Lucky Number 17
The 1960s – Deciding on the best 17th overall draft choice of the 1960s wasn’t much of a challenge considering one of those players was Bobby Clarke. Drafted by the Flyers in 1969, Clarke quickly turned into the heart and soul of the Broad Street Bullies en route to an amazing career that carried him all the way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. On top of his two Stanley Cup rings, the one-time Flyers captain is also the only player ever drafted 17th who managed to maintain a point-per-game average over the course of his career, posting 1210 points in 1144 games in the NHL.
The 1970s – The 1970s was the only decade in which every single player drafted 17th overall wound up playing in the NHL – even if none of them enjoyed particularly astonishing careers. At the front of the pack, Duane Sutter (the Islanders’ 1979 pick), edged out a member of another great hockey family, Dave Hunter, who was the Canadiens’ pick in 1978 – despite never actually donning the iconic jersey. Sutter and Hunter put up similar stats with both collecting just under 300 points apiece in around 700 games. When it came to hoisting the Cup, Sutter had the edge thanks to the four he won with the Islanders compared to Hunter’s three with the Oilers.
The 1980s – The Islanders used their 17th overall pick in the 80s to snatch up another Sutter, this time one by the name of Brent – the current head-coach of the Calgary Flames. Probably the best skater in the family, Brent Sutter, just like his brother Duane, would go on to bring home the Stanley Cup four times for the Islanders. By the end of his career, Sutter had registered 829 points in 1111 games, including 102 points during the 1984-85 season. The Canadiens also get an honorable mention for their selection of Andrew Cassels in 1987. With 528 assists to his name, Cassels, who would go on to play for a total of six NHL teams, is topped only by Bobby Clarke for assists recorded by a 17th overall draft pick.
The 1990s – It would seem that when it comes to the 17th overall pick, it’s usually forwards that make their mark. While defenseman Barret Jackman may have caught our eye thanks to his 2002-03 Calder trophy, it still wasn’t enough to convince us that the Blues 1999 pick was the best of the decade. That distinction goes instead to Jason Allison, despite having a career that was ultimately affected by numerous injuries. Drafted by the Capitals in 1993, Allison scored at least 70 points in each of the four seasons he played where he managed to stay off the injured list for an extended period of time.
The 2000s – Another unanimous decision: Zach Parise. Since his arrival in New Jersey, the Devils’ first-round pick of 2003 was the team’s top scorer in four of his six seasons with the franchise – a number that probably would have been higher had he not been sidelined for almost the entirety of the latest NHL campaign. Parise put up 45 goals and 94 points over the 2008-09 season.
Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.
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