Being the number one overall pick at the National Hockey League is definitely a big deal. A number one overall pick means that an organization has faith that you can lead a franchise for a certain amount of years. There are many aspects that go into being able to potentially be gifted as the number one selection at the NHL Draft. The organization looks into how you have played in juniors/college and wants to see if you have what it takes to not only play at the top level, but to be able to potentially carry a franchise to the promise land.
Over the past 15 seasons, there has been fifteen players that have been selected with the number one overall pick, and they have all been dominant at the juniors/college level. Some of these players will go down as all-time greats, and some of them will be labeled as busts. The list of players that has been drafted over the previous 15 seasons, has some of the biggest names that are in the game today. We have former Calder Memorial Winners, Ted Lindsay Winners, Art Ross Winners, Conn Smythe Winners, and Hart Memorial Winners. The list of accomplishments that the majority of these 15 players have accomplished is outstanding, and you can't take anything away from what they have done in the National Hockey League career. With that being said here are the rankings of the previous fifteen number one overall picks in the National Hockey League.
15 Nail Yakupov (2012)
Nail Yakupov was one of three straight number one overall picks that the Edmonton Oilers had from 2010-12. He was not only the worst out of the three straight picks by Edmonton, but he was the worst number one overall pick taken in the previous 15 seasons. In five seasons, Yakupov has played in 292 games, and has 53 goals and 67 assists, for a total of 120 points for his career. The 23-year-old has never finished with more than 33 points in a single season.
Now in St. Louis, Yakupov finished this season with three goals and six assists for nine points in 40 games played. These numbers show that he has struggled at the NHL and has not found a groove at all in the five seasons he has played. I will not be surprised if Yakupov is out of the league within the next three years.
14 Aaron Ekblad (2014)
The Florida Panthers had the number one overall pick in 2014, and they selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad from the OHL. Ekblad has been a solid defenseman for the Panthers in his three seasons in the league, and has shown how much he is actually worth. He is currently an alternate captain for the Panthers, which is definitely a big honor for the 21-year old from Windsor, Ontario.
In his three seasons at the NHL, Ekblad has played in 227 games, tallying 37 goals and 59 assists to accumulate 96 points. As a defenseman, those numbers are very impressive, and he could end up with a significant amount of points in his career. Also look for Ekblad to become one of the better defensemen at the National Hockey League in the next five seasons.
13 Erik Johnson (2006)
Erik Johnson is one of the most controversial number one overall picks in recent years, but St. Louis decided to select him first overall at the 2006 NHL Draft. St. Louis passed on the likes of Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Bäckström, Phil Kessel, Claude Giroux, and company. Those are some pretty big names that Johnson overtook in the draft, but you have to learn from your mistakes, and I believe the Blues have done just that.
In the 10-year veterans' career, he has played in 575 games, scoring a total of 237 points (61 goals, 176 assists). Johnson has been a solid defenseman for both St. Louis and Colorado, but the names that were drafted after him have had better careers. Had he been drafted mid to late first round, he'd have been deemed a huge success, but his draft spot ultimately hurt the perspective on his career.
12 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the second of the three straight first overall picks that Edmonton had. The 24-year-old has been somewhat successful throughout his six-year National Hockey League career. Nugent-Hopkins has gone over the 50-point mark three times, but he has also struggled at certain points as well. His inconsistency has unfortunately made him an "OK" NHL player. That's okay with the way Edmonton is built now.
In his six-year career, he has played in 395 games, notching 95 goals and 170 assists for 265 points. Nugent-Hopkins has been the alternate captain for the Oilers since the 2015-16 season and has helped bring Edmonton to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Oilers have a bright future, and Nugent-Hopkins may or may not be a part of it.
11 Nathan MacKinnon (2013)
The 21-year-old was drafted first overall in 2013 by the Colorado Avalanche. MacKinnon has been a solid all-around player for the Avalanche in his four NHL seasons, and is the future of the franchise. He was named an alternate captain in the 2016-17 season, and has helped a struggling Avalanche team reach the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year.
In his four seasons, MacKinnon has played in exactly 300 games, accumulating 75 goals and 131 assists for 206 points. The Avalanche have only made the playoffs once in MacKinnon's young career, and they might want to start making the playoffs before the centre takes his talent elsewhere. With that being said, he has a bright future ahead of him in the National Hockey League.
10 Taylor Hall (2010)
There was some serious debate that occurred at the 2010 NHL Draft, as there were two prospects that could have been the first pick. The Edmonton Oilers had a tough decision on hand, and they went with their gut and selected Taylor Hall. He was the first out of three straight number one overall picks by Edmonton, and he has been the most successful among them so far.
In his seven-year NHL career, he has played in 453 games, notching 152 goals and 229 assists, which when put together, total 381 points. Hall was traded to New Jersey during the 2016 offseason and played well for the Devils in his first season there (72 games played, 20 goals, 33 assists, 53 points). He is in the prime of his career, and he will be a force to be reckoned with in upcoming seasons.
9 Auston Matthews (2016)
The most recent number one pick is Auston Matthews, who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his first career game, Matthews scored four goals against Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators. The Maple Leafs found themselves a gem, as he helped lead his team to the playoffs. By the looks of things, the future is bright in Toronto.
In his first season at the National Hockey League, he played in all 82 games, completing 40 goals and 29 assists to accumulate 69 points. Auston Matthews is only 19 years old and has the Maple Leafs thinking that with their young talent, they have a chance to bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Toronto for the first time since the 1966-67 season. Look for Matthews to be a big-time talent for the next ten-plus seasons at the National Hockey League.
8 Marc-André Fleury (2003)
Marc-André Fleury was selected number one overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2003 NHL Draft. He became his team's starting goalie in the 2005-06 season, and has helped lead the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships in his 13-year career. Fleury has been one of the best regular season goalies in the league since he became a starter, his team entering the playoffs every year since the 2006-07 season.
Fleury has played in 653 games, amassing a record of 357-206-2-59, while having 43 shutouts to go along with a career 2.56 GAA. He is also a two-time all-star (2011, 2015) and is considered as one of the best goalies in Penguins franchise history. With Fleury's career looking like it will have a couple more solid years left, he should be considered one of the best regular season goalies in the 2010s.
7 Rick Nash (2002)
In Nash's 14-year career, he has played in 989 games, raking in 416 goals and 335 assists for 771 points. Nash also won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in 2004, sharing it with Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla. His illustrious career can be summarized this way: great in the regular season, struggling in the postseason. Nash has never held Lord Stanley's Cup and may never have the opportunity to do so. As successful as he was in Columbus, the Blue Jackets constantly missed the playoffs and it seemed Rick Nash was the only one on the team scoring. In New York, he has found a nice home, but the Stanley Cup continues to elude him. You have to wonder how many good years Nash has left in him.
6 John Tavares (2009)
The New York Islanders had the number one overall pick in 2009 and selected John Tavares. He has been one of the best players in Islanders franchise history, and has been a force in his National Hockey League career. Tavares has helped the Islanders gone to the playoffs three times in his career, contributing to winning their first playoff series for the first time since 1993.
In his eight-year career, Tavares has played in 587 games, scoring 235 goals and 302 assists for a total of 537 points. He is in the top ten in the Islanders' goals, assists, and points all-time lists. Set to become a free agent in 2018, Tavares still has plenty of years left in him, and he should continue to be an solid all-around player at the NHL until the day he calls it quits.
5 Steven Stamkos (2008)
The Tampa Bay Lightning selected their new franchise player, Steven Stamkos, as the first overall pick at the 2008 NHL Draft. He was a top-five player in the National Hockey League from 2009-12, putting up more than 90 points in a season in that period. In 2013 though, Stamkos broke his tibia in a game against the Bruins and missed a good chunk of the season. Since then, Stamkos has played an 82-game season only once out of the last five seasons.
In his nine-year career, he has played in 586 games, netting 321 goals and 261 assists for a whopping 582 points. Almost averaging a point per game in his career, Stamkos has been hailed as one of the best all-around talents since he entered the league. He is a four-time All-Star, winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy twice (2010, 2012). If he can stay healthy, he will be one of the best players of the 2010s.
4 Connor McDavid (2015)
With their fourth first overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers selected Connor McDavid at the 2015 NHL Draft. He is the captain of his squad despite only being 20 years old. It is tough to believe, right?
He has proven so far that he is the real deal as in his first two NHL seasons, as he has garnered 46 goals and 102 assists for 148 points in 127 regular season games played. Averaging over a point per game, his numbers could have been higher if he played in all 82 games in his rookie campaign.
Missing time due to injury, McDavid would have been the Calder Memorial Trophy winner in his rookie campaign if he was able to play more games. He made up for it in his second year when he won the Art Ross Trophy after putting together 100 points for the first of potentially many times. McDavid helped lead the Oilers to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and look for Edmonton to be a force in the National Hockey League for many years to come. We wouldn't be suprised if he eventually surpasses the names in front of him on this list.
3 Patrick Kane (2007)
One of the draft picks that helped create the dynasty of the Chicago Blackhawks was Patrick Kane, who was taken number one overall at the 2007 NHL Draft. He has been a top-quality wing player since debuting in the league, and is considered one of the five best players at the NHL today, as he has in his collection the Calder Memorial, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, and Hart Memorial trophies, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award.
In his 10-year career, he has played in 740 games, putting together 285 goals and 467 assists for a sum of 752 points. Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup winner (2010, 2013, 2015), helping bring ice hockey glory back to the Blackhawks organization. Still with plenty of years left in the tank, he will go down as one of the best players of this generation.
2 Alex Ovechkin (2004)
The player that turned the Washington Capitals franchise around is none other than 2004 NHL Draft number one pick Alexander Ovechkin. He has been a top five player since entering the league in 2004, and he would probably go down as one of the best players of this generation. He is the all-time leader in goals, points, power play goals, and game-winning goals in Washington's franchise history.
In his 12-year career, he has put up 1,035 points (558 goals, 477 assists) in 921 games. Ovechkin tallied over 100 points four times out of his first five seasons, and has not put up more than 85 points since. In addition, he is a Calder Memorial winner, six-time Maurice Richard Trophy awardee, three-time Hart Memorial winner, and a one-time Art Ross recipient.
1 Sidney Crosby (2005)
Pittsburgh had two first overall picks in three years, and they chose Sidney Crosby in one of them. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Art Ross winner, two-time Maurice Richard awardee, six-time All-Star, three-time Ted Lindsay winner, two-time Hart Memorial awardee, and a Conn Smythe winner. Crosby has put up over 100 points five times in his illustrious career, and has been one of, if not the best, player in the National Hockey League since 2005.
In his 12-year career, Crosby has played in 782 games, accumulating 382 goals and 645 assists, for 1,027 points. He is only 29 years old, which means that he has a lot more seasons to go, as he plans to continue to dominate the NHL for years to come.
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