Who's Really No. 1?




The pressure of picking first at the NHL Entry Draft


CrosbyIn any sport, scouting is an inexact science. But in the National Hockey League, scouts have to imagine what a raw 17 or 18-year old is going to look like five years down the road.

That being said, there is a great deal of pressure on a team that has the privilege of picking the no-brainer - namely, the first overall selection. More often than not, the player taken in that coveted spot is regarded as the future of the team that will one day lead his franchise to the top. If he excels, the team and its scouting staff will be remembered with nothing but praise. If he does not meet expectations, they will be second guessing and kicking themselves for years to come.

That's the way it goes at the draft, and the last two years have been no different with Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby going first overall in their respective drafts.

That's a lot to put on the shoulders of 17 and 18-year-olds, but history has shown that such pressure is not uncommon. The following are all the NHL's No. 1 overall picks since 1969, along with another prominent player who was available in the Top 30 the same year.


No. 1 Picks and Pans since 1969


Player Team Selection Could Have Picked?
2005 Pittsburgh Sidney Crosby -
Note: Sid the Kid delivered for the Penguins, as well as the expectations of NHL fans.
2004 Washington Alexander Ovechkin -
Note: Ovechkin lived up to his billing in 2005-06 with 52 goals and 106 points.
2003 Pittsburgh Marc-Andre Fleury Eric Staal
Note: Goaltenders take time to develop, but you can't ignore Staal's 100 points in 2005-06.
2002 Columbus Rick Nash None Comparable
Note: In his second season, Nash was the youngest 40-goal scorer since Jimmy Carson in 1988.
2001 Atlanta Ilya Kovalchuk None Comparable
Note: Jason Spezza is great, but Kovalchuk is arguably the most exciting player in the league.
2000 NY Islanders Rick DiPietro Dany Heatley (2nd)
Note: DiPietro made big strides on Long Island, but you can't dismiss Heatley's accomplishments.
1999 Atlanta Patrik Stefan Martin Havlat (26th)
Note: Havlat has developed into a cornerstone for Ottawa, the same goes for Vancouver's Sedins.
1998 Tampa Bay Vincent Lecavalier None Comparable
Note: The Rimouski grad was the pick of the litter in 1998, but Simon Gagne comes close.
1997 Boston Joe Thornton None Comparable
Note: The former Greyhound is the complete package for the Sharks. Marian Hossa is right up there, too.
1996 Ottawa Chris Phillips Derek Morris (13th)
Note: Phillips is a valuable blueliner in Ottawa, but Morris brings a lot of offence from the point.
1995 Ottawa Bryan Berard Jarome Iginla (11th)
Note: With five 30-goal seasons, Iginla is one of the league's premier power forwards.
1994 Florida Ed Jovanovski None Comparable
Note: 'Jovocop' is one of the most natural offensive talents from the blueline in the NHL today.
1993 Ottawa Alexandre Daigle Chris Pronger (2nd)
Note: It took a short while, but Pronger emerged as a force on D. A Hart and Norris Trophy winner.
1992 Tampa Bay Roman Hamrlik Alexei Yashin (2nd)
Note: Contract squabbles aside, Yashin was the Senators' franchise player for seven seasons.
1991 Quebec Eric Lindros Peter Forsberg (6th)
Note: With two Stanley Cups and a Hart Trophy, Forsberg is considered the best player in the league today.
1990 Quebec Owen Nolan Jaromir Jagr (5th)
Note: Jagr's Capital seasons haven't been great, but you can't ignore the Cups, trophies and scoring titles.
1989 Quebec Mats Sundin None Comparable
Note: The Maple Leafs' captain is a model for consistency, with nine straight 70-plus point seasons.
1988 Minnesota Mike Modano None Comparable
Note: The face of the Stars franchise is the club's all-time leader in points, goals, assists and games played.
1987 Buffalo Pierre Turgeon Joe Sakic (15th)
Note: The best player in Avs history has averaged less than a point a game just twice in his 16-year career.
1986 Detroit Joe Murphy Brian Leetch (9th)
Note: Leetch is without a doubt one of the greatest New York Rangers - and NHL defencemen - of all-time.
1985 Toronto Wendel Clark Joe Nieuwendyk (27th)
Note: Leaf fans loved Clark, but Nieuwendyk emerged early as a prolific scorer and the NHL's top faceoff man.
1984 Pittsburgh Mario Lemieux None Comparable
Note: Has any pro athlete meant more to the survival of a franchise? Mario delivered right from Day 1.
1983 Minnesota Brian Lawton Steve Yzerman (4th)
Note: With three Cups and an 18-year captaincy, the only player more celebrated in Red Wings lore is Howe.
1982 Boston Gord Kluzak Scott Stevens (4th)
Note: He's never won the Norris, but Stevens is the league's best stay-at-home defender. Three Stanley Cups.
1981 Winnipeg Dale Hawerchuk Ron Francis (4th)
Note: Francis is 4th in all-time career points, but you won't hear much complaining about Hawerchuk, either.
1980 Montreal Doug Wickenheiser Denis Savard (3rd)
Note: The Habs took the Western star over backyard talent Savard. Honourable mention to Paul Coffey (6th).
1979 Colorado Rob Ramage Ray Bourque (8th)
Note: Boston's all-time leader in points, assists and games-played won the Stanley Cup with Colorado.
1978 Minnesota Bobby Smith None Comparable
Note: Smith won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986 and was a top scorer with the Habs and North Stars.
1977 Detroit Dale McCourt Mike Bossy (15th)
Note: In just 10 seasons, Bossy tallied 573 goals and won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders.
1976 Washington Rick Green Bernie Federko (7th)
Note: Federko is the Blues' leader in career games played, points and assists. Entered the HOF in 2002.
1975 Philadelphia Mel Bridgeman Doug Jarvis (24th)
Note: Jarvis was the NHL's most durable player, appearing in 964 straight games without missing a beat.
1974 Washington Greg Joly Bryan Trottier (22nd)
Note: Trottier was a scoring machine and a premier two-way centre. Honourable mention to Clark Gillies (4th).
1973 NY Islanders Denis Potvin Lanny McDonald (4th)
Note: A real pick em', as both Hall of Famers were elite talents. Honourable mention to Bob Gainey (8th).
1972 NY Islanders Billy Harris Steve Shutt (4th)
Note: Shutt holds the Habs' record for career points by a LW (776) and helped the team win four Cups.
1971 Montreal Guy Lafleur Marcel Dionne (2nd)
Note: Once again, this is a pick em'. Dionne and The Flower were both equally dominant in their era.
1970 Buffalo Gilbert Perreault Darryl Sittler (8th)
Note: Another 'push.' Both were elite scorers, and all that was missing were Stanley Cup victories.
1969 Montreal Rejean Houle Bobby Clarke (17th)
Note: With leadership, toughness and scoring, no one has embodied the Flyers more than Clarke.

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