Over the past five years the National Hockey League has seen various players selected in the top five picks of the draft. There have been generational talents, there have been players that are slow to progress, and there have been busts.
The NHL Entry Draft requires fans to be more patient than with other sports. Players selected high in the NFL and NBA drafts are expected to contribute to their teams right away, but NHL prospects generally need a lot more time to develop. Several top-five picks still need a year of seasoning in junior hockey and may have to spend a couple of years in the AHL before they make the jump and become regular contributors in the NHL.
After five years though, we can start to see where these top-five picks will go in their careers. For example, it's pretty well established by now that Nail Yakupov, the first pick in the 2012 draft, has been a huge bust, while it's already evident that 2015 first overall pick Connor McDavid is going to be the best player of the next generation.
From the 2012 first overall pick to the 2016 fifth overall pick, here are the eight best and seven worst selections made over the past five NHL drafts.
15 15. Best - Alex Galchenyuk (3rd overall, 2012)
Alex Galchenyuk was selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. It was a relatively weak draft, but the Canadiens came away with one of the best players in the top five.
Galchenyuk was able to play half a season with his junior team, the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League, and a 48-game season with the Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13, thanks to the lockout. Galchenyuk impressed with Sarnia, scoring 27 goals and adding 34 assists for 61 points in 33 games prior to the lockout ending.
He didn't have a phenomenal rookie season with the Canadiens, but he showed off his skills. He scored nine goals and added 18 assists for 27 points while playing in all 48 games. Galchenyuk became the youngest player to play a full season with Montreal in over 25 years.
14 14. Worst - Dylan Strome (3rd overall, 2015)
Dylan Strome was selected with the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. However, he has failed to do much in the NHL over the past two seasons.
Strome was very impressive with his junior team last season, putting up 111 points (37 goals and 74 assists) in 56 games, but he has yet to do anything at the professional level. He played in seven games to start this season with the Arizona Coyotes, but he failed to score a goal and only recorded one assist while carrying a minus-five rating.
Strome is a big-bodied, offensive dynamo that has already proven that he can dominate teenage competition, but he failed to step it up at the next level with the Coyotes. It doesn't help that Strome was sandwiched around four great players.
When the two picks ahead of you are generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel it's tough to live up to the hype. However, even the players selected after him in the top five, Mitchell Marner and Noah Hanifin, are proving themselves in the NHL over the past two seasons. McDavid and Eichel have over 100 points in over 100 games, while Marner has topped 50 points in his rookie season. Hanifin has also become a force to be reckoned with on Carolina's blue line.
13 13. Best - Nathan MacKinnon (1st overall, 2013)
The Colorado Avalanche made Nathan MacKinnon the first overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. Since then, he hasn't disappointed.
MacKinnon has been a solid contributor for the Avalanche since he was drafted. He won the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the 2013-14 season, putting up 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points in 82 games. He has battled with injuries a bit over the past two seasons, but he has remained a consistent producer.
MacKinnon has become a key cog to the Avalanche's rebuild. Although the Colorado franchise is going through some turmoil right now, MacKinnon was the number one player on the list of untouchables. Captain Gabriel Landeskog and top-line center Matt Duchene were rumored in trades, but it was made clear that MacKinnon was staying in Colorado, and for good reason.
12 12. Worst - Ryan Murray (2nd overall, 2012)
The 2012 NHL Draft was a weak one, but the Columbus Blue Jackets flubbed when they selected Ryan Murray with the second overall pick.
Murray has become a decent defenseman for the Blue Jackets, but he doesn't bring the skills or presence one might expect out of a second overall draft pick. Murray has played in 219 games over his first four seasons in the NHL, scoring 11 goals and adding 49 assists for 60 points while carrying a minus-two rating. He has averaged ice time in the high teens during three of his four seasons, while playing nearly 23 minutes a night last season for Columbus.
In a vacuum Murray's performance is pretty good, but Columbus passed on a few players that have outperformed him in their careers. If the Blue Jackets wanted to draft a defenseman, both Morgan Rielly and Hampus Lindholm, drafted fifth and sixth respectively, have been great throughout their four NHL seasons.
Offensively they could've taken a chance on Filp Forsberg, who was selected 11th overall by the Washington Capitals before being traded to the Nashville Predators where he has become a star.
11 11. Best - Aaron Ekblad (1st overall, 2014)
The Florida Panthers were flirting with the idea of trading away their number one pick prior to the 2015 NHL Draft, but they must be pretty happy that they didn't. Aaron Ekblad has become the face of a Florida Panthers franchise that is quickly becoming a serious threat.
Ekblad was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, was an All-Star, and won the Calder Trophy in the 2014-15 season with the Panthers. He scored 12 goals and added 27 assists for 39 points, while carrying a plus-12 rating through 81 games. He followed that up with another stellar campaign last season, increasing his goal total to 15 while picking up a few less assists, just 21, for 36 points in 78 games. His scoring dipped by just a few points, but his plus-minus increased to a plus-20.
Ekblad's importance to the Panthers was made official when he was named an alternate captain this season for Florida. His 96 points through his first three seasons are more than both the second selection and fourth selection in his draft class, who are both forwards. Sam Reinhart has 84 points in 153 games, while Sam Bennett has just 59 points in 144 games.
10 10. Worst - Pierre-Luc Dubois (3rd overall, 2016)
It's tough to judge a prospect less than a year after he was selected, but people were already shocked as soon as the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Dubois was a consensus top-10 pick, or as high as top-5 by some, but there were a few forwards on the board that were more obvious selections for the Blue Jackets. After Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were selected first and second respectively, Columbus reached off the board a bit to draft Dubois.
Columbus left both Jesse Puljujarvi, the Finnish winger, and Matthew Tkachuk, the American forward, on the board by selecting Dubois. Puljujarvi has already made his NHL debut, with eight points in 28 games before being sent to the AHL, and Tkachuk has become one of Calgary's top-nine forwards.
9 9. Best - Mitchell Marner (4th overall, 2015)
In a draft year with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, it's tough to make a splash. However, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft is doing just that. The Toronto Maple Leafs selected Mitch Marner with their pick in the 2015 draft, and they are looking like geniuses.
Marner did all he could in his draft year, scoring 44 goals and adding 82 assists for 126 points in 63 games. However, the Leafs chose to send him back for one more year as they tanked. Marner nearly matched his point total, putting up 116 points (39 goals, 77 assists) in 57 games.
This season Marner finally joined the Leafs, along with rookie phenom Auston Matthews, and boy is he impressing. Marner has topped 50 points already. A lot of the spotlight in Toronto is on Matthews, but Marner deserves some.
8 8. Worst - Elias Lindholm (5th overall, 2013)
The Carolina Hurricanes selected Elias Lindholm with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Lindholm may have been a safe pick, but sometimes it's better for a team to take a chance on a player with a higher ceiling.
Lindholm is a good all-around player, but he had just nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 58 games as a rookie with the Carolina Hurricanes. He hasn't improved upon that too much either, picking up 39 points in each of his past two seasons. He is once again on pace for a high-30s total, with 36 points (a paltry six goals with 26 assists) in 57 games so far this season.
Lindholm has been a decent producer and will probably always have a spot in a team's middle-six or on the fourth line, but the Carolina Hurricanes passed on some good players in favor of Lindholm.
Sean Monahan, Rasmus Ristolainen and Bo Horvat were selected with three of the four picks after Lindholm, and it looks like all three of them would've been better choices. Monahan has already cracked 200 career points for the Flames, Ristolainen is a horse on the blue line, and Horvat is emerging as a top of the line center for Vancouver.
7 7. Best - Jack Eichel (2nd overall, 2015)
You can't have a best of the best list without the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Buffalo Sabres' 20-year old phenom is easily one of the best players drafted in the past five years.
McDavid was the near-consensus first overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, but Eichel made a solid case for the spot. However, Edmonton went with McDavid, Buffalo got Eichel, and the two forwards are rewriting history night in and night out.
Eichel scored 24 goals and added 32 assists for 56 points in 81 games last season during his rookie year. He was named to the All-Rookie Team for his efforts. Eichel's 104 career points are more than the third, fourth, and fifth picks have combined.
6 6. Worst - Michael Dal Colle (5th overall, 2014)
Michael Dal Colle was selected with the fifth pick in the 2014 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. Dal Colle was impressive in juniors and has been lackluster in the AHL while failing to crack the NHL roster.
Dal Colle may have peaked in his draft year when he scored 39 goals and added 56 assists for 95 points in 67 games with the Oshawa Generals in the OHL. Since then, he hasn't been the same. He declined to 93 points, although in 56 games, in 2014-15, before dropping down to 80 points in 60 games in the 2015-16 season. That season he was struggling in Oshawa before being traded to the Kingston Frontenacs, where he thrived. He scored 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in just 30 games to give the Islanders some hope.
However, he has yet to prove himself in the AHL or in training camp to make the NHL roster. He has just 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 58 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season, and failed to record a point while going minus-six in three games last season.
5 5. Best - Patrik Laine (2nd overall, 2016)
Like Jack Eichel, Patrik Laine played second fiddle to Auston Matthews leading up to the draft. However, unlike Eichel, Laine is making the case to be the rookie of the year.
Laine, drafted with the second overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, has been shot out of a rocket this season. He made a solid argument to be drafted number one overall, but the hype surrounding Matthews gave him the edge.
Matthews and Laine are different players, but Laine has a goal-scoring touch like no other. Laine leads all rookies in both goals, with 33, and points, with 60. He is two goals and five points ahead of the number one overall pick, Matthews.
4 4. Worst - Griffin Reinhart (4th overall, 2012)
If this name has you saying "who?" you aren't alone. Griffin Reinhart was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders.
Griffin Reinhart, Paul's son and Sam's brother, isn't quite living up to the family name. He has played in just 37 NHL games since being drafted nearly five years ago, and those games came in the 2014-15 season when he played in eight with the New York Islanders, and then 29 games in the 2015-16 season with the Edmonton Oilers. He has just seven points, all assists, in his NHL career.
The defenseman has been toiling in the AHL for all of this season, and for most of the last three seasons. He has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 42 games with the Bakersfield Condors this season, with no real path to the NHL paved ahead of him.
3 3. Best - Auston Matthews (1st overall, 2016)
Auston Matthews became a savior in Toronto when they won the lottery, and it became official when the Toronto Maple Leafs selected him with the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Matthews took an unusual route to the NHL, choosing to play professionally with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland rather than playing in juniors or collegiately, and it's paying off. Matthews has burst onto the scene and is living up to the hype with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs were projected as one of the worst teams in their division, but they are battling hard for a playoff spot in Matthews' rookie year. The Leafs have a lot of rookies, including the aforementioned Mitch Marner, but Matthews leads the bunch.
Matthews has scored 31 goals and added 24 assists for 55 points in 68 games as a rookie. He doesn't wear a letter for the Leafs, at least not yet, but you can bet that he's a leader in the locker room.
2 2. Worst - Nail Yakupov (1st overall, 2012)
Nail Yakupov was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers hoped that Yakupov could be another piece towards their rebuild, but it wasn't meant to be.
Yakupov failed to fit in with the Oilers, or even the North American game. He had 31 points in 48 games in his rookie season, a decent showing, but struggled after that. He had just 24 points in 63 games the following season, 33 points in 81 games after that, and 23 points (just eight goals) in 60 games in his final season with Edmonton.
Yakupov was traded to the St. Louis Blues this past offseason, and he has struggled mightily. He has scored just three goals and added three assists for a lowly six points in 34 games.
He was a decent player for the Oilers, but nothing like what you would expect out of a number one overall selection. Alex Galchenyuk, another forward with Russian bloodlines, was drafted two picks after him and has outperformed him throughout his career.
1 1. Best - Connor McDavid (1st overall, 2015)
There's only one way to end this countdown, and that's with Connor McDavid. The first overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft will be the next face of the league. Move over Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid is here.
McDavid immediately made his presence felt in the league during his rookie season. He missed a few months with an injury, but he still managed to record 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 45 games. He was a Calder Trophy finalist, finishing behind Artemi Panarin and Shayne Gostisbehere.
McDavid finished his rookie season on fire, and that has carried over into this season. He has a league-leading 76 points (23 goals, 52 assists) through 69 games for the Edmonton Oilers. He has helped transform the Oilers into a legitimate contender.
Connor McDavid is a generational talent that only comes around once in a decade, or sometimes even less. He is easily the best player out of the last five draft years.
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