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50 years of the NHL Draft - Not every top pick is a best bet

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TSN.ca Staff
6/14/2012 11:44:43 AM
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To commemorate the 50th NHL Draft which takes place next Friday in Pittsburgh, TSN.ca looks back at 10 memorable storylines from the history of the event in 10 days. Today, we look back any team's worst nightmare - taking a player that doesn't quite pan out with the first overall selection.

For fans of any sports franchise, the prospect of having the first-overall selection in the draft has always been an exciting one.

Unless of course, the player doesn't live up to the billing as a No. 1 pick.

With the benefit of hindsight, the NHL draft has seen more than its fair share of first-overall question marks over the last 50 years.

The Montreal Canadiens, one year removed from their dynasty of the 1970's, had the Colorado Rockies' first overall selection in 1980. General manager Irving Grundman had a tough decision to make on two players - Denis Savard, who played junior hockey under the shadow of the Forum with the Montreal Juniors, and Doug Wickenheiser - a prolific scorer from the Regina Pats of the WHL.

Grundman opted for Wickenheiser, while Savard went third to the Chicago Blackhawks. Canadiens fans know the rest.
 
In 1993, the Ottawa Senators' abysmal season saw a light at the end of the tunnel with sure-fire prospect Alexandre Daigle. The Victoriaville centre tore up the QMJHL in his final junior season (with 137 points in just 53 games) and was tabbed to be the next great superstar before even stepping out onto an NHL rink.

But with a hefty rookie contract and lofty expectations in the nation's capital, Daigle never fared better than 26 goals and 51 points in a season. As teammate Alexei Yashin was emerging as Ottawa's superstar, the Senators traded Daigle after just three-and-a-half seasons and he was later out of the league by age 25.

In 2000, New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury shocked the hockey world when he traded up-and-coming netminder Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers and took goaltender Rick DiPietro with the first-overall pick. DiPietro, who had limited success early on, signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract and has yet to live up to it with his ongoing injury problems.

And in 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers thought they had a bonafide NHL talent in Patrik Stefan with the first pick. The next two selections? Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Now while Daigle was the most spectacular flame-out and DiPietro the most expensive (at least to this point), no No. 1 overall pick played less than Washington's Greg Joly. Taken by the Capitals in 1974, he ended up appearing in more AHL games than NHL games (365, while Gord Kluzak played 299 his career was cut short by injuries) and was hurried into a lineup that was one of the worst in NHL history.

Without a reliable veteran blueliner helping his development in Washington, the once highly-touted defenceman spent just two years with the Capitals before being shipped to Detroit.

Follow the TSN Quizmaster on Twitter and get more from this story as the draft draws closer. TSN and TSN.ca have exclusive coverage of the 2012 NHL Draft on Friday, June 22 at 7pm et/4pm pt live from the CONSOL Energy Centre in Pittsburgh.

Greg Joly (Photo: Washington Capitals)

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(Photo: Washington Capitals)

Fewest GP by Top Picks

1974: WSH - Greg Joly (365)

1999: ATL - Patrik Stefan (455)

1983: MIN - Brian Lawton (483)

1977: DET - Dale McCourt (532)

1980: MTL - D. Wickenheiser (556)

1993: OTT - Alex Daigle (616)

1995: OTT - Bryan Berard (619)

1969: MTL - Rejean Houle (635)

1991: QUE - Eric Lindros (760)

1986: DET - Joe Murphy (779)

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