From 1990 to 2002, 29 goalies have been chosen in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. By my count, only four have gone on to play significant roles with the teams that drafted them:
- Martin Brodeur, 20th overall to New Jersey, 1990
- Rick DiPietro, 1st overall to Islanders, 2000
- Kari Lehtonen, 2nd overall to Atlanta, 2002
- Cam Ward, 25th overall to Carolina, 2002
Furthermore, the majority of the remaining goalies never went on to significant NHL careers. The exceptions are: Jocelyn Thibault (10th to Quebec in 1993); Dan Cloutier (26th overall to Rangers in 1994); J-S Giguere (13th to Hartford in 1995); Martin Biron (16th to Buffalo in 1995); Marc Denis (25th to Colorado in 1995); Roberto Luongo (fourth to Islanders in 1997); and Pascal Leclaire (eighth to Columbus in 2001). Sprinkle in some journeymen (Brian Boucher, Jamie Storr), a fast-fizzling Vezina winner (Jim Carey), and a bunch of flameouts, and you have a look at picking a goalie at the top of the draft. (There are some goalie drafted since 2002 that have made their way to the NHL, but as a rule it takes longer for a netminder to mature than a forward or defenseman, so I cut it off at 2002.)
Looking through the NHL's current starting netminders, the average draft position is around a third rounder (with a couple that were undrafted and more that were chosen after the seventh round; the draft is now only seven rounds).
Certainly Carolina has been fortunate with Ward's development, but he hasn't yet reached the status of franchise goalie in the eyes of many, despite his Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006 and three straight 30-win seasons. Lehtonen looks like he could be on his way out of Atlanta, while DiPietro's career has been riddled with injuries (plus the Isles traded Luongo to get him). Brodeur, of course, is looking like an OK pick for New Jersey (wink).
With all that in mind, I've done a post-trade deadline mock draft — one that includes no goalies. Olivier Roy (no relation to Patrick) plays with the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and is probably the top netminding prospect in this year's draft. But given the spotty record I've presented above, I find that rarely does a goalie deserve to go in the opening round.
Draft position is based on the NHL standings as of March 8 and, given the volatility of the standings, will certainly change.
1. New York Islanders: John Tavares, C, London (OHL) — Tavares is the superstar the Isles need to get back on the right track — and get fans in the building.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman, D, Modo (Sweden) — The Bolts desperately need help on the blueline. Hedman brings it. He may end up being the best player in this draft.
3. Atlanta Thrashers: Matt Duchene, C, Brampton (OHL) — The explosive forward will be a good fit for the rebuilding Thrashers, who can use help anywhere and everywhere.
4. Colorado Avalanche: Evander Kane, C, Vancouver (WHL) — The Avs have bolstered their D in recent years. Kane gives them a power forward who plays with an edge.
5. Ottawa Senators: Brayden Schenn, C, Brandon (WHL) — The Sens went with defense in the first two rounds last year, so look for them to draft a forward. This year they add Schenn, an all-around player with good bloodlines (he's Luke's little brother).
6. Phoenix Coyotes: Jared Cowen, D, Spokane (WHL) — Even though they have a good crop of d-men in their prospect pool, the Coyotes can't pass on a player who might be the third best guy in the draft
7. Toronto Maple Leafs: Jordan Schroeder, RW, Minnesota (WCHA) — The Leafs' American-born GM buys American. With Cowan off the board, Burke takes this creative, playmaking winger.
8. Los Angeles Kings: Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, LW, Timra (Sweden) — The Kings love it when teams pass up talented Europeans (see Anze Kopitar). They're happy to land this skilled Swede at No. 8.
9. St. Louis Blues: Nazem Kadri, C, London (OHL) — With the defense looking young and promising, the Blues take Kadri, a versatile forward with good hands who can distribute the puck.
10. Anaheim Ducks: Simon Despres, D, Saint John (QMJHL) — For the second straight year, the Ducks take a defenseman in the first round. Despres, like Ducks prospect Mark Mitera, is a steady, defense-first blueliner with good size.
11. Minnesota Wild: Peter Holland, RW, Guelph (OHL) — The Wild have had just nine picks the past two drafts, and five have been used on defensemen. They go forward here and get Holland, whose smarts and toughness could fit well in Minnesota.
12. Dallas Stars: Ryan Ellis, D, Windsor (OHL) — This would be the Stars' first first-round pick in three years. With it, they get arguably the best offensive defenseman in the draft and someone to run the power play when Sergei Zubov is gone.
13. Buffalo Sabres: Jeremy Morin, C, U.S. NTDP — The Sabres go off the board a little, but in doing so they follow their M.O. of adding players that can fill the net.
14. Carolina Hurricanes: Landon Ferraro, RW, Red Deer (WHL) — For the second time in three years, the Canes look to Red Deer to take a player with great bloodlines. Ferraro, the son of ex-Whaler Ray, is a two-way forward that can contribute offensively.
15. Nashville Predators: John Moore, D, Chicago (USHL) — The Preds love drafting defensemen, and they're at again with this pick. He's raw, but Nashville can buy him some time thanks to their depth on the back end.
16. Edmonton Oilers: Jacob Josefson, C, Djurgarden (Sweden) — The Oilers don't mind taking a Swede, and this one slips a little way and they snatch him up. He could make the transition to the NHL quickly if he adapts to the North American ice surface.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets: Dmitry Kulikov, D, Drummondville (QMJHL) — The Jackets select another talented Russian-born player after he falls a little in the draft. He could be an offensive weapon on the back end.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins: Zack Kassian, RW, Peterborough (OHL) - The big, tough winger would be a nice compliment to the Pens' skilled centers, plus he can be relied on at both ends of the ice.
19. New York Rangers: Scott Glennie, C, Brandon (WHL) — The Rangers are desperate for scoring, so the talented Glennie will be attractive to them at this point in the draft.
20. Florida Panthers: Kyle Palmieri, C, U.S. NDTP — The Panthers could use some help down the middle and Palmieri, who is slated to go to Notre Dame, is a good fit.
21. Vancouver Canucks: Stefan Elliott, D, Saskatoon (WHL) — The tragic death of Luc Bourdon left a gaping hole in the Canucks defense pipeline. Elliot has good size and can contribute offensively from the back end.
22. Montreal Canadiens: Carter Ashton, LW, Lethbridge (WHL) — The Habs' prospect pool could use a little more size up front and Ashton (6-3, 200 pounds) has it — plus he's the son of ex-NHLer Brent.
23. Philadelphia Flyers: Louis Leblanc, C, Omaha (USHL) — The Flyers are deep at wing but could use some help down the middle. Leblanc, who is going to Harvard, is fast and can put pucks in the net.
24. Chicago Blackhawks: David Rundblad, D, Skelleftea (Sweden) — The Hawks have never shied away from taking Swedish players and have a need at defense, so Rundblad — a risk-taking rearguard — makes sense.
25. Calgary Flames: Dylan Olsen, D, Camrose (AJHL) — There's not much in the way of defense in the Flames' system, so off-the-path prospect Olsen could be a solid choice here. He's willing to play physical, which fits in with Calgary's rugged style.
26. Washington Capitals: Drew Shore, C, U.S. NDTP — Shore is pegged for Denver University, and the Caps don't need him right away. Already 6-2 and 190 pounds, Shore could add size to Washington's lineup.
27. New Jersey Devils: Calvin de Haan, D, Oshawa (OHL) — The Devils need to address their defense. De Haan, a skilled blueliner, will give New Jersey something they don't have much of in their system.
28. Detroit Red Wings: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Leksand (Sweden) — There have been some comparisons to Nicklas Lidstrom, and the Wings have chosen eight Swedes in the past four drafts. This almost seems like a lock, doesn't it?
29. New York Islanders (from San Jose via Ottawa): Jordan Caron, C, Rimouski (QMJHL) — The Isles' second first-round pick can give them more help down the middle. Caron has size plus could add some scoring punch.
30. Boston Bruins: Chris Kreider, C, Andover, Mass. (High School) — Already 6-2 and 201 pounds, Kreider is a hometown kid who is set to attend Boston College. The Bruins would take a long look at him here.