10 Best 7th Round Picks Since 2005

*Article was updated in Dec. 2023

The NHL Draft is used to try and level the playing field in the league. The teams near the bottom of the league standings get the opportunity to draft first in the draft, getting the first chance at some of the best players of that class.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner

Every prospect is different, however, and they develop in different ways. Some are extremely late bloomers. Some don’t look as good in their draft year as they will one day be.

Related: The Best Late Round NHL Draft Picks

It’s these players that test NHL scouts. The ability to find talent in the latest picks of the draft is no easy task. More often than not, they won’t pan out. But, every now and then, with the proper development, these players can excel at hockey’s top level.

10 Best 7th Round Picks Since 2005

With that in mind, this piece will take a look at the 10 best seventh-round picks since 2005. The draft was altered for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, making what was once a nine-round draft into a seven-round draft.

So, this list is the 10 best players that were taken in the last round of the NHL Draft since 2005.

10. Carl Gunnarsson, Toronto Maple Leafs, 194th (2007)

The Maple Leafs are on here with another Swede, this time taking defenseman Carl Gunnarsson back in 2007. He fits a similar mould to Justin Braun, with two-way potential but often used in a defensive role. After being selected, it was just two seasons before he made the jump to the big leagues.

Carl Gunnarsson St. Louis Blues
Carl Gunnarsson, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Gunnarsson spent the first five seasons of his career with the Maple Leafs, racking up 86 points (15 goals, 71 assists) in 304 games. He was then traded to the St. Louis Blues along with a fourth-round pick for Roman Polak. He was a regular with the Blues for the next seven seasons but struggled with injuries towards the end of his career. He only played 12 games in 2020-21 after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Los Angeles Kings in Feb. 2021.

The defender received votes for the Lady Byng Trophy three teams, finishing in the top 35 once (in 2011-12) and the top 60 twice. He only amassed 179 penalty minutes in his entire career. His main highlight, however, was helping the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019. He collected one goal in that playoff run – an overtime-winning tally in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

9. Justin Braun, San Jose Sharks, 201st (2007)

The San Jose Sharks are the only team on this list that appears more than once, which is an impressive feat considering the difficulty in scouting players in the later rounds. While not a name that you’ll find in everyday hockey talk, Justin Braun’s longevity in the league has to come into consideration.

Related: Flyers: Getting to Know Justin Braun

Braun wasn’t exactly an offensive defenseman, collecting 199 points (34 goals, 165 assists) in 842 games. He was a defensive player, blocking shots, making hits, and shutting down the opposition. He spent his first nine seasons with the Sharks, before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019.

He played solid minutes, playing over 20 minutes a night through his career in San Jose, although that dropped to just over 17 minutes in 2019-20. Shutdown defenders are often underrated because people love point producers, but there’s no questioning what the top-four defender brings to the ice.

8. Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa Senators, 204th (2011)

The Ottawa Senators have landed some of the best players in their history in the later rounds of the draft, and Ryan Dzingel is a part of that list. After playing 30 games in his rookie season in 2015-16, he cemented himself on the roster in 2016-17 and didn’t look back.

Ryan Dzingel Ottawa Senators
Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

His next three seasons saw him improve on his point total, putting up a career-high 56 points in 78 games in 2018-19. This was split between the Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, since that season his career has taken a turn for the worse. Bouncing between the Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, Senators (again) and Sharks, he has only 21 goals and 50 points in 136 games spread over three seasons. He spent the 2022-23 season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Chicago Wolves where he had 11 points in 22 games.

Nevertheless, in his 404 games, Dzingel scored 87 goals and added 101 assists for 188 points. He’s 31 years old, so rising up this list seems unlikely at this point, especially as younger players look to make an impression in the coming years, but for now, he’s still one of the best seventh-round selections since 2005.

7. Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks, 186th (2008)

Another Sharks pick and another defenseman. Perhaps targeting defenders in the seventh round is a good idea? Jason Demers wasted no time at all after San Jose grabbed him in 2008. By the 2009-10 season, he was a full-time NHLer. (He played 51 games in that season).

Demers was a two-way, puck-moving defender who liked to get involved. In his 700 career games, he picked up 45 goals, 169 assists, and 214 points. After spending his first six seasons in California, he was traded to the Dallas Stars. After that, he played for the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes.

Jason Demers Edmonton Oilers
Jason Demers, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

After spending four seasons in the desert, he left the NHL to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for a season before trying to come back with the Edmonton Oilers on a professional tryout contract (PTO) in 2022-23.

Playing nearly 20 minutes a night on average over his career, he’s shown up in both ends when asked. Like the two defenders prior, he’s a well-rounded player. With Braun, Gunnarsson, and Demers, there might not be one aspect of their game that jumps out, but they are reliable defenders who can contribute all over the ice.

6. MacKenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers, 206th (2013)

The newest member of this list is yet another defenseman, MacKenzie Weegar. The former Halifax Mooseheads star took a few seasons to debut in the NHL, but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that he was something special. Now a reliable two-way defender who can eat up 20 minutes a night in the top four, kill penalties and play on the power play, he’s probably the definition of a steal in the seventh round.

MacKenzie Weegar Calgary Flames
MacKenzie Weegar, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In Weegar’s 412 games in the NHL, he already has 37 goals and 166 points – along with an insane plus/minus of plus-91. Steadily increasing his point totals since he debuted in 2016-17 at the age of 23, he recorded a career-high eight goals and 44 points in 80 games with the Panthers in 2021-22 and was near the top of the NHL in plus/minus. Now with the Calgary Flames after a 2022 trade sent him and Jonathan Huberdeau to Alberta, he might rise even further on this list in the coming years.

5. Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild, 182nd (2009)

It’s pretty rare for a player drafted out of high school to be drafted to the NHL, let alone playing in the league as a regular, but that’s exactly what Erik Haula has done. Granted, coming from the highly regarded Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School is a step above.

After playing 46 games in his 2013-14 rookie season, the Finnish centreman became an NHL regular for the Minnesota Wild. He ended up being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft and has since bounced around going to the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, and is currently a member of the New Jersey Devils.

In 633 NHL games, the forward has put up 133 goals, 161 assists, and 294 points. He’ll likely end up being passed on this list by Weegar and some of the players to watch at the bottom of this article, but there’s no arguing that he’s put together a solid career so far for a seventh-round pick out of high school.

4. Anton Stralman, Toronto Maple Leafs, 216th (2005)

Once again, the Maple Leafs find themselves on this ranking. However, they didn’t reap the benefits of this selection for too long. Anton Stralman jumped into the league in 2007-08, playing just two seasons (88 games) with Toronto.

Anton Stralman Boston Bruins
Anton Stralman, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

He was then traded to the Flames for a summer and never played a game before getting flipped to the Blue Jackets. After just two seasons there, he signed with the New York Rangers for three seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning for five seasons, the Panthers for two seasons, the Coyotes for one season and is now with the Boston Bruins.

Related: Anton Stralman’s Legacy With the Lightning

He played 938 NHL games, collecting 63 goals, 230 assists, and 293 points. For the majority of his career, he played over 20 minutes a night and has even earned votes for the Norris Trophy twice. He turned into one of the most dependable defensemen in the league despite being drafted near the end of the draft.

3. Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes, 187th (2010)

Alright, there’s a catch with this one. Frederik Anderson was drafted 187th overall in 2010. But he failed to reach a deal with the Hurricanes and re-entered the draft in 2012, going 87th overall to the Anaheim Ducks. So maybe there’s an asterisk on this one, but hey, he was a seventh-round pick.

The Danish netminder is the only goaltender on this list but has shot himself into the top tier of NHL netminders. In his first NHL season, he finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting after going 20-5 with a .923 save percentage. Since then, he’s earned himself two William Jennings Trophies (2015-16, split with John Gibson, and 2021-22, split with Antti Raanta).

Frederik Andersen Carolina Hurricanes
Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes makes a save during the fourth overtime against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 2016, he was traded to – you guessed it – seventh-round draft pick collectors, the Maple Leafs. After five solid seasons as their starter, he departed to join the Hurricanes, where he had a monster first season with a career-low 2.17 goals-against average. He’s twice been a top-10 Vezina Trophy finalist. He has a career save percentage of .915 and is regularly among the league leaders in wins. He was drafted as a seventh-round pick to start, so he’s earned a spot on this list.

2. Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators, 230th (2005)

Patric Hornqvist benefits from longevity in this list a bit, but he’s earned this spot. The Swedish winger started his career in 2008-09 with the Nashville Predators, and quickly became an offensive force, putting up 51 points in his second season.

He spent six seasons with the Predators, collecting 106 goals, 110 assists, and 216 points in 363 games. In 2014, he was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with Nick Spaling for James Neal. With the Penguins, Hornqvist continued his offensive prowess with 132 goals and 264 points in 407 games before leaving to join the Panthers in 2020-21. He’s not the dynamo he once was but was still putting up double-digits in goals and continued to be a handful in front of the net (on the power play and otherwise) prior to retiring after the 2022-23 season.

His time with the Penguins saw him raise the Stanley Cup twice, in 2016 and 2017. He wound down toward the end of his career, but since the change in the NHL Draft to seven rounds, Hornqvist is among the best to be selected.

1. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning, 208th (2011)

Ondrej Palat has finally taken over the top spot on this list. Drafted by the Lightning in 2011, he played 14 games in 2012-13 before forcing his way into the league in 2013-14 and producing – putting up 23 goals, 36 assists, and 59 points in his 81-game rookie season.

Ondrej Palat New Jersey Devils
Ondrej Palat, New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Czech star has only continued to produce since then. In 700 games, he’s put up 154 goals, 303 assists, and 457 points. He’s earned Selke Trophy votes three times, finishing ninth in 2014-15. He also finished second for the Calder Trophy in 2013-14 and got some Lady Byng recognition in 2017-18.

Related: Ondrej Palat: The Lightning’s Forgotten Star

He’s had some injury trouble in his career which has held him back a bit, but there’s no questioning that he was a dynamic, playmaking forward for the Lightning. He also brings a solid two-way presence to his game, making him a very desirable package for any team. After spending his entire career with the Lightning – winning back-to-back Cups in 2020 and 2021 – salary cap issues forced the Bolts to walk away from him in free agency just before the 2022-23 season. He is now a member of the Devils where he has three goals in six games.

Players to Watch

Honestly, there are not many honourable mentions. If Sergei Kostitsyn (Montreal Canadiens, 200th, 2005) was in the league longer, he’d be in this discussion. So instead, let’s take a look at some players who very well could be on this list, and among the leaders, very soon (alphabetical):

  • Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs, 188th (2014)
  • Andreas Johnson, Toronto Maple Leafs, 202nd (2013)
  • Dominik Kubalik, Los Angeles Kings, 191st (2013)
  • Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres, 181st (2014)
  • Matt Roy, Los Angeles Kings, 194th (2015)

Would you change this ranking at all? Who would you add or take away? Is there anyone else you’ll be keeping an eye on from the final round of the draft? Leave a comment!