Power Ranking the NHL Draft Classes of the 2000s
The NHL draft is the league's lifeblood.
There are ways of putting a team together if you are going to have a poor year finding young talent, but that's not going to get it done in the long run.
However, the talent level in the draft is not going to be equal every year.
The 2005 draft that had Sidney Crosby at the top of the class was very strong. The 2000 draft that saw Dany Heatley as the second pick did not have anywhere near the talent or depth that Crosby's draft year had.
In this feature, we look at the draft classes from the 2000s and power rank them.
Historical draft information courtesy of HockeyDB.com
10. 2000 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: Goalie Rick DiPietro was the first pick in the 2000 draft, and he managed to play 318 games at the NHL level, but he was a major disappointment.
Dany Heatley, the No. 2 pick, had back-to-back 50-goal seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and he is still a viable player for the Minnesota Wild, but his involvement in an off-ice tragedy has clouded his career.
Marian Gaborik and Scott Hartnell have had solid careers as well, but the large majority of the first-round draft picks either were role players or never made it to the NHL.
Depth: The 2000 draft did not give the NHL much after the first round. Jarret Stoll and Antoine Vermette are the only second-rounders to score 100 or more goals in their NHL careers, while defenseman Paul Martin has had a solid career as well.
Lubomir Visnovsky and Niclas Wallin are among the better players taken in the later rounds—both were taken in the fourth—but there was little else to give this draft any substantive depth.
Why It Ranks Here: Completely underwhelming. DiPietro was supposed to be a brilliant goalie who would lead the Islanders for 15 years, but he apparently couldn't handle the pressure that comes with the title of the No. 1 draft pick.
Hartnell and Gaborik have been fairly consistent, but Heatley could not maintain superstar status after a brilliant beginning.
This draft did not have the top-end star power or the dependable depth to rank anywhere but 10th and last in this decade-long power ranking.
9. 2002 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: The Columbus Blue Jackets used the top pick in the 2002 draft to select Rick Nash, and he gave their team instant credibility because of his size, strength, skill and speed. Nash had all of the measurables, and he was the main reason to buy a ticket for any Blue Jackets game for many years until he moved on to the New York Rangers.
Alexander Semin, Joffrey Lupul, Alex Steen and Stanley Cup-winning goalie Cam Ward are among the other notable first-round players selected in 2002.
Depth: Jiri Hudler was among the best of the draft's second-rounders, while Matthew Lombardi and Valtteri Filppula came in the third round.
Max Talbot and Dennis Wideman were among the players taken in the later rounds. Both were selected in the eighth round, and both still have viable careers.
Why It Ranks Here: As talented as Nash is, there's something about his game that is a bit disappointing considering he has scored 310 goals and 592 points in his career. Overall, it was an unproductive NHL draft, and most NHL teams got very little out of it.
8. 2001 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: This draft saw a solid one-two punch at its highest level. Ilya Kovalchuk was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers with the No. 1 pick, and he scored 417 goals in 816 games. Kovalchuk was one of the NHL's most consistent goal scorers before deciding to play in the KHL this year.
Jason Spezza was the second pick with the Ottawa Senators. He has been one of the Senators' mainstays since the 2003-04 season.
Other key first-round choices include Stephen Weiss, Mikko Koivu and Dan Hamhuis.
Depth: Derek Roy, Mike Cammalleri and Jason Pominville are among the most productive players taken in the second round. All three have been highly skilled players who have displayed a consistent ability to put the puck in the net.
Tomas Plekanec of the Canadiens and Patrick Sharp are two of the most consistent players in the NHL, and both were selected in the third round. Sharp was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers before becoming a star with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kevin Bieksa, Ryane Clowe, Jussi Jokinen and Brooks Laich were among the top players taken in the middle and later rounds in 2001.
Why It Ranks Here: The back-to-back selections of Kovalchuk and Spezza give this draft more weight than the previous two selections. It doesn't rank higher because it didn't have the star power that would have made this draft more memorable.
7. 2008 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: The Tampa Bay Lightning had the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, and they hit a home run when they selected Steven Stamkos. He is one of the most talented and hardest working players in the NHL, and that's a combination that leads to superstardom.
The Ottawa Senators selected Erik Karlsson later in the first round, and he has developed into the most talented offensive defenseman in the NHL. Defensemen Drew Doughty and Michael Del Zotto are among the other top-flight players selected in the first round.
Depth: Roman Josi, Derek Stepan and Braden Holtby are among the more successful players to emerge from the middle rounds of the 2008 draft. None of those players are stars, but they are all solid contributors.
Why It Ranks Here: Stamkos and Karlsson have a chance to be on the NHL's first All-Star team every season, and that gives this draft overpowering credibility. The addition of defensemen like Doughty and Del Zotto make this a draft that has a strong identity with the blue line.
6. 2009 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: While this is the last draft of the decade we are considering and therefore has had less time to mature than any of the others, it has already developed an identity.
The top of this draft has been exceptional, with John Tavares taken at the No. 1 spot by the Islanders. Other top-10 picks include Victor Hedman, Evander Kane, Matt Duchene, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Nazem Kadri.
All of these players are stars or have star potential.
Depth: Second-round selection Ryan O'Reilly is a player on the rise who has helped the Colorado Avalanche get off to a tremendous start in 2013-14. Jakob Silfverberg was a second-round selection of the Ottawa Senators who will likely become a star with the Anaheim Ducks.
Alex Chiasson of the Dallas Stars is just at the beginning of a career but has already displayed excellent goal-scoring potential.
Reilly Smith, Marcus Kruger and Cody Eakin are among the middle- and late-round selections who are playing regularly in the NHL.
Why It Ranks Here: The star power at the top of this draft is eye-catching. Tavares may not be as good as Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but he does not have to take a backseat to many other centers in the NHL.
Kane and Duchene are vital players to their teams, while Hedman and Kadri are both game changers.
5. 2003 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: Marc-Andre Fleury may have been disappointing in each of the past two playoff seasons, but he has won a Stanley Cup and he remains the Pittsburgh Penguins' top goaltender.
Nathan Horton was productive with the Florida Panthers and then played a vital role for the Boston Bruins when they won the 2011 Stanley Cup and advanced to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. When he returns from shoulder surgery, he will try to help the Columbus Blue Jackets gain a foothold in the Eastern Conference.
Thomas Vanek and Milan Michalek are proven goal scorers, while Ryan Suter may be the best all-around defenseman in the NHL.
Jeff Carter, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are among the other dominant players taken in the 2003 draft.
Depth: Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and Corey Crawford were selected in the second round. Bergeron is one of the best all-around players in the league, while Crawford helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup last year. Eriksson is hardworking and talented.
Lee Stempniak was a solid fifth-round selection, while Joe Pavelski is one of the best NHL players ever selected in the seventh round.
Why It Ranks Here: This was a very good draft for first-round talent. There was not overwhelming talent in the later rounds, but the fact that it also produced Bergeron, Crawford and Pavelski helps make this draft more memorable.
4. 2007 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: The Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four years last season, and 2007 No. 1 selection Patrick Kane was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
When it comes to flat-out hockey skill and skating ability, Kane is just a sensational talent. While he has had problems over the years with maturity and off-ice behavior, he appears to be putting those issues behind him.
Kyle Turris, Jakub Voracek and Logan Couture are among the other players selected in the top 10 in 2007. Lars Eller, Kevin Shattenkirk, Max Pacioretty and David Perron were also selected in the first round.
Depth: The Montreal Canadiens were thrilled to get Eller in a trade with St. Louis and select Pacioretty. They also picked P.K. Subban in the second round. Wayne Simmonds was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in that round.
Dwight King and Mark Santorelli were both mid-round selections in 2007.
Why It's Ranks Here: Kane is the kind of championship player who gives this draft an identity by his presence. Couture is a difference maker with the San Jose Sharks, while the Montreal Canadiens have gotten many of their best players from this draft.
3. 2006 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: Erik Johnson and Jordan Staal are good players at the top of this draft, but you have to look at No. 3 selection Jonathan Toews and No. 5 pick Phil Kessel as the top picks in the draft.
Toews is one of the best all-around players in the league, while Kessel is one of the most consistent goal scorers.
Nicklas Backstrom is an excellent playmaking center with the Washington Capitals. Claude Giroux was touted as the "best player in the word" by former head coach Peter Laviolette. Giroux may not be at that level, but he has game-changing talent.
Jonathan Bernier is fighting for the Maple Leafs' No. 1 goaltending position.
Depth: The Boston Bruins picked up Milan Lucic in the second round after taking Kessel in the first round. The Bruins then selected Brad Marchand in the third round.
The Maple Leafs selected goalie James Reimer in the fourth round, and he's in competition with Bernier. Speedy Viktor Stalberg was picked by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round. Mathieu Perreault was also selected by the Washington Capitals in that round.
Why It Ranks Here: A draft that includes Toews, Backstrom and Kessel in the 3-4-5 spots has plenty of strength. There are productive players up and down the first round, and it seems fairly obvious that the Bruins wouldn't have won the Cup or gotten to the Stanley Cup Final last year without the contributions of Lucic and Marchand.
2. 2004 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: This draft saw two Hall of Fame players taken with the first two selections.
While they aren't there yet, is there any doubt Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin will eventually be enshrined in the NHL's Toronto-based museum? Ovechkin has been one of the league's most dynamic goal scorers, while Malkin may be the most talented player in the league. He almost certainly would be considered as such if not for the presence of teammate Sidney Crosby.
Andrew Ladd, Travis Zajac and Mike Green were also selected in the first round.
Depth: The Blackhawks selected Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland in the second round of the 2004 draft. Those two players scored the tying and winning goals, respectively, in the game that clinched the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
David Booth and David Krejci were also second-round selections. Alex Edler was selected by the Canucks in the third round and so was Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings.
Tyler Kennedy, Ryan Callahan, Mikhail Grabovski, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg were among those selected in the later rounds who have had successful careers.
Why It Ranks Here: This draft had explosive star power taken at the top of the draft. The rest of the first round included several productive players.
Championship players like Bickell, Bolland and Krejci were taken in the second round, and there was enough talent in the later rounds to give this draft a very high grade.
1. 2005 NHL Draft
Top-End Talent: This was the season that saw Sidney Crosby at the top of the draft.
Crosby may not rank with Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but he may lead the next group of the NHL's all-time best players. Crosby has magnificent talent, has been a consistent scorer and is a very hard worker. He has been troubled by injuries and will occasionally get frustrated, but he is the NHL's best and most productive player.
The Anaheim Ducks selected Bobby Ryan with the No. 2 pick, while the Montreal Canadiens selected goalie Carey Price with the No. 5 pick.
Devin Setoguchi, Anze Kopitar, Tuukka Rask and T.J. Oshie were also selected in the first round in 2005.
Depth: James Neal, Paul Stastny, Mason Raymond and Adam McQuaid are among the more productive players who were taken in the second round.
Kris Letang, Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop were selected in the third round, while Keith Yandle and Darren Helm came in the later rounds.
The seventh round proved this draft had talent from top to bottom with the selections of Sergei Kostitsyn, Colin Greening and Patric Hornqvist.
Why It Ranks Here: Crosby is one of the game's all-time great players, and that alone gives this draft gravitas. Additionally, there were high-level players taken throughout the rest of the first round, and the depth selections were also strong.
This is clearly the best draft of the decade.
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