Over the past 10 years, there have been a solid number of steals in the draft. Since 1999, there has been a significant quantity of players drafted to the NHL trying to make a name for themselves. As many late round picks don't get the opportunity to break right into the NHL, I have created a list of the top ten players since 1999 to do so.
2003 Draft - 8th Round, 239th Overall
Usually in the 8th round of the draft, players are not expected to break into the NHL and make any impact for at least four years. Enstrom was a different story. Since he was drafted, Enstrom has never played a single game in the lower levels in North America and in fact, has played two seasons with Atlanta and not missed one game.
In 164 career games, Enstrom has 70 points (10-60-70) and has been a great asset to the Thrasher's blue line.
2000 Draft - 5th Round, 159th Overall
John Michael Liles has most definitely made a name for himself since being drafted in 2000. Liles has only played 5 minor league games and 388 games in the NHL. In those 388 games, he has 198 points (56-142-198). Liles has gotten at least 30 points in all five of his NHL seasons and has done a little extra as well. He has represented U.S.A. in one World Cup and also in the 2006 Olympics.
Liles will most likely be an Olympian in the 2010 winter games as well. Now that Sakic is retired, Liles is a top candidate to be Colorado's captain.
2002 Draft - 8th Round, 241st Overall
Some might be wondering why Wideman is ahead of Liles in the rankings, but when we look at where they were drafted, it explains it all. Taken only 50 players before the last pick of the draft, Dennis Wideman has proved himself to be a very trustworthy defense man. Last year, Wideman averaged 24:38 of ice time on the first place Boston Bruins. He also finished tied for 12th with team mate Zdeno Chara for scoring among defensemen with 50 points (13-37-50).
2004 Draft - 5th Round, 134th Overall
Versteeg just came off his rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks in which we saw him total 53 points (22-31-53) in 78 regular season games. Versteeg helped lead Chicago to the western conference finals and in the playoffs, he collected 12 points (4-8-12) in 17 games.
Versteeg has great speed and agility along with a nice scoring touch. The 2009 Calder Trophy finalist would be a great asset on any roster in the league with no doubt. Versteeg took a little while to break into the NHL, but with a rookie season like his, he obviously has many great years ahead of him.
2004 Draft - 8th Round, 258th Overall
Pekka Rinne was the last pick of the 8th round in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Like most people would think, Nashville didn't know they had a star goalie in their possession.
2003 Draft - 7th Round, 205th Overall
It only took Pavelski 16 games in the AHL to prove he was NHL worthy. The seventh round pick has been a key to San Jose's success over the past three seasons. Pavelski is a clutch performer and works hard every shift.
In his three years in the NHL, Pavelski's point total has gone from 28 to 40 to 59 in 08-09. He finished in the top 5 in all three major scoring categories for San Jose in 2008-2009.
His 25 goals were a career high. Pavelski played for Team U.S.A. in the 2009 World Cup and was recently named to the U.S.A. Olympic orientation roster.
1999 Draft - 5th Round, 138th Overall
Ryan Miller was drafted in 1999 from Michigan State University. Since breaking into the NHL, Miller has held a career record of 146-86-1-25.
He spent a few years bouncing up and down between Buffalo and the Rochester Americans, but since 2006, Miller has been the key to Buffalo's success. In the past three season, Miller has made a name for himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL by winning 110 games. Miller will surely represent U.S.A. in the 2010 Olympics and in 2007, he was the starting goalie for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
2004 Draft - 9th Round, 262nd Overall
Arguably the steal in the past 10 years and the most under-rated player in the NHL today, Mark Streit was drafted 29 spots ahead of the last pick in the draft to the Montreal Canadiens.
In his rookie campaign, the Swiss born defender only had 11 points, but since then, has 154 in three seasons. His best season came in 2007-2008 when he racked up 62 points (13-49-62) while in Montreal.
Last year, Streit led the Islanders in points and assists, while finishing in second with 16 goals. Streit's 56 points last year were good enough for seventh place among defenders and his 62 the year before were good enough for third. Streit has competed for Team Switzerland in 14 straight World Championships and has been in two Olympics, but soon to be three.
I have no doubt Striet will continue to be a very successful defenseman, regardless of what team he plays for.
2000 Draft - 7th Round, 205th Overall
Henrik Lundqvist was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2000 from a Swedish Elite League. No one really knew anything about him, nor if he would even come to North America to compete in the NHL. In 2005-2006, Lundqvist joined the Rangers and made an immediate impact, starting 53 games and recording a 30-12-9 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Lundqvist is known as the back bone of the New York Rangers and averages about 70 starts per season. In his four seasons with New York, they have reached the playoffs every year. The 7th round pick has accomplished a considerable amount in his career including:
New York Rangers record for most wins by a rookie goalie (30)
Second goalie in Ranger history to record back-to-back 30 win seasons
Second goalie in NHL history to record three straight 30-win seasons to start a career
Only goalie in NHL history to record four consecutive 30-win seasons to begin a career
All-Star Team - 2009
Vezina Nomination - 2006, 2007, 2008
Gold Medalist - 2006 Olympics with Team Sweden
Silver Medalist - 2003 and 2004 World Championships with Team Sweden
As I looked all this over, it is one very impressive resume. To think this guy have another 8-10 seasons ahead of him is even more intriguing. The Rangers were very fortunate to pick such a goalie...in the 7th round.
1999 Draft - 7th Round, 210th Overall
Of course, it comes at no surprise that Henrik Zetterberg is, by far, the biggest steal in the past decade. Zetterberg was drafted to Detroit in 1999 and might have more skill himself the the 1st round class of the 1999 draft.
Looking back on it, I am pretty sure the Red Wings passed up on players like Jim Baxter, Kyle Kettles, Arto Laatikainen, Seneque Hyacinthe Jr., Yuri Dobryshkin, etc. To this day, Zetterberg has 405 career points (183-222-405) in 432 games, all in a Red Wings uniform.
In the past three years, Zetterberg has the most points in the post-season with 65. His list of achievements in not bad either:
Calder Finalist - 2003
Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Winner - 2008
Selke Trophy Finalist - 2008
6 World Championships - 1 Gold Medal, 1 Silver Medal, & 2 Bronze Medals
2 Olympic Appearances - 1 Gold Medal
Zetterberg remains one of the best players in the NHL today and it was not hard to put him at the top of this list.
In Draft Order:
Martin Erat (NSH)- 1999 Draft - 7th Round, 191st Overall
Ryane Clowe (SJ)- 2001- 6th Round, 175th Overall
Jussi Jokinen (CAR)- 2001- 6th Round, 192nd Overall
David Moss (CGY)- 2001- 7th Round, 220th Overall
Marek Svatos (COL)- 2001- 7th Round, 227th Overall
Adam Burish (CHI)- 2002- 9th Round, 282nd Overall
Jonathan Ericsson (DET)- 2002- 9th Round 291st Overall
Dustin Byfuglien (CHI)- 2003- 8th Round, 245th Overall