It’s always a good time to look back at a draft from over 20 years ago and see what became of the players who were selected, and more specifically, where they were selected. With the benefit of hindsight, we can critique selections made by teams throughout the draft, and perhaps even marvel at some of the selections made in the deeper rounds.
The 1991 NHL Entry Draft was held in Buffalo, and it was a special one because not only did it have an incredibly deep class of talent, but it was the year of Eric Lindros, who was then known as “The Next One.” Lindros was of course selected first overall that year by the Nordiques, and we all remember (if you’re old enough) how Lindros refused to don the jersey or sign with the club. A true class-act prodigy.
In today’s list we look at the entire draft class of 1991 and re-select the top 20 picks from that year. Lindros of course appears on our list, but he doesn’t hold the top spot. Looking back at the careers of some of his competitors, it’s easy to see why, and we think you’ll agree.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t start off with a short list of honorable mentions, so here it goes: Pat Falloon, Scott Lachanse, Martin Lapointe, Philippe Boucher, Dean McAmmond, Igor Kravchuk, Marius Czerkawski (the Polish Prince), Dmitri Yushkevich, Dmitri Mironov, and Igor Ulanov were all left out of the top 20, but they all had decent and lengthy NHL careers.
The players who appear on this list, however, had better careers than the players listed above. Check ‘em out!
20 Scott Niedermayer - Quebec Nordiques
Scott Niedermayer was the true gem of the 1991 draft class. He was originally selected 3rd overall by the New Jersey Devils, a team with which he would help win three Stanley Cups (’95, ’00, and ’03). He added another championship while with the Ducks in ’07, and he’s pretty much won everything else that he’s ever been eligible for (Norris, Conn Smythe, two Olympic Gold medals, World Championship Gold, World Junior Gold).
19 Peter Forsberg - San Jose Sharks
Peter Forsberg was the main piece of the trade that saw the Philadelphia Flyers acquire Eric Lindros. You wouldn’t expect it at the time, but Forsberg actually turned out to be the better player of the two, and he went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Quebec franchise (in Colorado, of course).
18 Eric Lindros - New Jersey Devils
And here’s the Next One, Eric Lindros. Based on how hyped he was as a prospect, anything short of number one on this list for the “Big E” means he was at least a slight disappointment. But hey, concussions can do that to a guy.
17 Markus Naslund - New York Islanders
Markus Naslund didn’t reach the 1,000 point plateau like a few others who have already appeared on this list, but he beats them out because of the level of importance he had to the franchise that he spent most of his career with, the Vancouver Canucks.
16 Chris Osgood - Winnipeg Jets
It was tough to decide where to put Chris Osgood on this list. Was he just a by-product of a really good Detroit Red Wings team? Heck, the guy is one of just 11 goalies to record 400 wins, and he’s got four Stanley Cup rings (he was the starter for two). He was darn good. Would he have been appreciated more in a Jets (and eventually Coyotes) uniform? Who knows?
15 Ray Whitney - Philadelphia Flyers
Of all the players selected in the 1991 draft, Ray Whitney was the last one to retire. There was more to Whitney than just longevity, mind you; you don’t score over 1,000 points in the NHL unless you have some serious skill.
14 Alexei Kovalev - Vancouver Canucks
Alexei Kovalev was selected 15th overall by the New York Rangers in the actual 1991 draft, and that was a great pick by the Rangers because if we did the draft over again he’d go 7th. Not that Kovalev was without flaws, but his career numbers speak for him (1,316 GP, 1,029 points).
13 Zigmund Palffy - Minnesota North Stars
Ziggy Palffy was a lethal offensive threat throughout his whole career. He didn’t play in the NHL for an extraordinary amount of time—just 684 games—but, he finished his career with more than a point-per-game average (713 points).
12 Sandis Ozolinsh - Hartford Whalers
Defensemen who put up points at the rate that Sandis Ozolinsh did throughout his career are rare. That’s why Ozolinsh, who was originally selected by the San Jose Sharks 30th overall in the 1991 draft, moves up to the 9th spot in our mock draft.
11 Brian Rolston - Detroit Red Wings
Speaking of being selected 11th overall, that’s where Brian Rolston was originally selected by the Devils; at 10th overall on our re-selection list, Rolston is the player who ends up closest to his actual selection spot.
10 Michael Nylander - New Jersey Devils
Michael Nylander was a true NHL journeyman, playing 920 games over his career for seven different teams (two stints in Washington). The Swede put up 679 points throughout his career, including a few elite offensive seasons in the latter stages.
9 Glen Murray - Edmonton Oilers
Glen Murray is another player who broke the 1,000 game barrier from the 1991 draft class, skating in 1,009 games with the Bruins, Penguins, and Kings. He recorded 651 points before calling it a career after the 2007-08 season. He was also a true goal scorer, notching at least 20 goals in seven seasons.
8 Alexei Zhitnik - Buffalo Sabres
Alexei Zhitnik was originally selected 81st overall by the L.A. Kings in the 1991 draft, and that’s where he started his career in 1992-93. He went on to play 1,085 games with five different teams (primarily Buffalo).
7 Martin Rucinsky - Washington Capitals
Martin Rucinsky was originally selected 20th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, but in our re-draft he goes at no.14.
6 Jozef Stempel - New York Rangers
Jozef Stumpel retired after notching 677 points in 957 games, making him the 8th highest scoring Slovak to ever lace ‘em up in the NHL. Stumpel was originally a 2nd round pick, selected 40th overall by the Bruins.
5 Aaron Ward - Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite the fact that he’s recently fallen from grace thanks to a domestic abuse charge, Aaron Ward still makes it into our top-20 from the 1991 draft class. Ward, much like Matvichuk, actually slips in his ranking, as he was originally selected by the Winnipeg Jets 5th overall in ’91.
4 Richard Matvichuk - Montreal Canadiens
3 Sean O’Donnell - Boston Bruins
Sean O’Donnell was a calming force on the blue line for the better part of his 16-year NHL career. Originally a Buffalo Sabres draft pick (6th round, 123rd overall), O’Donnell went on to play 1,224 career games with eight different teams.
2 Steve Staios - Calgary Flames
“Steady” Steve Staios didn’t break into the league as a full-time NHLer until 1996-97, but once he did he stuck around for 15 seasons, amassing 220 points in his 1,001 career games.
1 Yanic Perreault - Edmonton Oilers
Yanic Perreault was selected 47th overall in the 1991 draft, but knowing how his career panned out, we now have him pegged as a top 20 pick, at least in 1991. Perreault, originally selected by the Maple Leafs, would have ended up with Edmonton in this case.
Perreault was a good soldier for the Leafs, and he also saw time in L.A., Montreal, Nashville, Phoenix, and Chicago before calling it an NHL career after recording 516 points in 859 career games. He's also widely known as one of the best faceoff men in NHL history.
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