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NHL Draft's 12th pick has yielded plenty of talent over the years

Selection has yielded abundance of blue line skill in more recent drafts

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

When the ping-pong balls fell the way they did on the night of the NHL Draft Lottery in April, the Wild discovered it will draft near the tail end of the lottery. 

While the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks were each beneficiaries on the night of the lottery, each jumping ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the right to the top three picks, Minnesota dropped one spot from its expected perch at No. 11. 

Over the years, the 12th overall selection has provided tremendous value to the teams who have picked there. Here's a quick look at some of those players who have made an impact in the NHL:

Mario Tremblay, 1974, Montreal Canadiens

Perhaps best known in Minnesota as a long-time assistant coach under Jacques Lemaire, Tremblay was a great player in his own right who, like Lemaire, carved out a career littered with championships in Montreal.

Four times in 12 seasons with the Canadiens, Tremblay tallied at least 30 goals. He was never a minus player in any of his NHL seasons, posting a career plus-185.

In 852 NHL games, Tremblay scored 258 goals and 584 points before being forced into early retirement at the age of 29 because of a shoulder injury. 

Before hanging them up, however, Tremblay was a part of four Stanley Cup championship teams with Montreal, where a decade later, he would serve two seasons as head coach. In 2001, he joined Lemaire in Minnesota, where he spent seven seasons as an assistant with the Wild.

Dave Gagner, 1983, New York Rangers

Gagner played in a total of just 80 games in three years with the Rangers after being selected 12th before breaking out with the Minnesota North Stars in 1988. Gagner scored at least 30 goals on six different occasions with the Stars organization between 1988 and 1994, including a pair of 40-goal seasons. 

Gagner went on to play in 946 NHL games with six different organizations, scoring 318 goals and 719 points in a stellar pro career that wrapped up with the Vancouver Canucks in 1999.

Gary Roberts, 1984, Calgary Flames

The following year, the 12th pick yielded yet another star, as Calgary selected Roberts, who spent a decade with the flaming 'C' on his chest. Roberts scored 30 goals four times with the Flames, including a career-high 53 goals and 90 points in 1991-92 and helped the Flames to a Stanley Cup win over the Montreal Canadiens in 1989.

A three-time All-Star, Roberts skated in 1,224NHL games and tallied 438 goals and 910 points over 21 seasons with the Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Marian Hossa, 1997, Ottawa Senators

A likely Hall-of-Famer one day in the future, Hossa is perhaps the greatest player in NHL history selected with the 12th overall pick. 

Picked by the Senators, where he scored 390 points in 467 career games, Hossa is perhaps best known for his time with the Chicago Blackhawks in the later stages of his career. After losing a Cup Final as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins (to the Red Wings) in 2008, Hossa switched sides and went to Detroit on a one-year deal in 2009, only to lose again in the Finals (to the Penguins). 

He wouldn't lose the following year with Chicago as he helped the Blackhawks to the championship, snapping a 49-year title drought in the Windy City. Hossa and the Hawks would go on to win two more Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015.

Still playing at a high level at the age of 38, a rare skin disorder ended his playing career in 2017 after 1,309 NHL games. He scored 525 goals, 1,134 points and will be remembered as one of the best two-way players of his generation.

Alex Tanguay, 1998, Colorado Avalanche

A Wild killer over the years in his time with the Avalanche and Calgary Flames, Tanguay played in 1,088 NHL games with the Avs, Flames, Canadiens, Lightning and Arizona Coyotes. 

More than half of those games came in an Avalanche uniform, however, where he scored 167 goals and 488 points in 598 games in Colorado. He scored 20-plus goals seven times in 16 seasons and was a part of the 2001 Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche.

In 67 career games against Minnesota, he tallied 46 points, tied for sixth-most of any opponent in Wild history. 

In more recent years, the 12th selection has been a spot where NHL teams have been able to lock up a boatload of quality talent, especially on the blue line.

Among active NHLers drafted 12th overall include:

  • Defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2001)
  • Defenseman Marc Staal (2005)
  • Forward Bryan Little (2006)
  • Defenseman Ryan McDonagh (2007)
  • Defenseman Tyler Myers (2008)
  • Defenseman Calvin de Haan (2009)
  • Defenseman Cam Fowler (2010)
  • Forward Max Domi (2013)
  • Forward Brendan Perlini (2014)

The Wild has drafted 12th just once in franchise history, selecting local defenseman A.J. Thelen in 2004. While that pick didn't work out, he is one of just two players selected 12th overall since 1996 who has not reached the NHL. The only other? Defenseman Noah Dobson, who was picked by the Islanders last summer and is considered one of the team's top overall prospects heading into 2019-20.

Only four 12th overall picks going back to 1968 have failed to reach the NHL.

In addition to Tremblay, Gagner and Thelen, there are several other players selected 12th that have ties to Minnesota.

  • Forwards Jerry Byers (1972) and Warren Babe (1986) were selected 12th by the North Stars.
  • Forward Sergei Krivokrasov (1992) was an Expansion Draft pick of the Wild in 2000 and played two seasons for Minnesota.
  • McDonagh is a St. Paul native and played his prep hockey at Cretin-Derham Hall.
  • Defenseman Ryan Murphy (2011) played parts of two seasons for the Wild after signing in Minnesota in July of 2017, skating in 24 games here, including one postseason contest.

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