With all the hype that swallows up the NHL’s Entry Draft, it’s easy to forget the player who wasn’t quite good enough, in the scouts’ eyes at least, to be chosen first overall. This short series will be looking that the other guy; the fella who went second. As there’s 12 days to go until Christmas, here’s #12 in the 4th Line Podcast’s top 12 2nd Overall Picks. Follow the series all the way to Christmas Eve when we’ll find out who the best #2 pick of all time is. Every player in this list is from the Entry Draft era starting in 1963. All stats as of end of 2016/17 season.
12. Eric Staal, C
Drafted 2003, Carolina Hurricanes
Games Played 1011
Despite having finished the 2002/03 season dead last, the Carolina Hurricanes were only given the second overall pick thanks to the lottery bumping the Florida Panthers up to first. The Panthers then traded first for third and Pittsburgh took the top slot.
Eric, the eldest of the 37 Staal brothers, had a solid scouting report and was seen as a great two-way player capable of dominating on the ice. Originally predicted to go toward the second half of the first round; experts and fans were a little surprised that Staal went second.
The Penguins passed on Staal with the first choice and the Hurricanes were more than eager to take advantage of that decision and focus on building a strong offensive corps. Having averaged 1.12 points per game with the Peterborough Petes; Stall looked like a key part of that plan.
The Decision paid dividends too. Staal was invited to the big team immediately and played 81 NHL games in his rookie season. His 31 points that season would be the lowest tally Staal would claim during his 11 seasons with the Hurricanes.
There have been a few career highlights for Staal (and room for a few more). In 2006 his name was etched onto the Stanley Cup as the Hurricanes lifted the silverware for the first time. In 2007, Staal represented Team Canada in the World Championships, where he won gold. Three years later he joined the fabled Triple-Gold club when Canada won the 2010 Winter Olympics.
There’s little point comparing Staal to the first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury. Given that one is a center and the other a goalie. Of course Fleury, with his three Stanley Cups is definitely an excellent goalie, but the Hurricanes weren’t looking for a goalie in 2003. Kevin Weekes was their number one, and young Cam Ward was coming through the system. What Staal did bring was everything his scouting report said it would, and a Stanley Cup.
Where is he now? After 11 seasons in Carolina Staal was traded mid-season to the New York rangers where he saw out the last few months of his contract. In 2016 Staal signed with the Minnesota Wild.
Tomorrow, naturally, number 11!