The NHL Draft is the door most of today’s NHL superstars walk through to begin their careers, and since 2005 the Draft has introduced some of the biggest names in the game to fans in every market of the league.
But now, more than perhaps ever before, the importance of using draft picks well shows a direct impact on an organization’s postseason hopes.
In 2005, Sidney Crosby was the top overall selection and the NHL was hoping to come out of a prolonged lockout with new faces to market to fans. In each of the subsequent drafts, the teams holding the top five overall selections have seen an impact on their NHL roster.
Here are the top five picks in the NHL Draft from 2005-2009, with the current playoff status of both the drafting organization and the player:
As you can see, the top five picks from this window of drafts have made an enormous impact on the NHL. In 2008, two of arguably the five best defensemen in the NHL – Doughty and Pietrangelo – were among the top five selections, while the four forwards included in 2006′s top five overall picks have certainly established themselves as stars in the league.
In 2010, the run of Edmonton picks in the top five began. And the players at the top of the class haven’t made as much of an impact on the postseason -yet.
Tyler Seguin – drafted by Boston, traded to Dallas – has some hardware at home from his days with the Bruins and has led the Stars into the postseason this year. He was the second overall pick in 2010, after Edmonton selected Taylor Hall. Ryan Johansen, selected fourth by Columbus, is the other top-five pick from 2010 to make an appearance in the 2014 playoffs.
Only one player from the top five overall picks in 2011 – Gabriel Landeskog – is still playing this season. Landeskog was selected second overall by Colorado, after Edmonton selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
It’s hard to evaluate a draft class only two seasons after their selection, but two players from the top five picks in 2012 would be playing right now if Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk was healthy. Columbus’ Ryan Murray played last night in the Blue Jackets loss. Murray and Galchenyuk were the second and third overall picks, respectively, after… you guessed it… Edmonton made the first overall selection (Nail Yakupov).
As you can see, a top five overall pick may be the result of a bad (terrible) previous season, but it can lead to a quick turnaround if the pick is used well. And the 2014 playoffs are loaded with players that didn’t wait long to hear their names called.