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2014 NHL Draft: What to Expect Long-Term from Top-10 Picks

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistJune 16, 2014

2014 NHL Draft: What to Expect Long-Term from Top-10 Picks

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    Justin Heiman/Getty Images

    The wonderful thing about prospects is that they're largely blank slates for NHL fans. Every year, fans covet the players available in the draft, dreaming that their team will pick the top defenceman or star forward it needs so badly.

    But how realistic is it to expect that a top-10 pick will turn into the next Drew Doughty or Jonathan Toews?

    To answer that question, we looked at the last 10 drafts (after allowing a five-year window to confirm what became of the picks) to see what NHL teams could expect from their top-10 picks. In each case, we've identified the median player, the guy who best exemplifies an "average" return on the selection.

    Read on to see how each pick translates to future success.

     

    Statistics courtesy of NHL.com. 

No. 1 Overall

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press
    • 2009: John Tavares
    • 2008: Steven Stamkos
    • 2007: Patrick Kane
    • 2006: Erik Johnson
    • 2005: Sidney Crosby
    • 2004: Alex Ovechkin
    • 2003: Marc-Andre Fleury
    • 2002: Rick Nash
    • 2001: Ilya Kovalchuk
    • 2000: Rick DiPietro

    The top prospect in each draft varies widely from year to year. Some teams are lucky enough to have a franchise-defining talent, someone like Crosby or Stamkos, available. With the exception of DiPietro, though, every team landed at least a highly useful NHLer, with the median pick in the Nash range. 

No. 2 Overall

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    GREGORY SMITH/Associated Press
    • 2009: Victor Hedman
    • 2008: Drew Doughty
    • 2007: James van Riemsdyk
    • 2006: Jordan Staal
    • 2005: Bobby Ryan
    • 2004: Evgeni Malkin
    • 2003: Eric Staal
    • 2002: Kari Lehtonen
    • 2001: Jason Spezza
    • 2000: Dany Heatley

    For the most part, the franchise skaters go first overall, and it is a rare year (hello, 2004) when a truly dominant NHL player slips through to the second spot. The middle-of-the-pack selection here is Heatley, whoalthough in rapid decline nowhad a couple of 50-goal seasons just following the 2004-05 lockout.  

No. 3 Overall

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images
    • 2009: Matt Duchene
    • 2008: Zach Bogosian
    • 2007: Kyle Turris
    • 2006: Jonathan Toews
    • 2005: Jack Johnson
    • 2004: Cam Barker
    • 2003: Nathan Horton
    • 2002: Jay Bouwmeester
    • 2001: Alexander Svitov
    • 2000: Marian Gaborik

    Every so often, a superstar slips through to the third overall slot, generally thanks to a team in the first two spots making a huge mistake (the Islanders in 2000, the Blues and Penguins in 2006). On the other hand, sometimes genuine busts like Svitov or Barker are picked this early. 

    In the aggregate, though, the third overall pick produces a useful core NHLer, someone in the mold of Bouwmeester or Turris who can play a significant role but isn't likely to be the face of a franchise. 

No. 4 Overall

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
    • 2009: Evander Kane
    • 2008: Alex Pietrangelo
    • 2007: Thomas Hickey
    • 2006: Nicklas Backstrom
    • 2005: Benoit Pouliot
    • 2004: Andrew Ladd
    • 2003: Nikolai Zherdev
    • 2002: Joni Pitkanen
    • 2001: Stephen Weiss
    • 2000: Rostislav Klesla

    Weiss might be the median player for this whole study. Nicknamed "Weisserman" and compared frequently to Detroit star Steve Yzerman (including in draft publications), he's had a nice career as a No. 2 centre but hasn't lived up to the ridiculous expectations. He's the kind of player most teams can expect with the fourth overall pick, though every so often a Pietrangelo sneaks through. 

No. 5 Overall

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images
    • 2009: Brayden Schenn
    • 2008: Luke Schenn
    • 2007: Karl Alzner
    • 2006: Phil Kessel
    • 2005: Carey Price
    • 2004: Blake Wheeler
    • 2003: Thomas Vanek
    • 2002: Ryan Whitney
    • 2001: Stanislav Chistov
    • 2000: Raffi Torres

    While it's true that Kessel and Vanek were fifth-overall selections, it's more common for a team picking here to end up with somebody like Wheeler, who would have been a nice pick for Phoenix if the Coyotes had been able to sign him. Teams picking here can expect a solid contributor. 

No. 6 Overall

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    Elsa/Getty Images
    • 2009: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
    • 2008: Nikita Filatov
    • 2007: Sam Gagner
    • 2006: Derick Brassard
    • 2005: Gilbert Brule
    • 2004: Al Montoya
    • 2003: Milan Michalek
    • 2002: Scottie Upshall
    • 2001: Mikko Koivu
    • 2000: Scott Hartnell

    As with the No. 4 and No. 5 picks, the team selecting sixth overall can generally expect a solid player who can log significant minutes. Hartnell, a Predators pick back in 2000, is a median selection in this slot, whose only real busts are goaltender Montoya and KHLer Filatov. 

No. 7 Overall

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
    • 2009: Nazem Kadri
    • 2008: Colin Wilson
    • 2007: Jakub Voracek
    • 2006: Kyle Okposo
    • 2005: Jack Skille
    • 2004: Rostislav Olesz
    • 2003: Ryan Suter
    • 2002: Joffrey Lupul
    • 2001: Mike Komisarek
    • 2000: Lars Jonsson

    As with the last three picks, the median selection at seventh overall is in the top-six defenceman/top-four forward mold. Voracek is coming off a pair of excellent seasons, delivering 62 points for the Flyers last year, and represents reasonable value for the pick.

    Once again, busts are rare, with Jonsson being the only total failure here.

No. 8 Overall

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images
    • 2009: Scott Glennie
    • 2008: Mikkel Boedker
    • 2007: Zach Hamill
    • 2006: Peter Mueller
    • 2005: Devin Setoguchi
    • 2004: Alexandre Picard
    • 2003: Braydon Coburn
    • 2002: Pierre-Marc Bouchard
    • 2001: Pascal Leclaire
    • 2000: Nikita Alexeev

    The talent generally available in the No. 8 slot isn't all that impressive. There are some outright busts here—Glennie, Hamill, Picard, Alexeev—and real achievers are hard to find. Arguably the best player on this list is Coburn, who was selected in the ultra-deep 2003 draft. 

    Our median player is Peter Mueller, a 26-year-old who was a reasonably useful second-line forward for a few years but flamed out early and spent last season playing in Switzerland. 

No. 9 Overall

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images
    • 2009: Jared Cowen
    • 2008: Josh Bailey
    • 2007: Logan Couture
    • 2006: James Sheppard
    • 2005: Brian Lee
    • 2004: Ladislav Smid
    • 2003: Dion Phaneuf
    • 2002: Petr Taticek
    • 2001: Tuomo Ruutu
    • 2000: Brent Krahn

    Couture and Phaneuf stand out as real gets at ninth overall, but the list tapers off quickly after that. Our median player is probably Islanders' pick Josh Bailey, a good, useful NHLer who is probably best suited to a third-line role on a good team.  

No. 10 Overall

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
    • 2009: Magnus Paajarvi
    • 2008: Cody Hodgson
    • 2007: Keaton Ellerby
    • 2006: Michael Frolik
    • 2005: Luc Bourdon
    • 2004: Boris Valabik
    • 2003: Andrei Kostitsyn
    • 2002: Eric Nystrom
    • 2001: Dan Blackburn
    • 2000: Mikhail Yakubov

    That's an ugly list. 

    Sitting in roughly the middle of this pack is Nystrom, who has had a lengthy NHL career but hasn't ever played in a feature role. Based on these 10 drafts, if the team picking here gets an NHL regular they're doing about average. 

     

    Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.

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