Ranking Every No. 1 Overall Pick in 50 Years of the NHL Draft

Jeff LangridgeCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2012

Ranking Every No. 1 Overall Pick in 50 Years of the NHL Draft

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    "With the first pick in the 2012 NHL draft, the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select..." Those are the words that will come out of Steve Tambellini's mouth at the start of the draft.

    There have been 49 first-overall picks in the history of the NHL entry draft. Some of them have become household names. Some were journeyman that were still important to any team they played for. Some were complete busts.

    Whoever is taken with the first-overall pick this year will be the 50th and will look to become another great player in the NHL.

    I have ranked all 49 picks as well as where I think this year's pick will end up just by being drafted. Here are the 50 first-overall picks.

50, 49 & 48. Claude Gauthier, Andre Veilleux and Rick Pagnutti

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    Years Drafted: 1964, 1965 and 1967 

    Teams: Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings

    I grouped these three together for one reason: All three never played a single NHL game. For that they get the bottom three spots.

47. Alexandre Daigle

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    Year Drafted: 1993

    Team: Ottawa Senators

    Alexandre Daigle just might be the biggest draft bust of all time.

    It's even worse that Ottawa lost games on purpose to draft him. He only played four seasons in Ottawa before spending time with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

    He scored 20 goals only twice in his NHL career, and Daigle has been playing in Switzerland since 2006.

46. Patrik Stefan

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    Year Drafted: 1999

    Team: Atlanta Thrashers

    Some might say that Patrik Stefan is a bigger bust than Alexander Daigle, but there is one big difference: their draft years. Daigle was picked ahead of players like Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya, while Stefan was part of one the worst draft classes in recent history.

    Never scoring more than 40 points, Stefan might be best known for a play he made on January 4th, 2007 against the Edmonton Oilers, while playing with the Dallas Stars.

    While on a breakaway, Stefan whiffed on an empty net, leading to an Ales Hemsky game-tying goal with two seconds remaining in the game.

45. Rick DiPietro

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    Year Drafted: 2000

    Team: New York Islanders

    Rick DiPietro is Exhibit A as to why you shouldn't draft a goaltender with the first-overall pick. Add in the fact that Mike Milbury, the Islanders' general manager at the time, traded Roberto Luongo so Dipietro could have the starting role.

    One of the most fragile players in NHL history, DiPietro has been injured in countless ways, and the Islanders still have years left on his contract.

44. Brian Lawton

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    Year Drafted: 1983

    Team: Minnesota North Stars

    The very first American-born first-overall pick, Brian Lawton was another journeyman player.

    He played for six teams in his NHL career. He was a good player in the league, but the fact remains that he was drafted ahead of better players such as Steve Yzerman, Cam Neely, Tom Barrasso and Pat LaFontaine.

    Add the fact that Minnesota's general manager at the time, Lou Nanne, admitted that he would pick Barrasso if given the chance to go back and change his pick, and you know it was a bad choice.

43. 2012 First-Overall Pick

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    Year Drafted: 2012

    Team: Edmonton Oilers

    While he is yet to be drafted, whoever is taken with the first-overall pick this year will surely be better than the previous six players.

42. Greg Joly

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    Year Drafted: 1974

    Team: Washington Capitals

    The first player ever drafted by the Washington Capitals, Greg Joly only played a total of 98 games with the Capitals before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings.

    While he was a hard-working defenseman, Joly never reached the expectations that are put upon a first-overall pick.

41. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    Year Drafted: 2011

    Team: Edmonton Oilers

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will eventually climb higher on this list, but for now, after only one season in the NHL, he settles here.

    If the young core in Edmonton can bring the Oilers back to prominence, he could find himself in the top 15 in the next decade.

40. Doug Wickenheiser

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    Year Drafted: 1980

    Team: Montreal Canadiens

    Doug Wickenheiser was the No. 1 choice for a lot of people going into the 1980 draft, and Montreal was not wrong in picking him first overall. The problem was that Denis Savard went third overall to the Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal fans wanted Savard.

    Wickenheiser was not treated as well as he should have been. He was compared to Savard for the first few seasons of his career, and as a result of not producing as much as the Canadiens thought he should, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues.

39. Gord Kluzak

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    Year Drafted: 1982

    Team: Boston Bruins

    Gord Kluzak has the unfortunate distinction of having played the least amount of games of any first-overall pick taken before the 2006 NHL entry draft.

    It was because of injuries, though. On October 7th, 1984, Kluzak had a knee-on-knee collision with New Jersey's Dave Lewis. He needed major reconstructive surgery, and his knee was never the same again.

    Kluzak retired in 1990 after only playing 299 games.

38. Garry Monahan

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    Year Drafted: 1963

    Team: Montreal Canadiens

    The very first draft pick in NHL history, Garry Monahan only played 14 games with the Canadiens before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings. A journeyman player, Monahan also spent time in Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver.

    Monahan was twice traded for a player that would become an important fixture for the team he was leaving. Montreal acquired Peter Mahovolich in the trade with Detroit, and Los Angeles acquired Bob Pulford from the Maple Leafs.

37. Barry Gibbs

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    Year Drafted: 1966

    Team: Boston Bruins

    Another player who didn't spend much time with the team that drafted him, Barry Gibbs spent the majority of his career with the Minnesota North Stars but also spent time with the Atlanta Flames, St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings.

    He was the captain in St. Louis for one season.

36. Michael Plasse

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    Year Drafted: 1968

    Team: Montreal Canadiens 

    In an interesting turn of events, Michael Plasse was traded to the St. Louis Blues after being drafted by Montreal, played one game for them and was traded back to Montreal.

    Plasse is also the first goalie ever to score a goal in hockey history. He performed the feat in 1971, playing for the Kansas City Blues of the Central Hockey League.

35. Rick Green

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    Year Drafted: 1976

    Team: Washington Capitals 

    Only two years after picking Greg Joly in 1974, Washington once again had the first-overall pick in 1976.

    A great stay-at-home defenseman, Green played eight seasons in Washington. He was traded to Montreal for a package that included longtime Capitals captain Rod Langway, so perhaps Green meant more to the Capitals in his departure than while he was playing with them.

34. Bryan Berard

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    Year Drafted: 1995

    Team: New York Islanders

    One of the biggest stories of perseverance in NHL history, Bryan Berard is most known for suffering what could have easily been a career-ending injury.

    While playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Berard was struck on the eye by Marian Hossa's stick. Only missing a season, Berard fought his way back to the game he loved.

    He was rewarded with the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2004. Berard is also the first player on this list among the first-overall picks to have gone on to win the Calder Trophy.

33. Taylor Hall

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    Year Drafted: 2010

    Team: Edmonton Oilers

    Another player who has not been in the league that long, Taylor Hall is another building block within the Oilers team that could soon become a powerhouse.

32. Chris Phillips

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    Year Drafted: 1996

    Team: Ottawa Senators

    While not the flashiest defenseman out there, Chris Phillips has been a dependable blueliner for the Senators throughout his entire career.

    Phillips has developed into a leader for the young Senators franchise and will be a big part of the that team until he retires.

31. John Tavares

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    Year Drafted: 2008

    Team: New York Islanders

    John Tavares has been the most valuable player for the New York Islanders ever since his draft year.

    For a young player that doesn't have much help when it comes to offensive stars, Tavares has given hope to fans on Long Island in years when there hasn't been much success.

30. Rejean Houle

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    Year Drafted: 1969

    Team: Montreal Canadiens

    Rejean Houle was a very good player for the Canadiens in the 1970s.

    A member of five Stanley Cup-winning Hab teams, Houle's two stints in Montreal were interrupted by his jump to the WHA's Quebec Nordiques—he played there from 1972 to 1976.

29. Ed Jovanovski

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    Year Drafted: 1994

    Team: Florida Panthers

    Returning this past season to the team that drafted him, Ed Jovanovski has changed a lot since he left Florida back in 1999.

    Since being on a rebuilding team in Vancouver and being on a team going nowhere in Phoenix, Jovanovski has developed into an experienced all-around defenseman who will be vital to a Florida team that hopes to be a force in the Southeast division for years to come.

28. Dale McCourt

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    Year Drafted: 1977

    Team: Detroit Red Wings

    Dale McCourt was one of the bright spots for a Detroit team that was not at its best during his era.

    Scoring 337 points in 341 games as a Detroit Red Wing is quite a feat, and he was their captain for the 1979-80 season. He went on to play for the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs to finish his career.

27. Joe Murphy

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    Year Drafted: 1986

    Team: Detroit Red Wings

    Perhaps the biggest journeyman of all the first-overall picks, Joe Murphy played for seven NHL teams in 15 seasons, never staying in a place for longer than four years.

    He was lucky enough to be a member of the Edmonton Oilers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1990. Murphy is tied for third in career playoff overtime goals, with 4.

26. Erik Johnson

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    Year Drafted: 2006

    Team: St. Louis Blues

    Erik Johnson's development was hurt when he tore his ACL and MCL in 2008 and missed the entire 2008-09 season.

    Johnson is now a crucial building block on the Colorado Avalanche's blue line that is starting to look pretty good.

25. Marc-Andre Fleury

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    Year Drafted: 2003

    Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

    The highest-ranked goaltender on the list, Marc-Andre Fleury has been the one risk that paid off when it comes to picking a goaltender first.

    Having already won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal (I know he didn't play a game in the tournament), Fleury will get even better as his career goes on.

24. Roman Hamrlik

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    Year Drafted: 1992

    Team: Tampa Bay Lightning

    Much like Chris Phillips, Roman Hamrlik is a reliable defenseman who has found a niche that every team would like filled.

    Unlike Phillips, Hamrlik has moved around the league, playing for six teams. Known for his big hits, Hamrlik earned the apropos nickname "Hammer."

23. Billy Harris

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    Year Drafted: 1972

    Team: New York Islanders 

    Another player who was the very first pick of a franchise, Billy Harris was the very first New York Islander.

    Harris played more than 500 consecutive games with the Islanders before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the trade that sent Butch Goring to the Islanders.

22. Wendel Clark

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    Year Drafted: 1985

    Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

    Perhaps the toughest first-overall pick, Wendel Clark was one of the premier power forwards of his time.

    Through three stints with the Leafs, he was one of the most-loved Leafs ever. The Leafs captain from 1991 to 1994, Clark was never afraid to throw a bone-crunching hit.

21. Rob Ramage

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    Year Drafted: 1979

    Team: Colorado Rockies

    Even though Rob Ramage played for eight NHL teams in his 15 seasons, I would not classify him as a journeyman.

    Spending the majority of his career with the St. Louis Blues, Ramage is probably most known for—while playing with the Rockies—being the player who put the puck in his own net in a game against the New York Islanders, resulting in Billy Smith being the first NHL goalie credited with a goal.

20. Mel Bridgman

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    Year Drafted: 1975

    Team: Philadelphia Flyers

    A tough all-around center, Mel Bridgman had the distinction of being the man who succeeded Bobby Clarke as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Reaching the 20-goal mark six times in his 14 seasons in the NHL, Bridgman could always be counted on when the Flyers needed him.

    Finishing off his career with stints in Calgary, New Jersey, Detroit and Vancouver, Bridgman would become the first general manager of the Ottawa Senators when they entered the league in 1992.

19. Vincent Lecavalier

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    Year Drafted: 1998

    Team: Tampa Bay Lightning

    While Vincent Lecavalier certainly has his detractors, no one can deny that he has been a big part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's rise to one of the most dangerous teams of this era.

    Before the beginning of his third season, Lecavalier was named captain of the team—becoming the youngest captain ever at the time. After being stripped of the "C" by John Tortorella, he regained it in 2008.

18. Bobby Smith

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    Year Drafted: 1978

    Team: Minnesota North Stars

    In the season prior to his draft year, Bobby Smith set the OHL record for most assists and most points in a single season—which still stands to this day. What's more impressive is that the player who finished second was Wayne Gretzky.

    Another player on this list to have won the Calder Trophy, Smith scored a total of 1,036 points in 1,077 games in two stints in Minnesota, interrupted by a stint in Montreal.

17. Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Year Drafted: 2001

    Team: Atlanta Thrashers

    For years, Ilya Kovalchuk was the franchise player of the Atlanta Thrashers.

    After realizing he would not win a Stanley Cup with the Thrashers, he forced a trade and is now playing in the conference finals with the New Jersey Devils.

    While some don't like how his contract situation ended, if he plays up to his talent every game, he's arguably worth all the trouble the Devils went through to get him re-signed.

16. Rick Nash

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    Year Drafted: 2002

    Team: Columbus Blue Jackets

    As soon as this offseason, Rick Nash will be in the same club as Kovalchuk.

    Finally tired of being in a losing market, Nash wants out in order to be a contender. Nash has done all he could to lead the hopeless Blue Jackets to the promised land. Reaching the playoffs only once, Nash wants more.

    He will leave the team as the leader in nearly all offensive categories.

15. Patrick Kane

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    Year Drafted: 2007

    Team: Chicago Blackhawks

    Patrick Kane has established himself as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game.

    Kane was the player who ended Chicago's 49-year Stanley Cup drought. In the process, he became the youngest player to ever score a Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime, a record previously held by Bobby Orr.

    Kane could be moving up this list if the Blackhawks get back on track.

14. Eric Lindros

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    Year Drafted: 1991

    Team: Quebec Nordiques

    While Eric Lindros never really fulfilled his true potential because of concussion issues, he was one of the premier players of the late 90s and early 2000s.

    If he never met up with Scott Stevens' shoulder, he could very well still be playing in the NHL.

13. Alexander Ovechkin

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    Year Drafted: 2004

    Team: Washington Capitals

    Alexander Ovechkin is one the best players in the game today, but in terms of first-overall picks, Ovechkin has not made as much difference as many of his predecessors have.

    While he has won his share of individual trophies, Ovechkin has not been able to guide the Capitals past the second round of the playoffs.

    Now that the Capitals play a more-defensive game, Ovie is in a transitional period of his career.

12. Pierre Turgeon

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    Year Drafted: 1987

    Team: Buffalo Sabres

    When you think of NHL stars of the 90s, Pierre Turgeon isn't usually the first name to come to mind.

    However, he was one of the most offensively gifted players of his time. In his 19 year career in the NHL, Turgeon scored at least 20 goals 12 times and at least 30 goals seven times.

    Turgeon played in St. Louis among some of the biggest stars of the 1990s, such as Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Chris Pronger and Grant Fuhr.

11. Owen Nolan

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    Year Drafted: 1990

    Team: Quebec Nordiques

    Another player you think of when it comes to the best of the 90s, Owen Nolan was one of the best power forwards of his time.

    Although never leading a team to the Stanley Cup, Nolan was thought of as a player who teams always wanted when they were making a push towards the Stanley Cup—as was the case when the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired him.

    As a member of the 2002 Olympics' gold-medal-winning Team Canada, Nolan played a crucial role in that victory.

10. Joe Thornton

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    Year Drafted: 1997

    Team: Boston Bruins

    Joe Thornton is another player who has yet to win the Stanley Cup, but he is still one of the best centers in the NHL today.

    He has guided the San Jose Sharks to two straight Western Conference finals, but Thornton needs to up his game when it matters most for the Sharks to finally make it the Stanley Cup finals.

    While one of the best offensive players in the game, he will be looked at as an underachiever until he wins the Stanley Cup.

9. Steven Stamkos

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    Year Drafted: 2008

    Team: Tampa Bay Lightning

    Although Steven Stamkos has only been in the league for four seasons, he has become one of the elite goal scorers in the NHL today.

    His 60th goal of this past season was also the 100th of his career—he accomplished the feat in only 124 games.

    It is because of Stamkos that the Lightning will be a dangerous team in the coming years.

8. Mike Modano

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    Year Drafted: 1988

    Team: Minnesota North Stars

    The face of the Dallas Stars for almost the entirety of his career, Mike Modano was the last  player with that franchise who had also played for the Minnesota North Stars.

    Modano retired as the leader in goals, points and games played when it comes to American-born players.

    A seven-time All-Star, Modano was the offensive leader in the Stars' run to the Stanley Cup in 1999.

7. Mats Sundin

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    Year Drafted: 1989

    Team: Quebec Nordiques

    Mats Sundin played very well for the Nordiques in his four seasons there but is best known for being the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 11 years.

    The longest-serving non-North American captain in the history of the NHL, Sundin is the Leafs leader in goals and points. He is also the very first European taken first overall, the first Swedish player to reach 1000 points and the only Swedish player to reach 500 goals.

    He is also the NHL's games-played leader in terms of European-born-and-trained players.

6. Dale Hawerchuk

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    Year Drafted: 1981

    Team: Winnipeg Jets

    All but one of the remaining players on this list are Hall of Famers, and Dale Hawerchuk starts it off.

    In his rookie season, Hawerchuk became the youngest player to score at least 100 points—a record since broken by the only non-Hall of Famer remaining on this list.

    Hawerchuk surpassed the 100-point plateau in six of his 10 seasons with the Jets, leading to a career-total of 1,409 points.

5. Gilbert Perreault

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    Year Drafted: 1970

    Team: Buffalo Sabres 

    A member of the Sabres' famed "French Collection" line, Gilbert Perreault is quite possibly the best Buffalo Sabre of all time—he played his entire career with the team.

    The Sabres' leader in goals, assist, points and games played, Perreault was named to the Hall of Fame in 1990.

4. Sidney Crosby

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    Year Drafted: 2005

    Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

    If you're surprised that Sidney Crosby is this highly ranked, just look at his accomplishments:

    • "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2010
    • Art Ross Trophy in 2007
    • Lester B. Pearson Trophy in 2007
    • Hart Trophy in 2007
    • Stanley Cup in 2009
    • World Junior Championship in 2005
    • Olympic Gold Medal in 2010

    Add in the facts that he has only been playing in the NHL for seven seasons and has played less than 500 games and it's all the more impressive.

3. Denis Potvin

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    Year Drafted: 1973

    Team: New York Islanders

    Denis Potvin was captain of the New York Islanders through their Stanley Cup-run in the 1980s.

    One of the best defensemen of his time, Potvin won three Norris Trophies in a four-year span and is only one of two players to play 1,000 games in an Islander uniform—the other being Bryan Trottier.

    He retired as the leader in goals, assists and points for defensemen.

2. Guy Lafleur

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    Year Drafted: 1971

    Team: Montreal Canadiens

    The leading points-scorer in Montreal Canadiens' history, Guy Lafleur is, in my opinion, the greatest Montreal Canadien of all time.

    Owning three Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, three Lester B. Pearson Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy attests to that. It's a shame that he didn't end his career in Montreal.

1. Mario Lemieux

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    Year Drafted: 1984

    Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

    Not only is Mario Lemieux one of the best players to ever play the game, but his influence on the Pittsburgh Penguins goes well beyond his playing days.

    If he was never drafted by the Penguins, then perhaps he never becomes the owner of the team and their ownership issue in 2006 ends differently.

    The Penguins got the first-overall pick in the two draft years that mattered most, and it all started with Lemieux.