The draft is the culmination of a year's worth of effort for hard-working scouts, who have traveled long hours across the world in their search to find the next great National Hockey League star. Drafting might be one of the most difficult things in all of sports -- for every late-round gem, there's always a high pick that does not work out the way the team had planned. Every NHL team has had their fair share of hits and misses when drafting players and undoubtedly, some teams have been better than others at the practice.
When looking at each team's top draft picks, it is remarkable to see how many of these players were taken after the 1st round. Overall, it truly shows that there is much more to drafting players in the 1st round and the better teams over the years take advantage of later round picks. Additionally, it shows there are some intangibles that just cannot be measured during the pre-draft process. With that being said let us not waste any time and look at every NHL team's best draft pick since 2000 (the list will be in alphabetical order).
30 Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Getzlaf
The Ducks sure have had their fair share of good draft picks over the years, but none better than Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf was taken in the first round of the 2003 draft, 19th overall. Getzlaf is known around the league as a power forward with excellent playmaking skills (just ask Corey Perry). Since being drafted, Getlzaf has gone on to play 787 games, with 221 goals, 520 assists, a total of 741 points. Other career highlights for Getzlaf include being a Stanley Cup winner in 2007, three time NHL All Star, and a two time gold medal winner with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Keith Yandle
Count this is as a late round gem. Yandle was taken in the 4th round, 105th overall at the 2005 NHL Draft. Yandle quickly established himself as one of the elite offensive defenceman in the NHL, leading the Coyotes in points in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. He was also an integral piece during their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2011-12.
28 Boston Bruins - Tyler Seguin
It probably pains all Bruins fans to read this part of the article. The Bruins used the 2nd overall pick in 2010 that was acquired in the infamous Phil Kessel trade to select Seguin. Seguin was part of the 2011 Bruins Stanley Cup winning team, but did not last much longer with the team, as he was traded to the Dallas Stars after the 2012-13 season. It was not until after the trade that Seguin became an offensive force (mostly due to more opportunity in Dallas). In his first three seasons with Dallas, he has recorded 234 points in 223 games and also made the All Star team his last two seasons.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Jack Eichel
One of the more obvious choices on this list is Jack Eichel. Eichel was taken 2nd overall in 2015 by the Sabres. Prior to being selected, Eichel led the NCAA with 45 assists and 71 points total. In most other drafs, Eichel would have been the number one pick, but in this case he was taken behind the next great player in Connor McDavid. Bob McKenzie went so far as to say that Eichel would have been picked first in any draft year between 2006 and 2014. The Sabres missed out on McDavid in the 2015 lottery, but Eichel is just about the greatest consolation prize you could get.
26 Calgary Flames - Sean Monahan
This was a tough decision because the Flames have had many good draft picks over the past few years. However, we have to give the nod to Monahan due to his impressive statistics and the fact he has gotten better every year in the early stages of his career. Monahan was selected 6th overall in the 2013 draft by the Flames. He is only 21 years old and has already played three full seasons in the NHL. Additionally, he is already an alternate captain for the Flames.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Eric Staal
Eric Staal has been facing a downhill trend in terms of statistics over the past few years, but this is still an easy choice. Staal was taken 2nd overall by the Hurricanes in the 2003 draft and his since gone on to become a member of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup winner, World Championship winner, and 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist). In the 2005-06 season, Staal scored a career high 100 points during the regular season. That same season, he led the Hurricanes with 28 points in 25 games during their Stanley Cup run. He went on to finish 4th in voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy as well that season.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Jonathan Toews
This was one of the more difficult choices, as Chicago also has drafted Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in the same time frame. Ultimately, Toews was chosen because of the great leadership and two-way game he displays on a nightly basis. Toews was taken 3rd overall in the 2006 draft and almost immediately became captain of the team. It says something when an NHL team is willing to make you a captain at the age of 20. Also, is it a strange coincidence the Blackhawks started their current playoff streak at this time? I think not.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Gabriel Landeskog
Gabriel Landeskog was taken 2nd overall in the 2011 draft by the Avalanche. Landeskog is tied as the 2nd highest Swedish draft pick in NHL history. In 2011-12 Landeskog was annouced as the winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy. Since then, Landeskog has become the youngest captain in NHL history (19 years 286 days). In total, Landeskog has recorded 246 points in 356 games played. Landeskog has also participated internationally for Sweden on many different occasions, including the 2014 Winter Olympics where he helped Sweden capture a gold medal. All of this has been accomplished at the young age of 23.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - Rick Nash
Rick Nash was selected 1st overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2002 draft. He then went on to be the face of the franchise for many years before being traded to the New York Rangers. Although the team had limited success during Nash's tenure, his individual performance cannot be overlooked. Nash was nominated for the Calder Trophy in his rookie season. In his 2nd season, he was tied for the league in goals scored. Over the course of his career, Nash has reached 40 or more goals on three separate occasions, and 30 or more goals on five occasions. He is also a five time NHL All Star. At the international level, Nash has won an Olympic Gold Medal (2010), and World Championship Gold (2007).
21 Dallas Stars - Jamie Benn
What a steal for the Dallas Stars. Jamie Benn, now captain of the Stars was selected in the 5th round, 129th overall in the 2007 draft. He has since gone to become one of the top players in the NHL. Picks like Benn prove there are some intangibles that just cannot be measured. Benn was dropped in pre-draft rankings due to his speed, however what many scouts did not realize is that he has the hockey smarts to make up for this perceived lack of speed. This is surely a mistake that all other 29 teams regret, as every team passed on him.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Niklas Kronwall
The Red Wings have done some amazing drafting over the years and Kronwall is no exception. Another member of the Triple Gold Club, Kronwall was selected by the Red Wings in 2000, 29th overall. Kronwall is another player that was somewhat overlooked prior to being drafted. This was mostly due to his 5'11 frame, as most NHL teams covet bigger sized defenceman. Luckily for the Red Wings, they are more open-minded than most NHL teams when it comes to the draft and got a great player. The Wings of this era just seemed to know where to look, even when they were picking late.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Connor McDavid
You think this would be a difficult decision since it feels like the Oilers have had top 5 picks for the last 10 years, but this ended up being one of the easiest choices in the article. Before he was even in the NHL, McDavid was touted as the next great player. Some, including Wayne Gretzky, were saying that he was best player to enter the NHL in the last 30-40 years. Although he missed time due to injury, McDavid certainly did not disappoint in his rookie season. His speed, power, puck handling, and strength showed all fans around the NHL what made him such a highly touted prospect.
18 Florida Panthers - Aaron Ekblad
In the last five years, the Panthers have done well to build a solid foundation through the draft. They did especially well when they drafted Aaron Ekblad no.1 overall in the 2014 draft. Ekblad is only 20 and has only played in the league for two years, but it is not hard to see that he is a franchise altering defenceman. In his rookie season, Ekblad scored 39 points with a plus-12 rating on his way to winning the Calder Trophy. Ekblad saw more success in his sophomore season, scoring 36 points with a plus-18 rating. This early success helped Ekblad secure an eight year, $60 million contract extension from the Panthers.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty was selected 2nd overall by the Kings in the 2008 draft, and the rest is history. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old. He would go on to make the All-Rookie team. He is also a two time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, two time Olympic Gold Medalist with Canada, 2008 World Junior Championship Gold Medalist, and a Norris Trophy Winner. Basically, Doughty is a winner at all levels. For his career, Doughty has played in 606 games, recording 318 points with a plus-62 rating.
The most remarkable part about Doughty is that he is not just an offensive defenceman. He is often paired against the other teams' top players and for him to consistently produce points while playing this role is amazing. Overall, Doughty has been a major cog in the Kings' recent success.
16 Minnesota Wild - Marian Gaborik
This may be an unpopular choice with Minnesota Wild fans, however the outstanding career of Marian Gaborik cannot be denied. Gaborik was the first draft pick in team history when he was selected 3rd overall in the 2000 draft. Many Minnesota fans will remember Gaborik for his constant injuries rather than his electric speed and goal scoring ability. Gaborik was eventually signed by the New York Rangers to a hefty price tag of five years at $39 million. He's also spent time with the Blue Jackets and the Kings.
Nonetheless, he is a veteran of 933 games with 386 goals and 387 assists, which totals to 773 points. Additionally, Gaborik has scored 40 goals in a season on three separate occasions...Could you imagine what Gaborik's numbers would look like if he was able to stay healthy?
15 Montreal Canadiens - Carey Price
Remember when some people/experts thought that Montreal drafting Price with the 5th pick in the 2005 draft was a bit of a reach? Well yeah, those people sure have been proven wrong by Price. It is very easy to make a case that Price is the best goalie in the world. When he is on top of his game, Price has almost single-handedly carried Montreal to victories. Unfortunately for Price and the Habs, he has been experiencing health issues and was limited in the 2015-16 season. It is probably not a coincidence that Montreal struggled badly without Price this past season.
14 Nashville Predators - Shea Weber
The fact that Nashville has been one of the best drafting teams since their existence made this a very difficult choice. Overall, the nod had to be given to Shea Weber over the likes of Pekka Rinne because Weber's contribution to Nashville was (recently traded) enormous. If you wanted to list all time steals, then yes, Rinne would be on this list, but this is best players drafted. Weber was the key figure to put Nashville on the map and probably the main reason they now have one of the best fan-bases in the NHL.
13 New Jersey Devils - Zach Parise
Similar to Nashville, count New Jersey as one of the better drafting teams in recent history. The top of the list starts with Zach Parise, who was taken by the New Jersey Devils 17th overall in the 2003 draft. During his time in New Jersey, Parise held the "C" for one season and was a very productive player. In his fourth season, Praise truly established himself as an NHL star by scoring 45 goals and 49 assists for 94 points. Although Parise has been unable to match this point total, he has been a consistent 25-30 goal scorer when healthy and also provides great leadership.
12 New York Islanders - John Tavares
An easy choice for this article, and an easy choice for the Islanders. Most people knew John Tavares was going to be a number one pick for a long time and it just came down to when he was finally eligible for the draft. That day finally happened in June of 2009, and the Islanders selected him 1st overall. Tavares has since been the face of the franchise for the Islanders and everything that New York imagined he would be. While his 2015-16 regular season numbers were down compared to the previous year, he still scored over 30 goals for the 3rd time in his career. He also was the crucial factor in leading the team to the 2nd round of the playoffs by recording 11 points in 11 games.
11 New York Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist
When people think of the New York Rangers, they usually think about free agents over draftees. This is probably because New York has been so aggressive in signing free agents to large contracts over the years. However, Henrik Lundqvist is an exception to this rule and is arguably the most popular/best player on the current Rangers team. Lundqvist was selected all the way in the 7th round, 205th overall. To show how good the Lundqvist pick has been, NHL.com recently did a "re-draft" of the 2000 draft and Lundqivst was taken 1st overall. Lundqvist made such an immediate impact in New York that he earned the nickname "King Henrik" in his rookie season.
10 Philadelphia Flyers - Claude Giroux
Philadelphia has had many great draft picks since 2000, but none better than Claude Giroux. Giroux was selected 22nd overall in the 2006 draft. Similar to some of the previous players in this article, it is remarkable to go back and look at some of the players drafted ahead of Giroux. Teams must really regret taking players such as Peter Mueller, James Sheppard, Michael Frolik, Jonathan Bernier, and Michael Grabner over Giroux. Giroux truly had his chance to shine after the Flyers traded both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. He has since gone on to lead the team in points for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2013-14 seasons.
9 Pittsburgh Penguins - Sidney Crosby
If Evgeni Malkin played for almost any other team he would be listed in this article. However, he just happens to play alongside a once in a lifetime talent in Sidney Crosby. Crosby was taken 1st overall in the highly anticipated 2005 draft, otherwise known as the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes. How many players have helped save a franchise like Crosby? If you recall, before his arrival, Pittsburgh stands were nearly empty every night. Fast forward to the present, and Pittsburgh has one of the longest consecutive sell out streaks in the NHL.
8 Ottawa Senators - Erik Karlsson
7 San Jose Sharks - Joe Pavelski
Yet another late round pick that makes the list of best drafted players since 2000. Joe Pavelski was taken by the San Jose Sharks in the 7th round, 205th overall in the 2003 draft. It seems like Pavelski is always in the right place at the right time. Either that, or the puck just likes to follow him around the ice. He also has great leadership skills, evident in him becoming captain of the Sharks.
6 St. Louis Blues - Vladimir Tarasenko
Tarasenko's talent makes it seem like the Blues got a steal, even though he was drafted 16th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. The best part about this pick is that the Blues also had the 14th pick in the same draft and used it on Jaden Schwartz. Do you think the Blues had an idea that Tarasenko was going to be the face of the franchise over Schwartz when they made these selections?
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Steven Stamkos
The focus of the 2008 NHL Draft was clear: the future NHL franchise centerman, Steven Stamkos, was going to be taken 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos would enter the league as an 18 year old, but unlike many 1st overall picks before him, his immediate impact was limited. Stamkos had just 6 goals and 20 points in his first 50 games of his rookie season. Then, Stamkos made his major breakthrough after being made a healthy scratch.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews
Some may question whether or not the 2016 no.1 pick, Austin Matthews, deserves to be on this list due to the fact he has not played an NHL game. Yes, it is not a 100 percent guarantee that Matthews will be a star in the NHL. However, the counter-argument is to take a look at some of the previous 1st overall picks and the impact they have ended up having on their teams. Barring injury, there is no reason to expect any different from Matthews. He might even have a step on previous no.1 overall picks before him due to his experience playing professionally with men. This past season Matthews played for Zurich in the National League A, Switzerland's top professional league. He produced 46 points in 36 games, and was second in voting for MVP.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Ryan Kesler
Canucks fans may not like this choice, but there is no denying that Ryan Kesler was one of the best picks in franchise history. He was taken 23rd overall in the 2003 NHL Draft, perhaps one of the deepest drafts ever. In his first few seasons with the team, Kesler was mostly known for winning faceoffs, shot-blocking, penalty killing, and defensive play. Suddenly, in 2011 Kesler developed his offensive game, which helped him become a legitimate star. In that season he scored 41 goals and 32 assists, both career highs. He also continued his stellar defensive play and won the Selke Trophy. Kesler was also named an All Star that season and was a major factor behind the Canucks Stanley Cup run.
2 Washington Capitals - Alex Ovechkin
It was a no doubter to put Alex Ovechkin here. The number 1 overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft has had a similar impact to that of Sidney Crosby (in the sense of elevating a franchise, not winning). Before he arrived, the stands in Washington were empty. Now, it is hard to see a game that is not sold out.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Mark Scheifele
For the purposes of this article, I will only focus on the Winnipeg Jets draft selections and not previous selections made when the team was still in Atlanta. Therefore, I have decided to pick the first player selected for the "new" Jets, Mark Scheifele. Many scouts had Scheifele going in the 10-20 range of the 1st round, but the Jets surprised many by drafting him 7th overall in the 2011 draft. Furthermore, many Jets fans at the time wanted Sean Couturier with the 7th pick. However, it looks like the Jets knew what they were doing, as Scheifele has gotten better each season and has produced better much better numbers than Couturier. In his first year, Scheifele scored 34 points, 49 in his second, and 61 in his third, compared to 15, 39, and 37 for Couturier. Jets fans can expect more improvement, as Scheifele is still only 23 years old.
In the end, I would not be surprised to Patrik Laine at the top of this list in a couple of years, but for now it is Scheifele's spot to lose.
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