With the 2015 NHL Entry Draft just around the corner, the talk has been heavy — as you’d expect — on the top draft picks. But for many teams, a big piece of building a Stanley Cup roster is, in addition to those top players, drafting well and finding some gems deep in the draft.
With that in mind, we take a look at the 10 best 7th Round picks of the last 15 seasons. Since the draft was altered with the first CBA change in 2005, making what was once a nine-round draft into a seven-round draft, the list includes 8th and 9th Round draft picks from prior to 2005.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, #205, 2000, New York Rangers
Despite not having a Stanley Cup, it’s tough to argue that Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the best late round draft pick in the last 15 years. He’s one of the greats. He’s a future hall of famer.
In his 10-year career he’s played 620 games (third most among active goaltenders), is a three-time All-Star, won the 2012 Vezina Trophy, has the 19th most wins in NHL history, and has the third best save percentage among goaltenders who’ve played at least 250 games in NHL history.
And it’s hard to blame the lack of a championship ring on Lundqvist. He’s been excellent in the playoffs with a career .923 Sv% in all situation playoff play through 111 playoff games. He’s also been impeccable when facing elimination and has given his the Rangers every opportunity to win in front of him.
In addition to these accolades, the three-time NHL All-Star was the SHL Goalie of the Year three straight seasons before coming to the NHL and was the league MVP in his final SHL season. He is the owner of a gold and a silver medal from the Olympics and two silver medals from the World Championships.
2. Henrik Zetterberg, #210, 1999, Detroit Red Wings
The 34-year-old Swedish wonder might be the only player you could make a case for over Lundqvist. He’s played 836 career games, potting 296 goals and 490 assists in that time. His career marks are impressive because he’s climbing the all-time NHL ranks and isn’t showing too many signs of slowing down.
In addition to impressive numbers, Henrik Zetterberg is piling up the honors. He has a Conn Smythe trophy to his name from 2008, when he led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup and scored the Cup-clinching goal. His 59 game-winning goals ranks 69th in league history and he has the 85th best point per game rate of any NHLer ever. Zetterberg is a rare outright superstar being picked deep in the draft. He not only posts points and is a natural leader, but is a great defensive-minded forward as well.
Internationally, Zetterberg has an Olympic gold and silver medal to go along with one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals from the World Championships. He is also a winner of the NHL Foundation Award, was SHL Rookie of the Year prior to coming to the NHL, and has a U18 gold medal.
3. Pekka Rinne, #258, 2004, Nashville Predators
Only a few months younger than Lundqvist, but drafted four years later is Pekka Rinne. He doesn’t have the record and success that Lundqvist has, but he’s certainly a part of the conversation if you’re making a list of the best goaltenders in the world.
Rinne has played 381 career games, with a 204-115-43 record and a .919 save percentage, which is the seventh best mark in NHL history. His 92.85% career 5-on-5 Sv% is very impressive as well.
He’s recevied his share of accolades as well, being named an All-Star and getting a rookie of the month honor in his freshman campaign. He’s also a two-time AHL All-Star and was named a Top 3 Player on the Team in the World Championships four times. In one of those four times he led Finland to a silver medal and earn MVP of the tournament.
4. Joe Pavelski, #205, 2003, San Jose Sharks
Joe Pavelski is a late-bloomer, kind of. He’s been solid throughout his career, but his first 40-goal season came when he was 29 despite getting grouped into the “kids” portion of discussion about the split between older and younger players in San Jose.
The 7th Round pick has played 643 career NHL games, posting 228 goals and 257 assists and appears to be in his prime. He was voted an All-Star in the 2013-14 season, was one of the NHL’s three stars of the month in January of that season, and is a two-time winner of the three stars of the week honor. Pavelski is down one All-Star nomination and a Stanley Cup compared to the next player on the list, but his production speaks for itself.
He has had some nice success at lower levels, being a part of a Clark Cup Championship team in the USHL — where he also lead the league in scoring once and was named Rookie of the Year. He was also a part of a NCAA Championship team in one of his two years with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. To boot, he grabbed a silver medal with Team USA in 2010.
5. Dustin Byfuglien, #245, 2003, Chicago Blackhawks
No matter what you think of his playing style or occasional antics, Dustin Byfuglien is an effective player. There aren’t many cut from his cloth, who can seamlessly change between wing and defenseman and be effective in both positions.
He’s got a Stanley Cup ring and plays a forceful style of hockey while retaining the ability to put pucks in the net. In his 597 career games, he’s posted 133 goals and 211 assists. He’s a two-time All-Star and was named one of the NHL’s three players of the month once and one of their three players of week twice. Not to mention that the 8th Round draft pick has a 2010 Stanley Cup ring from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks.
6. Radim Vrbata, #212, 1999, Colorado AvalancheRadim Vrbata was drafted just two picks after Zetterberg in 1999 and, while he isn’t the future Hall of Famer that Zetterberg is, Vrbata has had an incredibly impressive career for a 7th Round draft pick.
At 33, he’s a veteran of 871 games, posting 246 goals and 281 assists. He’s a two-time 30-goal scorer and, interestingly, both of those instances came after he turned 30, including a career-high in points last season when he spent most of his time with the Sedin twins in Vancouver. He also had the second highest P/60 of his career at 2.0 last season. Vrbata has had an impressive career, but his production from 30-33 (204 points, 270 games) is greater than his production in the four years prior (153 points, 255 games), indicating that he’s a long way from slowing down.
In the 2014-15 season he earned his first All-Star nomination and lead the NHL in game-winning goals in the 2011-12 season. Playing for the Czech Republic, he also has a World Juniors Gold Medal on his shelf and a World Championships Gold Medal.
7. Jaroslav Halak, #271, 2003, Montreal Canadiens
Halak has bounced around a bit, playing for four teams in his nine-season career. He’s logged a total of 331 games with a record of 182-102-33. He earned his first All-Star nod this season, posting a .914 Sv% in all situations. Like the next goaltender on the list, he’s the winner of a William M. Jennings Trophy and he’s also be given a three stars of the week honor six times.
With 182 wins, he ranks 88th all time among NHL goaltenders and his career .917 Sv% ranks ninth. He’s grabbed 36 career shutouts, ranking him seventh among active goaltenders and 44th all time.
8. Brian Elliott, #291, 2003, Ottawa Senators
Brian Elliott has had a strange career arc, with a question mark punctuating his starter role at the top of most seasons. Yet he’s put together a pretty incredible resume through his eight years in the league, particularly for a 7th Round pick.
A veteran of 281 games, the 2011-12 William M. Jennings Trophy-winner has a career record of 142-91-26 with a career-save percentage of .912. His .940 Sv% in 2011-12 was the league’s best and his 30 career shutouts are 59th in NHL history. He also has the most shutouts by any goaltender in St. Louis Blues history to go along with his two All-Star appearances, one three star of the month win, and six three stars of the week honors.
He also grabbed a NCAA Championship (with Pavelski) while playing for the Badgers in 2006.
9. Matt Moulson, #263, 2003, Pittsburgh PenguinsMatt Moulson had a rough start to his career, getting bounced around a bit and seeing very limited time in Los Angeles before settling into his role with the Islanders and thriving while playing with John Tavares. In the recently-departed Nassau Coliseum he posted 30+ goals in each of his first three seasons. Since his five-year run with the Islanders, Moulson has again bounced around with the a short stop in Buffalo, then a trade to Minnesota, and a return to Buffalo last summer.
He’s played 474 career games over nine NHL seasons with 154 goals and 162 assists, though has only found his way into 16 career playoff games with three goals and three assists. (That’s fewer games than the next player who is eight years Moulson’s junior.) Moulson has had a solid career and it’s far from over. With Buffalo on the upswing now (hopefully), Moulson may even have a few years left playing on a team that isn’t entirely miserable.
10. (tie) Ondrej Palat, #208, 2011, Tampa Bay Lightning & Mark Streit, #262, 2004, Montreal Canadiens
Maybe it’s premature to rank Palat on the list, but I don’t think so. (Also, I’m hedging and having him tied with a veteran for #10.) Palat has played 170 games in his three NHL seasons, posting 41 goals and 85 assists. His 47 assists this season ranked 10th in the league. He was a Calder Trophy nominee and was named to the 2013-14 All Rookie Team.
He’s already earned the honor of being the alternate captain for the Lightning and has had a killer 2014-15 playoff run, even if the Lightning don’t win the Cup, posting eight goals and eight assists through 24 games, with a league-leading four power play goals. And while plus/minus is a flawed statistic, it starts to get to the point of his well-rounded game when you note that he ranked seventh in the league in his sophomore year and fourth this season. He’s also raised the Calder Cup as a member of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate club, the Norfolk Admirals.
@mlse Palat was drafted in his draft+2 season so Palat was actually passed up 628 times
— Trillem Dafoe (@HellblazerVice) June 9, 2015
Defenseman Mark Streit just edges out guys like Martin Erat, Dennis Wideman, Tobias Entsrom, and Patric Hornquist for the final spot on the list.
Streit has found his way into an impressive 654 career games over nine seasons, which includes him making appearances in every game of the season four times. He was an All-Star in 2009 and has a career total of 84 goals and 300 assists.
The 9th Round draft pick has donned the jersey for his native Switzerland over 15 times and has captained them multiple times at the World Championships. He’s also been an alternate captain for Switzerland at the Olympics, a captain of the New York Islanders, and an alternate captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Just on the outside of this list you’ve got some other great players like Martin Erat, Tobias Enstrom, Dennis Wideman, Johnny Oduya, Patric Hornquist, P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Brodziak, Anton Khudobin, Adam Burish, Daniel Winnik, Jason Demers, Troy Brouwer, Anders Lindback, Cristobel Huet, Justin Braun, Antti Miettinen, and Paul Gaustad.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited post-publication.