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!
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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).
He played 1,263 games in the NHL before calling it a career, and posted pretty impressive offensive number for a defenseman (740 points). He was a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and is one of just two players from the ’91 draft class in the Hall (Forsberg being the other).
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).
Much like Lindros, Forsberg’s career was also cut short due to injury. But Forsberg left an even greater impression on the league than Lindros, scoring 885 points in 708 games. If Forsberg were selected 2nd, like he should have been, he’d have went to the San Jose Sharks instead of
Fat Balloon Pat Falloon.
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.
Lindros still dazzled in the NHL for the better part of 10 seasons, recording 865 points in 760 games. Lindros was of course selected 1st overall by the Nordiques, but if the draft were done again he’d go to the Devils.
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.
Naslund, who was originally drafted 16th overall by the Penguins, retired with 869 points in 1,117 games.
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?
Chris Osgood was originally a 3rd round pick (54th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings.
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.
Ray Whitney was originally picked by the San Jose Sharks 23rd overall in ’91, but with his impressive career it was impossible to keep him out of the top 10 in our re-draft.
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).
If Kovalev did go 7th in ’91, he would have been Vancouver Canucks property. I can’t be 100 percent certain, but I imagine they’d have preferred Kovalev to Alek Stojanov, their actual pick. (Spoiler alert: Stojanov does not appear on this list.) Surely the Canucks would have liked having Kovalev on their side in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
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).
Originally selected 26th overall by the New York Islanders, Palffy quickly established himself as an elite scorer, notching 87 points in his first full season. Palffy would have made a great winger alongside Mike Modano.
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.
Ozolinsh compiled 564 points in 875 NHL games before deciding to play out the remainder of his career in the KHL in 2009. The Sharks may have whiffed on the Faloon pick, but they sure nailed this one at 30th.
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.
If Rolston went one slot earlier like he should have, he’d have found himself wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey to start his career rather than a Devils jersey. He played an astonishing 1,256 NHL games, and put up 761 points in the process.
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.
Originally a 59th overall selection by the Hartford Whalers (classic), Nylander was a draft steal, but in this re-draft he makes a huge jump, going up 48 spots.
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.
Murray was originally picked 18th overall by Boston, which is where he played the bulk of his career. There's no doubt the Oilers could have used him on the wing.
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).
Coincidentally, The Sabres held the 13th overall pick in 1991, so perhaps he could have had an even longer stay in Buffalo if the selections were made in our order. Zhitnik had decent offensive skills from the back end, registering 471 points throughout his NHL career.
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.
Rucinsky played just a shade under 1,000 games (961) before finishing his career in Europe, and in the process he recorded 241 goals and 612 points. He never won a Stanley Cup, but he came close in 1996, as he started that season with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche but finished it in Montreal (part of the Patrick Roy trade).
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.
A Stanley Cup eluded Stumpel, but he did enjoy some elite offensive seasons with the Bruins and Kings shortly after breaking into the league. He eventually made the move to the Slovakian league, where he still plays today.
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.
The Pittsburgh Penguins would have been the team calling Ward’s name if he were to have gone 16th overall in 1991. Ward amassed 151 points in 839 games from the point, winning three Stanley Cups along the way—back-to-backs with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, and 2006 with the Hurricanes.
4 Richard Matvichuk - Montreal Canadiens
Richard Matvichuk’s career wasn’t as long as the next couple of entries on our list, but he spent the bulk of it patrolling the blue line on a very talented Dallas Stars team—the franchise that originally drafted him. He adds 123 playoff games to his already-impressive 796 regular season matches, and has a Stanley Cup to show for it (1999). The Canadiens originally took Brent Bilodeau with the 17th pick and it's safe to say Matvichuk is a huge upgrade.
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.
The Boston Bruins may not have ended up with O'Donnell via the draft, but he incidentally ended up spending three seasons in Bean Town from 2001 to 2004. He won a Cup in ’07 with the Ducks.
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.
Staios was originally a 2nd round pick, going 27th overall to the St. Louis Blues. He never played a game for the Blues, but he did play 57 games with the Calgary Flames, which just so happens to be the team that would have landed him at 19th overall in 1991.
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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