Martin Brodeur, the best goalie ever and possibly the greatest player ever – and Jaromir Jagr, the best European player ever. Need we say more about this draft? These two are easily among the top ten best players in league history and both happened to be drafted in the first round of the 1990 NHL entry draft. Surprising, isn’t it?
Every draft has its best players, just like every draft has its busts. In the NHL, teams are made and broken on their drafted players – just ask the Edmonton Oilers, who somehow can’t get out of last place despite owning the #1 overall pick four times since 2010. So, it’s no surprise that the teams Jagr and Brodeur joined excelled.
Let’s not forget about the rest of the top players in this draft, as many of them won Stanley Cups – surprisingly with the 1999 Dallas Stars team – and captained an NHL team at one point or another. There is no doubt that making the NHL in itself is an accomplishment, but to handle the pressure of a six or seven-figure salary as a young man is another whole feat in itself.
So, how are we re-drafting the 1990 NHL entry draft, you might wonder? We’re taking into account career statistics, longevity, championship prowess, and how we associate a player’s name in the pantheon of NHL greats like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe.
You might not agree with every statement made below, but you sure as hell will after seeing what each player meant to the league and to their respective teams. If you feel like any players were left out and deserving of a first round pick, feel free to take part in the discussion – but we doubt there will be much to argue about.
1. Martin Brodeur – Quebec Nordiques
Martin Brodeur is the greatest hockey player of all-time. Yes, it’s true – and here is why. A two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Brodeur has three Stanley Cup championships in five trips to the finals in three different eras. These three eras each had different equipment, scoring, puck-playing rules. He holds the most regular season wins by a goalie, with 691 (125 shutouts). That’s 140 more wins than Patrick Roy, who is in second with 551. Brodeur owns 113 playoff wins, of which 24 are shutouts, giving him a career total of 804 wins along with a diminutive 2.24 regular season Goals-Against-Average. He is the Cy Young of hockey. The Muhammad Ali of goaltenders. What is even more remarkable is that between 1995 and 2010, Brodeur played at least 70 regular season games in each and every season with the exception of the 2008-09 season when was injured, and the 1996-97 season when he played 67 games. Patrick Roy never played 70 games in a single season. Originally taken 20th overall, Brodeur is master of masters, goalie of goalies, and the number one pick without a doubt from the 1990 draft – and arguably the number one pick of any draft, ever.
2. Jaromir Jagr – Vancouver Canucks
Jaromir Jagr, originally drafted fifth and the only other player in this draft deserving of #1 consideration, has his place cemented among the NHL pantheon of greats. As of January 25th, at age 44, Jagr leads the Florida Panthers in points. The winner of two Stanley Cups, Jagr is quietly cruising past hockey legend Gordie Howe for third in career points in NHL history (Howe has 1,850 points). Think about that for a moment. Imagine every single player who ever skated with an NHL team, and now consider that only two of them – Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier – have more career points than Jagr. We will miss his wizardry when he decides to hang up his skates.
3. Keith Tkachuk – Detroit Red Wings
Known more for his years with the St. Louis Blues and for his weight gain than anything, Tkachuk was a strong player in his own right who was selected 19th overall. He totaled 1,201 games and 1,065 points during a lengthy career with the Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise before moving to St. Louis in 2001. There he continued his career with the help of Doug Weight (in this draft), Pavol Demitra, Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis among others. Tkachuk scored 30 or more goals in nine seasons and led the league with 52 goals in the 1996-07 season. Never shy of controversy, Tkachuk amassed an impressive 2,219 penalty minutes.
4. Sergei Zubov – Philadelphia Flyers
The first and best defenseman of this draft, Sergei Zubov spent most of his career with the Dallas Stars after being selected 85th overall by the Rangers. Zubov quietly had a very strong career with 771 points in 1068 regular season games, second to Sergei Gonchar all-time among Russian defensemen. Zubov was a centerpiece of the 1994 Stanley Cup-winning New York Ranger team along with Mark Messier. He posted 19 points in 22 games that playoff season, along with a +10 rating. His worst +/- rating ever was a miniscule -4. This started a trend, as Zubov continued his playoff successes, winning another Stanley Cup with Mike Modano and the Dallas Stars in 1999. Over his playoff career Zubov totalled 117 points in 164 games and an eye-popping ATOI (average time on ice) of 28:58. In Dallas’ 1999 Championship year, Zubov averaged 30:16 of ice time.
5. Doug Weight – Pittsburgh Penguins
Doug Weight had a similar career to Keith Tkachuk, but found himself as more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. After being selected with the 34th pick, he started his rookie season with the Rangers before moving to Edmonton in 1993 for nine years where he truly shined on a mediocre team. He broke the 100-point barrier in 1996, but disappointingly only made it past 90 points once more in his career before moving to the St. Louis Blues for a six-season stint. Wanting to win a Stanley Cup, Weight left for Carolina where his dreams came true in 2006. He played a big role despite being in the latter stages of his career, totaling 16 points in 23 playoff games.
6. Peter Bondra – New York Islanders
Bonzai, as Capitals fans know him, Peter Bondra was recently passed by Alex Ovechkin for the most franchise goals by a Capitals player with 472 after. Bondra spent 14 years with Washington after being selected 156th overall, leading them to a Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Bondra twice led the league in scoring and did not dip below 20 goals in a season between 1991 and 2006 – his last full season in the NHL. With one of the best power-play slap shots at the time, Bondra was a special teams gem producing year after year.
7. Slava Kozlov – Los Angeles Kings
Born Vyacheslav Kozlov, but commonly known as Slava, this guy was a top gunner in the NHL for fifteen years running after being picked 45th overall by Detroit. Slava won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 marking 13 and 14 points in those playoff campaigns, respectively. Though he did not qualify as a rookie in 1993-94 (he ought to have qualified as a rookie, frankly) he recorded 73 points in 77 games in his first full NHL season and never looked back. Slava was never a big name or big mouth, but the Europeans rarely are, and he is truly deserving of a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame (especially if Igor Larionov made it in).
8. Owen Nolan – Minnesota North Stars
His name may remind you of a bruising forward making strong and often dirty hits to opponents’ top player. Well, that’s because Owen Nolan was exactly that. Don’t forget though that in the middle of all the violent collisions, the first overall pick of this draft finished with 885 points in 1,200 games to go along with his 1,793 career penalty minutes. Despite never winning a cup, Nolan’s style of play will remain in hockey lore, as it seems he was one of the last of a dying breed. Try naming just five truly bruising forwards capable of scoring 40 goals or more in this day and age. Hard to do, right?
9. Darryl Sydor – Washington Capitals
Much like Sergei Zubov, Darryl Sydor ended up being a playoff hunk. Sydor made it to four Stanley Cup finals, winning one with Dallas in 1999 and another with Tampa Bay in 2004. Sydor spent most of his career with the Dallas Stars after being drafted by the LA Kings seventh overall. After his tenure in Dallas, Sydor skipped around teams and ended up playing with four different NHL squads over the last six years of his career. Before it was all over for Sydor, he managed to record 507 points in 1,291 regular season games.
10. Derian Hatcher – Toronto Maple Leafs
A big, booming defenseman, Derian Hatche (eighth overall) r is another 1990 draftee who made a career for himself in Dallas under coach Ken Hitchcock. Standing at 6-feet-5-inches tall, Hatcher was a very difficult figure to post up in front of the net against. To his credit, Hatcher had nine consecutive positive +/- seasons, with 12 of his 16 seasons going on the right side of zero. Hatcher and Sergei Zubov, our #4 pick in this draft, held a strong blue line for the Stars captaining them to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 (which they won) and 2000.
11. Petr Nedved – Calgary Flames
Petr Nedved was the second overall pick in this draft, and while he wasn’t a bust, his numbers didn’t quite pan out like the Vancouver Canucks hoped. All the same, Nedved produced relatively consistently through his career. Finishing with 717 points in 982 regular season games and just about 20 minutes of ice-time per game, Nedved was always at the top or among the top scorers on his team. Nedved never made it to the Stanley Cup finals, but he was able to reach 99 points with Lemieux, Jagr, and the Penguins in 1995-96 and then lead the Rangers in scoring when his time in Pittsburgh was over.
12. Alex Zhamnov – Montreal Canadiens
Alex Zhamnov, like many Russian and Eastern European players before the fall of the USSR, went late in the NHL draft (77nd) and ended up being among the best in his respective draft class. Zhamnov started his career in Winnipeg strong, averaging more than a point per game before moving on to Chicago in 1996-97. He never won a cup, but finished his career with 719 points in 807 regular season games.
13. Keith Primeau – New York Rangers
Keith Primeau is undoubtedly engrained into the memories of die-hard Penguins and Flyers fans alike. Drafted third overall by the Detroit Red Wings, Primeau and his 6’5″ frame found a niche in the league as a big-bodied forward much like Owen Nolan, recording 619 points in 909 games. On May 4th, 2000 Primeau’s destiny changed as a Philadelphia Flyer. In a crucial Conference Semifinal Game 4 against the Penguins, Primeau ripped a quintuple overtime (5-OT) winner in Pittsburgh to seal a Flyers victory. This game still stands as the longest-ever modern era playoff game.
14. Robert Lang – Buffalo Sabres
Robert Lang, another Eastern European drafted very late (133rd overall), made a name for himself after leaving Los Angeles in his fourth year in the league. Joining Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux among others, Lang blossomed as Penguin and finally broke the 30-goal and 80-point barrier in the 2000-01 season. After his time with Pittsburgh, Lang bounced around the league all the while continuing his strong point production. He captured Gold at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and captained the Czech Republic to a Bronze medal in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
15. Geoff Sanderson – Hartford Whalers
One of the few true Hartford Whalers, who drafted him 36th overall, Geoff Sanderson was a consistently strong scorer through his 17-year career, reaching the 30-goal mark six times. He did make it to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals with Buffalo and played an important role, only to lose to the Dallas Stars on Brett Hull’s controversial overtime goal. After his time with the Hartford franchise, Sanderson bounced around six different NHL teams,
16. Bryan Smolinski – Chicago Blackhawks
Few will remember Bryan Smolinski, but he was a solid piece for many teams. In fact, Smolinski was a member of eight different NHL teams in his 16-year career, so it’s no wonder he likely doesn’t stick in the memories of any fans. He did however consistently record 15-30 goals throughout his career. Originally drafted 21st overall, Smolinski showed his worth.
17. Ken Klee – Edmonton Oilers
Capitals fans will fondly remember defenseman Ken Klee for his nine seasons of leadership on the team’s blue line and his good-natured professionalism. Despite never producing offensively, Klee was a true defender similar to the likes of Brooks Orpik. A true draft surprise, Ken Klee went 177th overall in the 1990 draft and is well deserving of a spot in this first round, finishing his career with 195 points in 934 games.
18. Felix Potvin – Vancouver Canucks
At this point it’s difficult to compare skaters to goaltenders, but as the second goalie taken in this draft, Felix Potvin had a respectable career in the NHL. Toronto Maple Leafs fans will remember Potvin as their top goalie from the mid-90s. Potvin started at least 55 games in seven seasons, and won at least 25 games in seven seasons as well. Impressively in the 1996-97 season, Potvin played in 74 games, tied for the 18th most games played in a regular season by an NHL goalie.
19. Roman Turek – Winnipeg Jets
Easily the best NHL goalie who never played a full career in North America, Roman Turek twice won the Jennings trophy – awarded to the goalie with the lowest goals-against-average in the league. Despite being drafted 133th overall in 1990 by the Minnesota North Stars, Turek stayed in Europe until he was 26. He finally joined the Dallas franchise and despite posting solid numbers in Dallas and winning a Stanley Cup as a backup, Ed Belfour was the man Dallas wanted to keep. So, Turek moved on to St. Louis where he posted a league-best 42 wins in the 1999-2000 season. From there he moved on to Calgary, where Miikka Kiprusoff outplayed him despite Turek’s solid numbers. Oh, what could have been.
20. Brad May – New Jersey Devils
Relatively unknown among even devout NHL fans, Brad May came into the league as an enforcer, drafted 14th overall, and soon found his place with the Buffalo Sabres. May recorded an astonishing 309 penalty minutes in his rookie season and 1,323 PIMs over his first seven seasons. May finished his career with 288 points in 1,041 games to go along with 2,248 PIMs, good for 37th most in NHL history.
21. Craig Conroy – Boston Bruins
With the final pick in the first round, Craig Conroy is chosen. Originally taken 123rd overall by Montreal, Conroy was a centerpiece of the Calgary Flames franchise through the early 2000s. Scoring 17 points with a +12 rating in the Flames’ Stanley Cup run of 2004, he was a consistent nominee for the Selke Trophy – awarded to the NHL forward who best demonstrates defensive skills. Conroy will fondly be remembered by Flames fans as a team leader.
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