The NHL’s Amateur Draft was introduced in 1963 as a way to help break the clubs’ monopoly on signing junior players via the league’s sponsorship system. Before the draft was born the six NHL teams basically laid claim to players based on the junior clubs they played with. If a junior team was sponsored by a specific NHL team then its players’ rights belonged to the sponsoring team. Things didn’t exactly work to plan though as sponsored players weren’t eligible for the draft from 1963 to 1969.
The sponsorship system was eliminated and the amateur draft as we know it was instituted. Over the years the draft has been as short as three rounds and as long as 25 rounds. However, some rounds existed of just a single player when a specific team exercised its right to keep choosing players. Today’s drafts are seven rounds long and this list deals with the top 15 players who were taken in the last round of an NHL Draft.
There has been a few dozen well-known NHL’ers taken in the final round of a draft and some fine players didn’t make the list, including Jason Demers, Carl Gunnarson, Derek Dorsett, Sergei Kostitsyn, Daniel Winnik, Jannik Hansen, Jonathan Ericsson, PA Parenteau, Mikko Eloranta, Karlis Skrastins, Brett McLean, Craig Adams, Claude Lapointe, Sergei Makarov, Dave Hannan, Chris Valentine, Andy Brickley, Tim Watters, Gary Howatt and Karel Rachunek.
15 Kim Johnsson
Defenceman Kim Johnsson was taken dead last in the draft and beat all the odds by enjoying a fine NHL career. Johnsson was chosen back in 1994 by the New York Rangers with the 286th pick. He’d go on to play five more seasons with Malmo in his homeland before making the jump to the NHL. Once there, Johnsson spent two seasons with the Rangers then four with Philadelphia after being involved in a trade for Eric Lindros. After signing with Minnesota and spending three and a half seasons with the club, he was dealt to Chicago. However, Johnsson played just eight games and missed the rest of the season and all the playoffs with a concussion as the Blackhawks went on to win the Stanley Cup. Johnsson then decided to retire with 284 points in 739 career NHL games.
14 Danny Markov
Defenceman Danny Markov might not have posted the numbers of some players who didn’t make this list. But he was quite a character and a player who didn’t mind sacrificing his body for the sake of his team. Markov was selected with the 223rd overall pick in the 1995 draft by Toronto and the Russian became a regular in 1997-98 after a successful 10-game trial the season before. Markov was a fan favourite due to his reckless style and had the skills to rack up 147 points in 538 career regular-season games. He also enjoyed a bit of playoff success by playing 81 postseason games. Markov played two seasons in Arizona with a half year in Carolina and Philadelphia and a season with Nashville and Detroit before heading back to Russia to play in 2007-08.
13 Anton Stralman
The Toronto Maple Leafs owned the 216th overall pick in the 2005 draft and used it wisely by taking Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman. However, the team wasn’t too wise when it shipped him to the Calgary Flames along with defenceman Colin Stuart and a seventh-round draft pick for forward Wayne Primeau and a second rounder. In an odd move, the Flames traded Stralman before he ever played a game with the team and he also played with Columbus and the Rangers before becoming a fixture on the Tampa Bay blue line in 2014. He helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and returned to the final the very next year with Tampa. The 30-year-old Stralman’s managed to play 622 NHL games with 207 points and is dependable in both ends of the rink.
12 Ondrej Palat
Back in 2011, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was taken first overall by Edmonton while Ondrej Palat was the fourth-last player chosen at 208 by Tampa Bay. A solid argument could be made that Palat is actually the better player. The winger has accumulated 218 points in his 307 NHL games while Nugent-Hopkins has racked up 265 points in 395 games. In fact, Palat is currently the sixth-highest scorer from the class of 2011 and is third in assists. There’s also a good chance the 26-year-old native of the Czech Republic climbs that scoring ladder before he hangs up his skates. Palat, who was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team for 2013-14, was definitely the find of the 2011 draft even though 10 other players selected in final round have played in the league.
11 Matt Moulson
The 2003 draft was a nine-round affair and it turned out to be a good one for those selected in the last round as eight players would go on to become NHL regulars. One of the best was forward Matt Moulson who was taken with the 263rd pick by Pittsburgh. The 33-year-old is still playing today with the Buffalo Sabres. Moulson never played with the team that drafted him, but has also skated with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild. He’s played 636 regular-season games and chipped in with 176 goals and 369 points. Moulson’s best years were with the Islanders where he had three straight 30-plus goal seasons. The only drawback to his NHL career so far is the fact that he’s played in just 16 playoff games.
10 Frederick Andersen
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederick Andersen is one of a kind on this list since the native of Denmark was actually drafted twice during his career. The 27-year-old was first taken by Carolina in the seventh round in 2010 with the 187th pick. However, the two sides couldn’t come to a contract agreement and Andersen went back into the draft two years later. The Anaheim Ducks then took him exactly 100 picks earlier as he went in the third round, 87th overall. Andersen is a solid netminder with a career 2.45 goals-against average and 91.8 save percentage. He was also named to the NHL All-Rookie Team for the 2013-14 campaign and shared the Jennings Trophy with Anaheim teammate John Gibson in 2015-16 for the best GAA. The Leafs finally appear to have solved their goaltending problems with his acquisition in 2016.
9 Brian Elliott
There were two fine goalies taken in the 2003 draft as Jaroslav Halak was chosen 271st overall by Montreal and Brian Elliott was the second-last player selected when Ottawa chose him 291st. Elliott had four seasons in Ottawa, five in St. Louis, a year with Calgary and a dozen games out in Colorado. The 32-year-old just signed with Philadelphia as a free agent after spending last season with the Flames. Elliott is one of the league’ steadiest goalies and a two-time All Star. Ironically, he also shared the Jennings Trophy with Halak in St. Louis in 2011-12 and led the NHL with the best goals-against average that season at 1.56. Elliot’s career GAA is 2.42 with a 91.3 save percentage. His numbers drop slightly in the playoffs at 2.60 and 90.8 in 41 games.
8 Jaroslav Halak
It wouldn’t really be fair to have Brian Elliott on the list and not Jaroslav Halak as their stats are quite similar. The 32-year-old Slovakian native has been with the New York Islanders for the last three seasons after being drafted 271st overall by the Canadiens in 2003. Halak has also played with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals during his career. His high point was sharing the 2011-12 William Jennings trophy with Elliott while they were with the Blues. Halak had a fine campaign with a 1.97 goals-against average as well as six shutouts and a 92.5 save percentage. His career record stands at 212-124-42 with a 2.41 GAA and a 91.7 save percentage. Like Elliott, Halak struggled a bit last year, but is still a solid NHL goalie.
7 Sami Salo
There were just two players taken after Finnish defenceman Sami Salo in the 1996 draft and he was an absolute steal when he was taken with the 239th pick by the Ottawa Senators. Salo played with Ottawa from 1998 to 2002, but even though he made the All-Rookie Team in 1998-99, he really came into his own when he was traded to Vancouver in 2002. Salo retired after the 2013-14 season while skating with Tampa for his last two seasons. He played 878 career games with 99 goals and 339 points to his name and also chipped in with 31 points in 102 playoff contests. Unfortunately, Salo was quite injury prone and would have easily reached the 1,000-game plateau if it wasn’t for his long list of about 40 different ailments.
6 Sergei Nemchinov
The 1990 draft was 12-rounds and the New York Rangers took Russian centre Sergei Nemchinov with the 244th pick. He was 26 years old and had already played several seasons in Russia. Nemchinov joined the Rangers in 1991-92 and was an instant hit with 30 goals and 58 points as a rookie. He spent parts of six seasons with the Rangers and also played a handful of games with Vancouver as well as two years with the Islanders and four with the Devils. He then headed home in 2002 to finish his career and get into coaching. Nemchinov’s first NHL year was his best, but he still posted 345 points in 761 games with 31 more in 105 playoff encounters. In addition, he won the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Rangers and in 2000 with the Devils.
5 Mark Streit
The 2004 draft produced solid Swiss defenceman Mark Streit. He went with the fourth pick in the ninth and final round that year as the Montreal Canadiens selected him 262nd overall. Streit has been an NHL regular ever since and the 39-year-old has also played with the New York Islanders and Philadelphia, where he spent four years with each team. He also made history on Long Island by becoming the first Swiss captain in the league. The Flyers and Tampa Bay did Streit a huge favour in 2016-17 when Philly traded him to Tampa and the Lightning shipped him to Pittsburgh on trade deadline day. Streit played the final 19 games of the season with the Penguins and of course the team went on to win its second straight Stanley Cup. Streit’s season ended with 434 points in 784 career contests.
4 Patric Hornqvist
The very last player to be taken in the 2005 draft was forward Patrik Hornqvist who went to the Nashville Predators with the 230th pick. He’s undoubtedly the best-ever player taken last overall as the 30-year-old from Sweden has one 30-goal and six 20 plus-goal seasons under his belt. In fact, he’s never scored fewer than 21 goals in any of his seven full NHL seasons. The Predators may have made a mistake by trading Hornqvist to Pittsburgh for James Neal in 2014 as he’s helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups in his three seasons with them. This is a guy who has 174 goals and 362 points in 579 regular-season games and 33 more points in 72 playoff outings, including the cup-winning goal against Nashville in 2016-17.
3 Doug Crossman
The 1979 draft was just six rounds and consisted of 126 players. It was the first draft held after the NHL and WHA merged to form a 21-team league by adding Hartford, Winnipeg, Quebec and Edmonton, Chicago had the 112th pick and used it to take offensive defenceman Doug Crossman from the Ottawa 67s where he scored 20 goals and 116 points in his final junior season. Crossman lasted 14 years in the NHL with Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, the New York Islanders, Hartford, Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis and played for Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup tournament. He scored 105 goals and 464 points in his 914 regular season games and 51 points in 97 playoff outings. Unfortunately he didn’t reach 1,000 NHL games as his last two seasons were spent in the minors.
2 Mike Krushelnyski
Big forward Mike Krushelnyski was also taken in the last round of the 1979 draft and went eight picks after Doug Crossman when the Boston Bruins chose him 120th overall out of 126. He had an excellent 14-year career and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup three times as a player with the Edmonton Oilers. Krushelnyski wasn’t the fastest guy around, but he managed to score 241 goals and 569 points in 897 games with the Bruins, Oilers, Los Angeles, Toronto and Detroit. He also added 72 points in 139 postseason contests. Krushelnyski played on a line with Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky in 1984-85 with 88 points and 43 goals. At Gretzky’s insistence, Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley accompanied the Great One when he was traded to the Kings in 1988.
1 Dave Taylor
The 1975 draft was a bit odd as it technically went 16 rounds, but a total of just 20 players were selected in the last four rounds combined. While forward Dave Taylor was officially taken in the 15th round, he was the 210th out of 217 players drafted by the 18 teams. Los Angeles took him and Taylor is the best-ever player to go so late in an NHL Draft. He spent his entire career with LA from 1977 to 1994 and then served as the club’s GM for nine years. Taylor was a member of the famous Triple Crown Line with Charlie Simmer and Marcel Dionne and is the team’s all-time leader in games played at 1,111. He was team captain between 1985 and 1989 and scored 431 goals and 1,069 points with 59 points in 92 playoff games. Taylor won the Bill Masterton and King Clancy Memorial Trophies in 1990-91, played in four All-Star Games and should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.