The only thing better than having the second-overall pick in the NHL Draft is to have the first-overall pick. Wait a minute, that's not always true!
You kids may be young to know this, but Alexandre Daigle was taken first-overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Chris Pronger went second, and he went on to win a Hart Trophy, two Olympic gold medals and a Stanley Cup while being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year. Daigle never lived up to his full potential, leaving many to wonder what truly could have been.
But hey, sometimes holding the first-overall pick can be great. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins who selected Mario Lemieux first-overall in 1984. He became one of the most dominant players of his era and led the Steel City to a pair of Stanley Cup rings.
So has holding the first-overall pick truly been better than owning the second selection? We take a look at the top two selections in the last 15 drafts, and see who's been the better player.
30 Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine (2016)
The Toronto Maple Leafs had an easy choice of drafting Auston Matthews first-overall in 2016. The flashy American centre has already made a significant impact, with 31 goals and 55 points in his rookie season. Matthews has the Maple Leafs in the playoff race even though they were far-and-away the NHL's worst team a year ago. Matthews is only getting started and will be going toe-to-toe with Connor McDavid for many scoring titles down the road.
On the flip side, Patrik Laine was compared to Alexander Ovechkin. He's already living up to that hype. The other Finish Flash has 31 goals and 56 points, and has played seven less games than Matthews. The Winnipeg Jets are among the NHL's worst teams in 2016-17, but Laine could find himself scoring over 40 goals anyway.
29 Who is Better?
It's basically neck-and-neck for the scoring title, which is a smart way to determine who's better. But given how Laine has played seven less games and has one more point than Matthews, it's a fairly easy call to say he's better so far. Or is it?
Laine also has a plus-nine rating against Matthews' plus-three. But the advanced stats are on Matthews' side. According to HockeyReference.com, Matthews has a 57.6 Corsi for % against Laine's 55.5. We are in an era where advanced stats really tell the story, but it's important to remember that Matthews gets more puck possession for simply being a centreman.
But at the end of the day, the advantage for now has to go to Laine. He's simply doing more with less and it's amazing to see him light the lamp so consistently as a rookie. Though it remains to be seen who has the better career, the early advantage goes to Laine.
28 Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel (2015)
The Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery and had a no-brainer in selecting Connor McDavid, whom some scouts said would be better than Sidney Crosby. In his second season, McDavid is leading the NHL in scoring with 21 goals and 72 points. He's carrying an Oilers team to a likely playoff berth -- their first in 11 years. McDavid has it all -- size, speed, slick skating, great hands and amazing shooting talents. The man can do it all. As of this writing, he has 37 goals and 120 points in 109 NHL games.
But Jack Eichel has been no slouch for the Buffalo Sabres himself. He has 39 goals and 96 points in 124 NHL games. The American superstar hasn't reached his full potential yet, but he's already the top player on an up-and-coming Buffalo team. Eichel has a beautiful shot and his skating isn't far off from McDavid's in terms of excellence.
27 Who is Better?
The stats don't lie here.
McDavid has played 15 less games than Eichel and has 24 more points. McDavid just might win his first NHL scoring title, but Eichel is nowhere close to that in 2016-17. No one is taking anything away from Eichel, it's just that McDavid is on another level from everyone else -- except Sidney Crosby.
The advanced stats (again, per HockeyReference.com), are on McDavid's side. His career Corsi for percentage is an amazing 58.4, while Eichel's is at 54.0. Keep in mind McDavid has had to work with inconsistent wingers Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle, yet he's already helped Patrick Maroon set a career-high in goals.
There is simply no debating it here. McDavid isn't only better than Eichel right now, but he's on his way to being the best player in the NHL, if he isn't already.
26 Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart (2014)
The Florida Panthers took Aaron Ekblad first-overall, and the third-year blueliner is already among the most established players at his position. Ekblad helped the Panthers win the Atlantic Division in 2015-16, scoring 15 goals and 36 points while posting an impressive plus-18 rating. Ekblad has yet to reach his full potential in the NHL, and he's already a Norris Trophy-caliber defenceman. He has 36 goals and 95 points in 222 games.
Sam Reinhart was taken by the Buffalo Sabres, but only played nine games for the Sabres in 2014-15. However, Reinhart did show plenty of promise in 2015-16, scoring 23 goals and 42 points. So far this season, Reinhart has 15 goals and 40 points. He will continue to progress more as the youthful Sabres continue to get better.
25 Who is Better?
This is not an easy decision. Comparing a centre to a defenceman is a lot different, and Ekblad has essentially played an extra NHL season. But the thing is, Ekblad has developed and established himself a little more than Reinhart has. Neither guy has reached his full potential and has plenty of room to get much better. But at the end of the day, Reinhart has a way to go. He's not even close to winning scoring titles, while Ekblad is capable of winning the Norris Trophy already.
We won't even bring the Corsi stats in, since they play different positions and styles. But right now, Ekblad is undoubtedly the top player to come out of the 2014 NHL Draft. Where would the Panthers be without Ekblad? Among the worst teams in the NHL, while Reinhart is the second-line centre on a mediocre Sabres team right now. Ekblad it is.
24 Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov (2013)
Nathan MacKinnon was the consensus number one draft choice by most prognosticators, and he indeed went first to the Colorado Avalanche. This team needed a slick, franchise-building centreman, and got one in the flashy MacKinnon. His blazing side and puck control have made MacKinnon a force to be reckoned with. He won the Calder Trophy as top rookie in 2014, scoring 24 goals and 63 points as he helped the Avalanche win the Central Division.
Oddly enough, MacKinnon hasn't come close to those numbers since. He struggled in 2014-15 with 14 goals and 38 points, following it up with 21 goals and 52 points in 2015-16. MacKinnon is up to 12 goals and 42 points this season, but is unlikely to reach the totals he put up in year one.
As for Aleksander Barkov, he's been the standout centre the Florida Panthers could hope for. After starting out slow in his first two seasons, Barkov broke out in 2015-16 with 28 goals and 59 points, leading the Panthers to an Atlantic Division title. He has 16 goals and 38 points ni 2016-17, so he's unlikely to build off a career year.
23 Who is Better?
These two came from the same draft class but have gone into different directions. MacKinnon was among the top scorers in his rookie year, but has seen his scoring totals go down. He's nowhere close to the scoring machine we saw three years ago. That being said, MacKinnon is playing on the NHL's worst team right now, so the support isn't exactly strong for the 21-year-old.
As for Barkov, he started out slow but has gotten much better since his rookie year. He plays on a much better team than MacKinnon, with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trochek, Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle. Barkov appears to be breaking through once and for all. He looks to be the face that runs the place for the long run.
But the stats don't lie. MacKinnon has 71 goals and 195 points in 280 games, while Barkov has 68 goals and 157 points in 239 games. These two are pretty even in terms of all-around talent, but the scoring totals put MacKinnon over.
22 Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray (2012)
Well, the 2012 Draft class has been a huge disappointment so far, and it goes double for the first two picks in 2012. Nail Yakupov was hyped as an incredibly gifted, speedy sniper but did have attitude problems. The Edmonton Oilers were concerned that he would quarrel with management and eventually bolt for Russia. Nonetheless, they took him with the top pick.
Yakupov showed promise in his rookie year (the lockout-shortened 48-game 2012-13 season), scoring 17 goals and 31 points. Over his next three seasons in Edmonton, Yakupov didn't score more than 14 goals and 33 points in a single campaign. The Oilers got fed up with Yakupov and gave him away to the St. Louis Blues.
The Columbus Blue Jackets selected defenceman Ryan Murray with the second-overall pick. He didn't have a ton of offensive upside to begin with, but his defensive abilities made him a hot commodity. In four NHL seasons, Murray has struggled significantly to find his full groove in the NHL.
21 Who is Better?
Going with Murray, simply because he hasn't been a disappointment the way Yakupov has.
When a forward is taken first-overall, he should be scoring at least 25 goals and 60-plus points in a season. Yakupov could barely put up half of those totals in Edmonton, and his constant feuding with head coaches hasn't done good measures. Yakupov has just 53 goals and 117 points in 284 games. His future in St. Louis is as cloudy as it was in Oil Town a year ago.
As for Murray, he hasn't exactly been a Norris Trophy-caliber defenceman, but he's slowly starting to make progress. It's just his third full season in the NHL, and head coach John Tortorella has gotten the most out of him. He has a plus-two rating and has helped Columbus become one of the NHL's stingiest defensive teams. Even if he doesn't develop more, he's at least a decent fourth defenceman.
20 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog (2011)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was just 17 years of age when the Oilers took him first-overall. Edmonton had won the Taylor Hall draft sweepstakes a year earlier, but they now had a franchise centreman to lead this franchise to greatness. Nugent-Hopkins had an excellent rookie year, scoring 18 goals and 52 points despite missing 20 games. It appeared as though Edmonton truly had a star on their hands.
In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Nugent-Hopkins had just four goals and 24 points in 40 games. He followed a disappointing sophomore campaign with back-to-back 56-point seasons. But injuries limited him to 55 games last year, and scored just 34 points. He has 32 points in 64 games in 2016-17.
Gabriel Landeskog became a leader on the Avalanche right away, scoring 22 goals and 52 points in his first season. He became the youngest captain in NHL history (at the time), at 19 years and 286 days of age. Since his rookie year, Landeskog has surpassed the 50-point mark, but hasn't blossomed into a bonafide star the way Colorado had hoped.
19 Who is Better?
Both guys started out their careers on high notes, both enjoyed some nice 50-point seasons but neither has become a true superstar like they were supposed to. Nearly six years later, and it's possible both players will find new homes before long.
The Avalanche were shopping Landeskog at this year's trade deadline, but are expected to strike a deal with another team in the offseason. The Avalanche captain hasn't been able to take the next step forward and is likely to be out of The Mile High City before long. It hasn't gone as planned in Colorado.
As for Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton has loaded up on standout forwards -- and he's somewhat lost in the shuffle. Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl are doing the scoring. Nugent-Hopkins was the subject to trade rumors at last year's draft and nobody should be surprised to see him get dealt in the offseason.
Landeskog has 113 goals and 272 points in 408 games. RNH has 90 goals and 254 points in 377 games. It's fairly even, but we'll give the advantage to Landeskog, since he did actually take Colorado to the playoffs and has scored more consistently.
18 Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin (2010)
"Taylor vs. Tyler", was the three words best summed up for anticipation of who the Edmonton Oilers would take first overall in 2010. Taylor Hall was the flashy, can't-miss left winger with great speed and a dangerous shot vs. Tyler Seguin, the talented playmaker with great skating. The belief was that Edmonton couldn't go wrong either way. Well...
Hall did have a solid rookie season in 2010-11, posting 22 goals and 42 points. He continued to make progress, scoring 27 goals and 53 points the following season. Hall had a true breakout year in 2013-14, scoring 27 goals and 80 points. But he played just 53 games in 2014-15, scoring 35 points. Hall was inconsistent in 2015-16 and dealt to the New Jersey Devils in the offseason for Adam Larsson. Hall was very good, but not great as an Oiler.
Oddly enough, Seguin was taken second-overall by the Boston Bruins but is no longer on the team that drafted him. Seguin had just 22 points in his rookie season but scored 29 goals and 67 points in his second year. Seguin was inconsistent in his third year, and was dealt to the Dallas Stars in a blockbuster deal.
17 Who is Better?
Seguin was solid, but not exactly a star in his three seasons with Boston. It was tough for him to shine with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand playing physical two-way styles. Seguin didn't fit the Bruins system and couldn't get the top minutes he deserved, since Boston was loaded with forwards.
But he's been a top-10 forward since joining the Dallas Stars. Seguin scored 37 goals and 84 points in his first year with the Stars, then followed it up with 77 and 73 points in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively. Seguin has taken the Stars to the playoffs twice, after years in the Western Conference basement.
Meanwhile, Hall struggled to stay healthy and wasn't great at staying on the puck. He didn't develop much chemistry with any of the other promising young players on Edmonton.
Seguin has 418 points in 490 games, while Hall has 369 points in 434 games. This is an easy choice; Seguin is the better player from the 2010 Draft Class.
16 John Tavares vs. Victor Hedman (2009)
The Islanders had been irrelevant since the lockout, but drafting John Tavares first-overall would end up changing the franchise's fortunes around once and for all. Tavares has become one of the league's most prolific scorers; taking the Islanders to the playoffs in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Tavares has 524 points since his rookie 2009-10 -- the ninth-most over that time frame. He's one of the top scorers in the league year-in and year-out, living up to all the hype.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning were perfectly content to take towering 6-feet-6 defenceman Victor Hedman, a great puck-moving star who also defended his end of the ice with force. He's led Tampa to a trio of Eastern Conference Finals (in 2011, 2015 and 2016), and is on the edge of becoming a Norris Trophy winner.
15 Who is Better?
Once again, we have an incredibly tough task of comparing a franchise centreman to a franchise defenceman. It's like comparing Jonathan Toews to Erik Karlsson -- some people prefer one over the other. There is no clear-cut answer towards who truly is more valuable to their team.
But here's why I'm going with Tavares: He's been more consistent.
He's scored at least 20 goals every year since breaking into the NHL. The only time he didn't reach at least 50 points was the 48-game 2012-13 campaign. That year, Tavares managed 47 points and was a Hart Trophy finalist. He's scored 70-plus points three times and has always been a threat on the Isles' offence.
Hedman was inconsistent in his first four seasons, but finally broke out in 2013-14 with 13 goals and 55 points. He's been among the league's top blueliners since, but Tavares has been dangerous since he entered the NHL. That's why we give him the victory here.
14 Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty (2008)
There was no doubting at the time that the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to take Steven Stamkos first-overall. He was the most pure-goal scorer in the draft since Alexander Ovechkin (four years earlier). Stamkos has been an absolute machine since breaking into the NHL, scoring 30-plus goals five times. Believe us, he would have scored close to 50 in 2012-13 if it wasn't a 48-game season, and if he didn't break his leg in 2013-14 which limited him to 37 games.
Stamkos has scored 321 goals and 582 points in 586 games, but lockouts and a number of injuries have prevented him from scoring far more than that. He's already won a pair of 'Rocket' Richard Trophies and nearly guided Tampa to the Stanley Cup championship in 2015.
Meanwhile, Drew Doughty is arguably the NHL's best defenceman. The 2016 Norris Trophy winner already has two Olympic gold medals and a pair of Stanley Cup rings. No defenceman is as reliable in their own end as Doughty, who's also among the top-scoring blueliners. He's the face of the Los Angeles Kings.
13 Who is Better?
It would be so much easier to call this a draw, but nobody likes ties -- hence why the shootout came into play following the 2004-05 lockout. Between one of the league's most dynamic scorers and one of the league's best defencemen, it's safe to say there is truly no answer.
The way I look at it, Stamkos means more to his team than Doughty does to the Kings. Los Angeles has always been a physical, defence-first team under Doughty. Having the league's best two-way forward in Anze Kopitar and world-class goalie Jonathan Quick helps Doughty out. He hasn't seen as much success since the Kings lost key defencemen after their 2014 Stanley Cup.
As for the Lightning, they are unraveling in 2016-17 without Stamkos. They were not as dominant in 2015-16 as the year before without him. They barely made the playoffs in 2016 without Stamkos.
I'd pick Doughty over Stamkos to build a new team, but the latter's incredibly gifted scoring abilities put him over on the list. But again, there's no right or wrong answer here.
12 Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk (2007)
The Chicago Blackhawks had the NHL's worst attendance in 2006-07, but were lucky to win the Draft Lottery even though the Philadelphia Flyers were actually the worst team in the NHL. It was a no-brainer for the Blackhawks to take slick sniper Patrick Kane with the first-overall pick in 2007. All he's done in Chicago is lead them to three Stanley Cups while winning the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as well as the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay Award in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Flyers were happy to take fellow American, James van Riemsdyk, with the second-overall pick. van Riemsdyk's progress was slow as he didn't join the Flyers until the 2009-10 season. He finally broke through in 2010-11 with 21 goals and 40 points, leading the Flyers to an Atlantic Division title. But after two more seasons with Philly, he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenceman Luke Schenn. The Flyers surely wish they could re-do that deal.
11 Who is Better?
With all due respect to JVR, the only way we'd be debating this is if the number two pick was Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Alexander Oveckin, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, P.K. Subban or Carey Price. JVR is not one of them, so Kane is the easy winner.
The stats speak for themselves -- Kane has 278 goals and 731 points in 722 games against JVR's 155 goals and 325 points in 510 games. Much of Kane's success can be attributed to playing with three Olympic gold medalists in Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. But come on, Kane is the front and centre of Chicago's success. Don't forget his Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Final against the Flyers.
Kane is arguably the best player in the NHL right now, so he's easily the better between these two 2007 draft selections.
10 Erik Johnson and Jordan Staal (2006)
In one of the more forgettable first-round drafts in recent memory, at least the top two picks became studs in their respective careers. The St. Louis Blues ended up with American defenceman Erik Johnson, who was coming off of an impressive World Junior Championship performance. Erik Johnson only played three seasons with the Blues before being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche that brought Kevin Shattenkirk over to St. Louis.
Johnson hasn't been much of a scorer, having only reached the 30-point mark (not that high for a defenceman), in three different seasons. But he's a well-rounded skater, shutdown player and can move the puck well. He's not going to be a Norris Trophy winner, but he does make the Avalanche that much better.
Jordan Staal has had an up-and-down career. He scored 29 goals in his rookie season. His totals are as follows from the 2007-08 to 2015-16 season: 12, 22, 21, 11, 25, 10, 15, 6, 20, 13. In a word? Staal has been incredibly inconsistent, but was a big part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship team.
9 Who is Better?
Neither guy has lived up to his full potential, but both have been good enough to avoid the draft bust label. Side note, imagine if the Penguins took Jonathan Toews with the second pick instead of Staal, that would be way too unfair.
Any who, Staal doesn't get to score as much as he's capable of because A) He was the third-liner in Pittsburgh behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and B) He plays very sound defensively as well, so he can't focus on scoring the way most other great scorers can. But his respectable 184 goals and 424 points in 743 NHL games give him the edge here over Johnson.
The former first-overall pick just hasn't been the franchise blueliner expected of him. Staal has just lived up to his expectations a little bit more, so he wins this one.
8 Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan (2005)
Okay, so you know who is the better between these two, but we'll go ahead and explain how both guys have fared for the sake of it.
Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player on the planet -- hands down. How lucky the Pittsburgh Penguins are that they won the first-overall pick in 2005, allowing them to select Sidney Crosby. Many forget, but this team was pretty close to moving to Las Vegas after the lockout, due to financial and attendance woes. Mario Lemieux purchased part of the team, and Crosby became the best player on the planet.
But hey, Bobby Ryan has had quite the career himself. Anaheim drafted him second-overall, but he didn't make the roster until the 2008-09 season. Ryan had four 30-goal seasons with the Ducks before being traded to the Ottawa Senators.
7 Who is Better?
Crosby is the best player on the planet, period. There is simply no debating that, with all due respect to Ryan. What can we say about No. 87 that hasn't been said? Crosby has two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, two scoring titles, two Hart Trophies, one 'Rocket' Richard Trophy and the 2016 Conn Smythe. Crosby has 372 goals and 1,007 points in 764 NHL games.
He turned a long-time losing Penguins team into the class of the Eastern Conference. What's amazing to remember is that Crosby has missed about 2.5 regular seasons in length due to multiple injuries plus the 48-game season in 2012-13. His amazing totals could be way more amazing. Think about that.
Crosby is the best NHL player since Wayne Gretzky retired in 1999. Moving on...
6 Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin (2004)
Well, things suddenly get more interesting now. We have two bonafide stars and by far two of the NHL's top-three scorers to debate here. Fellow Russian superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Arch-rivals, as Ovechkin plays on the powerhouse Washington Capitals and Malkin is on the defending Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins.
Malkin has two Art Ross Trophies over Ovechkin's one. Ovechkin has three Hart Trophies against Malkin's one. Ovechkin has six 'Rocket Richard' Trophies against Malkin's none. Malkin has two Stanley Cups over Ovechkin's none. Neither has an Olympic gold medal, but both won the Calder Trophy in their respective seasons.
It's basically been a neck-and-neck race to determine who the best Russian player of the 21st century is. Both were drafted to miserable teams but played key roles in turning their franchises into powerhouses.
5 Who is Better?
It's a tough question to answer. There's no denying that Ovechkin has earned more recognition and dominates more so than Malkin, but the latter definitely has had more success with his two Stanley Cup championships. Malkin is the second-line centre on the Penguins, so one can only guess how many more points he'd be scoring if he was playing first-line minutes.
Both are great players, but right now you have to roll with Ovechkin. Keep in mind a lot of Malkin's success comes from having Sidney Crosby on his team. Malkin isn't even the face of his franchise, while Ovechkin and Crosby are co-faces of the NHL. Ovechkin has 552 goals and 1,020 points in 902 while Malkin has 323 goals and 825 points in 700 games.
But Malkin does have 1.179 points per game in his career against Ovechkin's 1.131. Then again, playing far less games has helped Malkin maintain that incredible average. With that, we have to go with Ovechkin. A six-time NHL goals leader? That is just insanely awesome.
4 Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal (2002)
Ah, comparing a goalie to a centre. How difficult this shall be.
The Penguins owned the third-overall selection but traded up with the Florida Panthers to get the top pick. They selected world-class goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and no sir they would not regret it at all.
Though Fleury's struggles in the postseason over the years have been well-documented, we are talking about a guy who has eight 30-win seasons, and was a crucial part of the Penguins Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2009 and 2016. Fleury owns a respectable career 2.59 goals against average and .912 save percentage. He did become the franchise goalie the Penguins envisioned.
Meanwhile, Eric Staal came as advertised for the Carolina Hurricanes. In his second NHL season, Staal scored 39 goals and 100 points, helping Carolina win its first-ever Stanley Cup in 2005-06. He put up 70-point seasons in the first seven years after the lockout. He has 342 goals and 827 points in 991 NHL games.
3 Who is Better?
Both guys lived up to the hype and helped their respective teams win championships. However, Fleury has been awful in the postseason since winning it all in 2009. Keep in mind that backup Matt Murray was the goalie for most of Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup last year. There's a high chance Fleury leaves the Penguins after this season, so the consistent 30-win seasons aren't going to last much longer.
Staal hasn't reached the 70-point mark since 2011-12. From 2013-14 to 2015-16, his point totals were as follows: 61, 54, 39. He has 46 points right now in a renaissance season with the Minnesota Wild.
With all due respect to Staal, however, winning 30-plus games so consistently is nothing short of amazing. Staal has been a solid scorer, but he's not even close to the only guy who can put up many 70-point seasons together. Fleury has been a top-five goalie since breaking into the NHL, so we give him the advantage here.
2 Rick Nash and Kari Lehtonen (2002)
The Columbus Blue Jackets were fortunate to win the rights to the first-overall pick. With it, they drafted power forward Rick Nash, the 6-feet-4, 220-pound star from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Though the Jackets weren't really a relevant team, Rick Nash was one of the top-goal scorers during his time there. He shared a 'Rocket' Richard Trophy with Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla -- scoring 41 goals.
Nash scored 30-plus goals in seven different seasons with Columbus despite never having a great centre feeding him the puck. He made the most out of a lackluster supporting cast and is one of the best snipers of his era. Since being traded to the New York Rangers in 2012, Nash has scored 20-plus goals in three seasons, and his on his way to doing it again in 2016-17.
The Atlanta Thrashers drafted goalie Kari Lehtonen with the second pick. Besides picking up 20 wins in 2005-06 and 34 wins in 2006-07, Lehtonen didn't fully live up to expectations in Atlanta. Since joining the Dallas Stars in 2009-10, Lehtonen has had four 30-win seasons, though. He's been one of the more underrated goalies of the 2010s.
1 Who is Better?
Since breaking into the NHL in 2002-03, only Alexander Ovechkin (552 goals), Jarome Iginla (445), and Marian Hossa (413), have more goals than Rick Nash (411). Iginla has played with the likes of Alex Tanguay, Matt Duchene and Patrice Bergeron. Ovechkin has had Nicklas Backstrom, and Hossa has had Jonathan Toews as his top centre.
Nash never had a solid all-around centre since joining the Rangers in 2013-14, yet he's been nothing short of a scoring machine. Nash has made a case for himself as a future Hall of Famer and is far from done. He's got a few 20-plus goal seasons left in him.
As for Lehtonen, his 288-213-63 record on mainly mediocre Thrashers and Stars teams is quite impressive. But his 2.71 goals against average and .912 save percentage leave a lot to be desired. He's slightly above average, but nothing more.