Everyone knows that the NHL Entry Draft can be a crapshoot sometimes. There is no method of telling how good a prospect will turn out, unless they are a generational talent, like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid.
However, over the past decade, there has consistently been players that went on to badly outplay their draft positions, and became the “steals of their draft”. Some of these players became franchise cornerstones; meanwhile, others went on to have decent NHL careers.
No doubt, many former general managers, and fans sometimes think back and wonder what could have been, had their team taken a particular player. In retrospect, these are great conversation topics for hockey fans at the bar or at the barbershop.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at part one, of some of the biggest NHL Entry Draft steals in the past ten years.
Drafted by the Dallas Stars – NHL Entry Draft Round 5, 129th overall, 2007
Not many teams can say that they found their future franchise player and captain in the 5th round of an NHL draft, but the Dallas Stars can. Ever since being taken with the 129th pick in 2007, Jamie Benn has been a major force for the Dallas Stars’ franchise. In 585 career games, Benn has scored 517 points, which includes several 30-goal seasons with a career high of 41, and also an Art Ross Trophy to boot.
Aside from Patrick Kane, Jaimie Benn is arguably the best player to come out of the 2007 draft. If teams only knew how good he would become, Benn would have been taken somewhere in the top three for sure. The Edmonton Oilers had three-first round picks that year, and two more in following rounds leading up to the 129th pick. If they had used one of those picks on Jamie Benn, we probably wouldn’t have seen them win four draft lotteries from 2010-2015.
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens – NHL Entry Draft Round 2, 43rd overall, 2007
P.K Subban is arguably the best defenseman in the entire 2007 draft, and it is hard to believe that he fell all the way to the 43rd pick of the 2nd round that year. Since that time, Subban has become an elite NHL defenseman, for the Montreal Canadiens and now the Nashville Predators.
Subban has scored at least 35 points in seven NHL seasons and had three seasons where he eclipsed the 50-point plateau. He is a two-time NHL All-star, Olympic Gold Medalist, and already has one Norris Trophy on his mantle. Impressively, Subban currently has more career NHL points (318) than the first two defensemen selected in the 2007 draft, including Thomas Hickey fourth overall and Karl Alzner fifth overall.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings – NHL Entry Draft Round 2, 61st overall, 2007
Wayne Simmonds was the last player drafted in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. But his NHL career so far has proven that he should have been drafted somewhere in the top ten. It is fair to say that, his early career with the Los Angeles Kings wasn’t overly impressive, but since joining the Flyers, in the Mike Richards trade, he has become a franchise cornerstone and elite scorer in the NHL.
Consistency has been the name of his game, as he has scored 28 or more goals for five seasons in the NHL. He has missed less than 15 regular season games in his entire career with the Flyers. Simmonds is currently the fourth-highest scorer in his draft class, with 202 career NHL goals. He is also the sixth-highest ranked players in points, with 398 and has a chance to reach the top five before the end of his career.
Drafted by Ottawa Senators – NHL Entry Draft Round 1, 15th overall, 2008
Erik Karlsson might have been the biggest draft steal of this generation. Although it is understandable that Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty were the top two picks in 2008, Karlsson has made a strong case that he deserves to be in that conversation. Erik Karlsson has changed the face of the Ottawa Senators with his dominance on both ends of the ice and has an impressive career average of 57 points as a defenseman.
Looking back, it is fun to imagine what some of the teams that passed on him might have looked like today. I don’t want to rub it in too much, but the Toronto Maple Leafs had the 5th overall pick and used it on Luke Schenn that year. If they had selected Karlsson instead, what would the Maple Leafs look like today? The Chicago Blackhawks had the 11th overall pick that year, if they used the pick on Karlsson, how much more dominant would they have been?
Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL Entry Draft Round 6, 157th overall, 2008
Although, Cam Atkinson took a little longer to develop in the NHL, his career has taken off over the past few seasons. He has become a legitimate 20-30 goal scorer, just entering his prime. Atkinson is currently the fourth highest goal scorer in his draft year, with only three names ahead of him which include: Steven Stamkos, Derek Stepan, and Jordan Eberle.
If he continues to score at his current pace, I won’t be surprised to see Atkinson finish in the top-two in goals only behind Steven Stamkos. Not bad for a player deemed to be “too small to play in the NHL” and was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL entry draft.
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche – NHL Entry Draft Round 2, 33rd overall, 2009
Even though he has consistently put up great stats throughout his career, Ryan O’Reilly is still one of the most underrated two-way centers in the NHL today. If you watch him play, you will realize how much of a positive impact he has on his team. Which makes it even harder to imagine that he fell all the way to the 33rd pick in 2009.
O’Reilly is currently the third highest in points in his 2009 draft class, and he has a good chance of taking the second place spot from former teammate Matt Duchene soon. After taking John Tavares 1st overall that year, the New York Islanders had two more picks in the first two rounds to take O’Reilly but they didn’t. Looking back, had they used one of those picks on O’Reilly, the Islanders might have had one of the best center duos in the NHL.
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators – NHL Entry Draft Round 5, 130th overall, 2009
It took Mike Hoffman some time to become a full-time NHL player, but once he solidified his place in 2014-2015, his play has quickly made him one of the biggest draft steals of 2009. Since then, Hoffman has scored over 26 goals in three consecutive seasons, has become a key offensive player for the Senators and was the team’s highest scoring forward last season.
He may not be an elite superstar, but Hoffman is currently the 13th highest scorer in his draft with 85 career NHL goals. Based on his current rate of production, and at only 27-years-old, Hoffman has time to finish in the top ten by the end of his career. Impressively, Hoffman is currently outscoring Jakob Silfverberg, who was a second round pick by the Senators in the same draft.
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens – NHL Entry Draft Round 5, 147th overall, 2010
What he does on the ice may not always show up on the scoreboard, but if you ask any Montreal Canadiens fan, you will know how much they love Brendan Gallagher. Aside from P.K. Subban, he is probably one of Montreal’s biggest draft steals in recent memory.
He is currently ranked 11th in total points (185), and impressively he has more NHL goals (87) than first round picks in his draft year. They include Nino Niederreiter (5th overall), Brett Connolly (6th overall), Mikael Granlund (9th overall), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (26th overall). Simply put, there is no way Gallagher makes it through the 15th pick in any re-draft.
Drafted by Ottawa Senators – NHL Entry Draft Round 6, 178th overall, 2010
Although 2010 was all about Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, it is still rather surprising to see Mark Stone taken in the sixth round of that draft. Add Mark Stone to the Senators’ collection of draft steals, dating back to 2008. The former 178th overall pick is a cornerstone for the Senators’ offense and has scored more than 22 goals, 54 points for three consecutive seasons.
I’m not sure if Ottawa picked him out of pure luck or if there was any adept scouting involved. Regardless, Stone might have been Ottawa’s biggest draft steal since Erik Karlsson. He is currently the tenth highest scorer in his draft, but at his current pace, he can move up into the top seven before he calls it a career.
Drafted by Calgary Flames – NHL Entry Draft Round 4, 104th overall, 2011
The Calgary Flames are one the rare-teams in NHL, that can maneuver through a rebuild, and put together a playoff team without any player taken higher than fourth-overall in any draft. A big reason for this success is their ability to find undervalued players in the draft, and they got one of the biggest steals in 2011, with Johnny Gaudreau at 104th overall.
Despite taking a little longer to develop, the wait was well worth it, as the Calgary Flames found a franchise cornerstone in “Johnny Hockey”. He is only 23-years-old and already has three seasons of over 60 plus points, and looks to be a perennial 60-70 point player for the next decade.
If there was a re-draft, Gaudreau would likely be taken somewhere in the top ten and possibly the top five of that draft.
Do you agree with this list of draft steals? Let us know in the comment section, participate in the poll below, and stay tuned for part two.
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