The National Hockey League has held an annual draft of amateur players since 1963. Prior to that, the league operated with sponsored junior teams, as players automatically graduated to the professional ranks.
Since 1979, it has been called the Entry Draft. Thousands of players have been drafted. There have been widely documented hits and misses over the years, but one thing is definite: no player taken in his spot has been more effective than the Predators’ Patric Hornqvist.
Hornqvist was the very last player selected in the 2005 draft, 230th overall. That was the same draft that had Sidney Crosby at the top. Out of that draft, only Crosby, Anze Kopitar, Bobby Ryan, Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Cogliano, James Neal and Paul Stastny have scored more goals than Hornqvist.
Patric has now participated in four 82-game schedules for the Predators, and has recorded four 20-goal seasons. He reached that level during the second period Saturday with two goals against the San Jose Sharks. Going into Tuesday’s game at Dallas, he has 104 goals in 359 games played.
Currently, there is only one other player taken last in his draft year playing in the NHL: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who was the last selection of the 2002 draft, by Detroit.
In the Entry Draft era, there are only four other “last picks” to make it into an NHL line-up for any more than one game:
1980 – Andy Brickley, taken 210th overall by Philadelphia. He played 385 NHL games and scored 82 goals. He is now a television analyst on the Bruins’ games.
1993 – Pittsburgh took defenseman Hans Johnsson 286th. He left Sweden six years later and played 242 games for the Penguins.
1994 – Defenseman Kim Johnsson was drafted 286th by the New York Rangers. He came over six years later also, and played 739 games for the Rangers, Flyers, Wild and Blackhawks.
2010 – The Boston Bruins took defenseman Zach Trotman 210th out of Lake Superior State University. He has played primarily for Providence in the American League, but got into the Boston line-up for two games this season.
That’s the extent of the contributions from those “last picks of the draft.” I should point out that in 2003, a current goaltender was taken next-to-last: Brian Elliott was taken by Ottawa out of the University of Wisconsin and he now has played over 200 NHL games.
You shouldn’t expect much from the selections in that area, but 21 of the 32 players (to be reasonable, I don’t expect anyone from the 2011, 2012, or 2013 draft classes to surface yet) whose names were called last never played an NHL game. Still, the other 11 together have managed to play only 85 games in the NHL.
Before I wrap this up, I should point out that the final pick of the 1985 Entry Draft has gone on to be a head coach in the league, with Hartford, Carolina, Toronto, Carolina again, and now in Winnipeg. Paul Maurice of the Windsor Compuware Spitfires has done just fine in this game!
The Bottom Line to this study: Patric Hornqvist has far exceeded the others who have found themselves in the same draft situation. Yes, seven members of the 2005 draft have outscored him. But the last pick of that draft has been more productive than anyone taken in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or (his own) seventh round!