The 2017 NHL Draft is just weeks away now, which means it's a great time for us folks at TheSportster to reflect on draft history. It's hard to be ecstatic about the 2017 Draft, as NHL scouts don't expect top prospects Nolan Patrick nor Nico Hischier to emerge as Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid-like superstars.
But you know what is exciting? Seeing how some of the top second overall picks in NHL history have performed. You always heard people say "If you're not first, you're last", and "First the worst, second the best". Well, not all second overall picks turn out to be as great as the first selections, but most of them throughout the years have tuned in fine careers.
In fact, you'll notice that a huge amount of the second overall picks over the past 25 years have actually become bonafide superstars and many have been better than the first selections. Here is a look at my rankings for the last 25 second overall selections in the NHL draft.
25 Andrei Zyuzin (1996)
Looking to add more beef on their blue line, the San Jose Sharks drafted Andrei Zyuzin in 1996, right behind Ottawa Senators first-overall pick Chris Phillips. The Russian defenceman brought good size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), and was supposed to bring plenty of toughness to the recently expanded Sharks franchise.
Though Zyuzin turned out to be a solid stay-at-home blueliner, he didn't reach superstar status that is expected of most second-overall picks. Zyuzin played just 81 games over two years with the Sharks before moving onto the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Zyuzin played for a handful of other teams before heading to the KHL for the 2008-09 season. He finished with just 38 goals and 120 points in 496 NHL games, and is easily one of the biggest second overall draft pick disappointments ever.
24 Ryan Murray (2012)
In all fairness to Ryan Murray, most NHL teams are strongly regretting their first round draft choices from 2012 -- which has gone down as one of the worst in NHL history up to this point.
But that doesn't mean the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans are forgiving of Ryan Murray so far, who hasn't come close to reaching expectations in the NHL. He's only played one full regular season thus far and hasn't scored more than 21 points in a season. Murray also hasn't been able to turn into a reliable defender at his own end of the ice, despite having a great head coach in John Tortorella.
He was drafted five years ago and there hasn't been any progress on Murray's end. He's not going to get many more chances, either.
23 David Legwand (1998)
With the first-overall selection in their history, the Nashville Predators drafted big centre David Legwand from the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. Legwand did display some of his skill in the NHL, but it certainly wasn't enough for a guy drafted so early. Considering superstar Vincent Lecavalier was selected first, it put more pressure on Legwand to succeed -- and it didn't do him much good.
Legwand did have a pair of 20-goal seasons with Nashville and was good for 15-goal and 40-point seasons, and he was one of the best players the Predators had during their early years of existence.
He finished with 228 goals and 618 points in 1,136 NHL games. Those aren't horrible numbers by any means, but Legwand is placed low because most second overall picks turned out to be stars, as you'll see.
22 Oleg Tverdovsky (1994)
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted the skilled Russian defenceman right behind Ed Jovanovski, whom the Florida Panthers took first. Oleg Tverdovsky brought good size, strong speed and excellent puck possession skills and was to help superstar Paul Kariya put Anaheim on the hockey map.
Well, Tverdovsky didn't quite blossom into an elite defenceman, but he was certainly far from a bust. He had terrific 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, scoring a combined 29 goals and 104 points over those campaigns. Tverdovsky also helped the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup in 2003, shutting down some of the opposition's top players during their run.
But given the amount of talent in 1994 (Ryan Smyth, Jeff O'Neill, among others), Anaheim certainly could have found a better player with the second pick. Then again, Tverdovsky tuned in a fine NHL career, all things considered.
21 Sam Reinhart (2014)
The Buffalo Sabres would have loved to see a little bit more from Sam Reinhart by now, but he's been quite serviceable during these tough rebuilding years. Given the lack of talent the Sabres have supplied youngsters like Reinhart with, they have to be pleased with what he's given them so far.
Reinhart is coming off of a career-high in points (47), though his 17 tallies this year were six less than what he posted last year. As of this writing, Reinhart has managed 40 goals and 90 points through his first three NHL seasons.
Reinhart may not quite turn out to be a bonafide franchise superstar like Buffalo was expecting, but he's going to at least be a quality number two centre. He's not a bust and he's not a star...yet. It's still a bit too early to tell how his career will go, so the 21st spot is safe for now.
20 Patrik Laine (2016)
Make no mistake, I'm going to look stupid in five years when Patrik Laine has multiple 50-goal seasons and at least two 'Rocket' Richard Trophies on his resume. But it's not fair to put him much higher on the list because of his one great rookie season, whereas other former second overall picks have been great for many years. So now that I made myself clear, let's dive into what Laine has done so far.
First off, the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks were robbed of the second pick, and the Winnipeg Jets were lucky that the controversial draft lottery system allowed them to draft Laine.
He did not disappoint in his rookie year, scoring 36 goals and 64 points in 73 games. Laine was being compared to Alexander Ovechkin by many scouts heading into the season, and if his rookie season is an indication of anything -- the absolute best is on the horizon.
19 Aleksander Barkov (2013)
Aleksander Barkov has already entrenched himself among the best power forwards in the game, and he's become a vital building block for the Florida Panthers since he arrived here nearly four years ago.
The 6-foot-3, 213-pound centre only scored eight goals and 24 points in his rookie season, and has since rounded into the top-line player Florida could have asked for. He broke out in 2015-16 with 28 goals and 59 points, then managed 21 tallies and 52 points this past regular season.
Given that he's also just 21 years of age, Panthers fans have to be excited for what's to come with Barkov. He, Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau and co. are forming a bright future together in the Sunshine State. The best years are just ahead for Barkov and his Florida squad.
18 Jack Eichel (2015)
The Buffalo Sabres were the worst team in hockey two years ago and owned the best odds of landing the first pick (which would have surely given them Connor McDavid). But getting Jack Eichel was not a bad consolation prize by any means, and he's shown more than enough flashes to be a McDavid-type player in the NHL.
Through his first two NHL seasons, Eichel has racked up 48 goals and 113 points in 142 games, which is pretty good when you consider the miserable Buffalo teams he's had to play on. Eichel is also just 20 years of age and you know he's on his way to being a top-five player in the league. It could happen as soon as 2017-18, for all we know.
Either way, the Sabres have a franchise star in the making and it won't be long until you're drafting Eichel over Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in your fantasy pools.
17 Wade Redden (1995)
Wade Redden was a star defenceman during his time with the Ottawa Senators, but once he left the franchise, his career went downhill. Had he stayed with Ottawa the entire time, there's a high chance he would have been in the top-10. It's a shame his solid career will be overshadowed by the disastrous six-year deal worth $39 million the New York Rangers handed to him in 2008.
But we'll go back to the positive and focus on what he did with Ottawa. Redden took Ottawa to the playoffs in each of his 11 seasons there -- including the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
Redden was a great leadership and played excellent two-way hockey for a defenceman. He scored double-digit goals five times and is second all-time in franchise scoring for blueliners with 101 goals and 410 points. For the most part, Redden's NHL career was successful.
16 Kari Lehtonen (2002)
Kari Lehtonen's bad contract and inconsistency over the couple years has caused many to overlook the otherwise stellar NHL career he's had. The Atlanta Thrashers found a franchise goalie in Lehtonen, who did his part in trying to make them a suitable hockey market.
Though his iffy 2.72 goals against average and .912 save percentage aren't stats to be impressed with, Lehtonen does have five 30-win seasons under his belt -- plus three other years of racking up at least 20 victories.
He hasn't quite been a Vezina-caliber goalie, but Lehtonen has definitely been good enough to warrant a team taking him second overall. He's one of the better goalies of the post-lockout era and will continue to be a solid starter for a few more years.
15 Gabriel Landeskog (2011)
Gabriel Landeskog was supposed to be the face of the Colorado Avalanche -- and he somewhat is as the team captain. But he hasn't quite been "elite", and the Avs are expected to shop him in the offseason.
He's been a very, very good player during his time with Colorado -- racking up for 20-goal seasons and all. But right now, he only has 118 goals and 279 points in 428 NHL games. That is solid, but not great for a number two selection.
The Avalanche have only reached the playoffs once under Landeskog, who hasn't been able to take it to that "wow" level since being drafted six years ago. But Landeskog has definitely been far from a disappointment and is among the few good pieces the Avalanche have had over the years. Perhaps a change of scenery could be enough to place him higher on this list some day.
14 Jordan Staal (2006)
Jordan Staal's career has been so up-and-down since the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him (over Jonathan Toews, must I add). But when his career has been "up", it's been pretty darn good, so he deserves to be in the top 15.
Eric's younger brother was a key piece of the Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup championship team, and he was a four-time 20-goal scorer in the Steel City. Since his trade to the Carolina Hurricanes, Staal has scored 20 goals just once and hasn't put up more than 48 points in a season. You can say he's the definition of inconsistent.
But Staal has been able to avoid the "bust" label and has been a terrific second/third line centre throughout his career. You can easily say that he hasn't played up to his full abilities and talents, but he's good enough to be 14th here.
13 James van Riemsdyk (2007)
The Philadelphia Flyers had the misfortunes of finishing last in the NHL back in '07 and missing out on the Patrick Kane sweepstakes; the Chicago Blackhawks won the lottery and selected the franchise superstar with the first selection.
Philly wound up taking fellow American James van Riemsdyk, who never lived up to his full potential in the City of Brotherly Love. In his three seasons there, JVR never scored more than 40 points in a season. But ever since he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn, van Riemsdyk has discovered his full potential.
He's scored at least 27 goals and 50 points three times and has been a key piece of the Maple Leafs resurgence in this decade. He's not quite a superstar, but he's definitely been worth a second overall selection...for Toronto.
12 Alexei Yashin (1992)
The Ottawa Senators drafted a superstar in Alexei Yashin, but his attitude derailed what could have been a Hall of Fame career. This is a man who scored 337 goals and 781 points in 850 NHL games, but Yashin was more about himself and the money than playing for a team. Allow us to explain...
He demanded a trade on multiple fronts from the Senators, and he was so disgusted with his contract that he sat out the ENTIRE 1999-2000 campaign instead of making a few million bucks -- life must have been so hard for him. The Islanders traded for him in 2001 and signed him to a 10-year deal worth $87.5 million.
But it was only 10 years ago that the Islanders bought out his contract which consisted of them paying him just over $2 million a year for eight seasons. What a disaster this whole saga was!
11 Bobby Ryan (2005)
Bobby Ryan hasn't quite reached the 2005 superstar level that draft class counterparts Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Anze Kopitar have, but he's among the better second overall picks in league history.
The big 6-foot-2, 209-pound winger scored 30-plus goals every year from 2008-09 to 2011-12, but his expensive contract with the Ottawa Senators and inconsistent scoring over the years have caused many folks to think of him as "overrated."
Well, Ryan was a force for the Senators in this year's playoffs, scoring six goals and 15 points in 19 games as they fell one goal short of reaching the Stanley Cup final. He's scored 20-plus goals twice with the Senators and should be able to turn things around next season. Ryan has 223 goals and 472 points in 669 NHL games -- far better than what most second picks of the past 25 years have accomplished.
10 Dany Heatley (2000)
Dany Heatley was one of the top pure goal-scorers of the 2000s, but then he went into an unexplained and unexpected decline during the 2010s. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Heatley who did so much in so little time with their franchise. The former 50-goal scorer registered 80 tallies in just three seasons with Atlanta.
Heatley was then traded to the Ottawa Senators for Greg de Vries and Marian Hossa before the 2005-06 season. In the nation's capital, Heatley had two 50-goal and 100-point campaigns, taking Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.
The 2010 Olympic gold medalist last played in the NHL two years ago, but he leaves behind a legacy of 372 goals and 791 points in 869 games. Not quite Hall of Fame-caliber worthy, but we'll always remember him as one of the best snipers in the post-lockout era.
9 Victor Hedman (2009)
It took Victor Hedman quite a while to live up to his full potential, but now that he has finally broken out (and given that he's only 26 years old), it was a really easy call to place him in the top-10. Hedman is a 2017 Norris Trophy finalist and has been a key part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's resurgence in the Eastern Conference; taking them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.
Hedman is coming off a career year that saw him score 16 goals and 72 points; it was the fourth-straight season where he scored double-digit goals. Hedman is also extremely responsible at his own end of the ice, and it shows every single game.
Don't be surprised if Hedman wins three Norris Trophies by the time his career ends. He's really better than you think he is.
8 Tyler Seguin (2010)
The 2010 NHL Entry Draft was hyped up as "Taylor vs. Tyler," and the Edmonton Oilers wound up selecting Taylor Hall with the top selection. The Boston Bruins took Tyler Seguin next, but made the really questionable decision in trading him to the Dallas Stars in the 2013 offseason.
Seguin wasn't quite living up to his potential in Boston, but he's really taken his game to the next level in Big D. In just four seasons with his second team, Seguin has 133 goals and 306 points in 305 games -- leading them to the Central Division title in 2016. Seguin is among the flashiest centres in all of hockey and is good for 25-goal and 70-point seasons.
He's just 25 years of age and definitely has more great years ahead of him, so it was an easy choice to place him highly on this list. The Bruins haven't reached the Stanley Cup Final since trading him, too.
7 Jason Spezza (2001)
The Ottawa Senators acquired Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the second selection in the 2001 Draft after shipping away disgruntled star Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders. Ottawa used that dream selection on Jason Spezza, who became one of the most dynamic players in team history.
Spezza helped Ottawa emerge as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, leading them to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2007. He only trails Daniel Alfredsson in franchise scoring, with 251 goals and 687 points. Spezza formed a star-studded line with Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, and it's what led them to a few terrific year's in the nation's capital.
As of this writing, Spezza has 316 goals and 862 points in 911 NHL games. The Senators surely capitalized and hit the jackpot with the second selection.
6 Eric Staal (2003)
Eric Staal is one of the many superstars to come out of the legendary 2003 NHL Draft Class, and though his production has significantly declined over the last three years, he's undoubtedly one of the best players of the post-lockout era.
Staal put his name on the hockey map during the 2005-06 season, scoring 45 goals and 100 points while leading the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup. He's far-and-away the franchise's all-time scoring leader with 322 goals and 775 points. For what it's worth, Rod Brind'Amour is the next closest with 473 points.
The Hurricanes had been losing for a long time until Staal came along. He was the face of their franchise until his trade to the New York Rangers last year. With 353 goals and 846 points in his career, the next goal for Staal is to hit the 1,000-point mark.
5 Drew Doughty (2008)
The Los Angeles Kings were in misery heading into the 2008 NHL Draft, but man are they lucky to have wound up with the second selection. They wound up with Drew Doughty, who is arguably the best defenceman in the NHL today. He's led the team to a pair of Stanley Cup championships and won his first Norris Trophy in 2016 -- though you can make a case he should have three by now.
Doughty is the best defensive blueliner in hockey, and he adds great offence with his slick puck-moving skills and release of a shot. He's worked tirelessly to shut down the opposition's best players on nightly basis', and there's no way Los Angeles would have a Stanley Cup without his excellent play.
The fact he's only 27 is scary, because Doughty has plenty of more awards and accomplishments on the way.
4 Daniel Sedin (1999)
Former Vancouver Canucks general manager Brian Burke pulled off one of the biggest coups in NHL history, managing to land the top two selections in the 1999 Draft. First, he took Henrik Sedin. Then, he took his twin Daniel with the second pick. 18 years later, and those two selections have turned into the best Canucks of all-time.
Along with his twin, Daniel helped Vancouver embark on its greatest stretch in franchise history. From 2004 to 2013, they won seven division titles, two Presidents' Trophies and reached one Stanley Cup Final. Daniel also won the scoring title in 2011 and only Henrik has more points in franchise history.
The twins have become one of hockey's greatest duos, dominating the NHL for years with their slick passing and setting up. Though these two won't win a Cup in Vancouver, their legacies are forever set on the west coast.
3 Patrick Marleau (1997)
Right after the Boston Bruins took Joe Thornton first overall, the San Jose Sharks drafted Marleau -- and little did they know they would wind up with the top two picks of the 1997 NHL Draft eight years later.
Patrick Marleau has been everything the Sharks could have hoped for. The former team captain has done a miraculous job turning them into one of the NHL's model franchises -- having qualified for the playoffs all but one year since 2004. Marleau helped San Jose reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final last year, and he's the franchise's all-time leader in goals (508), and points (1,082).
The Olympic gold medalist has just about everything on his resume except a Stanley Cup ring. Though he's 37 years of age, Marleau has remained a constant 25-plus goal scorer and will surely be in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
2 Evgeni Malkin (2004)
The Washington Capitals were more than thrilled to land Alexander Ovechkin first overall in 2004, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have been the far more successful franchise since drafting Evgeni Malkin with the second selection.
'Geno' has obviously not gotten the attention he deserves because of Sidney Crosby, but he's undoubtedly one of the greatest players of his generation. Malkin already owns two scoring titles, one Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe and two Stanley Cup rings (and as of this writing, he's playing in his fourth Final).
Malkin has been nearly just as flashy as Crosby since breaking into the NHL a decade ago. He has 328 goals and 832 points in just 706 games. There is no way Crosby or the Penguins succeed without Malkin's services. He has been just as important to Pittsburgh as no. 87.
1 Chris Pronger (1993)
He's a top-10 defencemen in the history of the NHL, if you ask me. It just so happens that Chris Pronger was also the second overall draft choice in 1993 (by the Hartford Whalers), as the Ottawa Senators made a brutal decision to draft Alexandre Daigle over him instead. Now, a look back on the magnificent career of Pronger.
He won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, the Hart and Norris Trophy in 2000 and helped Canada win gold at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics. Pronger also took Edmonton and Philadelphia to the 2006 and 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, respectively. He used his towering 6-foot-6 frame to throw weight around and also had a rocket of a slapshot.
If not for Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer, Pronger could have easily won five Norris Trophies. He simply dictated and controlled games on the ice, both offensively and defensively. And to think the Hall of Famer could have have added a lot more to an already impressive resume had his career not ended via a concussion early in 2011-12.
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