Yes, professional athletes that eventually get labeled as "draft busts" tend to receive more attention than players who can be considered as "steals" in a respective draft class; but let's take the time to acknowledge some of the current and best NHL draft steals in recent memory.
To some, having success at the annual NHL Entry Draft, and consistent success, is considered an art. Teams such as the Detroit Red Wings have established themselves as an organization that is notorious for their draft success, and in large part due to the fact that they've drafted future Hockey Hall Of Fame skaters in late rounds.
Typically, a player that's drafted during the later rounds, four through seven, and pans out to be a valuable asset for a club is classified as a draft steal. However there are times where a player is drafted prior to those later rounds and can still be considered a steal, too. However, a player is really only a steal for a team if the team keeps that player for a long period of time. You can find a gem in the mid to late rounds, but if you trade him early in his career for underwhelming pieces, what's the point?
With that being said, The Sportster lists every NHL team’s biggest draft steal that’s still on their roster. We should point out Vegas will not be on this list, as we have no way of knowing who's a steal from their 2017 draft class.
30 Anaheim Ducks - Sami Vatanen
The Anaheim Ducks have recently established the club has one of the best blue line’s in all of the NHL. Finish native, Sami Vatanen, was drafted by the Ducks with the 104th selection and in the fourth-round at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Since that time, Vatanen has proven that’ he’s not only one of the league’s best defenseman, but also the Ducks’ (current) biggest draft steal.
In parts of five seasons with Anaheim, the 26-year-old has totaled 122 regular season points and has portrayed that he’s one of the better two-way defenseman the league has to offer. Keep in mind, the Ducks also took players such as forward Kyle Palmieri and D’man Mat Clarke prior to selecting Vatanen. And, neither Palmieri nor Clarke currently play for Anaheim, and only Plamieri still plays at the NHL level.
29 Arizona Coyotes – Christian Dvorak
It’s been a tough drought for the Arizona Coyotes since the club’s last Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance (2012), and the team has selected a number of early-round draft-picks over the past decade. For the Yotes, the team’s biggest draft steal and player that is still on Arizona’s roster would be center Christian Dvorak.
Dvorak, age 21, finished his rookie campaign this past season with the Coyotes and finished the 2016-2017 regular season with 33 points. While the Palos, Illinois native didn’t blow fans away with his stats, Dvorak will prove to be a key asset for the Coyote’s potential and future success. The center was selected in the second-round (58th-overall) at the 2014 NHL Draft. Dvorak and company will look to get the Yotes back on track and end what has seemed like a never ending draught in the Desert.
28 Buffalo Sabres – Jake McCabe
Sure, the Buffalo Sabres have had some flashy names added to their roster, which also includes two skates that were selected with the second-overall-pick at two different NHL Drafts (Jack Eichel – 2015; Sam Reinhart – 2014). Then, there’s Buffalo’s defenseman Jake McCabe, who was chosen by the Sabres as the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and in the second-round.
There were 12 other defensemen selected before the six-foot-one skater in McCabe, and one could argue that McCabe should’ve been drafted in the first-round. The left-handed shooting defenseman will serve as a key asset moving forward, as the Sabres look sharpen their swords and make a push to be a Stanley Cup contender from here on out. McCabe has posted 35 points in 163 regular season games with Buffalo, to date.
27 Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand
One of the NHL’s most unliked skaters happens to be a forward for, and former third-round draft-pick in 2006, the Boston Bruins. Center Brad Marchand has proven to not only Boston, but the rest of the league that he should have been drafted in the first-round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Marchand recently posted a career high of 85 points, tied for fourth best in the league, and has become an elite NHL caliber forward. There’s no doubting that the Halifax, Nova Scotia native should be considered a draft-steal, especially when you take a look back at players who were drafted before the center. Teams such as the New York Islanders, (then) Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets), Minnesota Wild and more now all wish they could have taken the unique forward back in the summer of ’06.
26 Calgary Flames – Johnny Gaudreau
One of the NHL’s brightest stars, and Cinderella stories in relation to being a steal on Draft Day, would be Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau. “Johnny Hockey,” as they say, was drafted in the fourth-round at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft; but since that time has displayed that the five-foot-nine winger should have been taken in the first-round.
At the time, Gaudreau was more than likely overlooked because of his height and he’s taken the critics down with him just as hard as he embarrasses NHL netminders after scoring countless highlight-reel goals. Gaudreau, age 23, has totaled 204 career NHL points and in just 232 games played. And, Johnny Hockey recently took home the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy; “best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
25 Carolina Hurricanes – Cam Ward
Entering the 2005-06 NHL campaign, the Carolina Hurricanes had never won a Stanley Cup and had been struggling to find a franchise netminder. Yet, the Canes had drafted a Canadian born goaltender back in 2002 and with the 25th-overall-pick (first-round) at the NHL Entry Draft.
Cam Ward began playing with the Hurricanes during the latter part of the 2006 regular season, and stole the starting job from netminder Martin Gerber come playoff time. Ward helped carry the Canes the Stanley Cup Finals and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player. Looking back at the 2002 Draft, there were plenty of teams who could have used Wards’ services moving forward, then. It may be hard to believe for most, but Ward is still between the pipes in Raleigh, North Carolina, although he'll likely lose his starting job to Scott Darling this season.
24 Chicago Blackhawks – Duncan Keith
One of the NHL’s most, if not the most, stories teams would be the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL’s Western Conference. Since 2010, the Blackhawks have hoisted Lord Stanley on three different occasions and have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year since 2009. One key member to the Hawks uncanny success would be former second-round draft-pick (2002) and All World defenseman, Duncan Keith.
This should come to a surprise to most that Keith was taken that late at the 2002 NHL Draft, especially considering he’s been labeled as arguably the best defenseman the game has had to offer over the past decade. Sure, the two –time Norris Trophy winner (League’s Best Defenseman) wasn’t a late-round-pick, but there’s no arguing that just about every NHL club made a mistake by not choosing him back in 2002.
23 Colorado Avalanche – Tyson Barrie
It’s been a tough go-around over the past few seasons for the Colorado Avalanche, and it appears the team will more than likely miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season come 2018. However, the Avs do have some young talent to build around and one of those youngsters is a former third-round draft-pick from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie has turned heads across North America and has almost every NHL club interested in potentially striking a deal with Colorado and acquiring him. The five-foot-ten defenseman has proved that he should have been selected much higher than the 64th-overall-pick. In parts of six seasons with the Avalanche, the 25-year-old has already recorded 191 career points. If Colorado do decide to keep Barrie, there’s a strong chance he’ll become the focal point and face of the franchise moving forward.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets – Cam Atkinson
Sure, the Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a Stanley Cup Playoff series in the club’s franchise history (2001 NHL Expansion Class), but the Jackets have been one of the more entertaining NHL teams to watch in recent memory. And, that’s in large part to the Columbus’ former sixth-round draft-pick, Cam Atkinson.
Atkinson, age 28, is coming off of a career season (62 points) and was also an NHL All-Star for the first time in his six-year NHL career. The former late-round pick was drafted at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and 156 skaters were selected before the Riverside, Connecticut native. No, Atkinson wasn’t an NHL stud from day one of taking the ice with Columbus, but he’s only excelled as since his rookie season in 2011-2012.
21 Dallas Stars – Jamie Benn
There should be no surprise for the Dallas Stars’ biggest draft steal. The team’s captain, Jamie Benn, was selected in the fifth round at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Since that time, the 6-foot-2 forward has gone onto win the NHL’s scoring title in 2015 (Art Ross Trophy winner) and has blossomed into arguably one of the top five players in the NHL.
It’s hard to imagine that the power forward dropped that late back at the 2007 draft, but Benn has answered the critics and will look to help lead the Stars back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2000 (lost to New Jersey Devils in six games). The winger has posted more than 80 points in a season on two occasions and through just eight seasons played.
20 Detroit Red Wings – Henrik Zetterberg
Oh how ‘Swede’ it is. The poster child for the NHL’s biggest draft steal, and maybe even in the history of the sport, is the Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg. The Swedish forward was selected by Detroit in the seventh-round at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Zetterberg didn’t begin playing for the Wings until the 2002-2003 campaign, and since that time the Swede has totaled 904 career points.
Zetterberg will go down as the one of the greatest players of all-time, and there’s no questioning that Hockeytown will retire his jersey, number 40, to the rafters at Little Ceasers Arena once the 36-year-old decides to hang up the skates. Currently, Zetterberg is seventh on the Red Wings all-time points list, and the chances are he’ll finish his career in the top five for that category. Zetterberg has proven himself worthy to be in the same conversation as players such as the late Gordie Howe and the great Steve Yzerman.
19 Edmonton Oilers – Oscar Klefbom
Yes, there are a lot of first-round draft-picks that currently still dress for the Edmonton Oilers; but defenseman Oscar Klefbom goes down as the Oilers’ draft steal. While Klefbom was selected by Edmonton in the first round at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Swedish native still dropped all the way down to 19th-overall-pick.
One could argue that Klefbom should have been drafted in at least the top five in 2011, as fellow teammate and defenseman Adam Larsson was drafted with the fifth overall pick that same offseason (New Jersey Devils). Thus far, in parts of four seasons with the Oilers, Klefbom has already posted 73 career points and it’s evident that the best has yet to come from the 23-year-old. Don’t be surprised if the late first-round draft-pick will blossom into a Norris Trophy winning defenseman and in due time.
18 Florida Panthers – Vincent Trochek
The Florida Panthers have been one of the NHL’s more interesting clubs over the past few seasons, and one Panther skater that notably stands out would be forward Vincent Trochek. At the age of 24, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native led Florida with 54 points last season and it’s become apparent that Trochek could be considered a draft steal for the Cats.
The dynamic forward was draft in the third-round at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. There shouldn’t even be a question to second guess that teams wouldn’t want to turn back the clock and wished they selected Trochek almost seven years ago. In parts of four seasons with Florida, Trochek has recorded 137 career points, and his 54 points last season were a career high for the youngster.
17 Los Angeles Kings – Jonathan Quick
Over a decade later, NHL goaltender Jonathan Quick has panned out to be one of the league’s top netminders of all-time. Quick, age 31, was selected by the Los Angeles Kings at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and in the third-round. Since that time, the Milford, Connecticut native has helped the Kings win two Stanley Cup championships and has also collected additional hardware such as the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy.
Though, the masked man wasn’t quick to being an NHL superstar; it took the unique goaltender a good two seasons before he was turning heads around the league. Still, Quick has proven to all that he can potentially single handedly carry a team on his back and lead them to the Stanley Cup Finals, no?
16 Minnesota Wild – Jason Zucker
The State Of Hockey has a deep lineup, and one that entails a solid mix of bother veteran and young skaters. At the age of 25, the Minnesota Wild’s, Jason Zucker, is a key piece to the puzzle for the Wild and the club’s aspirations to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Zucker was selected in the second-round back at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and it’s hard to not mention the Newport Beach, California native when one thinks of Minnesota. In parts of four seasons with the Wild, Zucker has posted 108 career points but the winger is far more than just recording tallies in the points column. His two-way play is second to none, and if the Wild were to eventually go on to win Lord Stanley – it would be in large part because of the team’s former second-round draft-pick.
15 Montreal Canadiens – Brendan Gallagher
No, Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher is not the flashiest Habs’ skater to ever don Montreal’s classic hockey sweater; but the scrappy forward brings an uncanny presence to an NHL’s club’s lineup and on a nightly basis. Gallagher’s passion to dedicate himself for the better of the team is commendable, and the five-foot-ten forward wear’s is the definition of what it means to be a “role player” for an NHL club.
Gallagher, age 25, was selected in the fifth round by the Canadiens and back at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Looking back at it now, one can argue that a majority of teams would turn back the clock and would have drafted the Edmonton, Alberta native much sooner than in the fifth-round. Additionally, Gallagher was established himself as one the Canadiens’ fan favorites too.
14 Nashville Predators – Pekka Rinne
The Nashville Predators are fresh off of the club’s first ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and in large part because of their masked man between the pipes. Finnish goaltender, Pekka Rinne, was selected in the eighth-round at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and has now proven to all that he should have been a first-round selection.
Rinne, age 34, will go down as one of the best European goaltenders of all-time and there’s no doubting that the underdog story will have his jersey number 35 retired. The former eighth-round draft-pick has posted 269 career wins, which makes him the third most winningest Finnish netminder. Eventually Rinne will pass former Calgary Flames goaltender, Mikka Kipprusoff (319 career wins), as the Finnish netminder with the most career wins.
13 New Jersey Devils – Adam Henrique
The debate about who the New Jersey Devils’ biggest draft steal, who still plays for the club, ‘is over.’ Center Adam Henrique has forever won over the hearts of New Jersey’s fan-base and it should come to no surprise that the Brantford, Ontario native is considered “a draft steal” for Jersey’s Team.
Henrique was selected by the Devils back in 2008 and in the third-round of the NHL Entry Draft. He’s panned out to be a top notch forward and is capable of recording at least 50 points a season. The 2008 NHL Draft Class is an impressive group, which also includes former first-overall-selection Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Henrique more than likely should have been selected in the first-round too. Keep in mind, the Devils first selection at that draft was Swedish forward, Mattias Tedenby…
12 New York Islanders – Anders Lee
One of the New York Islanders top skaters happens to be a former sixth-round draft pick. Forward Anders Lee was selected by the Isles back at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and 151 players were selected before one of New York’s now fan-favorites. Since that time, the 27-year-old has recorded 145 points and even helped the Blue and Orange to the club’s first Stanley Cup Playoff series victory (2016) since 1993.
While a majority of the spotlight in Brooklyn, New York is on superstar forward John Tavares, Lee has quietly blossomed into one of the league’s top wingers. The former Notre Dame product can find the back of the net in a variation of ways, which makes him that much more valuable to an Islanders team that has struggled display a consistent and successful identity over the past decade and counting.
11 New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist
At a time when the NHL was in disarray, which in translation means the 2005 lockout, so were the New York Rangers. Entering the 2005-06 campaign, the Broadway Blueshirts hadn’t made a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in almost 10 years and the club’s roster was almost completely unrecognizable. One of those “no name” players for the Big Apple was Swedish goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, now age 35, was drafted in the seventh round at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The Swede earned his way to be the Rangers’ starting netminder back in 2005-2006, and has been nicknamed “The King,” since then. Lundqvist has broken almost every New York Rangers’ goaltending record, and led the Original Six franchise back to the Stanley Cup Finals (2014) for the first time since 1994.
10 Ottawa Senators – Mike Hoffman
The Ottawa Senators’ forward Mike Hoffman could arguably be the NHL’s most underrated skater, at the moment. Hoffman was drafted in the fifth round by the Senators and at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Since that time, number 68 for the Sens has proven to be Ottawa’s most valued forward and is fresh off of a career high season of notching 61 points.
Alongside superstar defenseman, Erik Karlsson, Hoffman helped lead the Senators to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals; which marked the first time since 2007 that the team had made it that far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kitchener, Ontario native has now recorded 174 career points, and don’t be surprised if Hoffman earns more than 60 points next season, too. One could argue that no other player has worn number 68 better, other than the legendary, Jaromir Jagr.
9 Philadelphia Flyers – Shayne Gostisbehere
The City Of Brotherly Love stole defenseman and Florida native Shayne Gostisbehere at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and with the 78th-overall-pick. The Philadelphia Flyers’ Gostisbehere has panned out to be one of the NHL’s most unique blue liners, and his offensive talent from the back end is comparable to the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson.
In parts of three seasons with the Flyers, the 24-year-old has recorded 85 career points and has found the back of the net 10 times on the power play since the 2014-15 campaign. At some point in time, you’d have to wonder if Gostisbehere will be the next Flyers captain, right? Playing in a hockey city such as Philadelphia hasn’t seemed to phase Gostisbehere’s composure on and off the ice, and he goes down as the Flyers’ biggest draft steal in recent memory.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins – Kris Letang
Yes, another top defenseman from the NHL has made this list. Pittsburgh Penguins blue liner Kris Letang was drafted in the third-round and at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Steel City walked out of that draft class with superstar forward Sidney Crosby, too.
7 San Jose Sharks – Joe Pavelski
Another all-star caliber forward has made this list, and that skater happens to also be the San Jose Sharks’ captain in, Joe Pavelski. It may be hard to believe at first, but Pavelski has been a Shark for a decade now, and that’s after the fact that the Wisconsin native was draft in seventh-round at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Yes, the 2003 draft is arguably the strongest draft class in recent memory, but the fact that Sam Jose took the five-foot-eleven center in the seventh round makes this one of the biggest draft steals in NHL history. Since debuting in 2006-2007, Pavelski has recorded 631 regular season points, and has been well on his way as going down as one of the greatest players to ever pull the Teal sweater over one’s shoulders.
6 St. Louis Blues – Colton Parayko
Since being drafted by the St. Louis Blues and in the third-round (86th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Colton Parayko has only continued to open eyes with his performance on the ice with the Blues. The youngster has already recorded 68 points in just two seasons with St. Louis, which is impressive for a young defenseman that plays in the Western Conference.
Additionally, the caliber of NHL exposure in which the six-foot-six defenseman has already played through might be even more impressive; the Blues have been a Stanley Cup contending team for the past two seasons and Parayko has found himself right in the midst of things in St. Louis. Keep in mind, 12 defensemen were selected during the first-round of the 2012 draft; so it’s hard to not label Parayko as a draft steal for St. Louis, right?
5 Tampa Bay Lightning – Ondrej Palat
Yes, most may argue that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov should be considered the club’s biggest draft steal. However, let’s double 'Czech' the Bolts’ roster…
Lightning forward, Ondrej Palat, of the Czech Republic, was drafted in the seventh-round at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and has proven that’s he’s Tampa Bay’s current biggest draft steal. Since that time, Palat has not only earned the right of being labeled a fan-favorite, but he’s a top six forward who consistently produces in the points column. The six-foot-forward has recorded 40 or more points each season dating back to the 2013-2014 campaign. Palat, age 26, recently signed a five-year contract-extension worth $26.5-million. If the Lightning do meet Stanley Cup Final expectations in due time, Palat will be a key reason as to why the club may hoist its second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs – Connor Brown
For starters, the Toronto Maple Leafs have one the youngest lineups in the NHL, and have a handful of first-round draft-pick already playing in the club’s everyday lineup. And, not only are the Leafs one of the more promising teams heading into the 2017-2018 regular season, but the Original Six franchise has select role players that are essential in order to transform into a Stanley Cup Contender. One of those skaters happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs' biggest current draft steal, Connor Brown.
The winger was drafted in the sixth-round at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and has earned his spot in Toronto’s everyday lineup as recent as last season. Brown, age 23, recorded 36 points during his rookie campaign (last season), and chipped in six points on the team’s power play, too.
3 Vancouver Canucks – Alexander Edler
Sure, NHL fans alike tend to forget about Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler; but that shouldn’t take anything away from the former third-round draft-pick’s (2004) accomplishment’s as a top NHL defenseman.
Edler has been a key player for Vancouver, which dates back almost a decade now. Heading into the 2017-2018 campaign, the Swedish native has racked up 300 career points and has proven that he should have been drafted earlier than the third-round in 2004. While it should be interesting to see if Edler remains with a rebuilding Canucks squad, there’s no doubt that he’s Vancouver’s biggest draft steal in recent memory. And, holding onto the 31-year-old will only benefit the Canucks’ younger skaters and prospects. Edler’s career high season came in 2012, when he posted 11 goals and 38 assists for a total of 49 points.
2 Washington Capitals – Braden Holtby
Should the Washington Capitals continue to be labeled Alex Ovechkin’s team; or are the Caps ready to pass on that torch to the masked man between the pipes? Goaltender Braden Holtby was drafted by the Capitals in 2008 in the fourth round. While a majority of goalies typically aren’t selected within the first three rounds, greats such as Holtby were, and are, drafted much higher.
The Saskatchewan native has recently won a Vezina Trophy (2016), and during that same season Holtby tied the great Martin Brodeur for most wins during a regular season (48) by an NHL goaltender. The Caps' starting netminder has collected 191 wins, which stands in second place for the club’s all-time wins leader (Olaf Kolzig; 301), and he may go down as Washington’s biggest draft steal, ever.
1 Winnipeg Jets – Connor Hellebuyck
One of the NHL’s better drafted teams happens to be the Winnipeg Jets, and the club has more than two full lines of first-round draft-picks that play in the club’s everyday lineup. So, it is a controversial debate on who one could label as the Jets’ biggest draft steal, and one that’s still on Winnipeg’s current roster.
However, the Jets landed a potential all-star caliber netminder in Michigan native, Connor Hellebuyck. While Hellebuyck can still be considered, “a work in progress,” fans still need to remember that the youngster was drafted in the fifth-round at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. 11 goaltenders were selected before the 6-foot-4 masked man, and less than half currently play on a respective NHL roster. Don’t be surprised if you see and hear the name “Hellebuyck” much more often and in the near future.
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