Besides the injection of talent that the NHL Draft gives the league every season, it also gives hockey fans years of topics to debate. While the frenzy to figure out who "won" each draft moments after its conclusion is rash and completely unwarranted, looking back years down the line can be a legitimate debate. The issue of enough evaluation time is of no concern on this list because all of these skaters were selected 17 to 27 years ago.
There are busts, near misses and strange coincidences of players taken with the top two picks of the NHL entry draft during the 1990s. Some became teammates, some became rivals and others have been forgotten by hockey fans almost entirely. But, whether they were an eventual Hart trophy winner or a dope that never loved hockey, all of them get compared against each other here.
This list is a ranking of each of those 20 players' contributions to hockey and where they rank against one another. Their statistics were compared relative to their positions and length of time on the ice. Like usual when comparing modern day athletes and their accomplishments, winning the Stanley Cup and performing at a high level in the playoffs and delivering memorable clutch performances go a long way to slide a player up, or down, this list.
So, if you feel like watching "Friends" or listening to Grunge music after reading this list, forgive us, we only wanted to take you back to the 1990s, for a moment.
20 Andrei Zyuzin - Sharks - #2 in 1996
The Sharks took the big Russian defender with the #2 pick of the 1996 NHL Draft in hopes he would continue the production he had in the UFA with Salavat Yulaev. However, that never transpired and Andrei Zyuzin floundered for six NHL teams during 496 nondescript games played. The only positive from this journeyman's career was that he blasted his 99 MPH slap shot past Ed Belfour of the Stars to win a playoff game in OT in 1998.
19 Alexandre Daigle - Senators - #1 in 1993
Some experts consider the Senators' selection of Alexandre Daigle as the top pick in the 1993 NHL Entry draft as the biggest bust in the history of hockey. That's hard not to argue when you take a closer look at the underachiever's career. Throw in that future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger was taken a pick after him and the pick doesn't look any better. Daigle actually walked away from the game for a couple years after the 2000 season citing, "I'm an underachiever." His most memorable moment in the NHL came when he was detained at an airport after joking to a flight attendant that a teammate had a bomb. Authorities don't like those jokes, especially considering then U.S. President Bill Clinton was on the same tarmac.
18 Pat Falloon - Sharks - #2 in 1991
The Sharks may have improved much more rapidly in the 1990s if they didn't have two of their choices on the bottom part of this list. However, Pat Falloon was the first pick ever by the Sharks and started a streak of poor draft choices for the organization in the 90s. The journeyman played for five organizations in nine NHL seasons while only tallying 322 career points. He was never an All Star nor did he ever finish in the top ten of any positive statistical category in the NHL. His lack of work ethic and conditioning earned him the nickname 'Fat Balloon" at the end of his brief career.
17 Patrik Stefan - Thrashers - #1 in 1999
Patrik Stefan continues the line of underachievers on this list with his paltry 188 points in seven seasons. The Czech is also regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in league history. The Thrashers took Stefan with their first ever draft pick in team history and expected him to be the face of the franchise. The center was never ready to accept the mantle of team leader or even above average player. His most memorable NHL play came in his last season, 2007, when he fell on the ice while attempting to score an empty net goal.
16 Roman Hamrlik - Lightning - #1 in 1992
The Czech Roman Hamrlik begins the streak of quality hockey players on this list. He may not have achieved the heights expected of a #1 overall selection, but at least he was legitimately solid and achieved success in his 20 NHL seasons. He was a three0time NHL All Star and was known as an offensive defenseman. He was called the "quarterback of the power play" while scoring 62 of his 155 career goals on the power play.
15 Wade Redden - Islanders - #2 in 1995
Wayne Redden was a decent defenseman that was selected way too high in the 1995 entry draft, but he's probably better remember for being overpaid near the end of his solid career. As a rookie, Redden was forced to Ottawa in a trade after the #1 pick that season, Bryan Berard, refused to go to the Canadian capital. Redden received Norris Trophy votes and made the All Star team with the Senators, while his +35 rating was best in the NHL during the 2005-06 season. However, his play declined dramatically near the end of his career which made he and his $39 million contract a target for New York Rangers fans.
14 Chris Phillips - Senators - #1 in 1996
Chris Phillips may be considered a disappointment for never living up to the expectations that come with being a #1 overall pick of an entry draft, but he was still a quality blue line defender. He spent his entire NHL career with the Senators and was an integral part of reversing the fortunes of the expansion franchise. His 71 career goals and 288 don't sum up the total of his hockey contributions, but it does give an indication of the limitations for the long time alternate captain for Ottawa.
13 Bryan Berard - Senators - #1 in 1995
The Bryan Berard story is the most tragic on this list. He was traded to the Islanders after refusing to report to the Senators. He won the the Calder Trophy as the Rookie of the Year in 1998 and appeared to be the real deal. However, an eye injury suffered from a Marian Hossa errant stick almost ended his career in 2000. Berard battled back and had some solid seasons with the Rangers, Bruins and Blackhawks, while skating with one good eye. But, he was shamed in 2006 by becoming the first hockey player to test positive for steroids, this during International competition.
12 David Legwand - Predators - #2 in 1998
The still active David Legwand may have more milestones to accomplish, but his caliber as a player has been set. He's a decent goal scorer and a solid two-way player, but the American center is far from elite and wasn't worthy of such a high draft selection. His 12th place finish for the Selke in 2007 was the only year he received votes for anything except the Lady Byng. He's still in the league with the Sabres as a veteran presence to guide their younger stars/
11 Oleg Tverdovsky - Mighty Ducks - #2 1994
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks wanted to boost their blue line when they drafted Oleg Tverdovsky in 1994 and the gritty Ukranian did just that throughout his understated career, though he only had two brief stints with the Ducks. He was given the nickname "Double O" when he arrived on the Ducks as a rookie in 1994, as a reference to "Oleg Orr." Obviously, the defenseman never reached the heights of the great Bobby Orr, but he was a force on the blue line. His career statistics are modest, 77 goals and 317 points, but he was an All Star once and won two Stanley Cups.
10 Petr Nedved - Canucks - #2 in 1990
Count Petr Nedved in the long line of Czech skaters that have made an impact in the NHL. He was never a league leader in a major category, nor did he ever make an All Star team, but his longevity move him up the list. He tallied 310 goals and 717 points in only 982 NHL games. That production was at its peak when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins and enjoying the talents of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
9 Alexei Yashin - Senators - #2 in 1992
A three-time All Star, Alexei Yashin was the first ever draft pick of the Ottawa Senators. He quickly surpassed the first overall selection, Roman Hamrlik, by earning a Calder Trophy nomination his rookie season. The Russian only played 12 NHL seasons, but tallied an impressive 337 goals and 781 points in only 850 NHL games. He was Captain of the first ever Senators team to make the playoffs and was also the Captain of the New York Islanders, where he finished his career.
8 Ed Jovanovski - Panthers - #1 in 1994
The imposing defenseman was a force during his entire 18 year career that including going to the Finals with the Panthers during his rookie season in 1995-96. He never won any individual award, but he was a five-time All Star and received votes for the Norris Trophy seven times. His 137 goals and 500 career points are humble totals, but the hard nose blue liner always found ways to contribute.
7 Owen Nolan - Nordiques - #1 in 1990
Owen Nolan is the definition of what a 'power forward' is in hockey, as the native of Northern Ireland that grew up in Canada dominated in front of the net. Nolan was never an elite player, but he had a penchant for greasy goals and was the key to the Quebec Nordiques turnaround. He helped the floundering organization get back on its feet, but was abruptly traded in the midst of their Stanley Cup season in 1996 when they moved to Denver. Nolan was a five time All Star, scored 422 goals and tallied 885 points in his career.
6 Vincent Lecavalier - Lightning - #1 in 1998
This part of the list is where the separation truly begins. Vincent Lecavalier has proven to be worth the top overall selection of the 1998 entry draft. Lecavalier was an integral part of the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship won by the Lightning when he had 16 points in 23 playoff games. He also scored the most goals in the NHL in 2006-07, when he knocked in 52. Lecavalier helped establish hockey in Tampa and has also lent his talents to the Flyers nad Kings over the last few years.
5 Daniel Sedin - Canucks - #2 in 1999
There may be a few forwards that have scored more than Sedin on this list, but the 35 year old winger is far from done with his career. Taken just before his identical twin brother, Henrik, the Swede was a combo package with his brother. Daniel is the scorer and Henrik is the playmaker out of the duo and Daniel has scored often. The active player is currently at 350+ career goals scored and tallied the most points in the NHL in the 2010-11 season.
4 Patrick Marleau - Sharks - #2 in 1997
Patrick Marleau may be the most steady on this list. He has used his blazing speed to to be one of the most important members of the San Jose Sharks since his debut in 1997 and is approaching 1,400 career games played, all with the Sharks. He's the all-time points, assists and goals leader for San Jose and could reach 500 goals if the 36 year old comes back next season. He sits at 476 goals as of the posting of this piece and is still managing to be a solid contributer in California.
3 Eric Lindros - Nordiques - #1 in 1991
There is no player on this list that was as hyped before their respective draft as Eric Lindros was before the entry draft in 1991. He used his sway to force the floundering Nordiques to trade him to the Flyers where he broke into the NHL during the 1992-93 season. Lindros was a dominating forward that became the best player on the Flyers immediately, even though Philadelphia was a good team and full of quality players. Lindros used his hard-nosed style to average over a point a game with the Flyers and he won the Hart Trophy in 1995. However, concussion problems curtailed his production and career, so we'll never really know how many more than the 372 goals and 865 points, in only 760 games, he would've scored if healthy.
2 Joe Thornton - Bruins - #1 in 1997
Taken just ahead of his future teammate, Patrick Marleau, Thornton has had a marvelous career. He has been a six time All Star and won the Hart Trophy during the 2005-06 season when he was traded from Boston to the Sharks mid-season. He is approaching 400 goals and 1,000 assists in his career and already has 1,325 points in his first 1,353 games. The 36 year old should reach those milestones considering he's 8th in the NHL in points this season. All that's missing for Big Joe is postseason glory. Maybe it'll happen this year?
1 Chris Pronger - Whalers - #2 in 1993
There will be a few players that will cringe to see Chris Pronger as the top player on this list because of how dirty he was considered on the ice. However, no matter what your feelings are about the massive Canadian defenseman, he had the best career of any skater under consideration. Pronger went to the Finals three times and hoisted the Stanley Cup with the 2007 Anaheim Ducks. He was a five-time All Star and won the Hart Trophy after the 1999-2000 season. He is still under contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, but hasn't played since 2011 because of post concussion symptoms.