The NHL draft has given us some of the greatest players to ever lace up the skates. For years, franchise and elite players were drafted by teams around the league and those players left a mark so strong that their presence is still felt on the ice today.
Throughout these drafts, there have been busts and steals with some teams absolutely loving their draft picks and others regretting them completely. There were even some draft years where multiple hall of famers came about and this makes ranking the best player from each individual draft extremely difficult. For the sake of including some of these incredible players, some of the draft years on this list will have an honourable mentions section.
It is interesting to see where some of these NHL legends began their career and which teams had the luxury of drafting them. Making the NHL is not an easy accomplishment and finishing an NHL career with more than 1000 career games played and collecting a point per game pace throughout that sequence is undeniably remarkable. Goalies are not forgotten either. In the past, the NHL had much more high scoring games based on the fact that the game has evolved a ton. Nets, equipment and rinks have all been tweaked and altered to become what they are today. This made the goalie's job much more difficult back then, especially with those extremely skilled players skating across the ice. That is why they will not be overshadowed and at times will be included in the honourable mentions section of that particular draft year on this list.
38 Mark Messier (1979)
The 1979 draft kicks off the first of many unbelievable draft years for the NHL. This draft gave us seven players who were able to finish their career with more than 1000 points. Out of that seven is the legendary Mark Messier. He was drafted with the 48th pick by the Edmonton Oilers.
Messier had a noteworthy career. Sitting number two in the all-time leaders of points and games played, Mark was not shy to put pucks in back of the net and setting up some highlight reel plays. He collected 1887 points in 1756 career games and within that span, he also collected 6 Stanley cups; 5 with the Edmonton Oilers and 1 with the New York Rangers. Mark was a remarkable player whose legacy will live on. The Edmonton native served his hometown team with pride for 12 seasons and he is greatly appreciated by hockey fans around the world.
Honourable Mention: Ray Bourque
37 Paul Coffey (1980)
The 1980 draft showcased quite a few players who were able to surpass the 1000-point mark but surprisingly, the highest point total came from defensemen Paul Coffey. He was drafted with the 6th pick by the Edmonton Oilers. The three-time Norris winning defensemen is one of the best offensive players on the back end to ever play the game.
Paul was already turning heads with 89 points in 80 games in just his second season. He drew even more attention to himself after putting up five 100+ point seasons after that. With a career-high 48 goals and 138 points in the 1985-86 season, Coffey was becoming a superstar and any team that had him surely benefitted from his services. It is not surprising that he was able to lift the Stanley Cup four times throughout his career as his play was difficult to be countered by his opponents and he showed passion in the way he handled himself on the ice.
Honourable Mentions: Jari Kurri, Denis Savard, Bernie Nicholls
36 Ron Francis (1981)
The 1981 draft featured some more extremely talented players. Ron Francis was one of those unique players who possessed an insane amount of talent. The Hartford Whales drafted him with the third pick. With a career spanning over four different teams and 1400 total games, Ron was able to help the Pittsburgh Penguins capture two Stanley Cups. He was often overshadowed on a Penguins team that featured the great Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr but aside from all of that, he was still a potent offensive threat to his opponents.
Francis was able to put up solid numbers his entire career and his play only started declining as age caught up to him. He sits top five in all-time points and number two in all-time assists. His career is something that will be remembered for years especially for the Hartford Whalers and the Pittsburgh Penguins where he spent a majority of his career.
Honourable Mentions: Dale Hawerchuk, Al MacInnis, Grant Fuhr
35 Scott Stevens (1982)
Scott Stevens had the luxury of being taken as the fifth of the 1982 draft by the Washington Capitals. With lots of superstars headlining this draft, Scott did quite well for himself considering his noticeable impact with his time on the New Jersey Devils.
Stevens helped capture all 3 of the Devils’ Stanley Cups and within his 13-year career with the Devils, he put up some remarkable numbers as a defender. He put up a career high 78 points in 80 games in the 1993-94 season while also obtaining a plus minus of +53. Not only was he able to put up points, he was one of the biggest hitters the NHL had ever seen. His hits were able to rock players completely off their feet and they often set the tone of the game. His services were greatly appreciated by Marty Brodeur, who was in net during his presence on defence.
Honourable Mentions: Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuck, Phil Housley
34 Steve Yzerman (1983)
The 1983 draft featured another three-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the Detroit Red Wings' best player of all time. He was taken with the fourth pick by Detroit, and Steve Yzerman made his mark on the NHL quite early. At less than the age of 25, he was already looking like a future Hall of Famer as his 155-point season would prove. He put up three more 100+ point seasons after that and ended his career with an astonishing 1755 points, good for 7th all time.
Steve left a huge presence on the Red Wings’ fan base. He was the team captain for over 20 years and his stellar play led to many playoff appearances for the Wings who were on a hunt for glory. Not many players are able to star in more than 190 playoff games but Steve did so, and he acquired three Stanley Cup rings in the process. Today, Yzerman's days are spent as being the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Honourable Mentions: Pat LaFontaine, Dominik Hasek
33 Mario Lemieux (1984)
The 1984 NHL draft featured one of the best players that the game of hockey has ever seen, as he was taken with the first overall pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mario Lemieux is one of the only players that comes anywhere close to the legend Wayne Gretzky. His stats do not lie and looking at some of his spectacular performances as a Pittsburgh Penguins, it is hard to imagine how this hockey player was human.
Lemieux put up a career high 199 points in 76 games in the 1988-89 season. He put up nine more 100+ point seasons after that and what makes it even more incredible was the fact that he only starred in a total of 915 career games. Injuries limited his playing time and he still managed to finish with 1723 points by the end of his career. Mario is a hockey legend who will not be forgotten. One could only imagine what Mario could have accomplished if he stayed completely healthy throughout his career.
Honourable Mentions: Patrick Roy, Brett Hull
32 Joe Nieuwendyk (1985)
The Calgary Flames got a real bargain when they drafted Ontario native Joe Nieuwendyk with the 27th pick of the 1985 draft. Joe wasted no time showing greatness in his first full season with the Flames, putting up 92 points and winning the Calder. His career only took off from there.
Nieuwendyk won his first Stanley Cup when he was just 22 years of age. He put up many more solid seasons in his 9-year tenure with the Calgary Flames. He was then traded to the Stars where his presence still held a large value. He helped the Stars capture two Stanley Cups which added more glory to his resume. The 1985 draft was quite weak but Joe proved his worth and showcased some memorable highlights throughout his career.
31 Brian Leetch (1986)
The 1986 draft was revolutionary for the New York Rangers as they found their franchise defenseman in Brian Leetch. Brian proved himself early for the Rangers netting 23 goals and 71 in his first full NHL season which won him the Calder as well. He was developing into the solid defender the Rangers expected when they took him 9th overall.
Leetch continued his skillful career and notched a career high 102 points at just 23 years of age in the 1991-92 season. Two years later, he was able to win his first and only Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers. He posted a shocking 34 points in 23 games in that postseason and his stellar play finally ended up in glory. In total, he served the Rangers for 17 years and is one of the best players to ever wear a Rangers’ jersey, especially on the backend.
Honourable Mention: Vincent Damphousse
30 Joe Sakic (1987)
It is awfully hard to stay consistent throughout an entire NHL career but the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche got loads of consistency when they drafted Joe Sakic in the 1987 draft with the 15th pick. Sakic is known to be one of the best centres of all time and is easily the best forward that has ever worn an Avalanche jersey.
The 12-time All-Star was able to put up 102 points in just his second season in the NHL. He continued an almost point per game pace all the way until he was almost 40 years old. This was quite impressive as he was able to score 100 points in the 2006-07 season at 37 years of age. His playoff performance was also outstanding and he was able to win two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs were quite fortunate to have Hall of Fame centre Joe Sakic for 20 years.
Honourable Mentions: Brendan Shanahan, Theoren Fleury
29 Teemu Selanne (1988)
Teemu Selanne turned a lot of heads when he put up a record 76 goals in his rookie campaign with the Winnipeg Jets after being drafted with the 10th pick. The Finnish forward looked to become an elite player in the NHL and fans expected similar results in the following seasons of his career. They were not disappointed.
Teemu joined the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 1995-96 season and spent a total of 15 years in Anaheim. He put up back-to-back 50+ goal seasons and a handful of 40 goal seasons with his time in Anaheim and he was eventually able to help them win a Stanley Cup in 2007. Selanne also played through his early 40s and age seemed like only a number to him as he had no intention of slowing down. He posted an 80-point season at the age of 40 and finished his unbelievable career with 1457 points.
Honourable Mentions: Mark Recchi, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick
28 Nicklas Lidstrom (1989)
The 1989 draft was hard to judge as the Red Wings had some incredible luck that year. Drafting Sergei Fedorov and Nick Lidstorm in the 3rd and 4th round respectively is something that was revolutionary for the franchise. Lidstorm was taken with the 53rd pick of the draft. For the purpose of this article, Lidstrom was chosen due to the fact that his role on the defensive end for the Wings played a huge part in their successful season and playoff runs.
Lidstrom put up 60 points in his rookie campaign and followed that up with many more 50+ point seasons in his 20-year tenure with the Wings. He played a massive role in the playoffs in which he was able to help the Red Wings amass four Stanley Cups. Nick’s role on defence also won him an astonishing 7 Norris trophies. Lidstrom’s career accomplishments speak for themselves and he has gone down as a legend and Hall of Famer for his team.
Honourable Mentions: Mats Sundin, Sergei Fedorov
27 Jaromir Jagr (1990)
The 1990 NHL draft gave us the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr who was drafted 5th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jagr has spent a large portion of his career with the Penguins but he has also played for a total of seven different teams.
His career started off on a high note with his draft team, the Penguins. By the age of 19, he had already won two Stanley Cups and put up a 32 goal season. His strongest years came from his time with the Pens and it is where he posted his career high 149 points, playing alongside Mario Lemieux. The real wonder of Jagr is the fact that he seems to not age like other players. He recently turned 45 years old and is still putting up some decent years with his current team, the Florida Panthers. To date, he has collected 1903 points, good for 2nd all-time, and one can only imagine what his total will be by the time he actually retires.
Honourable Mentions: Martin Brodeur, Keith Tkachuk
26 Eric Lindros (1991)
Eric Lindros made history for the wrong reasons when he was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques with the first pick in 1991. He did not want to play for the Nordiques and he made that clear but Quebec had drafted him anyway. Aside from all of this, Eric still had a spectacular career.
His career eventually started with the Philadelphia Flyers where he won the Hart Trophy in 1995 with 70 points in 46 games. Lindros’ career was plagued by injuries but he still managed to put up a career high 47 goals and 115 points in a single season. He followed that up with a few more 30 and 40 goal seasons. His career was cut short but by the age of 33, he had already collected 865 points. Lindros was extremely skilled and his full potential was never really shown so one could only imagine what he was capable of.
Honourable Mentions: Alexei Kovalev, Peter Forsberg, Chris Osgood
25 Sergei Gonchar (1992)
The 1992 NHL draft was quite weak but the one player who really left his mark was d-man Sergei Gonchar. With a career that spanned over 6 teams and 22 years, Gonchar had mastered the game and provided some excellent play for his team on the backend.
Sergei began his career with the Washington Capitals after having been drafted with the 14th pick, where he put up four back-to-back seasons of 15+ goals and 50+ points. He was then traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he helped capture the Stanley Cup in 2009. His play was brilliant in the playoffs as he was able to provide offensive work, as well as defending his own zone properly. Gonchar is a mentor for many young defensemen and his play on the ice is something both loyal Pens and Caps fans will remember for years to come.
Honourable Mention: Alexei Yashin
24 Paul Kariya (1993)
Paul Kariya was one of the headline players from the 1993 draft and he had an outstanding career spanning over four teams and 15 years. Kariya was most notably known for his stellar play on the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim who drafted him with the 4th overall pick.
At just 21 years of age, a young Paul Kariya was able to hit the 50 goal mark and accumulate a total of 108 points, his career-high. Paul set the bar high for himself at such a young age and this was something he was not able to top for the duration of his career. Besides that, his play was nothing short from perfect. He put up a 99 point and 101-point season afterwards and was able to hit the 30-goal mark another handful of times. Kariya may not have won a cup but the 7-time All-Star had a huge presence on the Anaheim team for many years.
Honourable Mentions: Chris Pronger, Saku Koivu
23 Daniel Alfredsson (1994)
One of the greatest players to ever put on the Ottawa Senators jersey was winger Daniel Alfredsson. The 133rd overall pick from the 1994 draft was a complete steal by the Sens as he gave them 17 years of consistent play and some spectacular highlight reels.
He only entered the NHL at age 23 but he wasted no time making his mark. He won the Calder after a 61-point season. He followed that up with some more solid seasons and a remarkable 43-goal and 103-point season in the 2005-06 season. Daniel was part of one of the best lines in recent history that consisted of Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza but this never led to a Stanley Cup win. Make no mistake, Daniel played well in the playoffs and his lengthy career will go down in history.
Honourable Mentions: Patrik Elias
22 Jarome Iginla (1995)
One of the greatest players to ever wear the Calgary Flames jersey was Jarome Iginla who was taken with the 11th pick of the draft. The Alberta native gave the Flames new life by being able to provide some excellent offensive work. He was able to score plenty of goals and set up some neat plays.
Jarome’s career started off rather strong as he put up 50 points in his rookie campaign. His follow-up was remarkable as his goal scoring only became better and better. He peaked at 52 goals in the 2001-02 season but he was able to hit another 50 goal season further along in his career. Iginla was turning into one of the best goal scorers of his generation and while his play has declined due to his age, he is still a skillful player that the Flames organization owe a lot to for his continued effort.
Honourable Mentions: Marc Savard, Shane Doan
21 Zdeno Chara (1996)
The 1996 draft gave the NHL many skillful defensemen but the biggest addition to the NHL system that year was the 6-foot-9 beast Zdeno Chara. Chara has served three teams and has captained his current team, the Boston Bruins, for the past 10 years. He was drafted by the New York Islanders with the 56th pick.
Zdeno has accomplished a lot throughout his career. He made his mark with the Bruins organization after putting up back-to-back 50 point seasons in his first two years. He logs lots of minutes and played a large role in the 2011 Stanley Cup win for the Bruins. His size is something he uses to his advantage and the fact that he is an offensive juggernaut as well only makes things worse for his opponents. The Bruins owe a lot to Chara for his continued effort and his career may soon come to an end as he approaches his 40s.
20 Joe Thornton (1997)
The 1997 draft introduced the hockey world to one of the best playmakers to ever step foot on the ice. Joe Thornton was highly regarded in his draft year and was taken 1st overall by the Boston Bruins. After just three seasons, he had already accumulated a 37 goal season and he was surely becoming a huge asset for the Bruins.
After putting up a career high 96 assists and 125 points in the 2005-06 season, Joe was traded to the San Jose Sharks who he still plays for today. Consistency has been key for Thornton as he has put up solid numbers for 12 years as a Shark. This has pushed his career total to 1001 assists and 1384 total points. He is slowly breaching the top 10 in all-time assists and has become a major asset to the San Jose Sharks organization.
Honourable Mentions: Mario Hossa, Roberto Luongo
19 Pavel Datsyuk (1998)
Detroit Red Wings’ players are becoming an occurrence on this list and Pavel Datsyuk is another one of those late round gems that was found by this organization. Drafted with the 171st pick, Pavel only got a taste of the NHL at the age of 23. He was already a Stanley Cup winner after his rookie campaign but he didn’t really break out until his sophomore year.
The pressure was on for Datsyuk as his role on the Red Wings team was becoming much more prominent. He did not disappoint by posting four back-to-back seasons with 8-+ points. Pavel eventually helped his team capture another Stanley Cup in 2008 after a spectacular playoff performance. Datsyuk was a consistent player throughout his entire career and he accomplished all of his glory with less than 1000 career NHL games played. Quite an accomplishment for the 3-time All-Star Russian forward.
Honourable Mentions: Vincent Lecavalier
18 Henrik Sedin (1999)
The 1999 NHL draft was extremely surprising considering the fact that two hockey brothers went in the top 5. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were drafted by the Vancouver Canucks and they had struck gold with these young Swedish siblings. Henrik was drafted with the third overall pick. Henrik was the first one to hit the 1000-point mark and his career highs in points surpassed his brother.
Entering the NHL at 20 years of age, Henrik didn’t really make his stance until he had a 75-point year in the 2005-06 season. He followed that up with many more great seasons. Henrik’s career year of 112 points at the age of 29 showed just how much skill he possessed as a playmaker and his brother benefitted greatly from this as well. It is unfortunate to never have seen him lift a Stanley Cup but Henrik has won the Art Ross and Hart trophy throughout his career. He still serves the Canucks and is currently on his 16th year with his lifetime team.
Honourable Mentions: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg
17 Henrik Lundqvist (2000)
Henrik Lundqvist holds the title of one of the highest paid goalies of recent time. Rightfully so, Henrik has posted many stellar years for the New York Rangers and surely they do not regret taking him in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL draft with the 205th pick.
Hank faced a heavy workload at a young age. At just 24 years of age, he was appearing in 70+ games and winning 30+ of them. Hank actually posted 30 or more wins in every full season he ever appeared in. His stats also prove his goaltending skill. The 2011-12 season saw him post an incredible .930 save percentage which won him the Vezina trophy. Hank has provided consistency and solid goaltending for the Rangers for more than 10 years and his services continued to be offered as he is about to end his 12th season with his lifelong team.
Honourable Mention: Dany Heatley
16 Ilya Kovalchuk (2001)
The 2001 NHL draft was another success for Russian players. Ilya Kovalchuk lived up to his 1st overall draft position quite quickly by posting 38 goals and 67 points in his softmore year with the Atlanta Thrashers. Things only took off from there.
Kovalchuk’s ability to score goals literally exploded by the time he entered his 20s. He scored 52 goals twice and hit the 40 goal mark another 4 times in his time in Atlanta. His total goals piled up to a monstrous 417 goals in 816 career games. This was only a tease as the last we ever saw of Ilya in the NHL was the 2012-13 season as he left to play in the KHL. One could only imagine how many goals he’d have if he didn’t leave the NHL before hitting his 30s.
Honourable Mention: Jason Spezza
15 Rick Nash (2002)
Rick Nash was another prolific goal scorer to hit the NHL ice. Drafted first overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rick was ready to make his mark with this new expansion team. It did not take him very long to do so.
At just 19 years of age, Nash had won the Rocket Richard trophy after a 41-goal campaign in the 2003-04 season. He was becoming a deadly offensive weapon for the Blue Jackets and his goal scoring continued for another 7 seasons with the Jackets. Nash then headed off to the New York Rangers where his stellar work didn’t fade away. He posted a career high 42 goals in the 2014-15 season and continues to provide offence for his team. Nash is now on his 5th year with the Rangers and is hungry for glory. Hopefully, the hockey world sees him lift a Stanley Cup before he retires.
14 Ryan Getzlaf (2003)
The Anaheim Ducks were very fortunate to have found two franchise players in the first round of the 2003 NHL draft. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are proven forwards who have made quite an impact for the Anaheim Ducks. The focus will be on captain Getzlaf who was on Anaheim’s Stanley Cup roster of 2007. He was drafted with the 19th pick of the draft.
Ryan’s tenure with the Ducks started in 2005 where he was already showing signs of greatness with 39 points in 57 games. The hockey world surely remembered his name by his fourth NHL season after he posted a whopping 91-point campaign. His consistency was key and his offensive work as a playmaker continued on for many years to come. Ryan is currently the captain of the Ducks and is continuing his decade long run with his Anaheim teammates.
Honourable Mentions: Eric Staal, Corey Perry
13 Alex Ovechkin (2004)
The hockey world was graced with the introductory of an unbelievable goal scorer named Alexander Ovechkin, who was drafted by The Washington Capitals with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft. Alex proved to become the best goal scorer of his generation after just his rookie season. 52 goals is what we saw him score at just 20 years of age.
It didn’t stop there. The 6-time Rocket Richard winner posted an incredible 65 goals in the 2007-08 season and 56 goals in the season afterwards. His opponents surely feared facing him as his shot was deadly and he knew exactly how to beat a goaltender. Ovechkin has amassed a total of 552 goals in less than 1000 games played, which is a remarkable feat that only a handful of players can accomplish. His name will go down in the history books by the time he retires as his goal scoring ability is one that is rarely found in this era of the game.
Honourable Mention: Evgeni Malkin
12 Sidney Crosby (2005)
The hockey world was once again shocked with the mass array of talent that was brought upon after the 2005 draft, as Crosby was taken first by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby was ready to make a historic presence in the NHL following the footsteps of his former teammate Mario Lemieux.
The 2-time Stanley Cup champion started off his career with back-to-back 100+ point seasons. Sid was giving the Penguins hope and lengthy playoff runs were surely in the mix as well. He scored a career high 51 goals in the 2009-10 season and up until this day, his point-per-game pace continues to cause havoc on his opponents. Crosby recently surpassed the 1000 goal mark and it would not be crazy to say that he could come close to 1500+ points by the end of his career. Crosby is an unstoppable presence on the ice and there aren’t many players close to his ability.
Honourable Mentions: Anze Kopitar, Carey Price, Jonathan Quick
11 Jonathan Toews (2006)
There is no doubt that Jonathan Toews is an accomplished player. A 3-time Stanley Cup champion and he hasn’t even hit his 30s yet. The Chicago Blackhawks are grateful for his offensive and defensive work on the ice and Toews has provided the Hawks with some stellar play for the past 10 seasons. The Blackhawks took him with the third pick of the 2006 NHL Draft.
Toews broke into the NHL quite early. In his first four seasons, he was already scoring 50-70 points per season. This was outlined by his career high 76 points in the 2010-11 season. His work continued in the playoffs where he provided a notable effort in all 3 of the Hawks’ Stanley Cups. Toews may not be the greatest goal scorer but his presence on the ice is felt by his opponents and without him, the Hawks would most likely not have become the dynasty they are today.
Honourable Mentions: Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel
10 Patrick Kane (2007)
Another player who helped the Hawks become a dynasty is none other than Patrick Kane. The first overall pick of the 2007 draft had already won the Calder after posting a 72-point season in his rookie year. Things were about to get even better for the American forward.
At the age of 21, Kane helped the Hawks capture a Stanley Cup, his first of three, after he posted 28 points in his playoff run. Patrick’s offensive work continued to shine for many more seasons to come and he recently hit a career high 106 points in the 2015-16 season. Kane’s offensive skills are duly noted and there is no question that he is an invaluable asset for the Blackhawks' organization. Paired on a team with 2006 pick Jonathan Toews, the Hawks are in good hands.
Honourable Mentions: Jamie Benn, Max Pacioretty
9 Steven Stamkos (2008)
The Hawks were not the only team blessed with a talented franchise forward. With the first overall pick, the Tampa Bay Lightning had acquired a skilled goal scorer named Steven Stamkos in the 2008 draft. Steven proved his worth by becoming one of the best goal scorers of this era, comparable to the great Alex Ovechkin.
At just the age of 19, Stamkos had secured the Rocket Richard trophy by netting 51 goals. He followed that up by hitting the 60-goal plateau two seasons later. Stamkos was off to the races and competing with the league’s best players but his recent injuries have limited his playing time hindering his true potential. There is no doubt that Stamkos is an insanely talented player and the Lightning cannot wait to get him back into form so that he can continue his goal scoring wrath.
Honourable Mentions: Erik Karlsson, Braden Holtby, Drew Doughty
8 John Tavares (2009)
The 2009 NHL draft featured loads of talented offensive players. Out of that pack lied Ontario native John Tavares who was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders. John was drafted to become the franchise centre the Islanders needed. They wasted no time and he cracked the lineup at just 19 years of age. He posted 54 points in his rookie campaign.
By his early 20s, Tavares was scoring goals in bunches and has hit the 30-goal plateau three times. This was outlined by his career high 38 goal, 86-point campaign in the 2014-15 season. John is looking to prove himself come playoff time as his team has only made three brief stints in the playoffs, but that may change as his offensive ability still remains fully capable and the Islanders management has began building a team around him.
Honourable Mentions: Matt Duchene, Victor Hedman
7 Tyler Seguin (2010)
The Boston Bruins might be beginning to regret trading their 2010 first round pick Tyler Seguin. He was selected with the second pick after Taylor Hall. Seguin had a breakout sophomore year with the Bruins, netting 29 goals and finishing the year with 67 points. He had also won the Stanley Cup in his rookie year. Once he was traded to the Stars, his skills became even more polished.
Seguin was becoming an offensive powerhouse on the Stars. He posted three back-to-back 30+ goal seasons and was proving to his former team that he had what it takes to put the puck in the back of the net. Paired up with teammate Jamie Benn, the Stars have a solid first line and Sequin provides them with the offensive ability they need in order to make a future playoff push. Seguin has already accumulated 186 goals in just 493 career games.
Honourable Mentions: Vladimir Tarasenko, Taylor Hall
6 Nikita Kucherov (2011)
With a team that features the likes of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, one player who has really been overshadowed from the 2011 draft is Nikita Kucherov. The 58th overall pick by the Lightning is becoming one of their best forwards and with Steven Stamkos injured, Kucherov has really stepped up.
His career didn’t really take off until his second season on the Bolts. Kucherov posted 29 goals and 65 points accompanied with a plus minus of +38 in his sophomore season. What is even more remarkable is the fact that he has been able to keep up this pace for the next two seasons. Nikita has already breached the 30 goal plateau in the current season and looks to beat his career high of 66 points. Things look very advantageous for the Lightning and Nikita Kucherov.
Honourable Mentions: Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Scheifele
5 Filip Forsberg (2012)
Another upcoming prolific goal scorer is Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg. The Washington Capitals drafted Filip 11th overall but they decided to part ways with him rather early and did not see his full potential. The Preds sure did and he is now thriving on the first line.
Forsberg broke out in his third season with the Preds when he notched 26 goals and 63 points. His offensive ability increased even more the next season with 33 goals and 64 points. Filip is looking like a promising young forward and his abilities are surely going to help the Predators to a successful playoff run. His full potential is not yet known and he could easily top his career highs. Time can only tell what Forsberg is capable of.
Honourable Mention: Alex Galchenyuk
4 Sean Monahan (2013)
Canadian teams have fared well in recent drafts as well. One of the biggest draft additions to the Calgary Flames has been Ontario native Sean Monahan who was drafted 6th overall. After putting up 22 goals in his rookie campaign, Sean was determined to surpass that and worked on improving his game.
Once the 2014-15 season hit, Monahan showed his true potential, scoring 31 goals and 62 points. He replicated this success with a 27-goal season in the next year. Although his stats have declined a bit this season, it has zero impact on the insane potential that he has. At only 22 years of age, Sean has much more to learn and is nowhere near his prime yet. Once he does hit his prime, what we can expect is unknown but future 30-goal seasons are not out of the question.
Honourable Mentions: Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov
3 David Pastrnak (2014)
As we get closer to the current year, players get harder to judge due to the fact that they have less NHL playing time. One player that has proved himself in that short span is David Pastrnak. A 25th pick by the Boston Bruins, David is growing into an elite goal scorer.
David’s career started off rather slow. He posted just 10 and 15 goals in his first and second season respectively. Pastrnak’s biggest improvement has come in the current season. The Bruins are seeing a 10 – 15 goal scorer turn into a player that is about to score 30 goals at just 20 years of age. This could be a tease of what is to come from Pastrnak as he is just 20 years old with an entire NHL career ahead of him.
Honourable Mention: Leon Draisaitl
2 Connor McDavid (2015)
There is no surprise that Connor McDavid’s name appears on this list. He was a highly regarded prospect and many people knew he would go first overall to the lucky team that was able to draft first. That team ended up being the Edmonton Oilers.
Connor’s career started off really strong. He posted 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games due to the fact that he suffered an injury midway throughout the season. Aside from that, this was very impressive and the hockey world saw only a glimpse of what McDavid can do. In the current season is where McDavid is really showing his potential. He has been at the top of the leaderboards in points for quite a while next to big names such as Crosby and Kane. With 75 points in 67 games, Connor could actually finish the season with the most points, winning himself the Art Ross trophy.
Honourable Mention: Jack Eichel
1 Auston Matthews/Patrik Laine (2016)
The 2016 draft is far too close to call as this is the rookie season for the players from this draft but we did get a glimpse of which players possess immense talent. Matthews was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the first overall pick, while the Winnipeg Jets selected Laine with the second.
The leaders in points from these rookies is headlined by Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk. Both Auston and Patrik have hit the 30-goal mark while Tkachuk has hit the 30 assists mark. There is no definite winner here but this makes the future of the NHL extremely exciting. All three of these players are getting playing time and are proving themselves. This leaves many speculations on how well they will do later on in their career. Will one of these players completely dominate the NHL for years to come or will another player from the 2016 draft, who is still developing, come out of nowhere and surprise the entire hockey world?