NHL Draft: Top 10 Classes of the Last Generation

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NHL Draft: Top 10 Classes of the Last Generation
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Wherever it is held, the NHL draft is a well-attended event despite being an imperfect science.

The Los Angeles Kings have won Lord Stanley's Cup—with the coach and general manager my San Jose Sharks fired, leaving their old team as the last in California without a title. As I congratulate them, I can take solace that I am not a Philadelphia Flyers fan, whose two-star players were deemed the problem last year and won the Cup this year.

And now like most other NHL fans, I can turn my attention to the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh.

How it unfolds is anyone's guess, as perhaps only Major League Baseball has a less precise selection process. For instance, it is so rare for a player outside of the first 50 selections to make an NBA team that they do not even bother having more than two rounds. The first seven "lottery picks" are where almost every frequent All-Star will come from.

By contrast, the NHL can have talent come from anywhere. The 2009 Sharks had the NHL's best record with a ninth-round pick in net and a blue line manned by an undrafted free agent, three fourth-round picks, two second-round picks and one pick each from the fifth and eighth rounds.

A year ago, I did an analysis of the 2006 NHL draft to get an idea of how last year's draft would have changed in hindsight.

In the span of just five years, the re-draft would have put a sixth-round pick (Viktor Stalberg) and a fourth-round pick (James Reimer) in the first round. Four third-round picks made the top 30 players selected that season, including Milan Lucic at No. 3.

In fact, 13 of the last 16 picks in the first round—those awarded to the playoff teams—were not first-round worthy. But how much of a difference is there between those picks and James Sheppard, chosen ninth by the Minnesota Wild (just 50 points in 230 career games including the playoffs)?

The real barometer for how good a draft was is the high-level talent it produces.

How many players in each draft made the All-Star game? How many will make or have already made the Hall of Fame? Where were the generational players taken?

Thus, this slideshow rates the top drafts of the era when the NHL had access to all the best talent—before the 1979 draft, they lost talent to the WHL; after the 2007 draft, the KHL began to compete.

In that 29-year span, 364 players were drafted who received at least one All-Star selection. Players drafted this millennium have not reached their peak yet, whereas players drafted before the mid-90s have, more or less, complete bodies of work.

Thus, to power rank them properly requires taking a look not only at how many players were selected as All-Stars and how many studs were among them, but how they compare to the norm of that time period. Therefore, all drafts were graphed to establish a baseline and those that were most above that were chosen.

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