Welcome to a brand new series here at The Hockey Writers called “Road to the Draft.” In this series, our draft contributors will count down from 32nd overall all the way to first overall and revisit each player taken with that pick between 2010 and 2020.
The goal of this series is to reflect on some of the biggest steals and some of the biggest busts taken in the first round over the past 10 years, as well as to shine a light on some players who could potentially see themselves taken with the corresponding pick at the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
In this edition, we are going to take a look at the last 11 players to be drafted second overall. Forwards usually dominate the top three picks in the draft, and that fact held true over the past decade of second overall picks. Only one defenseman has been selected second overall in the past decade, with the rest being forwards.
2010 – Tyler Seguin (Centre, Boston Bruins)
One half of the Taylor vs. Tyler debate in 2010, Seguin was essentially handed to the Bruins on a silver platter. The Bruins acquired the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round pick prior to the season in exchange for Phil Kessel, and it didn’t take long for him to become one of the Bruins’ more relied-on players up front.
That said, Seguin’s tenure in Boston was short-lived, as he was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2013-14 in a package involving pieces that included Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, and Joe Morrow. Seguin cemented himself as a true number-one centre in Dallas, blossoming into a regular point-per-game player for the Stars. He remains in Dallas to this day, although he missed most of the 2020-21 season following hip surgery.
2011 – Gabriel Landeskog (Left Wing, Colorado Avalanche)
From the moment Landeskog donned the burgundy and blue for the first time, it seemed like it was destiny for him to play for the Avalanche forever. After only one season in the NHL, the Avalanche wasted no time naming him as team captain as a 19-year-old, making him the youngest team captain in league history.
With his career season coming in 2018-19, where he notched 34 goals and 75 points in 73 games, Landeskog has arguably been the Avalanche’s most consistent player since they drafted him. Even in seasons where his offense has been below standard, such as 2016-17, where he tallied only 33 points, his two-way game and leadership have made him into a fan favourite and likely a lifetime player in Colorado. Ahead of 2021 free agency, he signed an eight-year extension to stay with the team that drafted him.
2012 – Ryan Murray (Defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets)
While Seguin and Landeskog have both met expectations for their draft slots, Murray hasn’t been as lucky. Like so many players that haven’t lived up to the hype of their high draft position, Murray has suffered many injuries. The Blue Jackets drafted him in hopes that he would become a cornerstone two-way defenseman at the NHL level, but his time on the injured reserve has derailed his development.
The Regina native’s best season to date came in 2018-19, where he recorded 29 points in 56 games. Following the 2019-20 season, the Blue Jackets traded him to the New Jersey Devils for a fifth-round pick in 2021. After one season with New Jersey, he became an unrestricted free agent and wound up signing a one-year contract worth $2 million with the Colorado Avalanche.
2013 – Aleksander Barkov (Centre, Florida Panthers)
Because of all the hype surrounding Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones in 2013, the selection of Barkov at second overall came as a little bit of a surprise. But in the end, it’s safe to say the Panthers got the last laugh over the doubters. While he took a couple of years to get going, Barkov has developed into one of the top number one centres in the league.
He was named the Panthers’ team captain in 2018-19 and had his best season to date that same year, recording a career-high of 35 goals and 96 points in 82 games. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2019 and took home his first career Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2021 as the league’s best defensive forward. The Finn has developed into one of the league’s best all-around players, so I think it’s safe to say the Panthers are happy with the way this pick turned out.
2014 – Sam Reinhart (Centre, Buffalo Sabres)
While the 2014 Draft was one of the weaker ones in recent memory, there were still some very high-end players to come out of it. Leon Draisitl is indisputably the best player from that draft class, but Reinhart is one of the players who’s right behind him. Making his debut for the Sabres in 2014-15, he became a regular in 2015-16 and has been a staple in their top-six ever since.
He had a career year in 2020-21 with 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games, which is all the more impressive when you consider how bad the Sabres were last season. But since the Sabres have still yet to figure it out, he ended up getting traded to the Florida Panthers for a first-round pick and goaltending prospect Devon Levi. Now joining a team that has potential to make a deep playoff run, we could see a true breakout year from Reinhart.
2015 – Jack Eichel (Centre, Buffalo Sabres)
The 2015 NHL Draft saw another centre taken by the Sabres and, you guessed it, another centre who’s likely on his way out. Although, Eichel’s story is far different than Reinhart’s. Known affectionately as the “McEichel” Draft, the Sabres landed a generational talent in Eichel, who would have gone first overall had there not been an even more generational talent in Connor McDavid on the board.
Eichel has found individual success over the years, but like Reinhart, you’d have to wonder how he would be doing if he was playing on a good team. Now, it seems like Eichel may be on his way out after all, following reports that the Sabres wouldn’t let Eichel get surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck (from “Sabres’ Jack Eichel’s agents on surgery, trade: ‘The process is not working'”, The Athletic NHL – 7/31/21). Even if Eichel does end up getting his surgery, the story has been dragged to death through the summer, and it’s hard to imagine Eichel and the Sabres repairing their relationship before the start of the 2021-22 season.
2016 – Patrik Laine (Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets)
While the 2016 Draft didn’t have a McDavid headlining it, they certainly had a crop of superstars. With Laine, along with first overall pick Auston Matthews and fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi, expected to round out the top three, Laine wound up going second overall to the Winnipeg Jets, while Puljujarvi slipped to the Edmonton Oilers at fourth overall. He wasted no time making his mark as one of the league’s top goal scorers, scoring 36 goals in his rookie season.
While Laine had some monster offensive seasons for the Jets, it didn’t end up working out in Winnipeg. He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for 2016 third overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois in January 2021, but he quickly ran into conflict with then-Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, given the latter had a style of coaching that didn’t fit Laine’s game. He signed a one-year extension with the Blue Jackets in July 2021 and will be looking to rebound under a new head coach.
2017 – Nolan Patrick (Centre, Philadelphia Flyers)
Patrick is another glaring example of a high draft pick who hasn’t been able to make it work at the NHL level because of injury issues. After an incredible season in 2015-16 with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings, where he put up 102 points in 72 games, he was considered the consensus number one overall pick in 2017. But after he took a step back in 2016-17, he went second overall after the Devils selected Nico Hischier first overall.
Patrick has not been able to find his footing in the NHL, with his career-high point total in a single season being 31 in 2018-19. He also missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season with a migraine disorder. Following a 2020-21 season that saw him record only nine points in 52 games, the Flyers flipped him to the Vegas Golden Knights in a three-way trade that also involved the Nashville Predators.
2018 – Andrei Svechnikov (Right Wing, Carolina Hurricanes)
Despite spending most of his youth playing in his home country of Russia, Svechnikov made a couple of stops in North America before being drafted. He spent the 2016-17 season playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League (USHL) and then spent his draft year playing for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)’s Barrie Colts.
Svechnikov has developed into one of the Hurricanes’ best forwards, and he’s perhaps best known for completing the “Michigan” lacrosse-style goal twice. Fresh off a 42-point season over 55 games, Svechnikov inked an eight-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of just under $8 million, cementing his status as a key part of Carolina’s core for years to come.
2019 – Kaapo Kakko (Right Wing, New York Rangers)
While Jack Hughes was the consensus number one overall pick in 2019, Kakko was about as sure of a second overall pick as you can get. When the Rangers made it a reality after Kakko put up 38 points in 45 games for TPS Turku of the SM-Liiga, he wasted no time making his NHL debut the following season.
Although he hasn’t been much of an offensive threat at the NHL level so far, it’s worth remembering that he’s only 20 years old. Not every high draft pick immediately blossoms into an elite NHL player right off the bat, and Kakko is a good example of a player that needs a little extra development. He and Alexis Lafreniere will make up an absolutely electric young forward core in Manhattan for years to come.
2020 – Quinton Byfield (Centre, Los Angeles Kings)
Alexis Lafreniere was the consensus top pick in 2020 for years — that was never going to change. But that doesn’t mean the Kings didn’t get exactly what they were looking for in Byfield. With Anze Kopitar manning the number one centre position for well over a decade, Byfield will look to be the one to receive the torch when Kopitar retires.
He got a quick, six-game look in the NHL in 2020-21 but spent most of the season with the Ontario Reign in the American Hockey League (AHL). He impressed in his rookie AHL season with 20 points in 32 games and is all but guaranteed to make the Kings’ roster out of training camp in 2021-22.
2021 – Matthew Beniers (Centre, Seattle Kraken)
It’s pretty special to be including Beniers on this list, as he became the first-ever draft pick in the history of the Seattle Kraken in 2021. After the Buffalo Sabres took defenseman Owen Power first overall, the Kraken selected Beniers in hopes that he would become a top-end two-way centreman down the road.
While most second overall picks dip their feet into NHL waters after getting drafted, Beniers will be returning to the University of Michigan to join a star-studded crew of players that include Power, 2021 fourth overall pick Luke Hughes, and 2021 fifth overall pick Kent Johnson.
ALL-TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 2ND OVERALL
1963 – Peter Mahovlich (RW, Detroit Red Wings)
1964 – Alex Campbell (RW, Boston Bruins)
1965 – Andy Culligan (F, Chicago Black Hawks)
1966 – Brad Park (D, New York Rangers)
1967 – Steve Rexe (G, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1968 – Roger Belisle (C, Montreal Canadiens)
1969 – Marc Tardif (LW, Montreal Canadiens)
1970 – Dale Tallon (D, Vancouver Canucks)
1971 – Marcel Dionne (C, Detroit Red Wings)
1972 – Jacques Richard (LW, Atlanta Flames)
1973 – Tom Lysiak (C, Atlanta Flames)
1974 – Wilf Paiement (RW, Kansas City Scouts)
1975 – Barry Dean (LW, Kansas City Scouts)
1976 – Blair Chapman (Pittsburgh Penguins)
1977 – Barry Beck (D, Colorado Rockies)
1978 – Ryan Walter (C, Washington Capitals)
1979 – Perry Turnbull (LW, St. Louis Blues)
1980 – Dave Babych (D, Winnipeg Jets)
1981 – Doug Smith (C, Los Angeles Kings)
1982 – Brian Bellows (RW, Minnesota North Stars)
1983 – Sylvain Turgeon (LW, Hartford Whalers)
1984 – Kirk Muller (C, New Jersey Devils)
1985 – Craig Simpson (LW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1986 – Jimmy Carson (C, Los Angeles Kings)
1987 – Brendan Shanahan (LW, New Jersey Devils)
1988 – Trevor Linden (C, Vancouver Canucks)
1989 – Dave Chyzowski (LW, New York Islanders)
1990 – Petr Nedved (C, Vancouver Canucks)
1991 – Pat Falloon (RW, San Jose Sharks)
1992 – Alexei Yashin (C, Ottawa Senators)
1993 – Chris Pronger (D, Hartford Whalers)
1994 – Oleg Tverdorsky (D, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)
1995 – Wade Redden (D, New York Islanders)
1996 – Andrei Zyuzin (D, San Jose Sharks)
1997 – Patrick Marleau (LW, San Jose Sharks)
1998 – David Legwand (C, Nashville Predators)
1999 – Daniel Sedin (LW, Vancouver Canucks)
2000 – Dany Heatley (LW, Atlanta Thrashers)
2001 – Jason Spezza (C, Ottawa Senators)
2002 – Kari Lehtonen (G, Atlanta Thrashers)
2003 – Eric Staal (C, Carolina Hurricanes)
2004 – Evgeni Malkin (C, Pittsburgh Penguins)
2005 – Bobby Ryan (RW, Anaheim Ducks)
2006 – Jordan Staal (C, Pittsburgh Penguins)
2007 – James van Riemsdyk (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
2008 – Drew Doughty (D, Los Angeles Kings)
2009 – Victor Hedman (D, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Alex Hobson is a writer and a radio producer for 610 CKTB. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.