How have other No. 1 picks fared?
How have other No. 1 draft picks fared in the NHL? As the Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate continues, here's a look at some recent No. 1s and what mark they have (or haven't) made in the bigs:
2000 -- N.Y. Islanders select Rick DiPietro
DiPietro made history before he even played an NHL game, becoming the first goaltender to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick. DiPietro voided his remaining three years of eligibility at Boston University. He was the draft's top-ranked goalie and was supposed to single-handedly turn things around for the Islanders, who had not had a winning record since the 1992-93 season. DiPietro said he welcomed the pressure. He immediately went to the NHL and went 3-15-1 with a 3.49 GAA in 20 games in 2000-01. He spent the next few seasons going back and forth between the Islanders and the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers. After the 2005-06 season, when DiPietro went 30-24-5 with a 3.02 GAA in 63 games, he got the big payday -- a 15-year deal worth $67.5 million. In 2006-07, he helped the Isles down the stretch before suffering a concussion in late March. He returned for part of the team's first-round series loss to Buffalo. After posting a 26-28-7 record in 2007-08, DiPietro has been sidelined by knee injuries and multiple surgeries (hip and knees) over the past few campaigns and was reportedly shut down for the rest of this season after he experienced swelling in one of his knees.
2001 -- Atlanta Thrashers select Ilya Kovalchuk
Again, another history maker before he even played in an NHL game. Kovalchuk was the first Russian-born player to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick. He went straight to the NHL and had 29 goals and 22 assists in 65 games for the Thrashers. But early on, Kovalchuk received a lot of criticism for not playing enough defense. Offensively, Kovalchuk showed a steady progression over the years. He had 67 points in his sophomore season, but his best season was in 2003-04. He finished with 87 points and his 41 goals tied for tops in the league. During the 2006-07 season, Kovalchuk and the Thrashers made their first playoff appearance, but were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers. Heading into this season, the last year of Kovalchuk's contract, he and the Thrashers could not agree on an extension; so, instead of losing him for nothing via free agency over the summer, Atlanta traded the star forward to the Devils on Feb. 4.
2002 -- Columbus Blue Jackets select Rick Nash
GM Doug MacLean took control of his club's destiny and traded with the Florida Panthers for the No. 1 overall pick so the Jackets wouldn't miss Nash. Nash was another youngster to immediately make the big leap to the NHL following the draft, playing his first NHL game at age 18. He had 17 goals and 22 assists in 74 games during his rookie season. Nash slightly improved to 57 points the following season, when he became the youngest player to lead the league in goals (he scored 41 to share the title with Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Kovalchuk). An excellent puck handler and scorer, the center wasn't able to build on that success as he battled ankle and knee injuries. But he learned to play better on both sides of the puck under coach Ken Hitchcock. He went from posting 57 points in 75 games and a minus-8 in 2006-07 to 69 points in 80 games and a plus-2 in 2007-08. Nash also helped Columbus get over the playoff hump last season, helping the club pick up its first postseason berth before being swept by Detroit in the first round.
2003 -- Pittsburgh Penguins select Marc-Andre Fleury
The Penguins were in the middle of their seemingly never-ending rebuilding efforts in 2003 when they traded up for the No. 1 pick to select goaltender Fleury. Like DiPietro, Fleury immediately went to the NHL. And like DiPietro, Fleury struggled. He posted a 4-14-2 record in 22 NHL starts (he also spent time in the QMJHL and with the Pens' AHL club) and spent the lockout season and most of the 2005-06 campaign in the AHL. But 2007-08 was his breakout season. After suffering a high-ankle sprain midway through the season, Fleury seemed unflappable in net as the Penguins reached their first Stanley Cup finals since 1992. A year later, Fleury's strong play helped Pittsburgh return to the Cup finals for a rematch against Detroit and win it all.
2004 -- Washington Capitals select Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin was one of the best players to come out of Russia when he was drafted by the Capitals, and the plan was to rebuild the franchise around the big winger. Things have gone according to plan. Because of the NHL lockout, Ovechkin's NHL debut was put on hold, but the extra time with Moscow Dynamo paid off. In his 2005-06 rookie season, he finished with 52 goals and 54 assists in 81 games and beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy. After posting 92 points the following season, Ovi led the league with 112 points and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. More important to him, he helped take the Capitals to the postseason before losing in a physical seven-game, first-round series versus Philadelphia. Ovi and the Caps returned to the postseason in 2009 and ousted the New York Rangers in the first round to set up a memorable second-round clash against Crosby and the Pens. Washington lost in seven games, but came back this season to clinch the top seed in the East.
2005 -- Pittsburgh Penguins select Sidney Crosby
The anticipation surrounding the NHL draft lottery announcement was palpable. The NHL was looking to save its image and bring back fans after the lockout, and it would do it behind the face of Crosby, no matter which team was awarded the top pick. It wound up going to Lemieux and the Penguins, who were also hoping Sid would help keep the team in Pittsburgh (he did). While the actual draft day was anticlimactic, Crosby was a proven scorer with great vision and strength. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he had 66 goals and 102 assists in 62 games after a rookie campaign that featured 54 goals and 81 assists in 59 games. He jumped right to the NHL in October and didn't look back. In his second season, he won the Hart Trophy and led the Pens to the playoffs. In his third campaign, he recovered from a high-ankle sprain to lead Pittsburgh to the Cup finals before losing to Detroit in six games. He delivered in his fourth season, leading the Pens to their first Cup since 1992.
2006 -- St. Louis Blues select Erik Johnson
When the Blues drafted the young defenseman out of the U.S. Developmental Program, they got an offensive-minded blueliner. After playing one season at the University of Minnesota, Johnson signed with St. Louis before 2007-08. His rookie season was decent. He ranked 11th among all NHL rookies in scoring, while his 33 points were good enough to rank 33rd among all defensemen. He missed the entire 2008-09 season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee in a freak preseason golf cart accident. He returned this season and has nine goals and 28 assists with a plus-1 rating through 74 games.
2007 -- Chicago Blackhawks select Patrick Kane
When the Blackhawks selected Kane, many were quick to point out, and criticize, the forward's small frame (he checked in at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds). But the American showed his time with the London Knights of the OHL paid off and made him ready for the physical NHL as he jumped straight to the bigs in October. Along with fellow rookie star Jonathan Toews, Kane helped bring excitement back to hockey in the Windy City. He posted 72 points in 82 games and won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. In his sophomore campaign, Kane had 25 goals and 45 assists in 80 regular-season games before the Hawks made a surprise march to the Western Conference finals. But Kane reached a rough point during the offseason. Kane and his cousin were arrested on Aug. 9 in Buffalo, N.Y., and charged with robbery and other counts following an altercation with a cab driver in his hometown. The cab driver told police they attacked him when he said he didn't have 20 cents in change for a fare. The Kanes were given conditional discharges, meaning they will avoid any penalties if they stay out of trouble for a year. On the ice, Kane and the Hawks are set to return to the playoffs.
2008 -- Tampa Bay Lightning select Steven Stamkos
Stamkos made the immediate leap to the NHL after being drafted No. 1 overall in June 2008. He recorded only four points in his first 17 NHL games, struggling to gain ice time under former coach and current ESPN analyst Barry Melrose. After Melrose was fired and Rick Tocchet took over behind the bench, Stamkos took off in the second half of last season, collecting 32 points in his final 39 games. This season, he is in a three-way battle with Crosby (47) and Ovechkin (46) to reach the 50-goal plateau. He has 45 goals in 76 games this season.
2009 -- New York Islanders select John Tavares
Heading into the 2009 draft, there was much debate over which player the Isles would take with the No. 1 pick. They went with Tavares, the 18-year-old junior star with the OHL's London Knights, over Victor Hedman, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Swedish defenseman who went to Tampa Bay at No. 2. Tavares led the OHL with 58 goals this season and broke Peter Lee's 33-year-old league record of 213 career goals. Tavares made his NHL debut this season and has 21 goals and 24 assists in 76 games for the Islanders.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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