When it comes to the NHL Entry Draft, people in the hockey world like to talk about the top picks or those in the first few rounds.
When that happens, the later picks sometimes end up getting ignored or forgotten about by the media and fans. While some of the later round picks never end up stepping foot on NHL ice, there are others that get a shot to play and end up making the most of it.
With that in mind, and in no particular order, Sportsnet.ca has a look at some of the top draft steals in NHL Draft history:
Henrik Lundqvist, seventh round in 2000, 205th overall, New York Rangers
After New York Rangers’ great goaltender Mike Richter retired, many people in the organization and in the media thought that it may be Dan Blackburn or Al Montoya who would take over between the pipes.
As it turned out, it was the Rangers’ 2000 seventh rounder, Henrik Lundqvist, that would rule the Rangers’ crease.
The “King’s” reign began during the 2005-06 season and has continued to this day. In that span, Lundqvist has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy four times, has gotten the Rangers into the postseason six times, has 252 career wins and has changed the face of the franchise.
Daniel Alfredsson, sixth round in 1994, 133rd overall, Ottawa Senators
When the Ottawa Senators were first starting out many people in the hockey world figured it would be Alexei Yashin that would lead the club to respectability for many, many seasons.
While these folks were not entirely wrong with their assumption, it was actually their 1994 sixth-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft that would be everything and more to their organization.
Of course, we are talking about current Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson. In his 16 years with the Sens, Alfredsson has amassed 1,082 points in 1,131 games on 416 goals and 666 assists.
Alfredsson has been the team’s captain since the 1999-2000 season and when people talk about the Senators, Alfredsson is the player that they will always talk about and remember.
Henrik Zetterberg, seventh round in 1998, 210th overall, Detroit Red Wings
As everyone knows, the Detroit Red Wings are terrific at finding hidden gems in the NHL Entry Draft.
In 1998, the Red Wings found just that in the 7th round with the 210th overall pick, Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg not only plays like a first-round pick, but he is one of the best players in the NHL.
In nine seasons in Motown, Zetterberg has 252 goals and 372 assists for 624 points in 668 games. Not only has he produced, but he has also won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and a gold medal with Sweden in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.
At just 31 years of age, fans will be seeing plenty of Zetterberg dangles for what will hopefully be plenty of more seasons.
Pavel Datsyuk, sixth round in 1998, 171st overall, Detroit Red Wings
One cannot mention Zetterberg without bringing up his sidekick Pavel Datsyuk.
Datsyuk has dazzled the Red Wings, and the rest of the NHL, with his unbelievably high offensive talent and his ability to make plays on the backend for 10 seasons. Datsyuk has racked up 240 goals and 478 assists for 718 points in 732 career games.
Datsyuk, 33, has won two Stanley Cups, (2002, ’08), four Lady Byng Trophies (2006, ’07, ’08, ’09), three Frank J. Selke Awards (2008, ’09, ’10) and has been an NHL All-Star four times (2004, ’08, ’09, ’12).
When it comes to watching Datysuk make unbelievable fans, hockey fans cannot get enough of him.
Brad Richards, third round in 1998, 64th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning
When the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Brad Richards in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, one does not think that they expected to see what they did out of him while he was with the Lightning.
In six and half seasons with the Bolts, Richards averaged 75 points a season while getting his team into the postseason on a consistent basis. Of course, Richards’s crowning moment in the NHL and with the Lightning was when he led them to their first and only Stanley Cup in franchise history in 2004 while also winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s MVP in the playoffs.
Richards was traded to the Dallas Stars during the 2007-08 season and performed well for the hockey club through the 2010-11 season. After that season, the New York Rangers signed Richards as an unrestricted free agent to a nine-year deal.
In his first year as a Blueshirt, Richards was second on the team in scoring in the regular season with 66 points (25 goals and 41 assists) and first on the team in scoring in the postseason with 15 points (six goals and nine assists).
Theoren Fleury, eighth round in 1987, 166th overall, Calgary Flames
Despite being one of the smallest players to ever play in the NHL at 5’6, the Calgary Flames eighth-round pick turned out to be one heck of an NHLer.
Theoren Fleury may have lacked size but he certainly did not lack offensive talent. In 1,084 career games, Fleury notched 455 goals and added 633 assists for 1,088 points.
There is no doubt that Fleury has dealt with a lot of hard times in his life but one thing is for certain and that is that Fleury was an outstanding talent by any critics’ standards.
Doug Gilmour, seventh round in 1982, 134th overall, St. Louis Blues
Not only is this player an unbelievable draft steal, but he is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In the seventh round of the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, the St. Louis Blues drafted Doug Gilmour. At just 175 pounds, Gilmour was all heart when he played in the NHL and scored 1,414 career points (450 goals and 964 assists).
Gilmour is 17th on the all-time scoring list, won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989, played in two NHL All-Star games, won a Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward (1993) and was also nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in the 1992-93 season.
Brett Hull, sixth round in 1984, 117th overall, Calgary Flames
What is astonishing about this particular player was that he went on to score over 700 career goals and 1,300 points in a career that spanned 20 seasons.
Brett Hull, currently third all-time in goals scored, is one of the best players to ever play the game. He won two Stanley Cups (1999, 2002), won a Silver Medal with USA at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, won the Hart Memorial Trophy (1991), the Lady Byng Trophy (1990), the Lester B. Pearson (1991), was an eight time NHL All-Star and is 21st on the all-time list in points.
Luc Robitaille, ninth round in 1984, 171st overall, Los Angeles Kings
For a player that many thought could not skate worth a lick, Luc Robitaille certainly knew how to put the puck in the net.
In the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, the Los Angeles Kings took Robitaille as the 171st overall pick. Robitaille did everything except win the Cup with the Kings as he played 14 of his 18 NHL seasons in Los Angeles.
In 18 seasons, Robitaille finished with 668 goals and 726 assists for 1,394 points in 1,431 games. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, Robitaille also won a Stanley Cup in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings, won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year in 1987, was an eight-time NHL All-Star and had his number 20 jersey retired by the Kings.
His nickname may have been “Lucky Luc” but with the way he played for 18 years, Robitaille was more than just lucky.
Dominik Hasek, tenth round in 1983, 199th overall, Chicago Blackhawks
In his 16 years in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, Dominik Hasek won 389 games, two Stanley Cups (2002, 2008), posted 81 career shutouts, and revolutionized the way goaltenders play the game by using every part of his body to stop the puck.
Hasek also won six Vezina Trophies as the league’s top netminder, two Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player, two Lester B. Pearson Trophies as the league’s most valuable player as voted by the players, was a six-time NHL All-Star, and won the Gold Medal with the Czech Republic in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano.
Isn’t it crazy to think that at 47 years of age, Hasek is thinking of coming back to the NHL? What does he have left to accomplish?