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Your Team Has the #1 Pick, Now What? – NHL Edition

Ever wonder what the average performance of a top pick in the NHL Draft looks like? Look no further and wonder no more!

Rangers vs Canadians by Jeramey Jannene is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Your Team Has the #1 Pick, Now What? – NHL Edition


Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Congratulations, your team has the #1 pick in the draft. You’re on top of the world. You’re giving strangers nicknames, wearing sunglasses indoors, ordering guac when you know it costs extra. You have it all. After a season (or likely many) seasons of futility, the clouds have parted, the rain has stopped and there’s a bright future ahead.

At least that’s what you want (have) to believe, right?

So, what are fans to do when their team is about to be on the clock first? It’s important to recognize three tiers of how this can go:

  • Best of the Best – the players taken #1 you hope your team’s pick will become
  • Worst in Show – the players you dread your top pick ends up like
  • Mean Men – the players who represent the average performance of top picks

It’s these Mean Men who are the most interesting as they represent the floor for fans’ hopes with the #1 pick. If your team’s top pick performs at that level, then you really can’t complain too much.

Sure, you want the transcendent talent, but it’s still a positive if your top pick doesn’t appear in articles listing the biggest bust #1’s of all-time.

We have covered NFL QBs taken #1, MLB #1 picks, and the top choices of the NBA draft. In our final installment, we’re diving into the NHL Draft. We’ll be using Points Shares (PS) stat from Hockey Reference. And we’re looking at drafts from 1980 (when the NHL Draft was first televised) to 2010.

Best of the Best

  • Alex Ovechkin (2004 #1 pick, 173.9 PS, 3 Hart Trophies, 1 Stanley Cup Championship)
  • Mario Lemieux (1984 #1 pick, 167.9 PS, 3 Hart Trophies, 2 Stanley Cup Championships)

Faces of the Franchise. This is what you’re getting here. Sure, the Penguins also have 2005 #1 pick Sidney Crosby (155.5 PS, 2 Hart Trophies, 3 Stanley Cup Championships), but Super Mario is the first face on the Penguins Mt. Rushmore. Ovechkin and Lemieux were also the Captains for their team’s first ever Stanley Cup wins. That means A LOT.

Worst in Show

Both of these players were centers, and both averaged scoring less than .5 points a game in their careers. This is not how Atlanta nor Montreal fans could have been hoping for how things would go. Then again, Atlanta doesn’t have a team anymore, and who really cares if Montreal’s #1 pick isn’t good?

Mean Men

The average PS for a #1 pick from 1980-2010 = 91.7. Introducing, your NHL Mean Men…

[drum roll]

  • Owen Nolan (1990 #1 pick, 91.6 PS, 1200 career games, 5 seasons as San Jose Sharks Captain)
  • Ed Jovanovski (1994 #1 pick, 85.2 PS, 1128 career games, 2 seasons as Florida Panthers Captain)

While no All-Star selections, individual trophies, or Stanley Cup wins are not what fans want, there is something to be said for two guys who played nearly two decades in the NHL. They also both had their teams bestow the highest honor possible for multiple seasons. These might not be Hall of Fame careers, but they are definitely successful careers.

While the #1 pick is exciting and promising, it’s very far from a guaranteed step on the path to a championship, or even winning seasons. The top pick might be a generational Hall of Famer, and it could be a guy who’s out of the league in a few years and appears on “Biggest Busts Ever” lists forever. We hope you enjoyed following this series, and if your team does get the #1 pick, here’s hoping it’s another LeBron or Ovechkin or Manning or A-Rod.

Well, maybe not A-Rod.

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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