A review of all 30 NHL rosters shows that only the Edmonton Oilers have more first-round draft picks on their roster than the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets have 12 players who were first-round choices in their respective draft years, behind only Edmonton’s 13. It’s the most in the Eastern Conference and the same number as the Philadelphia Flyers. For the Jets or the other teams high on the list, does this translate into being a Stanley Cup contender, an elite NHL team or even a playoff team?
We asked three men who have been through the entire process from a team standpoint, each with multiple NHL organizations, and two others who have not worked for NHL organizations but who have lengthy backgrounds in studying all things related to the draft.
- Senior editor at The Hockey News and also the man in charge of its annual Draft Preview
"Using that logic, you might think the Jets should be quite a bit better than they are. Maybe you could almost make a case the Jets lead the way in top-10 picks who haven’t quite reached their potential.
"Maybe the case is the players were drafted too high. It’s quite a dilemma sometimes. Even Andrew Ladd, some might say as the fourth overall pick he should be better. But that’s tough to say because he’s won the Cup twice and he’s doing so well now.
"Maybe of their eight top-10 picks, maybe only one or two of them deserved to be in that category. With that in mind, maybe some of their lower first-round picks, maybe they should have been second-round picks. Some guys, even though they were picked higher, it’s almost like a perfect storm of all those guys coming together on one team and their careers are unfolding to be not quite as good as the scouts anticipated.
"It doesn’t mean they’re not good players, it just means they haven’t reached their full potential.
"Some teams have difference-makers who are better than other teams’. Those are the guys on the ice when it really matters. I don’t think Winnipeg (has too many)."
- Former editor of The Hockey News, now TSN hockey analyst
"For the most part, this is not the way I’d go. From the time a player is picked in the first round to now is a key factor. Somebody who was a first-round pick seven years ago, well, everything that has happened in the ensuing seven years doesn’t always mean they’re on the level of what people perceive a first-round pick to be.
"There are failed first-round picks. But once you get that first-round label, I want to say it’s a very transient thing because that moment in time, that day of the draft that you become a first-round pick, whatever happens after that and how you develop, there’s a huge variance. Mistakes get made. All first-round picks are not created equal.
"The label lasts, though, in terms of perception. Look, you’re doing a story on it."
"There are so many variables beyond the day you’re drafted that, I don’t want to say it’s foolhardy, but it’s sure difficult to quantify the quality of a team based on how many first-round picks are there. The tag is simply from one moment in time."
- Assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings:
"It’s not totally how I’d look at it. The top 10 might be a better way to look at it but even then, I’d be careful.
"Some teams have good draft picks and players because they were bad at the right time, and they got great players. Pittsburgh is an example. Other teams didn’t do so well sometimes, but maybe the years weren’t that good at the draft’s top end.
"Edmonton is another great example on being cautious how you evaluate things. They’ve got some great young players, but they’re all shouldering front-line responsibility, going against all the top players. That’s hard to do. In Detroit, I can tell you that when Steve Yzerman came in, he wasn’t the Steve Yzerman he was when he was 30. Guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, they started on the third and fourth lines, didn’t have to face the best players every night. And they grew that way, somewhat sheltered, and it helped them. These young kids aren’t sheltered.
"It takes time. I think Evander Kane is going through this. He’s facing everybody’s best defenders now. What is he, 21? He’s still growing as a player, likely not at his prime yet. To be fair to him, it’s not right to say he’s the same as Sidney Crosby, yet on your list of first-round picks, you’re making them the same."
- Former NHL coach and long-time NHL television analyst
"I adhere to the theory that it’s no so much first-round picks, it’s home-grown players that matter. How many players have you drafted who are on your roster that are helping make you good? When you have a lot of your own draft picks, they’re drafted with a certain level of intensity and a certain level of hockey that you expect your team to play.
"I’ll use New Jersey as an example, also maybe Pittsburgh and Detroit, but those three teams, when they were winning or extremely competitive for Cups, most but not all of their roster was their own grown-grown talent. I think at one point the Devils had 17 players on their roster who were drafted players.
"What that does is that it shows you you’ve drafted with the ideology of the type of player that you want, the type of attitude you want the player to have and the type of athleticism you want your team to play with.
"Sometimes teams would rather hit home runs than triples or even singles. You don’t always hit the home run because the draft might be an inexact science, but you can hurt yourself tremendously if you don’t do the proper scouting."
- Coached in five NHL organizations and was GM in both Florida and Columbus, now television analyst on Sportsnet
"You have to be so careful here. There just are no guarantees about players from the first round. I really believe the best way to evaluate are on draft picks that are your own picks, not discarded first-round picks. Discarded first-round picks for me, well I’ve heard this many times that we should take a chance on a player because he was a first-round pick and we have to respect what other people did.
"For example, I picked up Manny Malhotra on waivers and he was a good, useful player for us. But he wasn’t a franchise guy, he was a third-line guy. We used that as a measuring stick, but it certainly wasn’t for franchise guys. That’s got to be more your own players. Doesn’t matter what round they are. You bring them in, you mold them, you grow with them and then you hope they turn out.
"I think the labels are dangerous. Many players from other rounds are better than first-round picks. Look at Erik Karlsson. He’s a Norris Trophy winner, maybe MVP of the league. He’s a first-round pick, at No. 15 (2008), and the kid taken just ahead of him, Zach Boychuk, he’s been waived by Carolina and Pittsburgh already this year.
"Lots of mistakes are made and there are no guarantees. The development of players, not the drafting, that’s the key."
- Olli Jokinen — 3rd, 1997 (Kings)
- Zach Bogosian — 3rd, 2008 (Thrashers)
- Andrew Ladd — 4th, 2004 (Hurricanes)
- Evander Kane — 4th, 2009 (Thrashers)
- Blake Wheeler — 5th, 2004 (Coyotes)
- Alex Burmistrov — 8th overall, 2010 (Thrashers)
- Nik Antropov — 10th overall, 1998 (Leafs)
- Bryan Little — 12th, 2006 (Thrashers)
- Ron Hainsey — 13th, 2000 (Canadiens)
- Mark Stuart — 21st, 2003 (Bruins)
- Jim Slater — 30th, 2002 (Thrashers)
- Chris Pronger — 2nd, 1993 (Whalers)
- Luke Schenn — 5th, 2008 (Leafs)
- Brayden Schenn — 5th, 2009 (Kings)
- Scott Hartnell — 6th, 2000 (Predators)
- Jakub Voracek — 7th, 2007 (Blue Jackets)
- Braydon Coburn — 8th, 2003 (Thrashers)
- Sean Couturier — 8th, 2011 (Flyers)
- Brian Boucher — 22nd, 1995 (Flyers)
- Simon Gagne — 22nd, 1998 (Flyers)
- Claude Giroux — 22nd, 2006 (Flyers)
- Andrej Meszaros — 23rd, 2004 (Senators)
- Danny Briere — 24th, 1996 (Coyotes)
- Eric Staal — 2nd, 2003 (Hurricanes)
- Jordan Staal — 2nd, 2006 (Penguins)
- Joni Pitkanen — 4th, 2002 (Flyers)
- Jeff Skinner — 7th, 2010 (Hurricanes)
- Tuomo Ruutu — 9th, 2001 (Blackhawks)
- Alexander Semin — 13th, 2002 (Caps)
- Jiri Tlusty — 13th, 2006 (Leafs)
- Bobby Sanguinetti — 21st, 2006 (Rangers)
- Riley Nash — 21st, 2007 (Oilers)
- Tim Gleason — 23rd, 2001 (Senators)
- Cam Ward — 25th, 2002 (Hurricanes)
- Roman Hamrlik — 1st, 1992 (Lightning)
- Rick Nash — 1st, 2002 (Blue Jackets)
- Marian Gaborik — 3rd, 2000 (Minnesota)
- Taylor Pyatt — 8th, 1999 (Islanders)
- Steve Eminger — 12th, 2002 (Capitals)
- Marc Staal — 12th, 2005 (Rangers)
- Ryan McDonagh — 12th, 2007 (Canadiens)
- J.T. Miller — 15th, 2011 (Rangers)
- Martin Biron — 16th, 1995 (Sabres)
- Michael Del Zotto — 20th, 2008 (Rangers)
- Brian Boyle — 26th, 2003 (Kings)
- Ed Jovanovski — 1st, 1994 (Panthers)
- Erik Gudbranson — 3rd, 2010 (Panthers)
- Jonathan Huberdeau — 3rd, 2011 (Panthers)
- Stephen Weiss — 4th, 2001 (Panthers)
- Scottie Upshall — 6th, 2002 (Predators)
- Jack Skille — 7th, 2005 (Blackhawks)
- Peter Mueller — 8th, 2006 (Coyotes)
- Sean Bergenheim — 22nd, 2002 (Islanders)
- Dmitry Kulikov — 14th, 2009 (Panthers)
- Alex Kovalev — 15th, 1991 (Rangers)
- Marcel Goc — 20th, 2001 (Sharks)
- Chris Phillips — 1st, 1996 (Senators)
- Jason Spezza — 2nd, 2001 (Senators)
- Kyle Turris — 3rd, 2007 (Coyotes)
- Milan Michalek — 6th, 2003 (Sharks)
- Mika Zibanejad — 6th, 2011 (Senators)
- Jared Cowan — 9th, 2009 (Senators)
- Sergei Gonchar — 14th, 1992 (Caps)
- Erik Karlsson — 15th, 2008 (Senators)
- Jim O’Brien — 29th, 2007 (Senators)
- Alex Ovechkin — 1st, 2004 (Capitals)
- Nicklas Backstrom — 4th, 2006 (Capitals)
- Karl Alzner — 5th, 2007 (Capitals)
- Eric Fehr — 18th, 2003 (Capitals)
- Wojtek Wolski — 21st, 2004 (Avs)
- Marcus Johansson — 24th, 2009 (Capitals)
- Jeff Schultz — 27th, 2004 (Capitals)
- John Carlson — 27th, 2008 (Capitals)
- Mike Green — 29th, 2004 (Capitals)
New Jersey (8)
- Steve Bernier — 16th, 2003 (Sharks)
- Ilya Kovalchuk — 1st, 2001 (Thrashers)
- Stefan Matteau — 29th, 2012 (Devils)
- Travis Zajac — 20th, 2004 (Devils)
- Danius Zubrus — 15th, 1996 (Flyers)
- Adam Larsson — 4th, 2011 (Devils)
- Anton Volchenkov — 21st, 2000 (Sens)
- Martin Brodeur — 20th, 1990 (Devils)
- Josh Bailey — 9th, 2008 (Islanders)
- Brad Boyes — 24th, 2000 (Leafs)
- Michael Grabner — 14th, 2006 (Canucks)
- Kyle Okposo — 7th, 2006 (Islanders)
- Marty Reasoner — 14th, 1996 (Blues)
- John Tavares — 1st, 2009 (Islanders)
- Joe Finley — 27th, 2005 (Caps)
- Thomas Hickey — 4th, 2007 (Kings)
- Thomas Vanek — 5th, 2003 (Sabres)
- Cody Hodgson — 10th, 2008 (Canucks)
- Tyler Myers — 12th, 2008 (Sabres)
- Mikhail Grigorenko — 12th, 2012 (Sabres)
- Drew Stafford — 13th, 2004 (Sabres)
- Robyn Regehr — 19th, 1998 (Avs)
- Steve Ott — 25th, 2000 (Stars)
- Tyler Ennis — 26th, 2008 (Sabres)
Tampa Bay (7)
- Vincent Lecavalier — 1st, 1998 (Lightning)
- Benoit Pouliot — 4th, 2005 (Wild)
- Steven Stamkos — 1st, 2008 (Lightning)
- Eric Brewer — 5th, 1997 (Islanders)
- Victor Hedman — 2nd, 2009 (Lightning)
- Brian Lee — 9th, 2005 (Sens)
- Mattias Ohlund — 13th, 1994 (Canucks)
- Marc Andre-Fleury — 1st, 2003 (Penguins)
- Sidney Crosby — 1st, 2005 (Penguins)
- Evgeni Malkin — 2nd, 2004 (Penguins)
- Brandon Sutter — 11th, 2007 (Hurricanes)
- Brooks Orpik — 18th, 2000 (Penguins)
- Matt Niskanen — 28th, 2005 (Stars)
- Simon Despres — 30th, 2009 (Penguins)
- James Van Riemsdyk — 2nd, 2007 (Flyers)
- Phil Kessel — 5th, 2006 (Bruins)
- Mike Komisarek — 7th, 2001 (Canadiens)
- Joffrey Lupul — 7th, 2002 (Ducks)
- Nazem Kadri — 7th, 2009 (Leafs)
- Dion Phaneuf — 9th, 2003 (Flames)
- David Steckel — 30th, 2001 (Kings)
- Alex Galchenyuk — 3rd, 2012 (Canadiens)
- Carey Price — 5th, 2005 (Canadiens)
- Lars Eller — 13th, 2007 (Blues)
- Petteri Nokelainen — 16th, 2004 (Islanders)
- Colby Armstrong — 21st, 2000 (Penguins)
- Max Pacioretty — 22nd, 2007 (Canadiens)
- Tyler Seguin — 2nd, 2010 (Bruins)
- Nathan Horton — 3rd, 2003 (Panthers)
- Dougie Hamilton — 9th, 2011 (Bruins)
- Daniel Paille — 20th, 2002 (Sabres)
- Tuukka Rask — 21st, 2005 (Leafs)