number of All-Star Games: 12

1987 - Joe Sakic (Quebec Nordiques)

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After his selection by the Quebec Nordiques at the 1987 NHL Draft, Sakic returned to the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League to continue fine-tuning his game. By the following season, Sakic embarked on what became a 20-year career with one franchise and never looked back.

As a rookie in 1988-89, Sakic posted a 62-point campaign with Quebec. Following that season Sakic registered two consecutive 100-point seasons to cement his place as a rising star in the NHL. By 1992-93, the Burnaby, British Columbia native was named Quebec's captain. The 1994-95 season was Sakic and the Nordiques' final season in Quebec City before the promising team relocated to Denver for the 1995-96 season. In Colorado's inaugural season, Sakic led the team with 51 goals and a career-best 120 points during the regular season. During the playoffs, Sakic posted a league-best 18 goals and 34 points as the Avalanche secured the franchise's first Stanley Cup over the Florida Panthers. He earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason.

In the 2000-01 season, Sakic won his second Stanley Cup, earned the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and was also the recipient of both the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award. Ranking ninth all-time in points (1,641), Sakic finished his career with six 100-point seasons and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012. He currently serves as Colorado's Executive Vice President and General Manager.

Position: Center

Stanley Cups: Colorado Avalanche (1996, 2001)

Individual Awards: Conn Smythe Trophy (1995-96), Hart Memorial Trophy (2000-01), Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (2000-01), Lester B. Pearson Award (2000-01)

Accolades: No. 19 retired by Colorado Avalanche, Hockey Hall of Fame (2012), NHL 100 Greatest Players (2017)

Number of All-Star Games: 12

1991 - Alexei Kovalev (New York Rangers)

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The New York Rangers made history in 1991 when they selected Alexei Kovalev with the 15th pick. The native of Togliatti, Russia, was the first Russian-born player ever to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.

A highly-gifted offensive player, Kovalev had a strong rookie season in 1992-93 for the Rangers, scoring 20 goals and 38 points. It wouldn't be long until Kovalev was not only competing for the Stanley Cup, but proving to be an important factor of the Rangers team. The following year, Kovalev posted 56 points (23-33-56) during the regular season and 21 points (9-12-21) in 23 postseason games on the Rangers run to the 1994 Stanley Cup. Along with Alexander Karpovstev, Sergei Nemchinov and Sergei Zubov, Kovalev became one of the first Russian-born players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Kovalev's 1,316 NHL games are the most ever played by a Russian-born NHLer. His career included two stints with the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as time with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. He played the 2011-12 season in the KHL and made a brief NHL comeback when he signed with the Florida Panthers in 2012-13, at age 39. In his Panthers debut he posted three points (1-2-3) including an assist on Jonathan Huberdeau's first NHL goal. Amassing over 1,000 points in his NHL career, Kovalev ranks in the top-five among Russians for goals, assists and points.

Position: Right Wing

Stanley Cups: New York Rangers (1994)

Number of All-Star Games: 3

2008 - Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators)

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Hosting the 2008 NHL Draft in Ottawa, the Senators provided a memorable moment in their history in front of their hometown fans. With the 15th pick, Ottawa selected probably the biggest steal of the first round that year by drafting a future franchise defenseman in Erik Karlsson.

Ranked fourth by NHL central scouting on the European skaters final rankings, the Senators who had the 18th overall pick, knew they had to act quickly to secure the Vetlanda, Sweden native. GM Bryan Murray swapped picks with the Nashville Predators in a trade to jump up to 15 and select Karlsson, a move that paid dividends for years to come.

The present-day captain of the Senators is considered one of the NHL's premier defensemen. A two-time Norris Trophy winner (2012, 2015) and a four-time finalist, Karlsson has posted 70-point seasons on four separate occasions and produced a career-high 82 points (16-66-82) in 2015-16.

The highest scoring defenseman in Senators history, Karlsson has represented the club in five NHL All-Star Games. In 2016-17, Karlsson helped lead Ottawa to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final producing 18 points (2-16-18) over 19 postseason contests. Since Karlsson entered the NHL in 2009-10, no defenseman has produced more assists (392) or points (518).

Position: Defenseman

Individual Awards: James Norris Memorial Trophy (2011-12, 2014-15)

Number of All-Star Games: 5

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