Hits and misses at the draft by Northwest teams
With the importance of the draft when it comes to team-building, NHL.com takes a look at the best and worst picks by Northwest Division teams.
Whether it's the Edmonton dynasty of the 1980s, the dominant Avalanche teams from their first decade in Colorado or the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver teams of today, Northwest Division clubs long have demonstrated the importance of good value at the draft to the success of a franchise.
Every team has had its ups and downs since the draft began in 1963. Here's a look at the hits (and some of the misses) for the five teams in the Northwest on Draft Day.
Best first-round pick: Al MacInnis (1981) -- When you think of MacInnis, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the great slap shots in NHL history -- he was one of the few players who made goalies shudder any time he got near the red line. But MacInnis developed from a player with just a booming shot into a well-rounded blueliner who became one of the NHL's most effective defensemen. He was dealt to St. Louis in 1994 and retired a decade later with 340 goals and 1,274 points, totals that landed him in the Hall of Fame. Few goalies were sorry to see him go.
Honorable mention: Gary Roberts (1984), Cory Stillman (1992), Dion Phaneuf (2003)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Joe Nieuwendyk (1985) -- The Flames whiffed on their first-rounder in 1985 (Chris Biotti), but more than made up for it by taking Nieuwendyk, a slick center from Cornell, in the second round. Nieuwendyk turned pro late in the 1986-87 season and became the first player since Mike Bossy to begin his NHL career with back-to-back 50-goal seasons. He never hit 50 again, but was among the NHL's most consistent scorers for nearly two decades, winning Cups with Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey before retiring in 2006 with 564 goals. He's now GM of the Dallas Stars.
Honorable mention: Mike Vernon (1981), Robert Reichel (1989)
Best later-round pick: Theo Fleury (1987) -- Back-to-back 60-goal seasons with Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League should have made Fleury much more than an eighth-round pick, but most teams couldn't overlook his lack of size (he was only 5-foot-6). The Flames did, and got a player who set franchise records for goals and points (since broken by Jarome Iginla). Fleury helped the Flames win the Cup as a rookie in 1989, and he had a 50-goal season and broke the 100-point mark twice before being dealt to Colorado in 1999. He played three seasons with the Rangers and one with Chicago before ending his NHL career with 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1,084 games.
Honorable mention: Stu Grimson (1985), German Titov (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Brent Krahn (2000) -- Krahn was the second goalie taken in 2000, when the Flames chose him with the No. 9 selection after a brilliant first season in junior hockey. They were very patient with him -- Krahn played three more seasons in junior, then spent five seasons in the minors, battling a host of injuries while showing just enough to convince Calgary he might make it. The Flames finally gave up in 2008 and Krahn signed with Dallas. He made his NHL debut with the Stars late in the 2008-09 season, playing one period and allowing three goals. Krahn spent 2009-10 with the Texas Stars of the AHL and was the losing goaltender in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals, then played 12 more games with Texas in 2010-11.
Honorable Mention: Jesper Mattson (1993), Daniel Tkaczuk (1997), Kris Chucko (2004)
COLORADO AVALANCHE/QUEBEC NORDIQUES
Best first-round pick: Joe Sakic (1987) -- Sakic wasn't the franchise's first pick in 1987 -- highly touted defenseman Bryan Fogarty went ninth, six spots earlier. However, few players in NHL history were more consistent than Colorado's long-time captain, the last vestige of the team's tenure in Quebec. He scored every one of his 625 goals for the same franchise while leading the Avs to a pair of Stanley Cups. Sakic finally called it a career after the 2008-09 season and becomes eligible for the Hall of Famer this year.
Honorable mention: Michel Goulet (1979), Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (1990), Matt Duchene (2009)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Milan Hejduk (1994) -- The Nordiques found Hejduk in the fourth round (15 picks after choosing Chris Drury), and though he didn't come to North America for another four years, the Czech forward turned out to be well worth the wait. Hejduk has 371 goals in his 13 NHL seasons, including 41 in 2000-01, when the Avs won their most recent Stanley Cup, and a League-high 50 in 2002-03, when he also topped the NHL with a plus-52 rating. He had 14 goals and 23 assists this past season while serving as the Avs' captain.
Honorable mention: Anton Stastny (1979), Chris Drury (1994), Paul Stastny (2005)
Best later-round pick: Valeri Kamensky (1988) -- Quebec took a flyer on Kamensky in the seventh round, hoping the young Russian star might become available -- and he did, three years later -- meaning he was 25 when he arrived in North America. Kamensky was useful in the franchise's last four seasons in Quebec, but he really turned it on after the move to Colorado, scoring a career-high 38 goals and 85 points in 1995-96, then adding 10 goals and 22 points to help the Avs win the Cup. He added 28- and 26-goal seasons after that and finished his career with exactly 200 goals -- pretty good production for a pick that low.
Honorable mention: Claude Lapointe (1988), Samuel Pahlsson (1996), Radim Vrbata (1998)
Biggest disappointment: Daniel Dore (1988) -- The Nordiques swung and missed with the No. 5 pick when they selected Dore, a forward from Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Dore had 33 goals and 91 points in his last full junior season after being drafted and got a chance to skate with the Nordiques before his 20th birthday, playing 16 games in 1989-90. He played only one NHL game the following season, never showed much of a scoring touch in the minors and was out of pro ice hockey before his 25th birthday (he did play three years in roller hockey before retiring in 1996).
Honorable Mention: Bryan Fogarty (1987), Jonas Johansson (2002)
Best first-round pick: Paul Coffey (1980) -- Coffey, the No. 6 pick, was a perfect fit for a team that relied on speed and skill. Perhaps the fastest defenseman in NHL history (at least the fastest whose last name wasn't Orr), Coffey had five consecutive seasons of 29 or more goals with the Oilers -- including an NHL-record 48 in 1985-86, when he piled up 138 points. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1987, beginning an odyssey that would see him play with seven other teams before retiring in 2001 with 396 goals and 1,531 points, plus four Cups.
Honorable mention: Kevin Lowe (1979), Grant Fuhr (1981), Jason Arnott (1993), Ryan Smyth (1994), Jordan Eberle (2008), Taylor Hall (2010)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Mark Messier (1979) -- After picking Kevin Lowe in the first round, the Oilers went for Messier, who they had faced in the WHA, in the third -- never dreaming they would end up with one of the NHL's all-time greats. Messier wasn't a big offensive force at first, but became a 50-goal scorer in 1981-82, had six 100-point seasons and turned into one of hockey's all-time leaders with the Oilers and later with the New York Rangers. His 1,887 points are second only to Wayne Gretzky, but he has six Cups to the Great One's four.
Honorable mention: Glenn Anderson (1979), Jari Kurri (1980), Jarret Stoll (2002)
Best later-round pick: Kelly Buchberger (1985) -- The Oilers drafted Buchberger for his physical play, but "Bucky" became far more than just a guy who could bang bodies and protect teammates. Buchberger had enough skill to become a 20-goal scorer, enough speed and grit to become an effective penalty-killer, and he was a contributing member on a pair of Stanley Cup winners. Buchberger finished his career with 105 goals and 2,297 penalty minutes in 1,182 games. That's pretty good production from a ninth-round pick.
Honorable mention: Shjon Podein (1988), Miroslav Satan (1993)
Biggest disappointment: Scott Allison (1990) -- Allison was part of one of the poorest drafts of all-time -- not one of the 11 players chosen by the Oilers in 1990 played as much as one game in the NHL. He played two more junior seasons after being taken by the Oilers at No. 17, then began an odyssey through the minors (AHL, IHL, ECHL) during which he never scored 20 goals or 40 points. Allison went to Europe and played several seasons in the British League. He returned to North America in 2004 for a season in the CHL before retiring.
Honorable Mention: Jason Bonsignore (1994), Michael Henrich (1998), Jesse Niinimaki (2002)
Best first-round pick: Marian Gaborik (2000) -- The first draft pick in Wild history remains the best. Though he's been bothered throughout his career by groin and leg injuries and played in defense-first organizations, Gaborik is one of the NHL's elite talents. His 219 goals and 437 points are franchise records, as are his 42 goals and 83 points in 2007-08. Gaborik left the Wild in the summer of 2009 to sign with the New York Rangers as a free agent, and matched his career best with 42 goals in his first season in New York. He was limited to 22 in 2010-11, but bounced back with 41 goals as the Rangers enjoyed their longest playoff run in 15 years. He's likely to miss the start of next season after summertime shoulder surgery.
Honorable Mention: Mikko Koivu (2001), Brent Burns (2003)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Nick Schultz (2000) -- Schultz, the second player drafted by the Wild, became an NHL regular on defense at age 19 and remained one with the Wild until being dealt to Edmonton late last season. He's not a big offensive contributor (his career bests are six goals in 2003-04 and 20 points in 2009-10), but he's solid in his zone and rarely misses a game (27 in the last nine seasons).
Honorable mention: Stephane Veilleux (2001), Patrick O'Sullivan (2003)
Best later-round pick: Derek Boogaard (2001) -- The Wild haven't done well in the later rounds of the draft. Boogaard, a seventh-rounder, provided muscle up front but little offense. Still, he's one of only two players drafted after the fourth round by the Wild who's played in more than 164 games (two full NHL seasons). Boogaard signed as a free agent with the Rangers in the summer of 2010, but missed most of the season with injuries and died tragically last summer.
Honorable mention: Lubomir Sekeras (2000)
Biggest disappointment: A.J. Thelen (2004) -- The Wild took Thelen, a Minnesota-born defenseman playing at Michigan State, with the 12th pick in 2004. It had the potential for a great story -- local kid makes good -- but never turned out that way. Thelen was dismissed from Michigan State during the middle of the 2004-05 season, went to the Western Hockey League and didn't impress the Wild enough to earn a contract offer. He's played the last three seasons in the ECHL, though he did get nine games with Rochester in the AHL in 2009-10. He had 29 points in 65 games for Kalamazoo of the ECHL in 2010-11, his last pro season.
Honorable mention: James Sheppard (2006)
Best first-round pick: Trevor Linden (1988) -- Few players have been as identified with their team as Linden, the No. 2 pick (behind Mike Modano) in 1988 was with the Canucks. Linden was a 30-goal scorer as a rookie in 1988-89, led the Canucks to the seventh game of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final (and scored both goals in the 3-2 loss to the Rangers) and became an icon in Vancouver, where he played 16 of his 19 NHL seasons. He retired after the 2007-08 season, and the Canucks wasted little time raising his No. 16 to the rafters at Rogers Arena.
Honorable mention: Cam Neely (1983), Petr Nedved (1990), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (1999)
Best pick, rounds 2-4: Michael Peca (1992) -- The Canucks took Peca in the second round, but dealt him away in the summer of 1995 in a trade that brought back Alexander Mogilny. Peca never scored the way he did in junior (he had 50 goals with Ottawa of the OHL in 1993-94), but the two-time Selke Trophy winner became one of the NHL's best defensive centers -- and broke the 20-goal mark four times. Injuries limited his effectiveness in his later years, and he retired after the 2008-09 season.
Honorable mention: Stan Smyl (1978), Brent Ashton (1979)
Best later-round pick: Pavel Bure (1989) -- Bure was one of the best young players in the world when the Canucks took a flyer on him in the sixth round, not knowing if they ever would have the speedy Russian in uniform. But he was a Canuck two years later -- and quickly started filling NHL nets. Bure had back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94, then cracked the 50-goal mark again in 1997-98. He had 58- and 59-goal seasons after being traded to Florida in 1998, but a string of knee injuries forced him to retire by the time he was 32. Bure finished with 437 goals in just 702 NHL games.
Honorable mention: Igor Larionov (1985), Adrian Aucoin (1992)
Biggest disappointment: Jason Herter (1989) -- The Canucks took Herter with the No. 8 pick in the draft after a solid freshman season at North Dakota, and he turned pro after his junior season -- though his college coach thought he'd be better off coming back for one more season. Maybe the coach was right, because although Herter had a long professional career, he played only one NHL game, for the New York Islanders in 1995. Hip and groin injuries hampered him early in his career, and he spent several years in the minors before finishing with four seasons in Germany.
Honorable mention: Josh Holden (1996), Nathan Smith (2000)