With their draft lottery win last night, the Oilers became the second team in NHL history to secure three consecutive first overall draft picks. The last team to do so, the Quebec Nordiques, picked first overall in 1989, 1990 and 1991. While none of those picks would go on to play for championship teams, many of the players acquired for them did.
The following post traces the impact of the trades made with those three first overall picks.
Quebec would eventually move to Colorado, and the Avalanche would win two Stanley Cups there. Ten players on that first Cup team and nine players on the second could trace their roots back to those three first overall picks. Three current members of the team are part of the legacy of those selections more than 20 years ago.
It all started with Eric Lindros. Regarded in the same sort of reverence in his draft year as Sidney Crosby was, Lindros steadfastly refused to play in Quebec, forcing the Nordiques to trade him. They sent him to Philadelphia for players, picks and cash, and those players and picks would form the backbone of the first championship team in Colorado.
Coming back for Lindros were three members of that first championship team: Chris Simon, Mike Ricci and Peter Forsberg. Jocelyn Thibault and Ron Hextall were also part of the package; Thibault was sent away as part of a deal for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane, while Hextall was dealt for Adam Deadmarsh, all members of that first Cup team. Steve Duchesne was also acquired; he’d be flipped for Ron Sutter and Garth Butcher. Sutter was in turn dealt away for Uwe Krupp and Wade Belak; Krupp would score the Cup-winning goal for Colorado that first year.
Mats Sundin was another one of those first overall picks; he’d be packaged along with Nolan Baumgartner (part of the Lindros return) and Garth Butcher (part of the Lindros return via Steve Duchesne) in exchange for Wendel Clark, Landon Wilson and Sylvain Lefebvre. Lefebvre would play on the first cup-winning team; Clark would be sent away for Claude Lemieux who would play there as well.
First overall pick Owen Nolan was sent to San Jose for defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. Ozolinsh would score 19 points in 22 games for that first championship team.
In all, the three first overall picks (Lindros, Sundin and Nolan) brought back 10 players for the 1995-96 Stanley Cup Champions: Peter Forsberg, Sandis Ozolinsh, Mike Ricci, Adam Deadmarsh, Uwe Krupp, Claude Lemieux,Sylvain Lefebvre, Mike Keane, Chris Simon and Patrick Roy.
Of that group of 10, just two – Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy – would still be around when the Avalanche won their next Stanley Cup, in 2001. Many of the others would bring in help via trade.
Chris Simon was dealt for Keith Jones, who brought back two members of that team: Shjon Podein and Scott Parker. Mike Ricci brought in Alex Tanguay. Landon Wilson, who was part of the original Sundin trade, was shipped away for Robyn Regehr; Regehr and Wade Belak (who came over along with Uwe Krupp for Ron Sutter) would move to Calgary with Chris Dingman coming the other way; Dingman would win the Cup in 2001. Claude Lemieux was dealt for Brian Rolston; Rolston in turn was dealt to Boston as part of package for Ray Bourque, who would win in 2001. Ozolinsh was dealt for one of the next generation of Cup winners (Nolan Pratt) as well as Jared Aulin; Aulin and Adam Deadmarsh brought in two more members of the team – Rob Blake and Steven Reinprecht.
Those three first overall picks, then, contributed to the acquisition of nine members of that second cup team: Alex Tanguay, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque, Steven Reinprecht, Shjon Podein, Chris Dingman, Scott Parker and Patrick Roy.
At this point, it becomes impossible to trace back any players on the roster to the Mats Sundin trade; Ray Bourque would retire while Chris Dingman was sent away for a draft pick that never panned out. Retirement and free agency would knock off most of the players that came back from the Lindros and Nolan trades, but one from each deal would be sent away in trade, eventually leading to members of the current team.
One of the players coming back in the Lindros deal was Mike Ricci. Ricci, as was mentioned earlier, was sent away for Alex Tanguay. Tanguay would be dealt to Calgary for a bunch of assets, one of which was Jordan Leopold. Leopold would eventually be dealt back to Calgary for a journeyman defenseman named Lawrence Nycholat, now playing in Germany, a second round pick and a prospect. The pick and prospect turned out to be Stefan Elliott and Ryan Wilson – both members of the Avalanche blue line this season.
The other player on the Avs roster is a long-term product of both the Lindros and Nolan deals. Paul Stastny was the 44th overall pick in 2005, a pick that should have belonged to Phoenix. The Avalanche acquired it in a trade that sent (among others) Keith Ballard the other way. Ballard had been acquired from Buffalo for Steve Reinprecht. Reinprecht originally joined Colorado from L.A. (along with Rob Blake); the price for those two players included winger Adam Deadmarsh and prospect Jared Aulin. Deadmarsh was a product of the original Lindros trade (via Ron Hextall) while Aulin came from the original Nolan trade (via Sandis Ozolinsh).
The long-term impact of those picks was enormous (though of course here we’re omitting throw-ins along the way). Two decades later the Avs are still benefitting. They also won two Stanley Cups. The latter didn’t happen right away – Lindros, the last of those three picks, was drafted in 1991; the Avalanche wouldn’t hoist the Cup (or win a playoff round, for that matter) until 1996. For the sake of comparison, if the Oilers were to follow the same timeline, with this as their last first overall pick, that would mean a Cup victory in 2017.