It has been the lifeblood of many a successful National Hockey League team.
Count the Ottawa Senators among the group that has used the annual NHL entry draft as a vital tool in putting a top-notch team on the ice every season.
A quick look at the roster the Senators iced against the Pittsburgh Penguins in their final game of the 2007-08 season provides a clear indicator of the fruits of past drafts. Fourteen of the players included on Ottawa’s post-season roster were drafted by the club, including six first-rounders: Centre Jason Spezza (2001), forward Nick Foligno (2006) and defencemen Chris Phillips (1996), Anton Volchenkov (2000), Andrej Meszaros (2004) and Brian Lee (2005).
In a roundabout way, forward Dany Heatley could be added to that group. He was obtained by the Senators three years ago for Marian Hossa, their No. 1 selection in 1997. As well, veteran defenceman Wade Redden has played every game of his career in an Ottawa uniform after being obtained in a deal for 1995 first-rounder Bryan Berard.
Obviously, it’s that top pick that draws the most fanfare each season. They’re the players deemed to be the cream of the crop, the ones who get to slide on their future NHL jersey in the glare of the bright television lights.
While the first-rounders still on hand are key cornerstones for the Senators’ present and future, what about the rest of the top picks? What follows is a ‘where are they now’ look at every Senators’ first-round pick going back to the franchise’s inaugural season in 1992-93 (statistics for the 2007-08 season).
2007 – Jim O’Brien, forward: Scored 55 points in 70 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL). Added another eight points in 12 playoff games.
2006 – Nick Foligno, forward: Finished season with Senators.
2005 – Brian Lee, defenceman: Finished season with Senators.
2004 – Andrej Meszaros, defenceman: Finished third season with Senators.
2003 – Patrick Eaves, forward: Traded to Carolina Hurricanes, along with defenceman Joe Corvo, on Feb. 11 in exchange for defenceman Mike Commodore and forward Cory Stillman.
2002 – Jakub Klepis, centre: Traded Feb. 25, 2003, to Buffalo for Vaclav Varada and Sabres’ fifth-round pick (Tim Cook) in 2003 NHL entry draft. Started season with Hershey Bears (AHL), scoring 11 points in 19 games. Finished year with Slavia Prague (Czech League), notching 12 points in 24 games.
2001 – Jason Spezza, centre: Finished fifth season with Senators; Tim Gleason, defenceman: Scored 19 points in 80 games for the Carolina Hurricanes.
2000 – Anton Volchenkov, defenceman: Finished fifth season with Senators.
1999 – Martin Havlat, forward: Traded July 10, 2006, with Bryan Smolinski to Chicago Blackhawks for Tom Preissing, Josh Hennessy, Michal Barinka and Chicago’s second-round pick in 2008 NHL entry draft. Scored 27 points in 35 games for Blackhawks this season.
1998 – Mathieu Chouinard, goaltender: Signed as a free agent by Los Angeles Kings on July 7, 2003. Now out of hockey. Made one NHL appearance for Kings in 2003-04 season.
1997 – Marian Hossa, forward: Traded Aug. 23, 2005, with Greg de Vries to Atlanta Thrashers for Dany Heatley. Started this season with Atlanta. Dealt to Pittsburgh Penguins at NHL trade deadline (Feb. 26). Scored 66 points in 72 regular-season games. Has 10 points in nine playoff games.
1996 – Chris Phillips, defenceman: Finished 10th season with Senators as one of team’s assistant captains.
1995 – Bryan Berard, defenceman: Traded Jan. 23, 1996, with Don Beaupre and Martin Straka to New York Islanders for Wade Redden and Damian Rhodes. Scored 22 points in 54 games for New York Islanders, his sixth NHL team.
1994 – Radek Bonk, forward: With Senators until traded to Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2004, for a third-round pick (Shawn Weller) in 2004 NHL entry draft. Scored 29 points in 79 games for Nashville Predators, his third NHL team. Added one playoff goal.
1993 – Alexandre Daigle, forward: With Senators until traded to Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 17, 1998, for Vaclav Prospal, Pat Falloon and a second-round pick in 1998 NHL entry draft. Scored 43 points in 45 games in second season with Davos of Swiss Elite League.
1992 – Alexei Yashin, forward: With Senators until traded to New York Islanders on June 23, 2001, for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and Isles’ No. 1 pick (Jason Spezza) in 2001 NHL entry draft. Scored 43 points in 56 games with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of Russian Super League.