In today’s NHL it’s more important than ever to build successfully through the draft. And actually, the best teams have always needed to be successful at the draft table, but in an era where every dollar has to be managed and mined for efficiency, being able to bring along your own homegrown players is vital.
It’s one thing to be able to nab a player in the first round, and the higher up you pick in that order, the easier it is to land a franchise-defining player who can turn fortunes. But the real gains are made outside of Round 1. That’s where the most celebrated gems are found, whether you hit on a true superstar or just an impactful support player.
So in today’s Power Rankings we’re looking back at each NHL team’s best pick outside of the first round, going back 15 drafts to 2005, the first of the salary cap era.
Now, not all of these players paid off for the team that drafted them — sometimes it takes a change of scenery to launch a career. But we’re ranking the teams this week based on what these players did in their NHL careers, whether it was with the original organization or not.
From an individual player perspective, here is the best pick each team has made beyond the first round…
1. Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov, Round 2, 58th overall in 2011
Defending Art Ross, Hart and Ted Lindsay Award winner, Kucherov is the second-highest NHL scorer over the past four seasons. From 18 points in 52 games as a rookie to one of the league’s top five players, Kucherov is a centrepiece on one of the league’s strongest teams.
Honourable mentions: Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Gusev, Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli
2. Boston: Brad Marchand, Round 3, 71st overall in 2006
Known as one of the league’s premier pests, Marchand started taking off as an elite scorer four years ago and he’s now the fifth-highest point getter of his draft class. The real takeaway here is, for such a perpetually strong team, the Bruins haven’t drafted all that well outside of the first round.
Honourable mentions: Brandon Carlo, Milan Lucic, Vladimir Sobotka
3. Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick, Round 3, 72nd overall in 2005
He’s not what he was at his peak anymore, but don’t let that cloud your vision. Quick was one of the best goalies of the last decade, with the fourth-most wins, second-most shutouts, two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe. It’s hard to get much better than that for a third-rounder.
Honourable mentions: Alec Martinez, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Tyler Toffoli, Dominik Kubalik
4. Ottawa: Mark Stone, Round 6, 178th overall in 2010
Always regarded as a smart player, Stone was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy last season, becoming the first winger to earn that nod since 2006-07. And the recognition of his defensive game in an official capacity is coming at the same time his offensive game is taking off, with Stone ranking 13th in points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 action league-wide since 2017-18.
Honourable mentions: Mark Borowiecki, Derek Grant, Zack Smith, Jakob Silfverberg, Robin Lehner, Mike Hoffman, J-G Pageau, Ryan Dzingel, Drake Batherson
5. Colorado: Ryan O’Reilly, Round 2, 33rd overall in 2009
One of the truly elite two-way centres in the game, O’Reilly added a Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup to his resume last summer. His road to St. Louis has been pretty wild, too, including an ill-advised offer sheet from Calgary (that was matched), a trade to Buffalo and another trade to the Blues. That’s a lot of moving around for such a valuable player.
Honourable mentions: Tyson Barrie, Paul Stastny, Will Butcher
6. Montreal: P.K. Subban, Round 2, 43rd overall in 2007
A dominant defenceman at his best, Subban won a Norris in 2013, was a finalist two other times and is the highest-scoring defenceman from his class — though he was the 17th off the board in 2007. His 2019-20 has been tough for sure, but as Andrew Berkshire wrote recently, there are indications that he can be made effective again.
Honourable mentions: Sergei Kostitsyn, Brendan Gallagher, Victor Mete
7. Washington: Braden Holtby, Round 4, 93rd overall in 2008
For a three-year stretch Holtby was regarded as one of the best goalies in the world and he earned the Vezina and Jennings Trophies in successive seasons, then added a Stanley Cup on top. With one year left on his contract and his 31st birthday coming up in September, Holtby’s future with the Capitals is up in the air.
Honourable mentions: Mathieu Perreault, Michal Neuvirth, Dmitri Orlov, Cody Eakin, Philipp Grubauer
8. Nashville: Roman Josi, Round 2, 38th overall in 2008
Ask Sportsnet NHL Insiders and you’ll see Josi is one of the two solid contenders for this year’s Norris Trophy, along with John Carlson. In the 2008 and 2009 drafts, the Predators basically built up half of their current defence corps. David Poile has had an exceptionally strong history of drafting blue-liners in Nashville.
Patric Hornqvist, Cody Franson, Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, Juuse Saros, Viktor Arvidsson, Sam Girard
9. Pittsburgh: Kris Letang, Round 3, 62nd overall in 2005
If not for injuries, you have to wonder how Letang would have stacked up to his peers on this list because he’s already one of the better players anyway. Since joining the league in 2006-07, Letang is the league’s seventh-highest scoring defenceman. He’s also won a few Stanley Cups along the way and was a one-time finalist for the Norris.
Honourable mentions: Jake Muzzin, Bryan Rust, Oskar Sundqvist, Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, Tristan Jarry, Dominik Simon
10. Carolina: Sebastian Aho, Round 2, 35th overall in 2015
In a few more years Aho probably moves up this list. The top-line centre on the Hurricanes is already the fourth-highest scorer from his draft class and he’s 170 points ahead of the next most prolific non-first-rounder.
Honourable mentions: Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Warren Foegele, Frederik Andersen, Justin Faulk, Brian Dumoulin
11. Dallas: Jamie Benn, Round 5, 129th overall in 2007
The Art Ross winner in 2014-15 with only 87 points, Benn actually upped that total by two the following season, but has cracked the 70-point mark just once since. He’s still second in goals for players from his draft class and has been one of the better NHL power forwards for much of his career.
Honourable mentions: James Neal, Reilly Smith, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Roope Hintz
12. Calgary: Johnny Gaudreau, Round 4, 104th overall in 2011
“Johnny Hockey” was picked by the Flames this late despite finishing fourth in USHL scoring in his draft year. Three years later, he was a Hobey Baker winner. Small and shifty, Gaudreau has been an integral piece of Calgary’s rise, though his contract status (UFA in 2021) makes his future a storyline worth monitoring.
Honourable mentions: TJ Brodie, Micheal Ferland, Adam Fox
13. Anaheim: John Gibson, Round 2, 39th overall in 2011
It’s been hard to gauge Gibson so far because just as he was emerging, the Ducks were falling from their contender status. Only Connor Hellebuyck has more high-danger saves the past two years than Gibson, and his .922 save rate in that time ranks among the likes of Carey Price, Frederik Andersen and Jacob Markstrom. When the Ducks are ready to challenge again, Gibson has the skill set to lead the way — and maybe get the team to that place quicker than it otherwise would.
Honourable mentions: Frederik Andersen, Sami Vatanen, William Karlsson, Josh Manson
14. San Jose: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Round 2, 35th overall in 2005
A Team Canada regular for a stretch, with showings at the World Cup and Olympics, Vlasic’s scoring stats don’t leap off the page, but he’s always been about the subtleties on the defensive side of the puck. Now 33, Vlasic seems to be going through some age-related decline, but in his prime he was one of the better blue-liners going. He’s so far the only 1,000-game player on this list.
Honourable mentions: Jamie McGinn, Nick Bonino, Justin Braun, Jason Demers, Chris Tierney, Kevin Labanc
15. St. Louis: Ben Bishop, Round 3, 85th overall in 2005
Though it took Bishop eight years after his draft season to become an NHL starter, once he got that opportunity Bishop has had few setbacks. His four-year stint in Tampa Bay came to an end to make room for Andrei Vasilevskiy and, after a quick stop in Los Angeles, Bishop has formed one of the best goalie tandems in the league with Anton Khudobin in Dallas. Last season was his best yet, finishing second in Vezina voting.
Honourable mentions: Ryan Reaves, Jake Allen, Jori Lehtera, Joel Edmundson, Jordan Binnington, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn, Jordan Kyrou
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16. Winnipeg: Connor Hellebuyck, Round 5, 130th overall in 2012
Without Hellebuyck, the Jets may be looking more forward to the lottery this season than any potential playoff showing. He’s already been a Vezina finalist once before and is the favourite to win the award this season.
Honourable mentions: Adam Lowry
17. NY Islanders: Jared Spurgeon, Round 6, 156th overall in 2008
The Isles didn’t get to benefit from this terrific pick, instead allowing the undersized Spurgeon to go unsigned and into free agency. There, he got an offer from Minnesota, and the rest is history. Now 30, Spurgeon has quietly had a successful and consistent career.
Honourable mentions: Andrew MacDonald, Matt Martin, Travis Hamonic, Anders Lee, Mikko Koskinen, Devon Toews
18. Edmonton: Jeff Petry, Round 2, 45th overall in 2006
Petry spent five years on Edmonton’s blue line, but he didn’t really hit his stride until being traded to Montreal, where he’s broken out. A leader in all situations, Petry ranks 17th among all blue-liners in scoring over the past three years. While the Oilers didn’t experience the best of Petry, a couple of their honourable mentions could soon turn into bonafide steals in Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear.
Honourable mentions: Martin Marincin, Jujhar Khaira, Erik Gustafsson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, John Marino
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19. Columbus: Cam Atkinson, Round 6, 157th overall in 2008
A 41-goal scorer a year ago, Atkinson’s production has yo-yoed a bit in his career, but he’s still 19th in goals since entering the league in 2013-14 and he has the third-most tallies from his draft class.
Honourable mentions: Kris Russell, Steve Mason, David Savard, Boone Jenner, Joonas Korpisalo, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Elvis Merzlikins, Markus Nutivaara
20. Chicago: Alex DeBrincat, Round 2, 39th overall in 2016
A two-time, 50-goal scorer in the OHL before he was drafted, DeBrincat still inexplicably fell out of the first round. And then he scored 65 goals the season after. His transition to NHL life was as smooth as can be and he currently sits fourth among his draft peers in scoring.
Honourable mentions: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brandon Saad, Philip Danault, Vinny Hinostroza
21. Philadelphia: Carter Hart, Round 2, 48th overall in 2016
Although goalies are voodoo — they’re just so hard to project — it would come as a shock if Hart didn’t rise up this list as his career moves on. He has a solid history, arriving to the NHL as a three-time winner of the WHL’s top goalie award. In Year 1, Hart had a .917 save rate in 31 games after a mid-season call-up and he remained steady this year as the Flyers emerged as a force. After decades of searching, the Flyers seem to finally have their solid No. 1.
Honourable mentions: Pat Maroon, Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom
22. Arizona: Keith Yandle, Round 4, 105th overall in 2005
A reliable offensive defenceman, Yandle is third in scoring among NHL defencemen over the past decade and he just posted a career-high 62 points last season. He’s just 24 games away from 1,000 now.
Honourable mentions: Jordan Martinook, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Conor Garland
23. Florida: Evgenii Dadonov, Round 3, 71st overall in 2007
It took a while, but Dadonov finally hit. In his first three seasons, Dadonov played just 55 NHL games and scored only 20 points, then returned to the KHL for five years, winning three titles. He returned to Florida in 2017 and has nearly hit the 30-goal plateau in each campaign. Now 31, Dadonov is slated to become a UFA in the off-season.
Honourable mentions: Jacob Markstrom, Joonas Donskoi, Zach Hyman, Vincent Trocheck
24. NY Rangers: Derek Stepan, Round 2, 51st overall in 2008
A third-line centre in Arizona now, the 29-year-old used to be a key part of the New York Rangers, scoring at least 50 points six full seasons in a row. When the team began realigning itself for a rebuild, the Rangers were able to flip Stepan and Antti Raanta into Tony DeAngelo and Lias Andersson.
Honourable mentions: Artem Anisimov, Carl Hagelin, Dale Weise, Jesper Fast, Pavel Buchnevich, Anthony Duclair
25. New Jersey: Mackenzie Blackwood, Round 2, 42nd overall in 2015
Another great candidate to shoot up this list before long, Blackwood arrived as New Jersey’s starter a year early, but has thrived despite the tough times around him.
Honourable mentions: Adam Henrique, Jon Merrill, Blake Coleman, Alex Kerfoot, Damon Severson, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt
26. Detroit: Tomas Tatar, Round 2, 60th overall in 2009
Tatar has found a comfortable home in Montreal and has put up back-to-back career seasons. But his production hasn’t always been there. In fact, after Vegas spent three draft picks to acquire him from Detroit (after multiple seasons of declining offensive totals), he was a bit of a disaster and became a side piece in the Max Pacioretty trade.
Honourable mentions: Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi
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27. Buffalo: Victor Olofsson, Round 7, 181st overall in 2014
It took him a while to get here, but the 24-year-old Olofsson will be one of the contenders to finish third in Calder voting this season (behind Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar of course). He had 20 goals and 42 points in 54 games when the season was paused, though it’s worth pointing out he had just four goals in his last 17 games. Sabres fans, itching for any positive developments about their team, will be eager to see how he responds next season as a sophomore.
Honourable mentions: JT Compher, Linus Ullmark, Brayden McNabb
28. Minnesota: Jason Zucker, Round 2, 59th overall in 2010
The 11th-highest goal scorer of his class, Zucker has pretty steadily been a 20-goal, 40ish-point player the past few years, with one career season in which he surpassed 30 goals. Though after his trade (finally after years of rumours) to Pittsburgh this season, Zucker was dynamite, scoring six goals and 12 points in 15 games on Sidney Crosby’s left side.
Honourable mentions: Cal Clutterbuck, Marco Scandella, Erik Haula, Darcy Kuemper, Jordan Greenway
29. Toronto: Andreas Johnsson, Round 7, 202nd overall in 2013
Selected with the ninth-last pick in the draft, Johnsson is pretty clearly a steal already, but just what he becomes in the NHL is still to be determined. He’s in a plum position on a young, dynamic team and he already has a 20-goal, 43-point season under his belt. But he was tracking to finish with less than that in his sophomore season, so we need to see more hockey to better understand where he fits.
Honourable mentions: Anton Stralman, Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Leo Komarov, Carl Gunnarsson, Josh Leivo, Connor Brown, Travis Dermott
30. Vancouver: Mason Raymond, Round 2, 51st overall in 2005
If Thatcher Demko becomes the starter, or even a solid tandem goalie for the Canucks, he will take over this mantle, but for now, Raymond remains Vancouver’s representative. Injuries were certainly a negative factor in Raymond’s career and he only scored 20 in a season one time, but he was fun to watch in those early years.
Honourable mentions: Kevin Connauton, Ben Hutton, Thatcher Demko, Adam Gaudette
31. Vegas: Jack Dugan, Round 5, 142nd overall in 2017
OK, so the third-year Golden Knights are at a significant disadvantage in this exercise because not enough time has passed for these post-first-rounders to develop and arrive at the NHL. So, we’re highlighting a player who certainly has a lot of promise and finished as a Hobey Baker finalist this season. Jack Dugan was a top-five NCAA scorer in 2019-20 and has been a top-two scorer for his team in each of the past three years.
Honourable mentions: Nic Hague, Lucas Elvenes