Head of the Class
Although snagging a hidden gem in the later rounds does happen (re: Zetterberg, Henrik), teams are often remembered and subsequently lauded or mocked according to their success in the opening round at the Draft. Since they joined the NHL a decade ago, there’s been no reason to heckle the Blue Jackets, at least not at the draft table. Columbus is an impressive 9-for-9 when it comes to their first picks reaching the NHL, with Nikita Filatov being the last to do so. Having yet to ever pick lower than eighth overall, the Blue Jackets will have a little more work cut out for them when they pick 16th fresh off their first-ever playoff appearance.
While they not have been perfect over the years, the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes earn honorable mention for their podium prowess in the first round. Aside from Ernie Moser in 1969 and Luca Cerada in 1999, the other 39 of Toronto’s top picks since 1963 have reached the NHL. Including their early years as the Hartford Whalers, the Hurricanes could have been perfect were it not for their selection of Igor Knyazev in 2001, a Russian defenseman who never made it to the show. Each of the franchise’s 27 other top picks all one day cracked an NHL roster.
As for the Canadiens, they have seen 56 of their 68 first round picks ultimately reach the NHL, clocking in at 82 percent, just a bit below the league-wide average of 86 percent, with 828 of 962 first rounders going on to reach the big time.
Notorious for spending truckloads of money on free agents, the Rangers may not have had much of a choice given their lack of success at the draft podium. With only a scant 72 percent of their first rounders reaching the NHL, the Rangers have the dubious distinction of being the league’s worst just ahead of the Oilers who clock in at 75 percent.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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