When the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft gets underway at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24, the Penguins will have the 23rd-overall selection for the third time in franchise history.
There have been a total of 42 players selected with the 23rd-overall pick since the NHL expanded to 12 teams beginning with the 1967-68 season, and many of them have found success in the NHL. There are a handful of Stanley Cup winners, one Triple Gold Club member and others who are coming into their own as bonafide NHLers.
For evidence of players chosen 23rd overall that have gone on to thrive in the NHL, you don’t have to look any further than this year’s Stanley Cup Final as Vancouver center Ryan Kesler was chosen 23rd overall by the Canucks in 2003.
Kesler, a Canucks alternate captain, had a career year this past season for Vancouver with his 41 goals (tied for fourth in the NHL) and 73 points (tied for 15th). The Livonia, Mich., native finished the postseason tied for seventh in league playoff scoring and third on the team with 19 points (7G-12A).
Other current NHLers drafted 23rd overall include Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov (Washington, 2006); Panthers forward Niclas Bergfors (New Jersey, 2005); Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros (Ottawa, 2004); and Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason (Buffalo, 2001).
Delving a little deeper into the history of the 23rd-overall selection uncovers stars such as Ray Whitney, Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Slegr. Both Whitney and Slegr have won Stanley Cups and all three have competed on an international level for their respective countries.
Whitney has played in a staggering 1,234 career NHL games (both regular season and playoffs) since entering the league in 1992 after being drafted by San Jose in 1991.
The 38-year-old forward, currently with Phoenix, won a Cup with Carolina in 2006, has made two NHL All-Star Game appearances (2000 and 2003) and four appearances in the World Championships with Team Canada (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2010).
Vancouver drafted Slegr in 1990 and he went to play 664 career NHL games (both regular season and playoffs). Slegr actually played 207 of those regular season and playoff games with Pittsburgh, as he spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins from 1997 to 2001.
The defenseman won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 and captured gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics and 2005 World Championships while representing the Czech Republic, making him a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club.
Bertuzzi, taken in 1993 by the New York Islanders, has played in 1,097 career NHL contests (both regular season and playoffs) to date. The 36-year-old forward, currently with Detroit, competed for Team Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 1998 and 2000 World Championships and has played in two NHL All-Star Games (2003 and 2004).
There's sure to be plenty of talent available to the Penguins when it comes time to make the 23rd-overall selection, and hopefully the player they choose goes on to join the ranks of other successful skaters drafted in that slot.