Next in a series covering NHL transactions and following last week’s piece on the 13 Worst Trades in NHL History, comes this stocking stuffer; a brief look at the top value draft selections- the most ‘bang for your pick.’
Visualize Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux or Guy Lafleur in their draft years, each a franchise phenom, each a talent touted as the first overall pick.
Imagine springing a deal that would wrestle away the rights to claim one of the stars without surrendering a king’s ransom in return.
Not so for Montreal Canadiens GM and puppet master, Sam Pollock.
Not when Guy Lafleur was concerned
The following is an excerpt from Pollock's Canada's Sports Hall of Fame biography; the background to what many hold as being the League's most brilliant trade, securing the future Hall of Famer as the Canadiens No. 1 overall draft pick in 1971:
"Pollock wanted the first overall selection in the 1971 draft so he could take Guy Lafleur, so he made a deal with lowly California for that team's first choice figuring the Seals would finish last and Montreal would get the first pick. During the 1970-71 season, though, Los Angeles was playing even more poorly than California, so Pollock traded the aging but still valuable Ralph Backstrom to the Kings for two insignificant players. Backstrom's presence lifted the Kings out of last place, the Seals finished at the bottom, and the Habs drafted Lafleur. The rest, as they say, is history."
The anecdote of this “draft robbery” is the somewhat unorthodox inspiration and introduction to an analysis of another branch of “steals” in the NHL draft.
Enter the Top 10 Late Draft Steals.
The following players are assessed according to their status as top producers in the League vis-à-vis their respective late selections in the modern NHL Entry Draft, thus dating back to 1979-1980 onwards.
Late bloomers, those unnoticed, overlooked, ignored, or disregarded who broke out into tremendous talents; the focus is on the best valued selections of forwards who have been drafted no sooner than with the 100th selection.
The ranking formula is a calculation of points produced and respective draft numbers versus career games logged. As such, the list is a mathematical result, not emotionally vested, and will be ordered by DS (Draft Steal) points.
Drafted 156th overall by the Washington Capitals in 1990, the 17-year NHL veteran became the 37th player ever to score 500 goals.
With 948 points in 1161 career games (regular season and playoffs), the Slovak earns a total of 95 DS points, securing him as an honourable mention in the all-time best value draft list.
Gilmour, taken by the St Louis Blues with the 134th overall pick in the 1982 Entry Draft, won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in '89, and as the best defensive forward in 1993 was the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy.
Gilmour also established a franchise record as a Leaf for single season point production with 127 in 1992-1993.
With a total of 1602 points in 1656 career games, Gilmour takes the tenth seed with 105 ranking points.
Selected 171st overall by the LA Kings, the eight-time All-Star holds several franchise records coupled with being the all-time highest scoring left-winger in NHL history.
Robitaille, a Calder Memorial Trophy winner as rookie of the year, also won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in the 2001-02 season.
The twenty-year veteran put up 1521 points in 1590 games, taking the list's ninth spot with 106 DS points.
Chosen 133rd by the Ottawa Senators in 1994, the rookie of the year, long serving team captain, and four time All Star was a great steal as a sixth round selection.
Alfie's 914 points in 987 career games (all current players' stats are as of the pre- Christmas break) is good for eighth with a total of 110 DS points.
Small in size, big in heart, Theo was considered by many to be a long shot in making it to the NHL, but taken by the Calgary Flames 166th overall in the '87 Draft, Fleury played over 1000 games in the league.
In 1161 career NHL games he potted 1167 points, thus leaving him with 115 (114.82) DS points and the seventh position on the chart.
Another Calgary Flame pick, Brett, despite being the son of legendary Bobby Hull, went in the sixth round as the 117th overall draftee.
A Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 1991, he also scored 50 goals in 50 games twice (only Wayne Gretzky has accomplished the feat more times with a three-peat).
The eight time All Star reitred in 2005, third all time in goals scored.
With 1581 points in 1471 games, Hull is sixth on the DS list with 115 (115. 43) points
The most unexpected forward to crack the DS chart, Michael Ryder, selected 216th in the eighth round by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1998 Draft, finds himself in fifth position.
Having scored 85 goals in his first three career campaigns, the right winger is back on pace after a slump last year.
Ryder's totals of 241 points in 371 games coupled with the second-lowest draft selection of any player on the list leave him with a 123 DS score.
Winner of the 2008 Plus/Minus Award, a Frank J Selke Trophy recipient, two time All Star and two time Stanley Cup Champion, Pavel Datsyuk is a dream draft pick.
Let alone one who went 171st overall in the sixth round of the 1998 Entry Draft.
In 562 career games, the Russian has a total of 518 points, translating into 123 DS points, edging out Ryder who has the same amount of DS points but who comes second to the Wings' Center in regard to the tiebreaking element of regular season production.
(Note: If playoff production was not taken into consideration at all, Datsyuk's DS standing would be at 132 points, thus advancing him into third place.)
Another Calder Memorial Trophy winner, the third on this list, superstar Pavel Bure was chosen with the 113th pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round of the 1989 Draft.
A record holder for the most goals and points recorded in a single season in both Vancouver and Florida, the six-time All Star and two time Maurice Richard Trophy winner (he also led the league in 1994 prior to the trophy's creation), Bure amassed 849 points in 766 matches.
He sits third with 126 DS points.
An immense hockey talent, despite being drafted 231st in 1983, Makarov was only permitted by the Soviet Union to join the NHL in 1989, consequently winning rookie of the year honours at age 31.
An Olympic multi-gold medalist, Makarov has been voted into the IIHF Century Team by a panel of experts hailing from16 different countries.
As an NHL'er, he collected 407 points in 458 career games, equalling a total of 139 DS points.
Hard to believe that the 2008 Conn Smythe Winner from the Stanley Cup Champions Detroit Red Wings was their seventh round pick, selected 210th overall.
Zetterberg, having put up 415 points in 450 games averages 139 DS points, tying # 2 Sergei Makarov.
* The tiebreaker:
Zetterberg edges out Makarov by comparison of their regular season production. In this light, Makarov would earn 145 points while Zetterberg claims a three point advantage with 148 DS points.