Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur led the rich draft class of 1990.
The NHL draft has long been the lifeblood of the strongest teams in the league.
Smart general managers can occasionally hit it big with a free-agent signing or find a key player or two in the trade market, but teams that want to contend on a consistent basis must have sharp scouts who find talent, and executives who draft well.
Many of the best players drafted in the 1990s enjoyed long careers and are now comfortably in retirement. However, there are still some bright lights who were selected early in the decade who are still playing and contributing.
We power rank the draft classes from the decade of the 1990s in this feature.
(Thanks to HockeyDB for all draft details and data.)
Top-end talent: Daniel Briere was selected late in the first round by the Phoenix Coyotes, and he is probably the best of the first-rounders. The other top players from the top of the draft include Marco Sturm (San Jose), Dainius Zubrus (Philadelphia) and Derek Morris (Calgary).
Depth: Matt Cullen was selected in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks, and he had a productive career. The New York Islanders selected huge defenseman Zdeno Chara in the third round, but they did not have the patience to hold on to him. Pavel Kubina was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round, while Tomas Kaberle and Fernando Pisani were productive eighth-round selections. Sami Salo was selected in the ninth round and has enjoyed an excellent career.
Why this class ranks here: Briere had many excellent years with the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers and was the best of the first-rounders. Chara became a productive player with the Ottawa Senators and a superstar with the Boston Bruins.
Top-end talent: Daniel and Henrik Sedin were the two best players selected in the first round. They were heavily hyped as the 1999 draft approached, and they made it clear that they wanted to play together. The Vancouver Canucks made that happen since they used the No. 2 and 3 picks to draft them consecutively. They remain the mainstays of the Vancouver offense. Martin Havlat (Ottawa) was the only other significant player selected in the first round.
Depth: The Ottawa Senators drafted longtime mainstay Chris Kelly in the third round. He has since come into more prominence as a defensive forward and locker-room leader with the Boston Bruins. The Penguins drafted Ryan Malone in the fourth round. However, the seventh round produced a motherlode of talent that included Martin Erat (Nashville), Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit) and Radim Vrbata (Colorado).
Why this class ranks here: While the Sedins and Zetterberg remain significant stars for their respective teams, there's just not enough star power or significant depth in this draft to get it out of the ninth-place slot.
Jarome Iginla was a star with the Flames, but he was drafted by the Dallas Stars.
Top-end talent: While the top six picks were disappointing, the (old) Winnipeg Jets hit the jackpot when they drafted Shane Doan. He has been the heart and soul of the Phoenix Coyotes with his physical play and clutch scoring. He was joined in the first round by Jarome Iginla (Dallas), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Hartford) and Petr Sykora (New Jersey)
Depth: The class of 1995 saw some decent selections in the fourth round when Sami Kapanen, Marc Savard and Michal Handzus were all selected. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was selected in the fifth round, while P.J. Axelsson was taken in the seventh round.
Why this class ranks here: This class had some legitimate star power at the top of the draft, but there really wasn't much in the later rounds. Iginla is a certain Hall of Famer, and Savard probably would have been had his career not been cut short due to concussion problems.
Top-end talent: The Edmonton Oilers found a longtime mainstay when they drafted Ryan Smyth with the sixth pick in the first round. Jeff O'Neill (Hartford) and Jeff Friesen (San Jose) were also selected in the first round
Depth: The New Jersey Devils hit it big when they drafted longtime star Patrik Elias in the second round. They also added defenseman Sheldon Souray in the third round. Chris Drury (Quebec) and Fredrik Modin (Toronto) were also taken in the third round.
The Quebec Nordiques selected skilled shooter Milan Hejduk in the fourth round, while the Ottawa Senators made perhaps the best pick in this draft when they selected Daniel Alfredsson in the sixth round. Steve Sullivan was a productive pick even though he was taken in the ninth round, while Tomas Holmstrom had a fine career with the Detroit Red Wings even though he was taken in the 10th round.
Why this class ranks here: This class did not have the most impressive first round, but the star power was found much later. Alfredsson is the greatest player in Ottawa history, while Elias has been one of the great character players for the Devils. Hejduk proved to be one of the great snipers in the last two decades.
Top-end talent: Alexei Yashin was the second pick in the draft by the Ottawa Senators, and he had two 40-goal seasons for them and scored 337 goals in his NHL career. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar was also selected in the first round by the Washington Capitals, while Martin Straka was taken later in the round by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Depth: The Buffalo Sabres drafted feisty defensive forward Michael Peca in the second round, while the Red Wings selected Darren McCarty in that same round. The Minnesota North Stars drafted Jere Lehtinen in the fourth round, while the St. Louis Blues selected hard-hitting Ian Laperriere in the seventh round. The Quebec Nordiques selected Anson Carter in the 10th round, and he would go on to score 202 goals in his NHL career.
Why this class ranks here: This class had some useful players, but it really did not have much star power. Yashin scored a lot of goals, but he did not live up to his potential, while Gonchar is a solid player who could have done more.
Top-end talent: The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the big time when they drafted highly touted Vincent Lecavalier with the first pick in the draft. Simon Gagne was selected later in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers, while Alex Tanguay (Colorado) and Scott Gomez (New Jersey) were also selected in the initial round.
Depth: Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro were the two most successful players drafted in the second round, while Erik Cole and Brian Gionta were selected in the third round. Shawn Horcoff was a fourth-round selection before the Detroit Red Wings made one of the best choices in team history with the selection of Pavel Datsyuk. The Montreal Canadiens made an excellent selection when they picked Michael Ryder in the eighth round.
Why this class ranks here: This class had a few stars selected in the first round and a superb player in the sixth round in Datsyuk. This draft was solid at the top and had quality depth.
Top-end talent: Chris Pronger will be in the Hall of Fame because he was a quality puck-mover and defender with more than a touch of nasty before his career was cut short by concussion problems. Pronger was the No. 2 pick in the draft and was selected by the Hartford Whalers. Paul Kariya (Anaheim), Rob Niedermayer (Florida), Jason Arnott (Edmonton) and Saku Koivu (Montreal) were also first-round selections in this draft.
Depth: Jamie Langenbrunner was a second-round selection of the Dallas Stars, while Vinny Prospal was selected in the third round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Eric Daze (Chicago) was selected in the fourth round, while high-scoring Miroslav Satan (Edmonton) was selected in the fifth round. Darcy Tucker, Andrew Brunette, Hal Gill, Mike Grier, Pavol Demitra and Kimmo Timonen were all late-round selections.
Why this class ranks here: This class had an intimidating, puck-moving defenseman in Pronger, who made every team he played for significantly better. Paul Kariya was an outstanding scorer, who may not have gotten all the credit he deserved. The depth was solid.
Top-end talent: Joe Thornton was the No. 1 pick in the draft, and he helped the Boston Bruins become a playoff team after he was selected. However, he became a superstar after he was traded to San Jose. That's where he teamed up with No. 2 pick Patrick Marleau. Olli Jokinen was selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the third pick in the draft, while goalie Roberto Luongo was taken by the New York Islanders with the fourth pick. Marian Hossa was selected later in the round by the Ottawa Senators.
Depth: Maxim Afinogenov became a solid goal scorer for the Buffalo Sabres after he was picked in the third round. Jason Chimera was a productive fifth-round selection while Matt Cooke and Brian Campbell were selected in the sixth round. Consistent defenseman Andrew Ference was an eighth-round choice.
Why this class ranks here: It's hard to argue with four straight excellent picks at the top of the draft. Thornton has been branded as a poor playoff performer, but he is one of the game's best playmakers of the last 20 years. Luongo takes a lot of criticism, but he has been a solid goaltender throughout the majority of his career.
Top-end talent: This was one of the most controversial drafts in NHL history because top pick Eric Lindros refused to report to Quebec after the Nordiques drafted him with the No. 1 pick. The New Jersey Devils selected Scott Niedermayer two picks later, while the Flyers picked Peter Forsberg with the sixth pick. Forsberg's rights would eventually be included in the trade package to Quebec that sent Lindros to Philadelphia. Glen Murray and Brian Rolston were also selected in the first round, and both players scored more than 300 goals.
Depth: Explosive Zigmund Palffy was selected in the second round by the New York Islanders, while Jozef Stumpel (Boston) was also a second-round pick. Michael Nylander was a third-round pick selected by the Hartford Whalers, while Mike Knuble was the fourth-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings.
Why this class ranks here: Lindros was a superstar who could have ranked with the best players in the game if he could have avoided injuries. Forsberg is one of the greatest clutch players in the history of the game, while Niedermayer was a sensational defenseman. This draft had high quality and excellent depth.
Top-end talent: This was not only the best draft of the decade, it was one of the greatest in the history of the draft. Start off with this: Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur were both first-round picks in 1990. While they are nearing the end of their careers, both are still productive NHL players. Jagr was the fifth pick in the first round and was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins, while Brodeur was the 20th pick of the New Jersey Devils. Owen Nolan (Quebec), Petr Nedved (Vancouver), Keith Primeau (Detroit), Mike Ricci (Philadelphia), Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg) and Derian Hatcher (Minnesota) were also selected in the first round.
Depth: Felix Potvin (Toronto) and Doug Weight (N.Y. Rangers) headlined the second round, while Slava Kozlov (Detroit) was a dominant player who was selected in the third round. Robert Lang was selected in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Kings, and high-scoring Peter Bondra was taken in the eighth round by the Washington Caps.
Why this class ranks here: Just the fact that Jagr and Brodeur are still playing makes this class notable, but the rest of the first round was also stellar, and the depth in this draft was quite productive.