NHL Draft: Top Picks of All-Time

Ryan Senior Writer IJune 27, 2008

While coming up with an article idea the other day, I thought "hey, it'd be cool to find out who was the best pick at each number from 1-30".  Eventually, I stopped being lazy and actually did it.

So I'll skip the babbling and start the list from #1 and build up to #30, with every 1st round pick from 1963-2007 being looked at.  Here's what I came up with.

#1 Overall--Mario Lemieux (1984, Pittsburgh Penguins)

This one was pretty easy all things considered.  Le Magnifique came into the league and lit the hockey world on fire, piling up points and awards along the way.  He has an amazing 1,723 points in a little over 900 games, but one has to wonder what would have happened if he didn't battle injury issues his entire career.

Honorable Mention: Guy Lafleur (1971, Montreal), Gilbert Perreault (1970, Buffalo), Mats Sundin (1989, Quebec), Denis Potvin (1973, Islanders), Alexander Ovechkin (2004, Washington), Sidney Crosby (2005, Pittsburgh)

#2 Overall--Marcel Dionne (1971, Detroit Red Wings)

Dionne would have solid days in Detroit, but he is most remembered as being part of the famed Triple Crown line in Los Angeles.  The french-canadian star totaled 731 career goals and over 1,700 points. Incredible luck for the Canadiens as they had to choose between Dionne and Guy Lafleur at #1 overall that year.

Honorable Mention: Chris Pronger (1993, Hartford), Jason Spezza (2001, Ottawa), Dany Heatley (2000, Atlanta), Brendan Shanahan (1988, New Jersey), Evegeni Malkin (2004, Pittsburgh)

#3 Overall--Denis Savard (1980, Chicago Blackhawks)

The Chicago Hall of Famer is the standard here in a pretty weak crop.  Savard amassed over 1,300 points in his storied career and became a hero in the city during a down time in Blackhawks history.

Honorable Mention: Marian Gaborik (2000, Minnesota), Pat LaFontaine (1983, Islanders), Scott Niedermayer (1991, New Jersey), Olli Jokinen (1997, Los Angeles)

#4 Overall--Steve Yzerman (1983, Detroit Red Wings)

The first one I didn't actually have to look up.  Steve Y became the consummate leader and the NHL's longest serving captain ever, serving from 1984 to his retirement in 2005.  Known as a tremendous offensive player in juniors,  Yzerman became one of the game's best two-way players over his two-decade career and finished with an impressive 1,700+ points while leading the Wings to a set of Stanley Cup victories.

Honorable Mention: Larry Murphy (1980, Los Angeles), Mike Gartner (1979, Washington), Lanny McDonald (1973, Toronto), Ron Franics (1981, Hartford), Paul Kariya (1993, Anaheim), Roberto Luongo (1997, Islanders)

#5 Overall--Jaromir Jagr (1990,  Pittsburgh Penguins)

Another clear cut winner here, Jagr became arguably the greatest European-born player ever.  At age 36, he has 1,500+ points to go along with several scoring titles, an MVP and a Pearson award.

For a time he was the most dominating offensive player in the game and also sported one of the game's most infamous gerri-curl mullets.

Honorable Mention: Scott Stevens (1982, Washington), Rick Martin (1971, Buffalo), Bill Guerin (1989, New Jersey)

#6 Overall--Peter Forsberg (1991, Philadelphia Flyers)

One of the most dominating two-way players of his time, this Swede showed that Europeans can play with an edge.  He was also the best passer in the late '90s and early 2000's.  The one knock on him is that injuries shortened his career significantly and he hasn't quite been the same player since 2004.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Smyth (1994, Edmonton), Vincent Damphousse (1986, Toronto), Phil Housley (1982, Buffalo), Paul Coffey (1980, Edmonton)

#7 Overall--Bernie Federko (1976, St.Louis Blues)

Slim pickings here but Federko and his 1,130 career points fit well here.  He was never a true stand-out guy, save for his four 100 point seasons. Some spots are going to a bit thinner than others so bear with me.

Honorable Mention: Jason Arnott (1993, Edmonton), Shane Doan (1995, Winnipeg)

#8 Overall--Raymond Bourque (1979, Boston Bruins)

The man doesn't really need explaining, but then again, that's why I'm writing this piece.  He goes down as one of the five greatest defensmen of all-time, leaving as the career leader in goals, assists and points for defensman. His two-way play and quiet leadership were a staple in Boston for nearly two decades before he moved to Colorado to capture that elusive Stanley Cup title.

Honorable Mention: Daryl Sittler (1970, Toronto), Grant Fuhr (1981, Edmonton),  Jeremey Roenick (1988, Chicago Blackhawks) 

#9 Overall--Brian Leetch (1986, New York Rangers)

The greatest American-born defenseman of all-time.  Not bad for a top ten pick.  Leetch was an offensive dynamo at his position and was the key cog for the first Rangers Stanley Cup team in 54 years, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1994.

Honorable Mention: Dion Phaneuf (2003, Calgary), Rod Brind'Amour (1988, St.Louis), Cam Neely (1983, Vancouver)

#10 Overall--Teemu Selanne (1988, Winnipeg Jets)

The Finnish Flash took the league by storm in 1992-1993, lighting the lamp a rookie-record 76 times.  He has since had a very stellar career, combining with Paul Kariya to form one of the best duo's in hockey in the late '90s before leaving and then returning to the Ducks to win a Stanley Cup in 2006.

Honorable Mention: Bobby Holik (1989, Hartford), Andrei Kostitsyn (2003, Montreal)

#11 Overall--Jarome Iginla (1995, Dallas Stars)

Though it would take him some time, Iginla has become one of the premiere power forwards in the game, albeit for Calgary.  He is a fierce leader and one of the best scorers in the biz.  He is just as likely to drop the gloves as he is to light the lamp.  In the prime of his career, which is a shame considering that Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin are only going to get better.

Honorable Mention: Anze Kopitar (2005, Los Angeles), Mike Ramsey (1979, Buffalo)

#12 Overall--Marian Hossa (1997, Ottawa Senators)

Hossa didn't exactly explode onto the scene, but by 2002-2003, he was one of the best power forwards in the game.  He reminds many of Jaromir Jagr in terms of his size and ability and the way he uses the entire package.  He's been bounced around as of late but is firmly entrenched as an elite sniper.

Honorable Mention:Gary Roberts (1984, Calgary), Kenny Jonsson (1993, Toronto), Alex Tanguay (1998, Colorado)

#13 Overall--Jean-Sebastian Giguere (1995, Hartford Whalers)

Another pick that panned out somewhere else, Giguere finally made the big-time during Anaheim's 2003 run to the Cup Finals, with Giguere capturing the Conn Smythe in a losing effort.  He has been a solid-elite goalie since and continues to be a staple for the now "Mighty"-less Ducks.

Honorable Mention: Mattias Ohlund (1994, Vancouver), Ales Hemsky (2001, Edmonton)

#14 Overall--Brian Propp (1979, Philadelphia Flyers)

Propp was a consistently solid scorer for most of his 11 seasons with the Flyers, nearing the point-per-game mark each year and achieving a career-high 97 points in consecutive seasons before bouncing between three teams to finish up his career.

Honorable Mention: Adam Deadmarsh (1993, Quebec), Sergei Gonchar (1992, Washington)

#15 Overall--Joe Sakic (1987, Quebec Nordiques)

This was the toughest one for me to choose as I felt Bossy was the greatest sniper of his generation and, if not for injuries, maybe of all-time.  But Sakic has been the consistent, quiet super star for two decades and that is just too hard to ignore.  He's been a leader for Quebec/Colorado and has a pair of Stanley Cups, with one Conn Smythe, to boot.  Great depth at this pick.

Honorable Mention: Mike Bossy (1977, Islanders), Al MacInnis (1981, Calgary), Alexei Kovalev (1991, Rangers)

#16 Overall--Dave Andrechuk (1982, Buffalo Sabres)

Big Dave had a long and steady NHL career that began in Buffalo.  Though he only had one 50+ goal season (1993-1994 with Toronto), he still compiled more than 600 goals throughout his career which ended in the first year after the lockout.  Andrechuk had a Ray Bourque type story going in his pursuit of the Stanley Cup, finally capturing it in 2003-2004 with Tampa Bay.

Honorable Mention: Markus Naslund (1991, Pittsburgh), Martin Biron (1995, Buffalo)

#17 Overall--Bobby Clarke (1969, Philadelphia Flyers)

Clarke was the definition of those Broadstreet Bullies teams of the '70s: toothless, nasty and willing to do anything to win.  Oh yeah, he was a pretty good player, too.  He posted over 1,200 points for his career and won the Hart Trophy for league MVP three times while winning a pair of Cups in Philly.

Honorable Mention: Brent Sutter (1980, Islanders), Jason Allison (1993, Washington), Zach Parise (2003, New Jersey)

#18 Overall--Glen Murray (1991, Boston Bruins)

Not a ton to choose from here, but then again its the 18th overall pick.  Murray has been a solid scorer throughout his career and had one big year in 2002-2003, when he potted a career-high 44 goals during his second run with the Bruins.

Honorable Mention: Petr Sykora (1995, New Jersey), Brooks Orpik (2000, Pittsburgh), Barry Pederson (1980, Boston)

#19 Overall--Keith Tkachuk (1990, Winnipeg Jets)

Tkachuk was one of the premiere power forwards of the early-mid '90s and had one of the toughest names to spell or pronounce.  He's consistently lit the lamp over his career, posting 20 or more goals in 14 seasons, with 8 of those seasons having 30 or more goals.  He finished last season by potting No.500 for his career.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Getzlaf (2003, Anaheim), Martin Straka (1992, Pittsburgh), Olaf Kolzig (1989, Washington)

#20 Overall--Martin Brodeur (1990, New Jersey Devils)

What needs to be said here, really?  He's in line to become statistically the greatest goaltender ever.  He's been consistently dominant since his rookie season and has captured more hardware than he knows what to do with. Throw in three Stanley Cup rings on a Devils team that will never be mistaken for gun-slingers and the feat is even more impressive.

Honorable Mention: Larry Robinson (1971, Montreal), Michel Goulet (1979, Quebec)

#21 Overall--Saku Koivu (1993, Montreal Canadiens)

When talking about perserverance and leadership, this Montreal captain should come to mind. Always a consistent point-producer, Koivu was forced to battle Hodgkins Disease a few years ago. He fought hard and made his triumphant return to the ice; the ultimate dedication to the game.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Lowe (1979, Edmonton), Dennis Maruk (1975, California)

#22 Overall--Bryan Trottier (1974, New York Islanders)

Trottier would be a key cog in the Islanders dynasty of the early '80s as well as one of the most prolific scorers of his time, posting six 100-point seasons and topping out at 1,425 points for his career.  He would also collect an MVP and scoring title along the way, just before Gretzky came along to demolish all the scoring records.

Honorable Mention: Reed Larson (1976, Detroit), Adam Graves (1986, Detroit),  Simon Gagne (1998, Philadelphia)

#23 Overall--Todd Bertuzzi (1993, New York Islanders)

Coming into the league, it took Bertuzzi a bit of time and a trade to realize his potential. In Vancouver, he became a dominant big man and helped form a terrific duo with captain Markus Naslund.  All this before the whole Steve Moore incident.  He's trying to regain his form, but can't stay healthy.

Honorable Mention: Ray Whitney (1991, San Jose), Ryan Kesler (2003, Vancouver)

#24 Overall--Daniel Briere (1996, Phoenix Coyotes)

The dimunitive Briere defied critics and a slow start to his career to become a force in the NHL.  In the post-lockout era, Briere and his Sabres show-cased a quick game that helped the team reach back to back Eastern Conference Finals.  Briere unleashed his natural scoring ability and then bolted for Philadelphia, helping them from worst to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Honorable Mention: Mike Richards (2003, Philadelphia Flyers), Sean Burke (1985, New Jersey)

#25 Overall--Brendan Morrow (1997, Dallas Stars)

Morrow has evolved into a true power forward after overcoming injury issues.  He is a human pinball and a strong leader in the Dallas locker room, even supplanting veteran Mike Modano as captain. It's hard to find this quality of player this far down in the draft, but the Stars are one of the clubs that manage to do well with their draft position.

Honorable Mention: Mark Howe (1974, Boston), Chris Simon (1991, Philadelphia)

#26 Overall--Claude Lemieux (1983, Montreal Canadiens)

Maybe the ultimate agitator, Lemieux was a winner in every sense of the word.  He wasn't the greatest scorer but he stepped his game up in the playoffs to new levels. He especially showed his worth in the 1994-1995 playoffs, leading the Devils to a surprise Stanley Cup victory while taking the Conn Smythe trophy.

Honorable Mention: Martin Havlat (1999, Ottawa), Zigmund Palffy (1991, Islanders)

#27 Overall--Joe Nieuwendyk (1985, Calgary Flames)

With the most difficult name to spell in hockey, Joe Nieuwendyk began his career on fire with four straight 45+ goal seasons, eventually landing at 564 for his career.  He would evolve into a steady two-way player and helping the Dallas Stars capture the 1999 Stanley Cup, taking home the Conn Smythe trophy.

Honorable Mention: Scott Gomez (1998, New Jersey), Scott Mellanby (1984, Philadelphia), Tie Domi (1988, Toronto)

#28 Overall--Mike Richter (1985, New York Rangers)

The greatest American-born goalie was a downright steal for the Rangers here.  Richter would back stop the first Rangers Stanley Cup champion in 54 years during the 1993-1994 season, coming up with spectacular saves that Rangers fans will remember for a long time.

Honorable Mention: Guy Chouinard (1974, Atlanta), Justin Williams (2000, Philadelphia)

#29 Overall--Stephane Richer (1984, Montreal Canadiens)

Never a spectacular player, Richer was a solid scoring threat throughout his career and quietly amassed 421 goals and 819 points over 1,000+ games with the Canadiens, Devils, Lightning, Blues and Penguins.

Honorable Mention: Mike Green (2004, Washington), Niklas Kronwall (2000, Detroit), Jonathan Cheechoo (1998, San Jose), Teppo Numminen (1986, Winnipeg)

#30 Overall--Randy Carlyle (1976, Toronto Maple Leafs)

Carlyle had a stellar, 18 year career even becoming an elite defenseman for two seasons in 1980-1981, when he won his only Norris Trophy, and 1981-1982.  He would play his best years with Pittsburgh before eventually retiring in Winnipeg.

Honorable Mention: Patrice Brisebois (1989, Montreal), Sandis Ozolinsh (1991, San Jose)


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