The NHL Entry Draft, previously known as the NHL Amateur Draft, technically started in 1963, during the Original Six Era. Previously teams secured right to players by “sponsoring” players prior to them playing/joining the National Hockey League.
With the 2022 NHL Entry Draft set to occur on July 7 and 8 in Montreal, we thought that it would be fun to revisit all 32 of the NHL’s all-time top draft picks.
All-time NHL Draft Picks by Team
This list is based on the 32 existing teams that make up the National Hockey League and does not include un-drafted players (Wayne Gretzky anyone?).
Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks have had some really strong draft picks over the years (see Paul Kariya). However the best draft pick to date has to be Ryan Getzlaf who was drafted 19th overall in 2003 out of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.
Arizona Coyotes – Going back to the team’s origins as the original Winnipeg Jets, their top draft pick is definitely Dale Hawerchuk who was selected first overall in 1982 out of Cornwall of the QMJHL. If we look at the modern version of the Coyotes, honors would go to Oliver Ekman-Larsson who was drafted sixth overall in 2009. Dylan Guenther who the Yotes drafted in 2021 may contest for the honor in the future.
Boston Bruins – one of the original six teams that has drafted players since 1963, the Bruins have selected some great players over the years. Did you know they drafted Ken Dryden in 1964? Their best selection of all-time? That’s easy, with the 8th overall pick in 1979, the Bruins selected defenceman Ray Bourque out of Verdun in the QMJHL.
Buffalo Sabres – In 1970, the Sabres drafted Gilbert Perreault with the first overall pick. Perreault went out to amass 1,326 points in the NHL. Not a bad selection in their very first NHL draft. Other notable picks include Pierre Turgeon who went first overall in 1987 and oddly enough amassed one more career point than Perreault with 1,327.
Calgary Flames – the Flames have had some solid picks over the years. Getting Joe Nieuwendyk at 27th overall in the second round in 1985 was a great pick, but with the 15th overall pick in 1981 the Flames selected Al MacInnis, who put up 1,274 points as a defencemen in his career.
Carolina Hurricanes – In 1981, known then as the Hartford Whalers, the team selected Ron Francis with the 4th overall pick. Francis went on to put up 1,798 points in the NHL. As the Hurricanes, their top draft selection would be Eric Staal who the Canes took second overall in 2003 out of Peterborough of the OHL.
Chicago Blackhawks – the Hawks have had some great picks over the years, and will all do respect to Denis Savard who the Blackhawks drafted third overall in 1981, the Hawks top draft pick of all-time is Patrick Kane who was taken first overall in 2007 out of London from the OHL. This, a year after Chicago selected Johnathan Toews third overall a year earlier.
Colorado Avalanche – Going back to the days when the team was the Quebec Nordiques, the franchises’ best ever draft pick is Joe Sakic, who the Nordiques selected 15th overall with their second pick of the draft in 1987 (they selected Bryan Fogarty 9th overall). Looking at the Colorado Avalanche proper, their best al-time pick is Cale Makar who the team selected 4th overall in 2017.
Columbus Blue Jackets – in the franchise’s third season, the Blue Jackets selected Rick Nash first overall in the 2002 NHL Draft in Toronto.
Dallas Stars – with all due respect to Dave Semenko who the Minnesota North Stars drafted 25th overall in 1977, the franchise’s top draft selection is Mike Modano whom the Stars drafted out of Prince Albert first overall in 1988. As the actual Dallas Stars franchise, the team’s top draft pick would have to be Jarome Iginla who they took 11th overall out of the Kamloops Blazers franchise in 1995.
Detroit Red Wings – lots of high draft picks for the Red Wings organization over the years and while you could make a case for so many players (including Nick Lidstrom) their all-time greatest pick would have to be Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings selected Yzerman 4th overall in 1983.
Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers have drafted some great talent over the years, most recently Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, but with honors going to Paul Coffey whom the team drafted sixth overall in 1980, the Oilers all-time greatest draft pick is Mark Messier who they drafted 48th (yes 48th overall in 1979, their first season in the NHL).
Florida Panthers – this was a tough one as the Panthers have had a number of high draft picks over the years. We have selected Johnathan Huberdeau as their top all-time selection. The Panthers selected Huberdeau third overall in 2011.
Los Angeles Kings – the argument could be made for Kings players such as Bernie Nicholls (4th round, 73rd overall) or Luc Robitaille (ninth round, 171st overall in 1984) but the Kings’ greatest draft pick of all-time is Drew Doughty who they took second overall in 2008.
Minnesota Wild – With the 20th pick overall, the Wild selected Brent Burns out of Brampton (OHL) in 2003. Matt Dumba selected seventh overall in 2012 gets an honorable mention.
Montreal Canadiens – the Canadiens had the first ever overall pick in the NHL Amateur draft in 1963 when thy selected Gary Monahan. The Habs have had some very good draft picks over the years, but their top selection is Guy Lafleur whom they selected first overall in 1971. Lafleur amassed 1,353 points in 1,126 NHL games in his career. 1971 was a solid draft year for the team as they also drafted Larry Robinson 20th overall (the teams fourth pick of the draft).
Nashville Predators – With the 38th overall pick (and the Pred’s third selection) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Preds selected Roman Josi out of Bern in the Swiss league. Josi is quickly moving up the charts of the all-time point getters for the Predators and already has a Norris trophy under his belt.
New Jersey Devils – The Devils were a sub-par team for many seasons but their top all-time selection is Martin Brodeur who the team selected 20th overall in the 1990 draft. Brodeur would go on to earn 691 wins in the NHL.
New York Islanders – prior to their Dynasty in the early 80’s, the Islanders had some great draft selections. The best of these was in 1973 when the team selected Denis Potvin out of Ottawa. A year latter they drafted Clark Gillies (4th overall) and Bryan Trottier (22nd overall). In 1977, the team drafted Mike Bossy 15th overall out of Laval.
New York Rangers – Another original six team who has been drafting players since 1963. The Rangers best all-time draft pick is Brian Leetch who the Rangers selected ninth overall in 1986. Leetch helped the Rangers end their 54 year playoff drought in 1994.
Ottawa Senators – with their fifth selection in the sixth round, the Senators selected franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson at 133rd overall. Alfie amassed 1,157 points in 1,246 NHL games.
Philadelphia Flyers – As one of the 1967 NHL expansion franchises, the Flyers have had a number of solid draft picks over the years. Their best all-time draft pick is Bobby Clarke whom they selected 17th overall with their second pick in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft. 1,210 points in 1,144 NHL games with 1,453 penalty minutes is an excellent career for one of the all-time Flyers greats.
Pittsburgh Penguins – The Pens were not a strong team in their first decade and a half. That changed at the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal in 1984 when the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux first overall from the Lavel Voisins of the QMJHL. Of course Sidney Crosby gets an honorable mention here as well.
San Jose Sharks – The Sharks had their first draft in 1991, and with their first two picks the Sharks took Pat Fallon (second overall) and Ryan Whitney (23rd) both from the Spokane Chiefs from the WHL. The Sharks’ all-time best draft selection? Patrick Marleau who the team drafted second overall in 1997 from the Seattle Thunderbirds. Marleau played 1,779 games in the NHL putting up 1,197 points.
Seattle Kraken – While Seattle has only participated in a single Draft, their history of draft picks is limited at this time. As such, their highest selected player is Matthew Beniers whom they selected from Michigan second overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
St. Louis Blues – While he didn’t play a lot in St. Louis, the best player the Blues drafted was Doug Gilmour whom they drafted 134th overall in the seventh round in 1982. Gilmour put up 1,414 points in 1,474 NHL games.
Tampa Bay Lightning – with their first overall pick in 2008, the Bolts selected Steven Stamkos from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Stammer has help the Lightning win a coupe of Cups in recent years. The Lightning have had other notable selections including Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards.
Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs greatest all-time draft pick? Darryl Sittler who Toronto selected 8th overall in 1970. Honorable mentions include Lanny McDonald (4th overall 1973), Wendel Clark (first overall in 1985), and Auston Matthews who they picked first overall in 2016.
Vancouver Canucks – Pavel Bure? Trevor Linden? In one of the most epic moves in NHL Draft history, Canucks GM Brian Burke pulled off one of the greatest moves, when he was able to obtain the number two and three picks in the 1999 draft. The Canucks selected Daniel Sedin second overall and Henrik Sedin at number three. The twins played their entire careers in Vancouver where Daniel tallied 1,041 points in 1,306 games and Henrik amassed 1,070 points in 1,330 games. The Sedins were recently announced as inductees into the 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame.
Vegas Golden Knights – The Golden Knights have only participated in five Entry Drafts. Their top selection was Nick Suzuki who they took with their second pick in their inaugural draft in 2017 at 13th overall. Suzuki was since traded to the Montreal Canadiens.
Washington Capitals – with all do respect to Mike Gartner (4th overall in 1979) and Peter Bondra (156th overall in 1990), The Capitals’ greatest all-time selection at the NHL draft is Alex Ovechkin whom they took first overall in the 2004 draft. The Great Eight helped the Capitals win their only Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Winnipeg Jets – for the Winnipeg Jets version 2.0, their best all-time draft selection is Connor Hellebucyk whom they selected 134th overall in the fifth round at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. At this time Herllebucyk has put together 201 wins for the team.
Additional read: History of the NHL Draft: Players Who Could have Been #1 Picks
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