Tavares or Hedman? Remember Daigle or Pronger? Staff

6/24/2009 9:03:34 PM

One is a 6'0", 200lb. high-scoring centre while the other is a 6'5", 210lb defenceman. Who would you rather pick with the first overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft?

Well if the year was 1993, the Ottawa Senators would select slick centre Alexandre Daigle and leave stalwart defenceman Chris Pronger for the Hartford Whalers. In some cases, having the second overall pick can work out pretty well. 

The New York Islanders have a similar decision to make heading into Friday's first round of the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, which you can watch live on TSN and TSN HD at 7pm et/4pm pt.

Should they keep the pick and select the unaminous top prospect in 6'0", 200lb. high-scoring centre John Tavares? Or should they call out the name of Victor Hedman, the 6'5", 210lb. defenceman? Or should they call the Lightning at No. 2 and work out a deal to flip picks?

Having the first overall pick does not guarantee the addition of a future Hall of Famer to your roster for years to come. For every Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk, there are names like Daigle and Patrik Stefan.

In 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers decided to take Stefan, who is now out of the league. Vancouver Canucks' general manager Brian Burke made a big splash by making a number of trades to get the second and third picks, enabling him to take Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Daniel is approaching the 500-point mark as he, along with Henrik, continue to live up to expectations.

The following summer, the Islanders chose goaltending over goal-scoring, opting for Rick DiPietro over Dany Heatley, who was picked by the Thrashers. DiPietro has yet to reach his potential and has been bitten by the injury bug in recent years, while Heatley has averaged over 40 goals per season during his six-year career with Atlanta and Ottawa.

Sometimes it doesn't matter who goes first or second because both players meet the high expectations that go with being a top prospect.

In 1987, the Buffalo Sabres picked Pierre Turgeon first and the New Jersey Devils selected Brendan Shanahan second. While Shanahan was still playing this past season, both players reached the 1,300-point plateau in their impressive careers.

The following year, the Minnesota North Stars selected high-flying winger Mike Modano, who would go on to become the highest scoring American-born player in NHL history. But the Canucks were satisfied with taking power forward Trevor Linden, who would go on to become team captain and have his number retired at GM Place.

In 2004, the Washington Capitals picked unanimous top prospect Alexander Ovechkin while the Penguins had to 'settle' with taking Evgeni Malkin. A few years later, both players have achieved superstar status. Ovechkin has already captured a pair of Hart Trophies, and Malkin is coming off a season in which he won the scoring title, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and his first Stanley Cup.

And then there are times when teams do the unexpected and the move backfires on them.

In 1982, the Boston Bruins had the top pick with Brian Bellows expected to go No. 1 overall. But they had their eye on big bruising defenceman Gord Kluzak. At No. 2, the North Stars coveted Bellows and made a deal with the Bruins to ensure he would be available when it was their turn. Bellows went on to register over 1,000 points in a 17-year career while due to numerous injuries, Kluzak's career lasted less than 300 games.  

Four years later, the Detroit Red Wings passed on Michigan native and local favourite Jimmy Carson and selected Michigan State winger Joe Murphy first overall instead. But while Murphy struggled to find his game at the NHL level, Carson scored 141 goals in his first three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. Murphy, who was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and then the Chicago Blackhawks, eventually reached that total in his eighth season.

But given the choice, teams will alway covet picking first because it opens the door to taking lead-pipe cinches. Would you rather have Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk or centre Doug Smith (253 points in 535 games)? How about Maple Leafs all-time leading scorer Mats Sundin or Dave Chyzowski (31 points in 126 games)? And what about Hart Trophy winner Eric Lindros or Pat Falloon (322 points in 575 games)?

The Islanders will make their decision on Friday night but the Tampa Bay Lightning may be just as happy with who they get with the second overall selection.