NHL Draft: The 25 Biggest Steals in Draft History

Jason Sapunka@moreSapunkaCorrespondent IIJune 15, 2012

NHL Draft: The 25 Biggest Steals in Draft History

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    With the 2012 NHL Draft the next big event in the hockey world, everyone from general managers to fans is trying to identify the best young prospects. While a number of mock drafts and rankings are available, it is almost a guarantee that one player will go unbelievably overlooked.

    Throughout the history of the NHL’s amateur and entry drafts, several iconic players have been chosen several rounds later than their eventual performance merited.

    Taking into account when these players were drafted and their career performance, here are the biggest steals in NHL draft history.

Honorable Mention: Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot

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    The two William Jennings Trophy winners this season were selected in the 2003 draft’s ninth round. Halak went 271st and Elliot 291st. They are the first teammates to record six shutouts or more in a single season in league history, according to NHL.com

25. Lubomir Visnovsky

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    Visnovsky scored more than 60 points—as a defenseman—twice in his career. The excellent power-play anchor went to the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 2000 draft.

24. Brad Richards

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted the top two point-scorers of the 1998 draft class by taking Vincent Lecavalier first overall, then snagging Richards in the third round. Richards has 782 points in his 854-game career. 

23. Jari Kurri

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    Third all time in career playoff points, Kurri was drafted in the fourth round of the 1980 draft. It was a good year for Edmonton. The Oilers were able to pick Paul Coffey sixth overall as well.

22. Peter Bondra

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    With 892 points in 1,081 career games, Bondra probably should have been selected higher than the eighth round in 1990.

21. Mikka Kiprusoff

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    The 2006 Vezina Trophy winner dropped all the way to the fifth round in 1995. Kiprusoff has a .914 career save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average.

20. Sergei Federov

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    Though Federov would prove his worth in the NHL with 1,179 points in 1,248 career games, it took the Detroit Red Wings until the fourth round to draft him in 1989.

19. Pavol Demitra

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    Only one player selected in the 1993 draft (Paul Kariya) had a better career points-per-game average than Demitra, who scored 768 points in 847 NHL games before playing his final hockey season in the KHL. Demitra went in the ninth round that year.

18. Jonathan Quick

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    Quick might be the best goalie in the NHL right now, but the Los Angeles Kings were able to get him in the third round in 2005. Goalies Tyler Plante, Jeff Frazee, Pier-Olivier Pelletier and Kristofer Westblom were all taken in front of Quick. None of them has played a game in the NHL.

17. Ryan Miller

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    The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner was not selected until the fifth round of the 1999 draft. That was the year the Philadelphia Flyers drafted goalie Maxime Oullet in the first round.

16. Rick Tocchet

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    Quite possibly the greatest, most perfect example of a power forward the NHL will ever see, Tocchet was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth round of the 1983 draft.

    Not too many players can total more than 100 points and 200 penalty minutes. Tocchet did so in 1993. He totaled 952 points and 2,972 penalty minutes in 1,144 career games.

15. Nicklas Lidstrom

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    One of the greatest defensemen of all time was not drafted until the third round in 1989. Lidstrom played in 200 more games and won seven more James Norris Trophies than everyone else selected that year.

14. Mark Messier

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    It would make sense that the greatest leader in hockey history and one of the game’s most productive scorers would have at least gone in the first round of his draft year. Still, the Oilers were able to take Messier as late as the third round in 1979.

13. Mark Recchi

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    The man who is 12th all time on the career points scoring list went in the fourth round of the 1988 draft. 

12. Pekka Rinne

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    A Vezina Trophy nominee this season as the league’s best goalie, Rinne was passed by for eight rounds until Nashville picked him in the ninth at 258th overall in 2004. The first goalie selected that year was New York Islanders’ third-string goalie Al Montoya at sixth overall.

11. Daniel Alfredsson

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    Only one player from the 1994 draft has a career points total above 1,000. At total of 132 players were selected before the face of Ottawa went in the sixth round of the 1994 draft.

10. Henrik Zetterberg

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    The highest-scoring forwards from the 1999 draft are the Sedin brothers of Vancouver, who went second and third overall that season. With 624 career points in 668 games, Zetterberg sits third on that list.

    Zetterberg was taken in the eighth round, 209 spots after Patrik Stefan went first overall.

9. Theo Fleury

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    Not too many eventual team-leading point-per-game NHL forwards went unselected until the eighth round, but that’s just what happened to Fleury in 1987.

8. Patrick Roy

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    One of the greatest goaltenders of all time and quite possibly the best clutch goaltender in playoff history was not taken until the third round when he was selected in the 1984 draft.

    The first goalie selected that year (Craig Billington, 23rd overall by the New Jersey Devils) won 441 fewer career games than Roy. 

7. Dave Taylor

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    Only seven players were selected after Taylor in the 1975 draft. Nobody selected in that draft totaled more career points than his 1,069. Not many 100-point scorers go as late as the 15th round.

6. Henrik Lundqvist

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    The New York Islanders drafted Rick DiPietro first overall in 2000. DiPietro is a laughingstock.

    The New York Rangers drafted Henrik Lundqvist 204 spots later in the eighth round. Lundqvist is likely going to win the Vezina Trophy this season.

5. Pavel Datsyuk

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    The Detroit Red Wings selected the best two-way player in the NHL in the sixth round of the 1998 draft. A dynamic scorer, playmaker and defensive forward, Datysuk is in the most elite group of NHL players.

    All the other players who find themselves in the “best players in the world” argument (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux) went in the first round. In fact, Crosby and Stamkos went first overall, Malkin second and Toews third in their respective drafts.

    Every team in the NHL had multiple opportunities to draft one of the world’s greatest hockey players and passed.

    Even Detroit, which was smart enough to draft him, only did so after picking Jiri Fischer, Ryan Barnes, Tomek Valtonen, Jake McCracken, Brent Hobday, Calle Steen and Adam DeLeeuw. Five of those players never made it to the NHL. Barnes played two pointless games, while Fischer had the biggest impact, playing in 305 career games.

4. Luc Robitaille

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    Robitaille is 21st on the NHL’s career point-scoring list, but he was drafted very late. The ninth-round selection of the 1984 draft, Robitaille scored more than 40 goals or 100 points four times in his career and is a Hall of Famer.

3. Doug Gilmour

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    Gilmour is 17th all time in career points with 1,414 over a 1,474-game career. He was taken in the seventh round of the 1982 draft.

2. Brett Hull

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    It is absurd to think that NHL general managers let Bobby Hull’s son go undrafted until the sixth round in 1984. Hull would go on to lead the NHL in goal-scoring for three seasons and ranks third all-time in career goals behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.

1. Dominik Hasek

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    A six-time Vezina Trophy winner was not selected until the 10th round of the 1983 draft. The Chicago Blackhawks took him one pick after the Montreal Canadiens selected Thomas Rundqvist.

    Don’t be quick to give the Blackhawks credit for picking him, though. Hasek was later traded to Buffalo for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round draft pick.

    Go ahead, conduct an Internet search for Thomas Rundqvist and Stephane Beauregard. (Hint: Neither totaled 81 career shutouts).

    Hasek, one of the greatest goalies in hockey history, cemented himself as an NHL icon years after being neglected by all the teams he dominated throughout his career.

    Jason Sapunka covers a variety of NHL topics and is available on Twitter for day-to-day updates, commentary and analysis.


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