For most of us, the film Back to the Future is an epic sci-fi movie. For NHL GMs, it's a movie that probably makes them sad, because time travel just isn't possible.
Nothing is more frustrating for a team or GM who knows they made a terrible mistake when it comes to the draft. Whether it's selecting a complete bust or passing on a player who became a major star, it's just something they'll never be able to live down fully.
At the end of the day, nobody is perfect and every team plays the "what if card." When it comes to the NHL Draft, we always get the opportunity to look back and wonder how teams and players could have fared out differently. How did the Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson 15th overall in 2009 when he's a once-in-a-generation player?
We can sit back and critique past draft picks all we want, but again, it isn't possible to just change a pick at the snap of a finger. But what we can do is look back on recent drafts and see which players have been the best and stood out compared to the hundreds of other guys taken in the same class.
This is going to be a tough list for some teams to read. I mean, what if the Pittsburgh Penguins took Jonathan Toews over Jordan Staal? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Toews as your top three centers? Yes please.
It's time to look back on the top 30 picks of the last 10 NHL Drafts who have had the most impact on their respective teams.
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30 Noah Hanifin (Fifth Overall, Carolina Hurricanes, 2015)
The Carolina Hurricanes haven't done much of anything since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup, but there is plenty to be excited about on their blueline.
Noah Hanifin has stood out on a mediocre Carolina Hurricanes team. The 6-foot-3 rookie blueliner put together a solid rookie season and the future is bright. He will anchor the Carolina blueline for years.
29 Tomas Hertl (17th Overall, San Jose Sharks, 2012)
Tomas Hertl is good, but not quite a star. It goes to show how disappointing his 2012 draft year was.
With the San Jose Sharks returning to the playoffs in 2015-16, they'll need their promising forward to show he was worth the gamble when they drafted him. Hertl has potential and, with the right team around him, could quickly develop from "good" to NHL superstar over the next few seasons.
28 Leon Draisaitl (Third Overall, Edmonton Oilers, 2014)
Leon Draisaitl burst onto the scene in 2015-16, stepping up for the Edmonton Oilers as they dealt with injuries to Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, and others. He managed to score on a bottom-feeding team and he's going to become a major superstar any time now.
With Connor McDavid, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and others to build around, Draisaitl should take significant strides with the team next season.
27 Dylan Larkin (15th Overall, Detroit Red Wings, 2014)
Dylan Larkin wasn't even a top-10 pick, but he's developed quickly under his hometown team, the Detroit Red Wings. The speedster played hard this past season and contributed to the Red Wings once again making the playoffs.
As Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk see their careers wind down, the Wings will rely on Larkin to become the new face of their franchise. With other youngsters like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar on the roster, that shouldn't be a problem.
26 Aleksander Barkov (Second Overall, Florida Panthers, 2013)
The Panthers needed a forward to start carrying the load for a frustrating team that couldn't fully develop. Aleksander Barkov has answered the call and stepped onto the ice in a major way.
Barkov is a huge reason the Panthers enjoyed a spectacular 2015-16 season. He's managed to put up solid numbers and that's impressive considering how lackluster Florida was in 2013-14 and 2014-15. He'll only get better with time.
25 Connor McDavid (First Overall, Edmonton Oilers, 2015)
Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are rising stars and they're going to start the next Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin rivalry. With the talent they both showed last year, that could come as soon as next year.
The Oilers future star missed some time this season but still produced when active for the Edmonton squad. McDavid still has a lot more to prove, as many expect him to be one of the best players in the league for years to come. The future could not look any more bright. It's just going to take some time.
24 Jack Eichel (Second Overall, Buffalo Sabres, 2015)
Jack Eichel should win the Calder Trophy, as he turned the awful Buffalo Sabres into a competitive and exciting team. Putting up strong numbers (which Eichel did) in a rookie season is impressive in this day and age.
With Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane in the mix, the pain in Buffalo will end soon. After a few years of absolute misery, Eichel will launch his name into the best player on the planet discussion any year now.
23 Matt Duchene (Third Overall, Colorado Avalanche, 2009)
The Colorado Avalanche haven't been able to take advantage of having a superstar like Matt Duchene, but he's still done his part with the team. The 2014 Olympic gold medal winner notched his fifth 20-goal season and got the Avs' to the playoffs in his first season with the squad. We'll see if they can keep building around him and if they can, the Avalanche could become contender once again.
22 Aaron Ekblad (First Overall, Florida Panthers, 2014)
It takes a while for defencemen to develop and reach their full potential, but Aaron Ekblad is already scary-good and he's got plenty of room to left to continue that growth.
The 6-foot-4 blueliner put up big numbers for a defencemen during his first two seasons with the Panthers. He's the up-and-coming superstar on a star-studded Panthers team that should be the team to beat in the Atlantic for years.
21 Gabriel Landeskog (Second Overall, Colorado Avalanche, 2011)
It's hard to argue the talents of Gabriel Landeskog. He hit the 20-goal mark three times in his first four seasons and became the youngest captain ever at 19 years and 286 years of age. The Avs haven't been able to take full advantage of his talents, but he remains a force.
However, the Avalanche may decide to move on from him if they keep failing to make the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see how many more times they give him to lead this team into the playoffs consistently.
20 Alex Galchenyuk (Third Overall, Montreal Canadiens, 2012)
The 2012 Draft wasn't a particularly great draft, but, last year, Alex Galchenyuk made the Canadiens look like they took the only bonafide superstar of the top five picks.
Alex Galchenyuk didn't show his full potential until 2015-16, in what was a disastrous year for the Montreal Canadiens. Once he got moved to center, he finally showed the talent that made him the third overall pick, scoring 30 goals for the struggling Habs. They'll hope that he'll keep it up next year when Carey Price gets back.
19 Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sixth Overall, Arizona Coyotes, 2009)
Ownership and attendance issues in a non-traditional hockey market has left the city of Arizona a questionable place to run an NHL team.
Despite that, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has become one of the most exciting offensive defencemen to watch in recent memory. The speedy Swede has given the struggling Arizona Coyotes something to be excited about and has reached the 20-goal plateau twice. Not bad for a defenceman in times where they can only score so much.
18 Johnny Gaudreau (104th overall, Calgary Flames, 2011)
In his first full NHL season during 2014-15, Johnny Gaudreau brought the playoffs back to Calgary for the first time in six years, notching 24 goals and 64 points. This season, Johnny Hockey continued to look like a franchise player, scoring 78 points in 79 games.
No other NHL tandem is as exciting to watch in 3-on-3 overtime than Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The two are so crafty and speedy with the puck that it's impossible to not be entertained by them. What a draft steal for the Flames.
17 Filip Forsberg (11th overall, Washington Capitals, 2012)
The Predators have always been a defense-first team, often not being able to score all that well. But one major trade made everything worth it.
Filip Forsberg was a steal of an 11th overall pick in the 2012 Draft for the Caps and the Washington Capitals surely regret trading him for Martin Erat. Forsberg is considered by many to be the best player of this draft and will be a superstar player for years to come.
16 Sean Monahan (Sixth Overall, Calgary Flames, 2013)
The Calgary Flames had a tough time replacing Jarome Iginla when it came to skill, fan appreciation, and leadership. However, it seems like they might've found some of that with Sean Monahan, who was taken with their top pick in 2013 and fit the bill immediately.
Monahan helped the Calgary Flames reach the playoffs in his second season, which culminated in 31 goals and 62 points, leading the Flames to the second round of the playoffs. Monahan would again surpass the 60 point mark this past season, even though the team struggled. Regardless, the future is bright in Calgary
15 Nathan MacKinnon (First Overall, Colorado Avalanche, 2013)
Nathan MacKinnon became a rookie sensation in his first year with the Avs, leading them to the Central Division title after posting 24-39-63 in 82 games. His second season was a disappointment with 14-24-38, but he's rebounded with another 20-goal and 50-point campaign in 2015/16.
No one knows how a team with MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie and others haven't been able to fully put it together yet. However, they're still young and still have time to properly gel.
14 Dougie Hamilton (Ninth Overall, Boston Bruins, 2011)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were a non-Phil Kessel trade away from potentially having franchise stars Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, but they instead saw both men develop with their rivals, the Boston Bruins, though those two are no longer part of the Bs.
It seems as though the Bruins will regret trading away a guy who became their best defenceman in 2014-15. Hamilton is becoming an elite rearguard in Calgary, but still hasn't reached his prime. However, he's already accomplished a lot and will continue on this path.
13 Phil Kessel (Fifth Overall, Boston Bruins, 2006)
The winger has one of the most dangerous shots in the league, as few wingers can score like Phil "The Thrill" Kessel.
Let's just forget about Kessel's final year with the Toronto Maple Leafs and assume he'll function better with Sidney Crosby in 2016-17 when they have Mike Sullivan behind the bench for a full year. Kessel has reached the 30-goal mark five times, with four of those being with awful Toronto teams.
12 Taylor Hall (First Overall, Edmonton Oilers, 2010)
With Taylor Hall, the Oilers have won the Draft lottery three times, yet they still can't seem to go anywhere. Still, with limited talent around him, he's been one of the best scoring wingers and constantly hits 20 goals.
He hasn't been able to avoid the injury bug, however. But once he does, and plays with Connor McDavid for a full season, the Oilers will probably generate the league's best top scoring line.
11 Vladimir Tarasenko (16th Overall, St. Louis Blues, 2010)
On a team that usually relies on every forward to play a two-way game and lean more on defense, Vladimir Tarasenko has been able to step up as the team's first true superstar forward in ages.
Tarasenko didn't make the St. Louis Blues roster until 2012-13, but the next three seasons saw him emerge as the team's best forward. He had 37 goals and 73 points in 2014-15 and had no problem hitting those marks once again this season (40 goals, 74 points). He's carried the Blues a long way and promises to be a dangerous scoring threat for years.
10 Claude Giroux (22nd Overall, Philadelphia Flyers, 2006)
Claude Giroux has been a stud in Philly, emerging as the face of the franchise and leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. Though he's yet to capture a Cup, he's turned the Flyers into a perennially dangerous team and is a sure bet for 70-plus points.The Flyers would be nowhere without him and the 28-year-old will be a top-10 forward for the foreseeable future.
9 P.K. Subban (43rd Overall, Montreal Canadiens, 2007)
P.K. Subban was a steal for the Montreal Canadiens at 43rd overall in 2007 and has emerged as the cornerstone of the franchise, at least when it comes to guys not named Carey Price. Subban became a full-time regular and turned an awful 2011-12 Habs squad into a perennial playoff contender.
He's a good bet for double-digit goals and won the Norris Trophy in 2012. Even though nobody has generated more hatred in the NHL over the last couple of seasons than Subban, you can't deny he's an elite blueliner.
8 Jamie Benn (129th Overall, Dallas Stars, 2007)
Jamie Benn somehow fell to 129th overall in the NHL Draft and he has teamed up with Tyler Seguin to form the most deadly duo in the league. He had three 20-goal seasons to start his career and has already reached the 30-goal and 60-point mark three times. He's going to be a force for years.
All he's done is show teams how silly they were for not taking him earlier. Benn is going to score lots of goals and make teams pay for their mistake. He and Seguin will be a joy to watch for years.
7 Tyler Seguin (Second Overall, Boston Bruins, 2010)
The 2010 NHL Draft was hyped up as "Taylor or Tyler," and even though both men have had great careers, the Edmonton Oilers could have used Tyler Seguin's talents more than Taylor Hall's, at least up until this point.
After Seguin won a Stanley Cup in his rookie year with the Boston Bruins, he was traded to the Dallas Stars before the 2013-14 season. He's hit the 70-point mark in his first three seasons in Big D, while hitting the 30-goal mark each time. He turned a struggling Stars team into one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
6 John Tavares (First Overall, New York Islanders, 2009)
Though John Tavares is still trying to guide the New York Islanders to the Cup and his first piece of NHL Hardware, he's still helped an awful team on the brink of relocating become an exciting playoff contender, leading the young squad and succeeding with many linemates.
In fact, we still haven't seen him officially reach his prime. He's got Sidney Crosby calibre talent in him. It's a matter of when we see it, not if.
5 Drew Doughty (Second Overall, Los Angeles Kings, 2008)
Drew Doughty is the best all-around defenceman in the league, as evidenced by his two Stanley Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals. He's a force at both ends of the ice and is responsible for making the Kings a bonafide Cup contender.
All the man does is win. The only reason he isn't higher on our list is because he's benefited from a much better supporting cast than most, but it's impossible to overlook everything he has on the ice.
4 Steven Stamkos (First Overall, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2008)
Steven Stamkos took an awful Lightning team and became a constant 40-plus goal scorer, including a 2011-12 campaign where he lit the lamp 60 times. The Lightning made the Cup Final in 2015 thanks to his hot stick. He's a top-five NHL player and the league's top goal-scorer not named Alex Ovechkin.
This summer, he'll become arguably the most sought-after free agent in NHL history. He's only 26-years-old and should have a handful of 50-goal seasons left in him. He'll basically be able to hand pick his team.
3 Erik Karlsson (15th Overall, Ottawa Senators, 2008)
In a ridiculously low-scoring era, he's putting up 20 goals a season and sometimes even 70-plus points a season. How much more dominant does that get? No NHL defenceman has been more exciting to watch in the last 20 years than Erik Karlsson.
A defenceman has not controlled the game like this since probably Bobby Orr and Erik Karlsson has made an awful Ottawa Senators squad look elite most nights, thanks to his high-flying speed and ability. Nikita Filatov, Cody Hodgson, Kyle Beach, and Zach Boychuk went higher than him, FYI.
2 Patrick Kane (First Overall, Chicago Blackhawks, 2007)
Patrick Kane, like Jonathan Toews, is a pure winner who scores ridiculously clutch goals, has a Conny Smythe Trophy and is on his way to winning his first Art Ross and Hart Trophy. He also has three Stanley Cup rings with the Blackhawks.
He's been a force at both ends of the ice and his numbers have been phenomenal despite playing in a defensive era.
1 Jonathan Toews (Third Overall, Chicago Blackhawks, 2006)
There is no questioning that Jonathan Toews is the top man on this list. He's emerged as the league's best two-way player, the best leader, and literally the biggest champion in the NHL right now.
He's won three Stanley Cup Championships with the Chicago Blackhawks and led Canada to Olympic gold medal championships in 2006 and 2010, scoring in both of the final games those years. Toews also won the Conn Smythe in 2010 and the Selke Trophy in 2013 and always comes through in the clutch.
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