2011 NHL Draft: The Best Pick at Each 1st-Round Spot in Draft History
For fans of the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche it's easy to get excited about this weekend's NHL Entry Draft. Those teams are going to land one of the top prospects who has a chance to compete for playing time immediately. Fans of teams picking towards the bottom of the first round may have a tougher time getting riled up about the festivities, given the decreased odds of success for their first-round draft choice.
Well, there's no reason for each an every NHL fan not to get at least a little blood flowing in anticipation of the 2011 NHL Draft. Each slot in the first round has produced an NHL star and some point or another, so why not again this year?
Those fans down in the dumps about having a seemingly worthless draft pick, a quick look at the best players drafted in that spot may be enough to brighten your mood.
With fairness in mind, I only used players draft in 1980 and beyond because that's when the NHL changed the rules for their entry draft. Prior to that the WHL caused a different set of rule that left guys like Wayne Gretzky undrafted. Thus, the start point for players eligible for this list is 1980.
1. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1984
A No. 1 overall pick is supposed to resurrect a franchise and reinvigorate a fanbase as the cornerstone of a rebuilding phase on and off the ice.
Mario Lemieux did all of that and more for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted him first overall in 1984.
Super Mario scored goals in bunches immediately upon arrival, eventually leading the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups in the early '90s.
Had it not been for injuries and a bout with cancer, Super Mario may be considered the greatest player of all time.
Runner Up: Mike Modano
2. Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils, 1987
Brendan Shanahan was the epitome of the power forward position.
In his lengthy NHL career, Shanahan managed to score nearly 700 goals and amass well north of 2,000 penalty minutes, all on the way to winning three Stanley Cup Championships in his immaculate career.
The powerful winger struck fear into opposing players and have goaltenders nightmares.
Runner Up: Chris Pronger
3. Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils, 1991
Scott Niedermayer had an illustrious career with both the Devils and the Ducks, winning a total of four Stanley Cups between the two teams.
Niedermayer was both a tremendous leader and a productive defenseman; the perfect combination for the postseason.
His four Stanley Cups are a credit to his disciplined play in the defensive zone and his ability to pinch into the offensive rush seamlessly.
4. Steve Yzerman, Detroit, 1983
When a team has a leader that is so unquestioned that he captains the team for over 1,300 games, that squad will usually find some degree of success. That is especially true if that player is Steve Yzerman.
In addition to his leadership, Yzerman provided unmatched offensive prowess. He has four Stanley Cups to his name including three as a player.
Runner Up: Ron Francis
5. Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1990
Upon being drafted in 1990, Jaromir Jagr made an instant impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins' frnachise
Jaromir Jagr was still young but made an immense impact on the two Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Championships of the early 1990s.
The Penguins only wish they could have kept him in Pittsburgh for his entire career.
6. Paul Coffey, Edmonton Oilers, 1980
Paul Coffey is the father of the modern day offensive defenseman.
Coffey currently ranks 10th all time in scoring amongst all players, and he played on the blue line. He also managed over a point per game during postseason play.
His résumé is loaded with accolades, including his four Stanley Cups with three different clubs.
Runner Up: Peter Forsberg
7. Jason Arnott, Edmonton Oilers, 1993
Jason Arnott has been a consistent producer for his entire career, pretty much from the get-go.The rugged winger has 400 career goals and just over 900 career point to his name.
In addition, Arnott was able to hoist the Stanley Cup once in his career back at the turn of the decade in the year 2000.
8. Grant Fuhr, Edmonton Oilers, 1981
Grant Fuhr's contributions to the dominant Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s are vastly underrated.
On a predominantly offensive oriented squad, Fuhr held the fort down for the Oilers and was a solid backstop for a number of seasons.
Wayne Gretzky went as far as to say that his goaltender was the best he had ever seen.
That's pretty high praise coming from the greatest player who ever lived.
9. Brian Leetch, New York Rangers, 1986
Brian Leetch is arguably the greatest American-born player in the history of the National Hockey League.
The smooth skating defenseman was a lockdown rearguard as well as an offensively gifted player for the Rangers.
The pinnacle of Leetch's prolific career was his play in the New York Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup in 1994. Leetch's play during that run earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy.
10. Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg Jets, 1988
When Teemu Selanne entered the league in 1992, the Finnish prodigy wasn't just an instant contributor for the Winnipeg Jets, he was an instant superstar. Selanne shattered records that won't soon be broken with 76 goals and 132 points in his rookie season.
Selanne didn't stop at the Calder Trophy either. He has gone on to amass more than 600 goals in his NHL career and even managed a Stanley Cup.
11. Jarome Iginla, Dallas Stars, 1995
If the Dallas Stars had not landed Joe Nieuwendyk in the trade that involved parting ways with Jarome Iginla, the franchise never would have been able to live it down.
The Stars got the Cup, but the Flames have gotten a player who has produced at an alarming rate throughout his entire career, and does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.
12. Gary Roberts, Calgary Flames, 1984
Gary Roberts did it all in his lengthy tenure in the National Hockey League.
The Flames' top draft pick in 1983 won multiple Stanley Cups and piled up over 400 goals.
Roberts edges out Marian Hossa for the this spot due to his excellent two way play and crunch time performance.
Runner Up: Marian Hossa
13. Jean Sebastian Giguere, Hartford Whalers, 1995
Though the Hartford Whalers were the team that invested a first-round pick in Jean Sebastian Giguere back in 1995, the Anaheim Ducks reaped the benefits.
After nearly single-handedly stealing the Stanley Cup for the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, Giguere managed to get over the hump in 2007 and capture his first and only ring.
14. Sergei Gonchar, Washington Capitals, 1992
Quietly, Sergei Gonchar has become one of the most offensively productive defensemen in the history of the game.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, Gonchar has scored over 200 goals from the point to go with more than 500 assists.
Not too shabby for a guy that was passed on by 13 NHL teams.
15. Joe Sakic, Quebec Nordiques, 1987
This one was a close call between Al MacInnis and Joe Sakic, but the edge goes to the Colorado Avalanche great.
Joe Sakic constantly had ice water running through his veins, leading his team with clutch play and gutsy effort.
Sakic is tied for fourth all time with 17 career game-winning goals in the postseason and won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps more amazing is the fact that eight of his game winning goals came in the overtime frame. This guy was immune to pressure.
Runner Up: Al MacInnis
16. Markus Naslund, Pittsburgh Penguins. 1991
Like many players on this list, Markus Naslund did not make his mark with the team that drafted him.
Rather, Naslund made his mark with the Vancouver Canucks, including a stretch of dominant seasons in the early 2000's.
Never give up on your draft picks, ladies and gentlemen.
17. Brent Sutter, New York Islanders, 1980
Brent Sutter was brought into the league on a winning tradition, having been drafted by the dominant New York Islanders of the 80's and winning a pair of Stanley Cups.
Sutter went on to become the captain of the Islanders in the last 80's and even enjoyed a mildly successful coaching career in the CHL, though it did not transfer to the NHL.
18. Petr Sykora, New Jersey Devils, 1995
The Chicago Blackhawks own the 18th overall draft pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, and unfortunately for them, the pick has not produced an abundance of successful NHLers.
The 18th pick did give us Petr Sykora, however.
The journeyman winger actually had a fairly successful career while he was being bounced around the NHL. Sykora managed 300 goals and over 600 points in less than 1,000 career games in the NHL.
19. Keith Tkachuk, Winnipeg Jets, 1990
Why would 18 teams pass on a 500 goal scorer? Well, the Winnipeg Jets certainly did not mind having Keith Tkachuk fall into their laps in the bottom half of the first round back in 1990.
Tkachuk went on to have an incredibly productive career playing with the Jets, Coyotes, and St. Louis Blues. He also made an unsuccessful pit stop with the Atlanta Thrashers.
20. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, 1990
Martin Brodeur has been the face of the New Jersey Devils since being drafted 20th overall by the club in 1990.
Many, including myself, will argue that Brodeur's incredible numbers are a bit inflated due to the talent around him and the system he played in. However, Brodeur's resume, which includes four Vezina Trophies, three Stanley Cups, and a page full of records, is impressive no matter how you look at it.
21. Saku Koivu, Montreal Canadiens, 1993
As we go deeper and deeper into the first round, the players become slightly less impressive.
Not to take anything away from the productive career Saku Koivu has put together, but it certainly does not stack up to the numbers some of the other players on this list have compiled.
Still, a 700-point career is nothing to scoff at.
22. Adam Foote, Quebec Nordiques, 1989
Adam Foote may not have out up staggering numbers from the point, but the Candian-born defender was a valuable piece to the Colorado Avalanche's championship seasons.
The Avs rearguard not only won a pair of Stanley Cups, but he also was a part of the 2002 Team Canada club that won a gold medal.
In addition to being a great captain, Foote was a lockdown defender on the blue line for many seasons.
23. Ray Whitney, San Jose Sharks, 1991
Despite being drafted 20 years ago, Ray Whitney is still going strong in the NHL, putting up 57 points this season for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Now, Whitney is just 74 points away from 1,000, which is astounding for a guy many consider to be no more than a journeyman.
24. Sean Burke, New Jersey Devils, 1985
Had the New Jersey Devils held onto Sean Burke, they may never have needed to draft Martin Brodeur five years later.
Granted, Burke never truly blossomed as a Devil, but he emerged as one of the most dependable goaltenders in the history of the league in the later portion of his career.
In fact, Burke even put together a few seasons that earned him MVP consideration.
25. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, 2002
Many will wonder why Brendan Morrow is not occupying this slot, but given what Cam Ward has done in just six full NHL seasons, there is reason to believe he will go down as one of the steals of the 2002 NHL Draft.
Ward has already won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe, and if you ask me he'll make a run at a Vezina Trophy by the time his career is over.
26. Claude Lemieux, Montreal Canadiens, 1983
Claude Lemieux had the innate ability to take his game to a new level during the postseason.
One of the least enjoyable players to play against, the lesser Lemieux lived for the postseason and was remarkably clutch when in pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup.
He ranks third all time with 19 career game-winning goals in the playoffs and won four total Stanley Cups with three different teams, one of just 10 players to do so.
27. Joe Nieuwendyk, Calgary Flames, 1985
Joe Nieuwendyk seemed to find success wherever he went, winning Stanley Cups with three different teams in three different decades during his career.
In addition to all of his Stanley Cup rings, Nieuwendyk managed to put up over forty goals on four different occasions, all as a member of the Calgary Flames.
If he could have only stayed healthy more often, Nieuwendyk would have hade an even more illustrious career.
28. Mike Richter, New York Rangers, 1985
With a Stanley Cup and Silver Medal to his name, Mike Richter established himself as the greatest American-born goaltender of all time.
In addition to being an American hockey great, Richter is also recognized as one of the best to ever dawn a New York Rangers uniform.
29. Teppo Numminen, Winnipeg Jets, 1986
With a career spanning 20 years, Teppo Numminen was able to set the record for most games played by a European-trained player with over 1,300.
Numminen's career plus 57 rating is a tremendous complement to his 600 plus points in the NHL as well.
He was always steady and reliable and never flashy, and because of that, Numminen was never truly appreciated.
30. Sandis Ozolinsh, San Jose Sharks, 1991
In only 875 games in the NHL, Sandis Ozolinsh managed to put up nearly 600 points, earning the title of 'offensive defenseman.'
Ozolinsh was not all offense though, evident by the fact that he was a finalist for the 1997 Norris Trophy.
The longtime NHL journeyman is currently kicking around the KHL earning all-star appearances, but it would be great to see him make a return to the NHL.
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