How big a break did the Edmonton Oilers get by winning the lottery for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the right to make their third consecutive first overall pick by snatching it from the Columbus Blue Jackets? Very big.
At least that’s what the last 12 years of the Entry Draft tells us when we look at the last dozen players taken first overall compared to the last 12 players taken second, just one selection later, since 2000.
In 2011, the Oilers took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first pick and he didn’t disappoint, scoring 18-34-52 despite missing 20 games with a shoulder injury. That left Nugent-Hopkins tied in scoring with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, who had 22-30-52 in 82 games. Both are Calder Trophy finalists. Who got the better player? Too early to tell.
In 2010, the Oilers claimed two-time Memorial Cup MVP Taylor Hall with the first overall pick. Despite two seasons shortened by injury, the dynamic Hall has scored 49-46-95 in 126 games. Not a lot of argument Hall looks like a franchise cornerstone, if he can stay healthy.
The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, happily took Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick in 2010. After being brought along slowly as a rookie, Seguin completed his second season with 40-49-89 in 155 games. Who’ll have the better career? Again, it’s too early to know.
That said, when you look at the previous 10 years of the Entry Draft, the advantage of picking first overall compared to second is, to understate, significant, at least the way I see it.
While you’d have a great start on building a perennial Stanley Cup contender with either group of players taken with those two picks over the last decade, I know which group I’d go with.
WITH THE FIRST PICK . . .
Following are the players taken first overall since 2000 along with games played, goals, assists and points (or GP, career goals-against average and saves percentage for goaltenders).
2009 NYI John Tavares 243 84-118-202
2008 TB Steven Stamkos 325 179-150-329
2007 CHI Patrick Kane 399 126-243-369
2006 STL Erik Johnson 298 27-100-127
2005 PIT Sidney Crosby 434 223-386-609
2004 WSH Alex Ovechkin 553 339-340-679
2003 PIT Marc-Andre Fleury 434 2.68 .909
2002 CBJ Rick Nash 674 289-258-547
2001 ATL Ilya Kovalchuk 779 406-379-785
2000 Rick DiPietro 315 2.86 .903
WITH THE SECOND PICK . . .
2009 TB Victor Hedman 214 12-52-69
2008 LA Drew Doughty 316 43-119-162
2007 James VanRiemsdyk 196 47-52-99
2006 PIT Jordan Staal 431 120-128-248
2005 ANA Bobby Ryan 332 136-123-259
2004 PIT Evgeni Malkin 427 208-319-527
2003 CAR Eric Staal 642 250-324-574
2002 ATL Kari Lehtonen 344 2.71 .914
2001 OTT Jason Spezza 606 226-390-616
2000 ATL Dany Heatley 751 349-393-742
THE BOTTOM LINE
— Obviously, injuries, quality of teammates and opportunity factors heavily into the results of the players taken over the past decade, but, as a group, the first overall picks are clearly superior to the second picks 2000-2009, at least by the numbers and the impact they’ve had as NHL players.
— The way I see it, Jordan Staal (2006) and Dany Heatley (2000) are the only second picks who are clearly superior to the players taken first overall in their respective draft years: Johnson (2006) and DiPietro (2000).
— Does the last decade of the draft mean the Oilers will select the player who goes on to have the best career this June with their third consecutive first overall pick? Not necessarily, but probably.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.