NHL Top 10: The Best Teams at the Draft Over the Past Decade
It has been no secret that the past decade has been very fruitful in terms of talent in the NHL Entry Draft. The next wave of superstars have hit the ice, and being a fan has never been better.
The draft is certainly not an easy thing to judge. Searching through raw talent to find the best available player is certainly no walk in the park.
Oftentimes a player regarded as can’t-miss prospects doesn’t pan out. Or that late-round pick turns out to be a great talent.
Being good at drafting is certainly an art, as it has been proven time and again that it is the best way to rebuild a team in the NHL.
Certain teams have a good sense of who to draft come summer, and the following article outlines the best of the best since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
10. Montreal Canadiens
When you think of the draft, you don't necessarily think of the Montreal Canadiens. Looking back, however, they have had a fairly good track record over the decade.
At the top end of the draft the Habs have drafted such players as Carey Price in 2005, Andrei Kostitsyn in 2003, Chris Higgins in 2002, Mike Komisarek in 2001, and Ron Hainsey in 2000.
While Komisarek, Hainsey, and Higgins have all moved on to different clubs, all three were smart picks by the Habs. Komisarek and Hainsey were both named to the US Olympic team, and Higgins is a solid second- or third-liner.
Even though fans are seemingly angry with the play of Price, he has had solid years in net with the Habs and is again having a decent statistical year.
In the middle rounds, the Canadiens have nabbed future star defenseman P.K. Subban and tough-guy Maxim Lapierre, as well as their No. 1 center, Tomas Plekanec. In his rookie season with Hamilton, Subban is third in team scoring and second in plus-minus for the entire league with a plus-44.
Plekanec has had a strong rebound year and leads the Habs in scoring by a fair margin. The soon-to-be-free agent will likely re-sign with the Habs in the offseason and lead the charge once again next year.
In the latter rounds of the draft Montreal has selected Mikhail Grabovski, Sergei Kostitsyn, and likely their smartest pick, blueliner Mark Streit.
Grabovski is currently a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs and has shown some promise, especially as the 150th overall pick.
The Habs nabbed Streit with the 262nd overall pick in 2004. Most of the time a ninth-round pick will never pan out, but the Suisse native has had an exceptional career thus far, accumulating 209 points in 357 games from the back end.
While a good sum of the Canadiens picks have since moved on, you cannot deny the fact that the Habs have drafted a fair number of decent players over the past 10 drafts.
9. St. Louis Blues
The first round of the draft has been very good to the St. Louis Blues.
The 2005 draft brought on the likes of center/winger T.J. Oshie. Oshie may not be a big-name player, but he certainly could be ranked with some of the most underrated players in the league. Oshie has shown a lot of speed and talent with the Blues and could potentially develop into a star.
With the first overall pick in 2006, the Blues selected defenseman Erik Johnson, who was a member of the silver medalist US Olympic hockey team. Johnson is currently in his second season with the Blues and is already one of the team’s best players.
Also in 2006, the Blues selected Patrik Berglund. Berglund has shown a lot of promise and could develop into a solid second-line player.
More recently the Blues have drafted David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo.
Perron is likely the hardest working Blues player despite seeing a slight drop in production.
Pietrangelo has seen some action in the big leagues, but he remains a Barrie Colt for the time being. Pietrangelo possesses a lot of offensive skill for a defenseman. The breakout pass and hard shot are his greatest assets, and he will be used quite extensively to QB the power play. Pietrangelo will be with the club next year and could rival Johnson for offensive production.
In 2003 the Blues selected David Backes in the second round and Lee Stempniak in the fifth.
Backes has proven very valuable, as he is usually among the leaders in scoring for the team, as well as in penalty minutes.
Stempniak has since moved on to the Phoenix Coyotes and is enjoying a near-goal-a-game pace for the 'Yotes since leaving the Buds. Stempniak is a goal scorer and may be one of the smartest picks the Blues have made.
Other players that have joined the Blues ranks are Roman Polak and Jay McClement.
8. Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have seemingly been able to snag at least one quality player in every draft. In the last decade the Preds have built a fairly formidable team, including a very strong defensive core.
In 2000, the Predators selected now-Philadelphia Flyer Scott Hartnell. Hartnell spent six seasons with the Predators and has been a solid contributor for both clubs, but he has really found his niche with the Flyers over the last two seasons.
In the first round of the 2001 draft, Nashville selected defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is currently one of the best players on the club and can play a solid game at both ends of the ice. With the prospects the Predators have, he may slip to a three/four pairing, but he certainly can get the job done.
In 2002, with the sixth overall selection, the Preds drafted Scottie Upshall out of Kamloops. Upshall has been bounced around from the minors to the big leagues, but he has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he gets to play a fair amount and has posted career numbers offensively.
The 2003 draft was very special, as Nashville drafted the likes of Ryan Suter in the first round and stole Shea Weber with the 49th overall pick.
Weber has since asserted himself as one of the best in the business with a rocket of a shot. A huge presence, Weber is very imposing and would be a top defender for any club.
Suter has since come into his own as another stud defenseman. Suter had the chance to play in the Olympics for Team USA.
In 2004—and in the eighth round, no less—the Predators selected goalie Pekka Rinne. Rinne has since managed to sneak into the starting role, and he has done a remarkable job. In two seasons, Rinne has amassed 60 wins, 30 losses, and nine overtime losses. Rinne will be the future in net for Nashville.
In 2008 and '09, young promising players such as Colin Wilson and Ryan Ellis have entered the fold. While Ellis remains in the juniors, Wilson has since joined the club and shown a lot of promise.
7. Colorado Avalanche
The name of the game for Colorado is youth. Over the past few drafts the Avs have drafted a lot of young stars that have really started to come into their own this season.
The Avalanche offer a good look at a team that is rebuilding through the draft, and in another season or so they could be quite formidable.
During the course of the season the Avalanche have managed to fit four rookies into the mix (all drafted by Colorado): Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Brandon Yip, and T.J. Galiardi.
All are well into their first NHL season, with Duchene a strong contender for rookie of the year. He's currently third in team scoring with 54 points and first in rookie scoring.
Ryan O’Reilly is the only second-round pick of the 2009 NHL entry draft to have made the jump already. O’Reilly had a quick start and has seen his production tail, but has still shown a lot of promise.
Yip and Galiardi have both provided size and ability. Both wingers are solid two-way players who will find their way onto the score sheet in the years to come.
Young forwards such as Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, and Marek Svatos have really set the pace for the Avalanche this year.
Stastny leads the team in scoring with nearly a point a game, and Stewart leads the team in goals scored. While Svatos is having a disappointing year, he may be able to turn it around in the playoffs thanks to his solid speed and a decent skill set.
John Michael-Liles on defense and Peter Budaj provide an already veteran presence on the back end, as both have shut down teams on many occasions.
Forward Wojtek Wolski has since moved on, but he was in the midst of a career year, and will likely smash his previous best numbers from his rookie season. All was not lost when Wolski was traded, however, as they got another young star in Peter Mueller, who has been well up to the task since joining Colorado.
The Avalanche have built for the future, but they are already starting to see the fruits of their labor.
6. Edmonton Oilers
For a team that sits dead last in the NHL you wouldn’t expect that they had done a very good job drafting over the decade, but you would be mistaken.
The Oilers have been able to make some solid picks over the years, but they have made some really smart picks recently and should be a formidable team in a couple years time.
The current team hosts picks such as Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini, and Jean-Francois Jacques. Once thought to be a bust, Gagner has really been able to pull through this season by consistently putting up solid numbers on less than average clubs.
Put into a single word, Cogliano is fast. One of the best skaters in the league, Cogliano has been a bit of a disappointment, but if his offensive skill can eventually catch up to his feet, teams should watch out.
Jacques is not an offensive forward, but he has really come into his own as a tough grinder who's not afraid to take on anybody. Jacques should protect the Oilers' future stars.
The leading scorer and best player for the Oilers, Ales Hemsky, was drafted in 2001 and has been the team's most promising player. With his ability to put up point-a-game numbers, the Oilers would like to hold on to Hemsky for as long as they can.
The Oilers likely possess the deepest prospect pool in the NHL with future up-and-comers such as Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paarjvi-Svensson, Linus Omark, and potentially Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. The Oilers are set for the future.
Eberle has proven that he can be a star at any level. Having put up nearly two points a game in the WHL, Eberle recently graduated to the AHL's Springfield Falcons, where he has put up over a point every game. Eberle is a big-game player and will be a star next season with the Oilers.
Linus Omark is currently playing in the KHL, but he recently signed a deal with the Oilers that will likely get him into the lineup next season. Omark has been able to produce at high levels in the KHL and Swedish Elite Leagues.
Paarjvi-Svensson is another player who shows a lot of potential. Paarjvi-Svensson can produce at high levels in good leagues and has as much or more potential then any other prospect in the league.
With Hall or Seguin breaking into the league next year, the cellar-dwelling Oilers may have the potential to qualify for the playoffs next year and make a deep run.
5. Atlanta Thrashers
The Atlanta Thrashers are another team that has done well with the draft over the years by getting some quality players. If they could have held on to them, the Thrashers may have been a top contender in the East.
The Thrashers have had some success in the defensive column with selections such as Boris Valabik, Arturs Kulda, Tobias Enstrom, and Zach Bogosian.
Valabik and Kulda have not yet been able to crack the Thrashers lineup on a consistent basis, but they have each shown a lot of promise.
Valabik is a very imposing player standing at 6'7" and 245 pounds, he will be the future shut down player for Atlanta. Kulda has had a tremendous sophomore year with the Chicago Wolves. The young Latvian has provided some offense, but may be one of the best shut down guys in the AHL.
Kulda leads the entire AHL with an amazing plus-46, having played with Bogosian for a while before this could be the future top pairing for the Thrash.
Defensemen that have cracked the lineup are Enstrom and Bogosian. Enstrom is a very offensively gifted defenseman. With 50 points on the year, Enstrom sits third in overall team scoring; while he still has to develop in his own end, he has shown a lot of promise.
In his second year, Bogsian is already an assistant captain, and he will likely gain the captaincy at some point in his career. While Bogosian is having an off year, he excels at all aspects of the game and is a real leader; the Thrashers would be wise to hang on to him.
In the forward position, Bryan Little and Evander Kane have recently joined the ranks in Atlanta. While both still need to find their stride, the two have amazing potential. Having played several years in Barrie, Little has plenty of experience leading a team and could be another potential captains candidate for the future of the club.
Departures from the club include Nathan Oystrick, Kari Lehtonen, Braydon Coburn, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Dany Heatley. Most of these players have proven to be very valuable and would have made Atlanta a top contender had they remained with the club.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have grown from the ground up. Trapped in the basement a couple of years ago, the Blackhawks have since stormed out and placed themselves atop the Western Conference.
Through the years the Hawks have been able to draft their star two forwards in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Both first-round selections, Kane and Toews, have keyed the success of the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks also selected their top defensive pairing in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Keith and Seabrook have proven to be the best tandem in the NHL today. With the ability to completely shut down the best of the best and put up decent numbers, the Hawks need to keep these two for the long haul.
Chicago has also been able to add depth in the latter rounds. Hjalmarsson was selected in the fourth round of 2005 and has really proven to be a valuable player. In more of a defensive role Hjalmarsson is fairly consistent and is not prone to glaring errors.
In the seventh and eighth rounds the Blackhawks have added Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien. While both add a lot of sandpaper, Brouwer has also been able to put up decent offensive numbers. With 40 points on the year, the former seventh-round selection was really a gem of a pick.
Draft picks that have since moved on include Cam Barker, James Wisniewski, Tuomo Ruutu, and Craig Anderson.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins—like the Blackhawks—have pulled themselves out of the gutter because of the draft.
Their top three forwards—Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal—are all former first-round selections.
Crosby, of course, is one of the best players in the game today, and has led this club to a Stanley Cup in just his fourth season with the club. Crosby could reach the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career this season.
Malkin has been arguably the Penguins' most valuable player over the past couple of years. Malkin is a big-time player who shows up when it matters most. Injuries have hampered his season, but the former Conn Smythe winner has sure shown his worth already.
Staal is arguably the best penalty killer in the league. He has also shown offensive worth, almost identically matching his point production of last season. With 48 points on the year, Staal may be one of the best depth players around.
On the back end the Pens have added netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, and D-men Brooks Orpik, Alex Goligoski, and Kris Letang.
Fleury has had some inconsistencies, but he has seemingly found his game as of late. Fleury was a major part of the Penguins' Stanley Cup run last season and will likely be with the Penguins for a long time.
Orpik, Goligoski, and Letang add a lot of depth to the “D." All have plenty of potential at both ends of the ice. Orpik has become one of the best defensemen on the team, in the absence of Gonchar.
A savvy late-round pick for the Pens is Tyler Kennedy, a young forward who has managed to put up fair numbers for a fourth-round selection. Kennedy will never be a star player, but he is certainly a player every team would like to have.
Maxime Talbot has become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. With his two goals in the seventh and deciding game of last year's Stanley Cup Finals, the eighth-round selection has certainly been the best steal the Penguins have made. While Talbot doesn’t put up big numbers, he plays hard every shift and can score a timely goal when called upon.
Players that have moved on include Ryan Whitney and Colby Armstrong.
2. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals have had more first-round picks over the past decade than can be counted, and they have really done a good job not wasting them.
In 2008, the Capitals brought in John Carlson out of Windsor. Carlson could potentially be another Mike Green-type defenseman. Carlson can put up big offensive numbers and has done so in the USHL, OHL, and AHL levels.
In 2006, the Caps brought in Nicklas Backstrom and Semyon Varlamov. In just his third year Backstrom is likely to hit the 100-point mark, at 98 points through 80 games. Backstrom has taken off as the No. 1 center.
Varlamov really showed off his stuff in the last playoff run for Washington. Varlamov came out of nowhere and has challenged Jose Theodore for the starting role.
Undoubtedly the Caps' best draft occurred in 2004, when they arguably logged the best draft for any team over the decade. With the first overall selection Washington took Alex Ovechkin, the best player in hockey today. With an amazing shot, amazing talent, and the physicality to boot, no other player can rival his game at this time.
Also selected were Mike Green and Jeff Schultz. Green is the best offensive defenseman in the game today. Having recorded over a point a game in his last two seasons, including 31 goals last year, Green will likely rival the best for the Norris Trophy.
Schultz is a shutdown player for the Capitals. The 6'6", 225-pound Schultz is an intimidating player on the back end. Leading the NHL in plus-minus with a plus-44, Schultz was a solid selection for the Capitals.
In 2003, Eric Fehr was selected in the first round. While Fehr might not bring in huge numbers, he does have skill and can put up numbers when called upon. Another strong depth player that every team needs to be successful.
In 2002, the Caps selected Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon in the first and Johnny Oduya in the seventh round.
Semin is another very gifted forward. With a wicked wrist shot, Semin can pick any corner with ease. And with 39 goals so far on the season, Semin could be leading most teams in goals and point production.
Boyd Gordon again is another depth player. Despite having played roughly half the season, Gordon still has a lot to prove to make the club full time.
Johnny Oduya is no longer with the club, but he has really stepped out of his shell recently with the Devils and Thrashers. Taken in the seventh round, Oduya was another one of those draft steals.
1. Los Angeles Kings
In the past decade the Los Angeles Kings have been the absolute best at the draft table. They have been able to not only draft well in the first round but also in the later rounds that follow.
Some first-round selections include future star players Brayden Schenn and Jonathan Bernier.
Schenn has been able to dominate offensively in the WHL, putting up 99 points on the season. Schenn will have the chance to play in the Memorial Cup this year with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Bernier may be the best goalie prospect in the league right now. In 57 games played in the AHL, Bernier has posted a .937 save percentage and a 2.03 goals against average. Bernier has gotten the call in three NHL games this season and won all three behind a .960 save percentage.
Anze Kopitar, Alex Frolov, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Brown are all former first-round selections. All four provide offensive depth, including a point per game from Kopitar, but they also provide leadership.
Brown has been appointed captain in his fifth year with the club. Doughty has had a breakout sophomore campaign, prompting many to wonder if he could win the Norris Trophy.
In the second round, Los Angeles has picked up Oscar Moller, Wayne Simmonds, Mike Cammalleri, and Andreas Lilja.
While Cammalleri and Lilja have since moved on, Simmonds and Moller remain with the club. Mollar has not made the club, but he has shown a lot of potential in the AHL and in the few NHL games he has played.
Simmonds is a rough-and-tumble type of player who has a lot of offensive upside and some grit, as he's not afraid to drop the gloves. Simmonds will be a valued member of this club for years to come.
Drafted in the third round, goaltender Jon Quick has stepped up into the starting role. While some have questioned Quick's ability, he has proven the naysayers wrong.
Quick has appeared in 71 games this season to put up impressive numbers for a sophomore goalie, and he could reach the 40-win mark.
In the sixth round, the Kings selected Scott Parse. Parse has shown plenty of offensive potential in his rookie season, having scored 11 goals and 13 assists in 54 games.
Other draft picks that have since moved on include Denis Grebeshkov, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Cristobal Huet.