56th overall picks from the past five NHL drafts

Photo credit:Tyler Yaremchuk
10 months ago
With the NHL Entry Draft fast approaching and the Oilers scheduled to draft someone at 56th overall with their first of only three picks, I figured that I would take a dip in the pool of league history to learn about the players that have been taken in that slot over the years to see if there are any patterns to be found. Is there anything there? Let’s find out together.
Once again, before we even get started on this first countdown, I’m readily acknowledging the obvious fact that looking back at the past five drafts won’t tell us anything about the player the Oilers may or may not select two weeks from now or how he’ll perform at the NHL level. Regardless of that admission, I know that someone will still point out in the comment section that I’m an idiot for putting this together even though I just think it’s fun to go back and see the general type of player that gets taken around that spot. Obviously, no two drafts are ever the same and we know that some of the picks taken at #56 will work out while others won’t, but since this is only the third time the Oilers have picked in the 56th slot since 1980, I thought it would be fun to dig into the past and see if there are any clues available that can help us prepare for what’s to come.
Not to mention, I needed to write something today and figured we might enjoy this little stroll through NHL history so here we are. Now that we’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, let’s bring this blog post to 88mph and head back in time.

2018 – Jacob Olofsson – C – Montreal Canadiens

Rookie Season: N/A
2022-23 Season (w/ Bjorkloven IF): 20GP – 8G, 4A = 12 points
Pre-Draft Scouting Report:
Two-way center with middle-six upside. Well-rounded player with decent skating and puck skills but hasn’t shown high-end offensive creativity.
At 23 years old, it’s tough to predict what the future holds for Jacob Olofsson even though you absolutely know that the Habs would have wanted him to be closer to cracking the NHL roster. Now five years out from his draft, an NHL career looks to be a stretch for the guy even though stranger things have happened. Needless to say, not a great start to our countdown.

2019 – Brett Leason – RW – Washington Capitals

Rookie Season (2021-22): 36GP – 3G, 3A for six points
2022-23 Season (w/ Anaheim): 54GP – 6G, 3A = 9 points
Pre-Draft Scouting Report:
Savvy with and without the puck, his hockey IQ is the backbone of his game and he loves to use his big frame in puck battles. Has an NHL caliber wrist shot, with a super quick release. He positions himself very well on the puck, and has plus hand-eye coordination.
Claimed off waivers by Anaheim in October of 2022, Brett Leason is only just starting his NHL career but looks to have a solid opportunity ahead of him with the rebuilding Ducks. While not yet an everyday player, Leason has 90 career games under his belt and will be looking to solidify his place on the Anaheim in this last year of his ELC that pays him $775K.

2020 – Tristen Robins – C – San Jose Sharks

Rookie Season: N/A
2022-23 Season (w/ San Jose Barracuda): 64GP – 17G, 21A = 38 points
2022-23 Season (w/ San Jose Sharks): 3GP – 0G, 0A
Pre-Draft Scouting Report:
He’s a gifted puck-handler, capable of blending pass receptions into detailed maneuvers and freezing his opponents with deceptive elements. He evades defenders with ease using a variety of around and triangle dekes. The way that Robins can shoot the puck, handle the puck, and support the puck in the offensive zone is pretty rare for a first-time draft-eligible skater.
Tristen Robins got his first taste of NHL action in 2022-23 after a strong rookie season with the San Jose Barracuda, and you’d have to imagine that has Sharks fans excited about his future. While there are no guarantees in pro sports, Robins’ scouting report certainly makes it seem like he has the tools to succeed at hockey’s highest level, but whether or not he can put it all together remains to be seen. Either way, it looks like the Sharks got a decent depth piece with the 56th overall pick in 2020.

2021 – Evan Nause – D – Florida Panthers

Rookie Season: N/A
2022-23 Season (w/ Quebec Remparts): 40GP – 5G, 24A = 29 points
Pre-Draft Scouting Report:
His skill as a skater lends itself exceptionally well to the breakout. Nause creates advantages for himself on every defensive zone puck retrieval, shoulder checking for options, using the environment to obstruct forecheckers, adapting his speed to the situation, and using the middle of the ice to create controlled exits.
With one more year of junior eligibility available to him, I’d imagine Evan Nause will be back with the Quebec Remparts as they look to defend their Memorial Cup win from last month. Given that Nause was drafted only two years ago, it’s no surprise that he’s not exactly close to cracking the Panthers’ lineup, but at the same point, you do have to appreciate the way he’s excelling with his junior team. We’ve still got a ways to go here.

2022 – Rieger Lorenz – LW – Minnesota Wild

Rookie Season: N/A
2022-23 Season (w/ University of Denver): 37GP – 2G, 9A = 9 points
Pre-Draft Scouting Report:
He’s interesting because of his physical game and his ideas, his ability to use space with and without the puck, and the occasional flash of playmaking, like the assist he got by sliding the puck under a stick with one-hand and backhanding it to a teammate across the ice for a shot. Lorenz can link plays all over the ice.
Not much to say about a kid that only got picked up last year apart from wondering how much progress he’ll make in his second year at the University of Denver. Either way, the Wild will need some of their prospects to pick up steam in the near future as the franchise continues to battle the wild amounts of dead cap space on their books from the Parise and Suter buyouts.


Do you think that showing only the last five 56th overall picks isn’t enough? I agree with you. So here’s a list of everyone taken in this slot going back to 1980, and as you’ll soon see, it’s a real mixed bag in terms of what you may or may not get.
2017Josh BrookDEFENSEMontreal Canadiens
2016Dillon DubeFORWARDCalgary Flames18628376548
2015Vince DunnDEFENSESt. Louis Blues3313992131163
2014Ryan DonatoFORWARDBoston Bruins241495310266
2013Marco RoyFORWARDEdmonton Oilers
2012Sam KurkerFORWARDSt. Louis Blues
2011Lucas LessioFORWARDPhoenix Coyotes4134712
2010Johan LarssonFORWARDMinnesota Wild4755274126244
2009Kevin LynchFORWARDColumbus Blue Jackets
2008Danny KristoFORWARDMontreal Canadiens
2007Akim AliuDEFENSEChicago Blackhawks721326
2006Blake GeoffrionFORWARDNashville Predators55851334
2005Marc-Andre ClicheFORWARDNew York Rangers1513111434
2004Nicklas GrossmannDEFENSEDallas Stars592137386314
2003Patrick O’SullivanFORWARDMinnesota Wild33458103161116
2002Vladislav YevseyevFORWARDBoston Bruins
2001Andrei MedvedevGOALIECalgary Flames
2000Alexander SuglobovFORWARDNew Jersey Devils181014
1999Matt ZultekFORWARDBoston Bruins
1998Tomek ValtonenFORWARDDetroit Red Wings
1997Vratislav CechDEFENSEFlorida Panthers
1996Zdeno CharaDEFENSENew York Islanders16672074696762077
1995Shane WillisFORWARDTampa Bay Lightning17431437477
1994Dorian AnneckFORWARDWinnipeg Jets
1993Valeri KarpovFORWARDAnaheim Mighty Ducks7614152932
1992Jarrett DeulingFORWARDNew York Islanders1501111
1991George BreenFORWARDEdmonton Oilers
1990Brad BombardirDEFENSENew Jersey Devils35684654127
1989Scott ThomasFORWARDBuffalo Sabres63641034
1988Craig FisherFORWARDPhiladelphia Flyers120002
1987Todd LalondeFORWARDBoston Bruins
1986Kevin KerrFORWARDBuffalo Sabres
1985Keith GretzkyFORWARDBuffalo Sabres
1984Alan PerryGOALIESt. Louis Blues
1983Mitch MessierFORWARDMinnesota North Stars2002211
1982Kevin DineenFORWARDHartford Whalers11883554057602229
1981Mike VernonGOALIECalgary Flames78103939271
1980Sean McKennaFORWARDBuffalo Sabres4148280162181


Seeing as I’ve been doing this series for the last handful of years, I’ve learned that the NHL Entry Draft is a crapshoot no matter how deep that year’s class is reported to be. Not on is the NHL’s annual prospect fishing derby like throwing darts at the best of times, but the later you get into the draft, the more time it takes for some of these kids — if at all of them — to make the show and that’s why it’s no surprise to see that only a couple of the players listed above have NHL games on their resumes. Again, I know that this is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination, but I do find it useful in a weird way to see what flavour of player generally gets taken in our range.


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