Teams have the future in their hands on draft day. A struggling NHL club can potentially selected a franchise player, a dramatic trade could be struck and there is always the potential for disaster as no pick is ever really a sure thing.
There have been many big moments at the NHL Entry Draft and before the New York Islanders make the first overall pick on Friday night, TSN.ca looks back on some of the more notable happenings over recent years.
- 1989: Quebec takes Sundin with the first pick -
The Quebec Nordiques had the top pick after coming off a terrible season that saw them manage only 61 points (27-46-7). The Islanders also collected 61 points, but had a higher win total (28). With Joe Sakic already in the fold after having been drafted in the 1987 draft, the Nords took another skilled forward in Mats Sundin with the top pick in '89.
The lanky Swede was the first ever player from outside of North America to be taken first overall. Sundin evolved into one of the most consistent performers in the NHL and at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season he had amassed 1,349 points (564 Goals, 785 Assists) over his 1,346 career regular season games.
- 1990: The Fab Five -
The 1990 Entry Draft boasted a deep and diverse class. The Nordiques - thanks to a brutal 31-point effort in the regular season (12-61-7) - once again had the top pick and selected Owen Nolan of the Cornwall Royals. Like Nolan, the rest of the top five also went on to have solid NHL careers; Vancouver Canucks - Petr Nedved (Seattle Thunderbirds), Detroit Red Wings - Keith Primeau (Niagara Falls Thunder), Philadelphia Flyers - Mike Ricci (Peterborough Petes) and Pittsburgh Penguins - Jaromir Jagr (Kladno).
Martin Brodeur, Keith Tkachuk, Brad May and Bryan Smolinski were also selected in the first round, but all within the final eight picks.
- 1991: Quebec drafts Lindros anyway -
The Nordiques (16-50-14, 46 points) had the top selection again in 1990, but would suffer one of the most awkward moments in draft history. The consensus number one pick was Eric Lindros of the Oshawa Generals. He was already being billed as the NHL's "Next One," but prior to the draft he made it clear he did not want to play for the Nordiques. Quebec took him anyway and when presented with the jersey at the team's draft table, the big centre draped it over his arm instead of putting it on.
The Big E stayed true to his word and did not join the Nords for the 1991-92 season. He split time between the Generals and the Canadian National Team.
- 1992: Lindros in spotlight again -
The Lindros Affair grabbed the spotlight again in 1992 as he was traded to both the Flyers and New York Rangers on draft day. All three teams in the dispute agreed to arbitration and it was decided the Flyers deal with the Nordiques would stand.
The blockbuster trade saw Quebec send Lindros to the Flyers for a package of players - Ron Hextall, Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon - a first round selection in 1993, a first round selection in 1994 and money.
Meanwhile, The expansion Tampa Bay Lightning took Roman Hamrlik with the top pick and the Ottawa Senators took Alexei Yashin second.
- 1993: Remember this -
The Senators (10-70-4, 24 points) had the first pick and selected Victoriaville Tigres forward Alexandre Daigle. The QMJHL sniper was dynamite in the 1992-93 season and had 137 points (45 G, 92 A) in only 53 games for the Tigres.
Daigle had a decent rookie campaign, scoring 20 goals and adding 31 assists, but he would never produce more than 51 points in an NHL season. Daigle managed only 327 points (129 G, 198 A) over his 616 game NHL career.
Following his selection at the draft Daigle said, "I'm glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers No. 2."
The remark would prove to be wildly inaccurate. Hartford general manager Brian Burke swung a draft day deal that sent the Whalers' first (6th overall - Viktor Kozlov), second (45th overall - Vlastimil Kroupa), 3rd round (58th overall - Ville Peltonen) picks, plus future considerations (Sergei Makarov) to the San Jose Sharks for the second pick in the draft. The Whalers used the pick on Peterborough Petes blueliner Chris Pronger. While he needed time to mature, the bruising defenceman developed into one of the top players in the league and won the Hart Trophy in the 1999-2000 season.
Lindros once again had an impact, although a minor one, on the 1993 draft. The Nordiques took Sherbrooke goaltender Jocelyn Thibault 10th overall, a pick the club had received as part of the Lindros trade a year earlier. Fans at Le Colisee cheered Thibault's name in unison after the selection was made and his parents were overcome with joy.
- 1994: Another big draft day deal -
In 1994, the Florida Panthers made Windsor Spitfires defenceman Ed Jovanovski the top pick over Radek Bonk of the Las Vegas Thunder. Despite having one of the greatest mullets in draft day history, Bonk would fall to third and was taken by the Senators. Anaheim selected Russian defenceman Oleg Tverdovsky with the second pick.
The players being drafted were forced out of the spotlight later on, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nordiques completed a major deal. Toronto sent their captain Wendel Clark along with Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and the 22nd overall selection to the Nordiques for Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and their first round selection in 1994. The Maple Leafs later traded the pick to the Washington Capitals.
- 1995: Berard or Redden -
Bryan Berard of the Detroit Jr. Red Wings became the third American born player to be taken first overall when the Ottawa Senators (9-34-5, 23 points) made him the top pick in 1995. Wade Redden (Brandon Wheat Kings) was selected second by the Islanders. A few months later, the teams would swap the players in a deal that sent Berard, Don Beaupre and Martin Straka to the Isles for Redden and Damian Rhodes.
There was also a significant trade made on draft day as the Buffalo Sabres sent Alexander Mogilny and a fifth round selection to the Vancouver Canucks for Mike Peca, Mike Wilson and a first round pick (14th overall).
- 1997: Bruins load up -
The Boston Bruins (26-47-9, 61 points) took high-scoring Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds star Joe Thornton with the top selection in the entry draft. The centre tore up the OHL during the 1996-97 season, scoring 41 goals and adding 81 assists for the Greyhounds. Boston would hit another payday just seven picks later, taking highly-touted IHL forward Sergei Samsonov. The speedy Russian went on to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year the very next spring.
- 1998: Lightning strikes -
The Lightning (17-55-10, 44 points) made Rimouski Oceanic centre Vincent Lecavalier the first overall pick. Lecavalier had a monster campaign in 1997-98, scoring 44 goals with 71 assists in the QMJHL. While some debated the merits of having young forward play in the NHL the following season, Tampa ownership made it clear they expected him to be with the big club in 1998-99.
- 1999: Brother Act -
Burke, now the general manager of the Canucks, was at it again in 1999. Similar to the way he made deals to get into a position to take Chris Pronger with the second pick in 1993, Burke made moves in order to select Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin (both from MoDo) with the second and third picks, respectively. Patrik Stefan was taken by the Thrashers with the top selection.
- 2003: Start in net -
The Pittsburgh Penguins (27-44-6-5, 65 points) made the first overall selection in the draft for the first time since taking Mario Lemieux in 1984. The Pens picked up a major piece to their 2009 Stanley Cup championship team, taking Cape Breton Screaming Eagles netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
- 2004: One-two punch -
Two future superstars went 1-2 in 2004, as the Washington Capitals (23-46-10-3, 59 points) selected Alexander Ovechkin with the first pick and the Pittsburgh Penguins (23-47-8-4, 58 points) took Evgeni Malkin second. Not since the 1971 Draft, where Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne were the top picks, had two forwards of that calibre been available.
- 2005: The Kid goes first overall -
There was no question as to who would be the top selection in 2005, but following the work stoppage that cancelled the 2004-05 season there had been some mystery about who would have the first pick. The Penguins won the draft lottery in July, and with it the opportunity to take Rimouski Oceanic centre Sidney Crosby.
With Fleury, Malkin, Crosby and later Jordan Staal (second overall pick in 2006) the Penguins had the base of what would become a championship team.
- 2006: Alexander The Great makes the call -
The Capitals had the fourth overall pick in what was a deep draft class. The St Louis Blues (21-46-7-8, 57 points) took Erik Johnson (USA Under-18) with the top selection, the Penguins took Staal (Peterborough Petes) at two and the Blackhawks used the third pick on Jonathan Toews (University of North Dakota).
With a standing ovation from the fans at Vancouver's GM Place, the Caps let Calder Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin go to the podium to announce the club was taking Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom (Brynas IF Gavle). The addition of the talented centre has helped make Washington a force in the Eastern Conference and Backstrom has averaged almost a point a game over his first two seasons (164 GP, 157 points).
- 2007: Sliding down the ranks -
Quebec Remparts' Angelo Esposito - ranked early on by NHL Central Scouting as the top North American skater available - was expected to be taken within the top 10 of the 2007 draft. The centre had racked up 177 points (66 G, 111 A) over his first two season's in the QMJHL, but he slid all the way to 20th before he was selected by the Penguins. One of the notable clubs that passed over him was the Montreal Canadiens, who opted for defenceman Ryan McDonagh. Esposito was visibly upset, but was all smiles when Pittsburgh came knocking. The Montreal Junior forward is now part of the Atlanta Thrashers organization and has a chance to crack the lineup in the fall.