The end of the decade is nearly upon us, so we here at Daily Faceoff would like to commemorate some important events that have transpired over the last ten years in the National Hockey League. First up is a look at the best and worst draft picks of the decade (for the record I had this written before the SI piece but did not post it).
The NHL Draft, where hopes are born and dreams are ruined in which is pretty much a crapshoot. Thankfully hockey is not as bad as baseball, where signability issues lead to terrible players like Matt Bush being selected first overall, but there are still some head-scratchers out there. We all know that the draft involves a lot of luck, but here are some teams that really nailed their picks, and others that did not.
1. 2004 – Mark Streit (D, Montreal, 9th round, 262nd overall)
To put this one in perspective, the 2009 Draft only had seven rounds. Johan Franzen is the only other player selected after the second round in this draft to record 100 NHL points, yet the Canadiens were able to pluck a future All-Star out of the rough in the 9th round. On draft day, Streit was already 26 years old, and had spent time in the Swiss League, AHL and one game in the ECHL. The Canadiens took a gamble, and were rewarded with 109 points in 205 games from the Swiss blueliner. Following the 2007-08 season, Streit signed a lucrative deal with the New York Islanders, scoring 56 points in his first season on Long Island for a dreadful team, and making his first All-Star appearance.
2. 2000 – Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers, 7th round, 205th overall)
This is the first time you will see the Rangers on this list, but certainly not the last, as they take up four of the ten available slots. After being drafted by the Rangers in 2000, Lundqvist played five seasons in the Swedish Elite League, dominating for three of them, before jumping to the NHL following the lockout. Since then he has been nothing short of spectacular. He put together a 30-12-9 record his first season, finishing as a Vezina Trophy finalist, but not a Calder Trophy finalist thanks to a stacked rookie class that included finalists Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf.
3. 2000 – Lubomir Visnovsky (D, Los Angeles, 4th round, 118th overall)
While the fourth round is not incredibly late when compared to some of the other players on the list, Visnovsky has had by far the most successful NHL career. He has scored 332 points in 577 career games, and is on pace for his second 60+ point campaign this year. Visnovsky has blossomed into one of the bust puck moving defenseman in the game, and allowed the Kings to acquire Jarrett Stoll and Matt Greene in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers.
4. 2003 – Joe Pavelski (C, San Jose, 7th round, 205th overall)
Drafted out of the USHL, Pavelski played two seasons of NCAA Hockey at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro. He has been everything the Sharks hoped for, scoring 141 points in 227 games, and maturing into a solid second line center at the age of 25. He has scored 14 points in 19 games so far this year, and looks like he will be a presence in the NHL for at least the next half decade.
5. 2001 – Marek Zidlicky (D, New York Rangers, 6th round, 176th overall)
Also from the 2001 draft is another Marek, this time a defenceman from HIFK Helsinki. You may be surprised that he has scored 234 points in 414 games, an impressive pace for any defenceman, let alone one drafted this late. However, he falls below the other guys on this list because he never actually suited up for the Rangers, although he did help net them Mike Dunham in a trade with Nashville.
Honourable Mention: Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Laich, Ryane Clowe (6th round), Marek Svatos, Sergei Kostitsyn (7th round)
1. 2001 – Alexander Svitov (C, Tampa Bay, 3rd overall) and Stanlislav Chistov (LW, Anaheim, 5th overall)
We’ll lead it off with a pair of teammates from Omsk Avengard who were both drafted in the top 5 in 2001. The season prior to the draft, Svitov had 15 points (and 115 PIMS) in 39 games in the Russian Super League, while Chistov had 12 points in 24 games. Needless to say, they both flamed out quickly after making their NHL debuts during the 2002-03 campaign. They teamed up to score 98 points in 375 games at the NHL level, including a -42 rating, and are currently playing in the KHL.
2. 2000 – Brent Krahn (G, Calgary, 9th overall)
In what was not the greatest year to draft a goaltender, and the Flames missed worst than most, drafting Calgary Hitmen product Brent Krahn 9th overall. The decision did not look too bad at the time, as Krahn had posted a 33-6 record, 2.38 GAA and .912 SV% in his first season for the powerhouse Hitmen. But it was all downhill from there. It was the most games he played in a season in the WHL, and he never again topped a .900 SV%. Since his graduation from junior hockey following the 2003 season, Krahn has played in 201 games over six and a half seasons, including one period of NHL action in which he let in three goals on nine shots. He is still kicking around in the AHL as the backup goalie for the Texas Stars.
3. 2003 – Hugh Jessiman (RW, New York Rangers, 12th overall)
Jessiman is not just a bust because he himself has been a disappointment, but because of the quality of players drafted around him. The list of guys drafted after him in the first round include Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook and Brent Burns. He is the only first rounder to never play an NHL game, and one of only three players to lace up for less than 100 NHL games. Ouch. The Rangers knew they were taking on a project when they selected the 6’6 forward Freshman from Dartmouth, even after he had recorded 47 points in 34 games in his first NCAA season. Jessiman managed to record only 35 points over the next two years before turning pro. Since then, he has spent time between the ECHL and AHL. He has 6 points in 24 games for the Milwaukee Admirals this year, and any NHL hopes appear to have been dashed.
4. 2000 – Artem Kryukov (C, Buffalo, 15th overall)
This one is my personal favourite. Kryukov didn’t actually hurt the Sabres that bad because there wasn’t much of value taken after him in the first round other than Alexander Frolov, Brad Boyes, Justin Williams and Niklas Kronwall, but he is nonetheless an important draft bust. Not only is he the only 2000 first rounder to never play a game in the NHL, he has never even played a game in North America. Either he was not good enough to make it to the AHL, or he never wanted to come to North America in the first place. Either way, it was a bone-headed decision by Buffalo. Just wait, the story gets even better. I know the seasons in Russia are generally shorter, but he has only played in 326 games (101 of which were in the last two years) in the nine seasons since he has been drafted, scoring only 88 points. If you are doing the math at home, that averages out to 36 games per season. Classic.
5. 2004- Al Montoya (G, New York Rangers, 6th overall)
After losing goaltender of the future Dan Blackburn to a nerve injury that forced him to wear two blockers, the Rangers reached early in the first round to find Mike Richter’s replacement on Broadway. They went with Al Montoya, the young American netminder who had led the United States to a 4-3 victory over the Canadians just months earlier at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Helsinki. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Montoya’s international success and stellar performance at the University of Michigan did not translate to the pro level, and he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008. He is still young and has time to prove himself, but this choice did not turn out well for the Rangers.
Since I love you all so much, I have included a bonus draft bust. Hockey scouting has improved to the point that there is no longer Alexander Daigle or Patrik Stefan level disappointments in the top five picks, which robs us of a lot of material. However, there is one draft day decision that will make you cringe.
It is a beautiful day in Nashville, Tennessee, and the General Managers are gearing up for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe decides that he doesn’t want to use his 17th overall pick, and trades it to the New Jersey Devils for the 22nd and 68th overall picks. New Jersey selects University of North Dakota product Zach Parise, while Ryan Getzlaf and Brent Burns are also quickly snatched up. The Oilers are on the board, and Lowe selects Rimouski Oceanic center Marc-Antoine Pouliot. This is followed by the selections of Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry. With the 68th pick, the Oilers select Jean-Francois Jacques, who it would later take 59 games to record his first career NHL point. He started the 2009-10 season on the Oilers top line with 1 career point to his name. No wonder Ales Hemsky opted for season-ending surgery.
Pouliot/Jacques: 226 GP, 17 G, 29 A, 46 P, -28, 149 PIM, 4 PPP
Parise: 357 GP, 137 G, 151 A, 288 P, +57, 115 PIM, 97 PPP
I think Lowe might like a mulligan. The only good thing to come of this trade for Oilers fans is that they have a player with one of the best nicknames in the NHL: Marc Poopliot. No it is not a compliment.
So there you have it, my opinion on the best and worst draft picks of the decade. Feel free to comment if you think I have missed a big one or disagree with my rankings.