NHL Power Rankings: How Wise Is Your Team When It Comes to the NHL Draft?
Drafting and developing players is paramount in the NHL.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to control their players until age 26, and with the current cap it is difficult for franchises to throw wads of cash at popular free agents.
This means that franchises must select the right players on draft day and understand how to develop them—even if they operate in a city free agents would find attractive.
Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh—three perennial contenders that recently won the Stanley Cup—built their teams around the draft.
In fact, four moribund franchises—the Penguins, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings—turned their fortunes around through the draft.
The San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators—three expansion teams—have become perennial contenders, while the Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets and erstwhile Atlanta Thrashers have struggled since their inception, due to poor drafting and player development.
Certain teams, like the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, have fewer homegrown players yet remain competitive. Others, like the Buffalo Sabers, have a roster full of skaters from the pipeline but cannot get over the hump.
Two non-traditional market teams, the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes, do not have a lot of players from their system and use their young talent to supplement their veteran players, rather than the other way around.
Still, generally, the league’s best teams know how to put together a roster full of drafted-and-developed players.
The slideshow places greater emphasis on recent picks and focuses on players on current rosters. However, all drafted players were considered.
Notable Picks are only players currently on the roster of the team that drafted them.
It may be a stretch, but I counted players that are on the roster of the team that drafted them, even if they've played elsewhere during their career.
Therefore, Ryan Smyth and Ed Jovanovski are included in this list.
Thanks to Hockeysfuture.com for prospect information.
30. Calgary Flames
Mikael Backlund (24, 2007), TJ Brodie (114, 2008)
Want to know why this team hasn’t made the playoffs in the past three years?
Look no further than the draft.
Calgary has tried to patch a contender together by using imports and the wavier wire, but if this team wants to win again, they’ll have to draft better.
Just for kicks, here are the team’s first-round picks since 2003:
Dion Phaneuf (traded to Toronto for magic beans), Kris Chucko (retired due to concussions), Matt Pelech (worth little more than magic beans), Leland Irving (top goaltending prospect), Backlund, Greg Nemisz (top right wing prospect), Tim Erixon (didn’t want to sign with team), Sven Bartschi (top left wing prospect)
29. Florida Panthers
Ed Jovanovski (1, 1994), Stephen Weiss (4, 2001), Keaton Ellerby (10, 2007), Dmitry Kulikov (14, 2009), Erik Gudbranson (3, 2010)
The dearth of quality draft picks has hurt Florida.
If Dave Tallon is going to turn this franchise around, it has to start in the draft.
The Miami area is beautiful and attractive to free agents (see: James, LeBron), but no GM has been able to woo top hockey players to Sunrise during their tenure.
Brian Campbell was brought over by Tallon, who offered him a free-agent contract while in Chicago, and the GM has patched a team together with Tomas Fleischmann, Wojtek Wolski, Jose Theodore and Co.
Still, this team needs to draft better.
I could guide you through their draft busts, but Kent Russell did such a wonderful job of this for Grantland that I’ll let him help you out.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets
Rick Nash (1, 2002), Jared Boll (101, 2005), Derek Brassard (6, 2006), Steve Mason (69, 2006), Derek Dorsett (189, 2006), John Moore (21, 2009), Ryan Johnasen (4, 2010)
Before I rip into the Blue Jackets, who haven’t won a playoff series in franchise history, I have to acknowledge that they struck gold in 2006 (kind of), have had some late-round luck and have some recent picks with promise.
Well let’s just go through all their first-round picks in franchise history:
Rostislav Klesla (traded to Phoenix for two players no longer on the Jackets’ roster), Pascal Leclaire (defined mediocrity at the goaltender position), Nash, Nikolay Zherdev (teak job), Alexandre Picard (games played: 67, goals: 0), Gilbert Brule (never was that great), Brassard, Jakub Voracek (traded with first- and third-round pick for Jeff Carter), Nikita Filatov (should have stayed in Russia)
In short, the team has held a top-10 pick in all but one year of their existence and have, for the most part, squandered their draft bounty.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs
Nikolai Kulemin (44, 2006), James Reimer (99, 2006), Carl Gunnarsson (194, 2007), Luke Schenn (5, 2008), Nazem Kadri (7, 2009)
The Leafs have had good picks here and there, but overall they haven’t been too solid.
Drafting and player development are just a couple of this organization's many problems.
26. Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu (6, 2001), Stephane Veilleux (93, 2001), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8, 2002), Josh Harding (38, 2002), Clayton Stoner (79, 2004), Matt Kassian (57, 2005), Cal Clutterbuck (72, 2006), Justin Falk (110, 2007)
The Wild captured Minnesota in 2000 when they brought professional hockey back to the Twin Cities after a seven-year hiatus.
Unfortunately, that momentum has tempered due to poor on-ice performance.
The team’s struggles can be tied back to management’s inability to draft and develop quality prospects from the first round of the draft.
Only two of the franchises’ 13 draft picks are in a Wild uniform today. Marian Gaborik and Brent Burns were traded in their primes. AJ Thelen and James Sheppard never panned out. Benoit Pouliot threw temper tantrums. Colton Gilles was waived, and Nick Leddy was foolishly dealt to Chicago.
The jury is still out on Tyler Cuma. He may be a late bloomer like Clayton Stoner.
Current prospects Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips look promising, however. Perhaps there is a bright future in store for hockey fans in Minnesota.
25. Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Smyth (6, 1994), Shawn Horcoff (99, 1998), Ales Hemsky (13, 2001), Sam Gagner (6, 2007), Linus Omark (97, 2007), Jordan Eberle (22, 2008), Taylor Hall (1, 2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1, 2011)
Something’s wrong for the Oil—that’s for sure.
Their drafting has been solid. Their high picks (which are plentiful) have produced. However, I could have selected some of these players. Management in Edmonton has been a beneficiary of the lottery rather than cerebral.
Odds are we’ll be talking about how good this young team is a few years in the future.
The question is how many.
They hold the first-overall pick this year.
24. Montreal Canadiens
Andrei Markov (162, 1998), Tomas Plekanec (71, 2001), Carey Price (5, 2005), Max Pacioretty (22, 2007), PK Subban (43, 2007), Yannick Weber (73, 2007)
While many key players on the Canadiens roster came from outside their system—Brian Gionta, Erik Cole, Tomas Kaberle—Montreal has picked up some quality players through the draft.
The Habs picked up Ryan McDonagh (traded to Rangers), Max Pacioretty, PK Subban and Yannick Weber in a rather fruitful 2007 draft.
After a rough campaign last year, Montreal still has a ways to go to be competitive, but intelligent drafting should take them a long way.
23. New York Islanders
Rick DiPietro (1, 2000), Frans Nielsen (87, 2002), Kyle Okposo (7, 2006), Josh Bailey (9, 2008), Travis Harmonic (53, 2008), John Tavares (1, 2009), Nino Niederreiter (5, 2010)
When most people hear “NHL Draft” and “Islanders” in the same sentence, they immediately write them off because of Rick DiPietro.
New York has done better in recent years, however, giving hockey fans on the Island some hope that their team will turn things around. Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, John Tavares and Nino Niederreiter all look like bona fide NHLers.
With solid drafting and pickups like Michael Grabner, the Islanders are giving themselves a chance to turn things around before it's too late and they are forced to move from Long Island.
22. Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson (133, 1994), Chris Phillips (1, 1996), Jason Spezza (2, 2001), Peter Regin (87, 2004), Nick Foligno (28, 2006), Erik Condra (211, 2006), Erik Karlsson (15, 2008), Zack Smith (79, 2008), Jared Cowen (9, 2009)
Ottawa has built itself into a respectable franchise through the draft.
While Dany Heatley has departed (and was an import), the two remaining members of the CASH Line—Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza—were picked up via the draft.
Chris Phillips, a lockdown defender, has been a Senator since before the turn of the century, and current-star Erik Karlsson was drafted in the mid-first round in 2008.
The Senators can build off of a successful campaign this year if they continue to draft well.
21. Dallas Stars
Brenden Morrow (25, 1997), Steve Ott (25, 2000), Trevor Daley (43, 2002), Loui Eriksson (33, 2003), Mark Fistric (28, 2004), Jamie Benn (129, 2005), Philip Larsen (149, 2008)
The Stars have been “almost there” on their shoestring budget because of solid drafting and favorable trades. Brenden Morrow, Trevor Daley and Loui Eriksson—three franchise players—were acquired through the draft. Alex Goligoski and Kari Lehtonen came via trade, and Sheldon Souray was a good recovery project.
Given time, this team should eventually get into the playoff picture.
20. Colorado Avalanche
Milan Hejduk (87, 1994), Paul Stastny (44, 2005), Matt Duchene (3, 2009), Ryan O’Reilly (33, 2009), Gabriel Landeskog (2, 2011)
Colorado underachieved this year. They should be better in the future.
Management has done a great job with the draft, swindling San Jose to get Jamie McGinn (a young player with upside) and bringing in Peter Mueller, Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov—three players that should get better with time.
The Avalanche have a solid young core. It’s a matter of time before they start winning again.
19. Winnipeg Jets
Jim Slater (30, 2002), Tobias Enstrom (239, 2003), Ondrej Pavelec (41, 2005), Bryan Little (12, 2006), Zach Bogosian (3, 2008), Evander Kane (4, 2009), Alexander Burmistrov (8, 2010)
The zombie Thrashers drafted most of Winnipeg’s players and, to be fair, did a pretty decent job. Obviously, the team was not competitive enough to stay in Atlanta, but as the players develop in Winnipeg, the Jets 2.0 could become a formidable threat.
The trick is keeping the players in town. There is already speculation that young-star Evander Kane has a bad boy rep and wants out of town.
18. Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Ward (25, 2002), Eric Staal (2, 2003), Jamie McBain (63, 2006), Brandon Sutter (11, 2007), Jeff Skinner (7, 2010), Justin Faulk (37, 2010)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Carolina is building something special.
I know this team has only made the playoffs once in the last five years, but they re-signed Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason in the offseason, made a great free-agent pickup in Chad LaRose and have done a great job with the draft.
Cam Ward and Eric Staal were staples in the team’s Stanley Cup victory, while Jamie McBain, Brandon Sutter and Justin Faulk should be productive players for years to come.
And Jeff Skinner? Damn, that kid’s going to be good.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning
Vincent Lecavalier (1, 1998), Dana Tyrell (47, 2007), Steven Stamkos (1, 2008), Victor Hedman (2, 2009), Brett Connolly (6, 2010)
Tampa has gotten production out of their draft picks—although, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were all no-brainers at the time they were drafted.
The Lightning appeared to have something going two years ago but struggled in a poor division last year.
They certainly would benefit from having more production from players acquired later in the draft.
16. Phoenix Coyotes
Shane Doan (7, 1995), Antoine Vermette (55, 2000), Martin Hanzal (17, 2005), Keith Yandle (105, 2005), Chris Summers (29. 2006), Mikkel Boedker (8, 2008), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6, 2009), Jordan Szwarz (97, 2009)
The Coyotes have done a decent job with the draft. Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have all become cornerstone players for the franchise.
Unfortunately, some players have not panned out. Kyle Turris and Zbynek Michalek wanted out of town when their contract was up.
And, of course, Shane Doan has been around since the Winnipeg days.
In general, Phoenix tends to lean on veterans to build their squad, but picking up a player like Yandle or Ekman-Larsson every now and then never hurts.
15. New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur (20, 1990), Patrik Elias (51, 1994), Petr Sykora (18, 1995), Zach Parise (17, 2003), Travis Zajac (20, 2004), Adam Larsson (4, 2011)
New Jersey has built a perennial contender through the draft, and many players from the current team are holdovers from their heyday.
Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson are young blood, but Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora were all drafted before the turn of the century.
There is not a high volume of draft picks populating this roster, however, meaning that the Devils have had to rely on imports to play critical roles—namely Ilya Kovalchuk and Anton Volchenkov.
14. Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux (22, 2006), James van Riemsdyk (2, 2007), Sean Couturier (8, 2011)
This team is made up of a lot of outsiders, since Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were shipped out of town. However, Claude Giroux has proven himself to be a franchise player this season, and Sean Couturier looks like a promising young player.
The jury is still out on JVR, but odds are he’ll get an honest shot at being a cornerstone player next season.
The team has done well building a core by acquiring Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Chris Pronger (when healthy).
Additionally, Matt Read was a great free-agent pickup out of college.
This means the team is able to make up for any misses they have during the draft.
13. Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Getzlaf (19, 2003), Corey Perry (28, 2003), Bobby Ryan (2, 2005), Cam Fowler (12, 2010)
The Ducks have built a solid core using their early picks in the draft.
Anaheim struck gold in the 2003 when they acquired cornerstone players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round, and they've done well since—landing superstars Bobby Ryan and Cam Fowler.
Jonas Hiller was a good free-agent pickup as well.
The team has not had any notable busts early in the draft. Two players, Mark Mitera (19, 2006) and Logan MacMillan (19, 2007), have been dealt elsewhere since being selected.
The only criticism, and this is really nitpicky, is that the Ducks could do more with their later picks in terms of finding hidden gems.
12. Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller (138, 1999), Derek Roy (32, 2001), Jason Pominville (55, 2001), Thomas Vanek (5, 2003), Drew Stafford (13, 2004), Patrick Kaleta (176, 2004), Nathan Gerbe (142, 2005), Mike Weber (57, 2006), Tyler Ennis (26, 2008), Tyler Myers (12, 2008)
Just look at that list. This team drafts well—or at least well enough to put a team on the ice made up primarily of draft picks.
Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Boyes and Ville Leino were all imports, but for the most part, this is a homegrown team.
Certainly, fans in Western New York would like to see their team get past the quarterfinals (or make the playoffs at least), but with new ownership and solid drafting, the Sabres should keep their talent in Buffalo and build a contender around them.
11. St. Louis Blues
Barrett Jackman (17, 1999), David Backes (62, 2003), TJ Oshie (24, 2005), Ian Cole (18, 2007), David Perron (26, 2007), Alex Pietrangelo (4, 2008)
Despite picking outside of the lottery for most of the past decade, the Blues have built a strong core of young players in the late-first and second rounds of the draft.
While some picks (see: Erik Johnson) didn’t pan out, others (like David Backes and TJ Oshie) have become cornerstone players.
The model they are using in St. Louis should serve the team well for years to come.
10. Nashville Predators
David Legwand (2, 1998), Martin Erat (191, 1999), Jordin Tootoo (98, 2001), Ryan Suter (7, 2003), Kevin Klein (37, 2003), Shea Weber (49, 2003), Alexander Radulov (15, 2004), Pekka Rinne (258, 2004), Patric Hornqvist (230, 2005), Jonathan Blum (23, 2007), Nick Spaling (58, 2007), Colin Wilson (7, 2008), Craig Smith (98, 2009)
With their ability to turn draft picks into productive NHL-caliber players, Nashville has turned itself into a model organization for both small-market and non-traditional market teams.
Predators management has turned players from all throughout the draft into productive players at hockey’s highest level.
How good are they?
Three of the team’s defensemen came from the 2003 draft. Pekka Rinne was drafted in the eighth round in 2004. In 2005, the eighth and ninth rounds were eliminated. Patric Hornqvist was the last player chosen in 2005.
The question now is not “Can Nashville develop players?” but rather “Can they keep them on their roster?”
9. Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown (13, 2003), Anze Kopitar (11, 2005), Jonathan Quick (72, 2005), Trevor Lewis (17, 2006), Jonathan Bernier (11, 2006), Alec Martinez (95, 2007), Dwight King (109, 2007), Drew Doughty (2, 2008), Slava Voynov (32, 2008)
Upon inheriting a moribund franchise, Dean Lombardi has built a contender using solid draft picks and Philadelphia Flyer castoffs. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty have become staples supported by former Flyers Jeff Carter, Simon Gagner and Mike Richards.
This team appears Cup-bound, and they have the draft (and the Flyers) to thank for that.
8. New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist (205, 2000), Brandon Dubinsky (60, 2004), Ryan Callahan (127, 2004), Marc Staal (12, 2005), Michael Sauer (40, 2005), Artem Anisimov (54, 2006), Michael Del Zotto (20, 2008), Derek Stepan (51, 2008), Chris Kreider (19, 2009)
The Rangers made headlines for bringing in big-name free agents Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik in the offseason, but it was management's drafting expertise that has put this team in position to reach the Stanley Cup Finals this season.
The core of this team was built through the draft and complimented through free agency.
With a formula like that, the Rangers are in position to become a perennial contender.
7. Washington Capitals
Alexander Semin (13, 2002), Alex Ovechkin (1, 2004), Mike Green (29, 2004), Jeff Schultz (27, 2004), Nicklas Backstrom (4, 2006), Michal Neuvirth (34, 2006), Mathieu Perreault (177, 2006), Karl Alzner (5, 2007), John Carlson (27, 2008), Braden Holtby (93, 2008), Marcus Johansson (24, 2009), Dmitry Orlov (55, 2009), Cody Eakin (85, 2009)
The Capitals franchise has turned its fortunes around using the draft to fill out their roster. Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson all came from their system.
The team hit jackpots in 2004 and 2009, drafting three regulars each year.
While Washington is now expected to compete every year, the Caps have a reputation of flaming out early in the playoffs. Time will tell if these drafted-and-developed players can elevate to the next level or if management will have to look outside the organization for help.
By the way, Jay Beagle—who had more ice time than Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs—was a free-agent pickup out of Alaska-Anchorage.
6. San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau (2, 1997), Douglas Murray (241, 1999), Ryane Clowe (175, 2001), Joe Pavelski (205, 2003), Thomas Greiss (94, 2004), Torrey Mitchell (126, 2004), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (35, 2005), Logan Couture (9, 2007), Justin Braun (201, 2007), Tommy Wingels (177, 2008), Jason Demers (186, 2008)
While cornerstone San Jose players Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Dan Boyle came from outside of the Sharks' system, much of the roster has been filled out with players handpicked by management.
Patrick Marleau, Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Eduard Vlasic and Logan Couture were all drafted and developed.
The San Jose brass has done a great job of building a contender using players overlooked on draft day. This has been crucial for this franchise, as they have often been left out of the draft lottery due to their recent successes.
Unfortunately, things appear to be moving in the wrong direction for the franchise, as three budding players—Milan Michalek, Devin Setoguchi and Jamie McGinn—were recently dealt away.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin (2, 1999), Henrik Sedin (3, 1999), Kevin Bieksa (151, 2001), Ryan Kesler (23, 2003), Corey Schneider (26, 2004), Alexander Edler (91, 2004), Jannik Hansen (287, 2004), Mason Raymond (51, 2005)
The Canucks cannot blame their recent heartbreak on the draft.
They went all-out in 1999 to get the Sedin twins and have gotten great value from Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and Corey Schneider. It's safe to say Alexandre Burrows was a good free-agent pickup as well.
It is a watershed offseason for Vancouver, after they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round this season. Time will tell how they go about turning this team’s fortunes around.
4. Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron (45, 2003), David Krejci (63, 2004), Milan Lucic (50, 2006), Brad Marchand (71, 2006), Tyler Seguin (2, 2010)
While franchise players Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were savvy wavier-wire pickups and Nathan Horton was an intellectual import, the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion team was built around the draft.
Most impressively, Boston has built its team using mid-round picks.
Aside from Tyler Seguin, who came in the first round via a cerebral trade, all of the other players listed came outside of the lottery.
In short, this team is reaping what it’s sown.
There may be some in Boston that will call Zach Hamill a bust—which may be a little harsh—but otherwise, the Bruins have done well enough in the draft to get some value from their selected players.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith (54, 2002), Brent Seabrook (14, 2003), Corey Crawford (52, 2003), Bryan Bickell (41, 2004), Niklas Hjalmarsson (108, 2005), Jonathan Toews (3, 2006), Patrick Kane (1, 2007)
Chicago built its 2010 championship team using the draft. Granted, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were no-brainers, but Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were great finds.
The team was expected to regress after winning the Stanley Cup due to cap casualties, but the Hawks have a solid squad and are relevant in the city again.
Certainly, the team has used free agency well (Marian Hossa), and they swindled Minnesota and Philadelphia when they picked up Nick Leddy and Patrick Sharp, respectively.
As long as Kane curbs his drinking and management finds some late-round value or continues to swindle other clubs, Chicago should have a solid team for years to come.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Brooks Orpik (18, 2000), Marc-Andre Fleury (1, 2003), Evgeni Malkin (2, 2004), Tyler Kennedy (99, 2004), Sidney Crosby (1, 2005), Kris Letang (62, 2005), Jordan Staal (2, 2006)
The Penguins have rejuvenated their franchise by using the draft, and it paid off when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Granted, many of their picks were no-brainers. Who wouldn’t have selected Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal?
Still, they made Marc-Andre Fleury work for them—no small accomplishment, as goaltenders drafted that high do not always pan out (I’m looking at you Rick DiPietro).
The major knack against the Penguins when it comes to drafting is their inability to find hidden gems late in the draft—something they’re going to need to do if they continue to have the success they’ve become accustomed to lately.
1. Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Lidstrom (53, 1989), Tomas Holmstrom (257, 1994), Pavel Datsyuk (171, 1998), Henrik Zetterberg (210, 1999), Niklas Kronwall (29, 2000), Jiri Hudler (58, 2002), Valtteri Filppula (95, 2002), Jonathan Ericsson (291, 2002), Kyle Quincey (132, 2003), Jimmy Howard (64, 2003), Johan Franzen (97, 2004), Justin Abdelkader (42, 2005), Jakub Kindl (19, 2005), Darren Helm (132, 2005)
The list speaks for itself.
The Red Wings have been perennial contenders for a quarter-century because they’ve drafted well.
The pressure is on now, though.
Early playoff exits and aging players mean this powerhouse franchise needs to ensure that they draft well to re-stock the roster.
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist. He covers hockey and baseball.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
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