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The 22nd-Overall Pick: Best of the Best

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

When the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft gets underway at CONSOL Energy Center here in Pittsburgh on June 22, the Penguins will have the 22nd-overall selection for just the second time in franchise history. The last time came in 1983, one year before Pittsburgh drafted a teenager named Mario Lemieux.

Forty-four players have been selected with the 22nd-overall pick in the NHL's expansion era, which began with the 1967-68 season. And below are five of the best to ever be chosen at this slot.

One is a Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest to ever play the game, while another has strung together an impressive 12-season NHL career. The other three are exciting young talents that have already accomplished a lot – and they haven’t even entered their primes yet.

Drafted: New York Islanders, 1974

It’s hard to believe 21 other players got drafted ahead of Bryan Trottier. He was a promising, but underaged, forward, and the Islanders decided he should play another year of juniors before turning pro. Trottier went on to lead the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cup titles from 1980-83 before winning two more with the Penguins in 1991 and ’92. The defensively responsible center with the vision and instincts of a pure scorer also captured the Calder Trophy (top rookie), Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer), Hart Trophy (league MVP), Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) and compiled several other accolades over his legendary 18-year NHL career. At the time of his retirement, “Trots” was the NHL’s sixth-highest all-time scorer with 1,425 points in 1,279 career games.

Drafted: Philadelphia Flyers, 1998

Gagne won his first Stanley Cup with Los Angeles this postseason. The past few seasons have been tough for the Kings forward injury-wise, but he’s still an excellent NHLer who’s crafted a successful career since breaking into the league back in 1999 (after piling up 120 points in 61 games for Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). Gagne, who spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Flyers, has surpassed the 30-goal mark four times and has seven 20-goal campaigns. The two-time NHL All-Star and Olympic gold medalist for Team Canada (2002) played an instrumental role in Philadelphia’s Cup Final run two years ago.

Drafted: Edmonton Oilers, 2008

After the Oilers took Eberle 22nd overall in 2008, the Saskatchewan native proceeded to craft an impressive international resume for Team Canada. He participated in two consecutive World Junior tournaments, winning gold in 2009 and silver in 2010 – where he was named Tournament MVP and Best Forward. Eberle capped his junior career with an incredible 2009-10 season Regina (Western Hockey League), where he was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year and WHL MVP after posting 106 points (50G-56A) in 57 games. Eberle scored 18 goals and 43 points through 69 games in 2010-11, his rookie NHL season. He followed that up with a team-leading 34 goals and 76 points in 2011-12, earning a trip to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. With just 10 penalty minutes through 78 games, Eberle also earned a nomination for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player who is adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

Plus, any player who scores their first career NHL goal the way Eberle did is pretty awesome in our book.

Drafted: Philadelphia Flyers, 2006

Pens fans’ most recent memories of Giroux aren’t fond. That’s because the Flyers center scored six goals and 14 points in six games in Pittsburgh’s first-round matchup with Philadelphia in the 2012 postseason. Giroux’s playoff performance was the result of a breakout 2011-12 campaign, where the playmaking center finished third among league scorers with 93 points (28G-65A). The Flyers took him 22nd overall six years ago following an outstanding 2005-06 season, where Giroux scored 103 points (34G-69A) in 64 games for Gatineau (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). He bested that the following season with 112 points (48G-64A) in 63 games before turning pro. Giroux concluded his four-year junior career by being named league MVP after leading the Olympiques to the President’s Cup as QMJHL champions.

Drafted: Montreal Canadiens, 2007

After being drafted by Montreal in 2007, Pacioretty went on to have a successful freshman season at the University of Michigan with 15 goals and 37 points through 39 games. After earning Central Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Year honors, Pacioretty turned pro after one year with the Wolverines. The big, fast winger has since developed into one of Montreal’s top players, leading the Canadiens in scoring last season with 33 goals and 65 points. The Connecticut native represented the U.S. at the 2012 World Championship, where he scored 12 points (2G-10A) in eight games.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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