Fans in New Jersey were no doubt going crazy Saturday night. The New Jersey Devils have scored the first overall pick in 2017 Entry Draft. Names like Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will on the lips of many. First of all, picking a player is the easy part of a draft. Most times we can predict who will go number one, though this doesn’t mean guaranteed success. Seems like for every Sidney Crosby there is a Patrik Stefan waiting to happen. Predicting young kids future is a difficult thing.
Alexandre Daigle was predicted as a sure fire winner for Ottawa in 1993. Despite some glimmers of form, he has gone to be a poster child draft bust. 10 years and 327 points might not sound terrible, but they were far from respectable for a number one pick. As a result, teams really need to do their homework before draft day. Since 2010, there have been some good and bad decisions made, but how have the bright young things stood up? Let’s look at each number one pick since 2010.
2010: Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers)
Selected above Tyler Seguin, Hall has emerged as one of the Oilers’ smarter draft choices. While it has taken some time for his talent to appear, Hall is finally developing into a fine winger. He might not be displaying the same dominance he displayed in Junior, but he is nonetheless productive. Edmonton’s decision to trade him to New Jersey mystified many. However, he has provided an offensive spurt that was needed in New Jersey. In 2017, he made his first All-Star Game appearance. You get the impression he will grow into a vital part of that team. Hall might not be a flashy winger or even a goal machine, but his hard work and consistency are paying off.
2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)
We’re all waiting for Nugent-Hopkins to prove us all wrong. The 2011 draft wasn’t massively high on quality, but RNH was the best choice Edmonton could hope for. While he has been solid, he hasn’t exactly blown us away either. Never scoring more than 56 points in a season, Nugent-Hopkins has shown some brief flurries of brilliance. With Edmonton going new places, you feel his chance to prove his worth is getting slimmer every day. I wouldn’t call him a bust at this point, but he hasn’t developed into the prospect the Oilers expected.
2012: Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers)
From the triumvirate of number 1 picks Edmonton had at the beginning of the decade, Yakupov has come off worst. After a career low 9 points in 40 games with St Louis, his draft bust status is official. Ever since he making his debut in 2012, he has never looked comfortable at NHL level. Fans and Oilers’ management desperately prayed for him to turn it around. His continued downbeat attitude hindered any progress. Yakupov always looked like he was conceding defeat. Oilers’ scouts, in fact, voted 9 to 2 AGAINST drafting him in 2012. Sadly, it looks like his chance has already left the station- expect his days to be numbered from here.
Verdict: BIG MISS
2013: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)
A free-scoring sensation for the Halifax Mooseheads, Nathan MacKinnon is a bright spot on an awful Colorado team. Last season’s top scorer in a low scoring team, MacKinnon is a player the franchise needs to build a team around. Significantly drama free compared to fellow Moosehead teammate Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon is still an offensive threat who still has fans at the Pepsi Centre believing. Making his All-Star debut in 2017, the young Nova Scotia native is only just getting started. Let’s hope he gets the team that his form deserves.
2014: Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)
Beating out Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and Sam Bennett to number one. Ekblad has emerged as the Panthers main blue-liner. Assured in his style of the play from the get-go. Already a two-time All-Star, the 21-year-old Ontario D-Man plays with wisdom above his years. Signed to an $60 million 8 year deal, Florida has already put their faith squarely in his hands. The defence was one area the Panthers needed a saviour in, with Ekblad they have a future leader in their midst. Florida made a trip to the playoffs in 2016, expect more trips with Ekblad anchoring the team.
2015: Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
After three previous experiments with mixed results- Connor McDavid is the messiah Edmonton has waited for! #TankNation was the big thing in 2015 as teams were clambering to get him as the number one pick. So far McDavid has been THE number one pick of the decade. It’s fascinating to see the effect one player has had on a team. Already picking up an Art Ross trophy after a perfect 100 point season, McDavid already has the world at his feet. Chalking up 148 points in less than 127 games- McDavid has more than beaten the hype, he has obliterated it! Time to get excited again Oilers fans!
Verdict: BIG HIT
2016: Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The Maple Leafs have desperately needed a talent like this young man. Matthews has now come forward as franchise future. An inevitable winner of this year’s Calder Trophy, Matthews offensive talents had resurrected a flagging franchise. Their trip to the postseason might have been brief, but the Leafs sense the potential in the young American. Notching up a remarkable 69 points in his rookie season, Matthews looked NHL ready from the beginning. The Leafs need to lock up this guy long term because talents like this don’t come along often.
I wish New Jersey well in picking a future star, let’s hope this pick will be trouble free. More importantly, like with Yakupov, make sure that he knows more than where the net is. The draft always builds expectations sky high, matching them is something else entirely.