Not every great NHLer is picked first overall, so that's why we decided to compile a list of those draft day steals. The picks that come after the first round, but are every bit as important in determining the strength of a franchise. Therefore, in the spirit of our "Top 10 Undrafted NHLers Currently Playing" list, here's a list of the top ten Draft Day steals of the past 10 years, from 1999 to the present.
There are a couple of flaws with this list, of course. First, it's hard to determine a ranking. Who ranks higher, a great player from the third round, or a very good player from the eighth? I chose to weigh the position picked pretty heavily. Also, the list does favour the earlier years, because the jury's still out on who will be the best steals of the last few drafts - but that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of recent picks. It's also worth pointing out that I did not include second round picks, despite there being some great steals there as well (Shea Weber, anyone?)
You'll find the list after the jump.
10. Patrick Sharp - 2001, Third Round, #95 Overall (Philadelphia Flyers)
|2008 - Patrick Sharp||26||18||44||6||41|
Sharp is one of the higher draft picks in this list, but he has certainly turned out to be one of the stronger third round picks of the past decade. Although unfortunately for the Philadelphia Flyers - who drafted him - they traded him (along with Eric Meloche) back in 2005 for Matt Ellison. Who? Exactly.
9. Kris Versteeg - 2004, Fifth Round, #134 Overall (Boston Bruins)
|2008 - Kris Versteeg||22||31||53||15||55|
From fifth round draft pick to Calder Memorial Trophy nominee, Versteeg is a very promising young forward. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they traded him back in 2007 for a familiar face to Senators fans: former Sens draft pick Brandon Bochenski.
8. Steve Mason - 2006, Third Round, #69 Overall (Columbus Blue Jackets)
|2008 - Steve Mason||61||3664||33||20||7||7||140||2.29||1658||1518||.916||10|
Another Calder nominee this year - and the predicted winner by nearly every sportswriter in North America - Mason had a tremendous rookie campaign, one so promising that the Blue Jackets traded away former starter Pascal Leclaire to the Sens. Though he's the highest pick on this list, the former World Juniors champ has certainly earned his spot here: six keepers were drafted ahead of him, and none have seen more NHL icetime than Mason.
7. Johan Franzen - 2004, Third Round #97 Overall (Detroit Red Wings)
|2008 - Johan Franzen||34||25||59||21||44|
Even if "the Mule" went without a point during the regular season, his playoff performances would be enough to justify his inclusion on the list (minus his Finals against Pittsburgh, of course). But during the regular season, he's still a force to be reckoned with. By the way, do you know who the Senators drafted in the third round in 2004? Jeff Glass.
6. Joe Pavelski - 2003, Seventh Round, #205 Overall (San Jose Sharks)
|2008 - Joe Pavelski||25||34||59||5||46|
Pavelski is 24, was drafted in the seventh round, scored a goal in his first NHL game, and just put up 59 points in his third regular season. There's not much else that needs to be said.
5. Pekka Rinne - 2004, Eighth Round, #258 Overall (Nashville Predators)
|2008 - Pekka Rinne||52||2999||29||15||4||8||119||2.38||1435||1316||.917||7|
Sure it might be bold to put a rookie this high on the list after just one season, but let's face it: what a season. Rinne was robbed of a Calder nomination, and put up some of the best numbers in the league. Time will tell if he can keep up such strong performances, but he sure didn't show any signs of slipping last year.
4. Ryan Miller - 1999, Fifth Round, #138 Overall (Buffalo Sabres)
|2008 - Ryan Miller||59||3443||34||18||6||6||145||2.53||1773||1628||.918||5|
When he's not making questionable television commercials, this former Hobey Baker winner is proving to be a reliable backstopper for the Sabres. He was top ten in the league for both wins and save percentage (he placed 8th in both). Not bad for a fifth round pick.
3. Mark Streit - 2004, Ninth Round, #262 Overall (Montreal Canadiens)
|2008 - Mark Streit||16||40||56||6||62|
56 points in a season is impressive for any defenceman; it's even more impressive for a man on the blueline of the league-worst Islanders. Streit led all Isles players in both points and assists, and clocked a team-high average 25:13 icetime - almost 4 minutes more than any other member of his squad.
2. Henrik Lundqvist - 2000, Seventh Round, #205 (New York Rangers)
|2008 - Henrik Lundqvist||70||4153||38||25||7||3||168||2.43||2007||1839||.916||3|
Lundqvist has certainly solidified himself as one of the game's elite goaltenders, so it's no surprise that he should be near the top of this list. Considering all of the Rangers' woes last year, they should thank their lucky stars that they snagged a top-level goaltender in the seventh round.
1. Henrik Zetterberg - 1999, Seventh Round, #210 (Detroit Red Wings)
|2008 - Henrik Zetterberg||31||42||73||13||36|
Is there any question? Those stats above, while impressive, don't do his skill justice, as it's Zetterberg's two-way game that truly wins him accolades - well, that and his awe-inspiring playoff beard. There was nobody that could put forward an argument to knock Zetterberg from the top of the list. That is, unless we made it the top 10 draft day steals of the past 11 years, in which case his buddy Pavel Datsyuk might have something to say.