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
Here we’ll take a look at the last 10 players to get selected third overall and see where their careers have taken them since they were drafted. There was plenty of centers and defensemen drafted over the past decade, as teams coveted those cornerstone pieces for their franchise.
2010 – Erik Gudbranson (Defenseman, Florida Panthers)
The list is not off to a strong start, as the Florida Panthers selected Erik Gudbranson with the third-overall selection. He was projected to go in that range, but that was because of his physical attributes instead of his on-ice play. His NHL career-high was a measly 13 points in 76 games with the Panthers in the 2014-15 season.
Gudbranson never raised his skating to an elite level, and his offensive awareness kept him from blossoming into a top-pairing defender. He still managed to carve out a solid career for himself in the NHL as a journeyman, playing for six teams so far. He is now an unrestricted free agent but could find himself on a pro tryout contract before training camp.
2011 – Jonathan Huberdeau (Left Winger, Florida Panthers)
Luckily for the Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau was one of their best selections in franchise history. Since joining the NHL in the 2011-12 season, he has produced 498 points in 591 career games, but his last few seasons have told a different story. After taking a few seasons to settle in as a top-line player in Florida, he scored a career-high 92 points in 82 games during the 2018-19 season.
Huberdeau will be looking to crack the Canadian roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics. He has a pretty good chance of making the team, especially if he continues to produce next season.
2012 – Alex Galchenyuk (Center, Montreal Canadiens)
Although he was drafted as a center, Alex Galchenyuk never found a role with the Montreal Canadiens. He had an upward trajectory, and then everything went wrong for him. It is unclear if he will score 30 goals again, as he did in the 2015-16 season for the Habs, as he has been a journeyman the last few seasons. He has played for six teams but didn’t get a chance to play for the Carolina Hurricanes, who traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs just a few days later.
Last season, Galchenyuk looked better as a member of the Maple Leafs, playing on their second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. He is looking for a contract heading into the 2021-22 season.
2013 – Jonathan Drouin (Left Winger, Tampa Bay Lightning)
The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Jonathan Drouin because he played at a phenomenal level with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league (QMJHL) on a line with Nathan MacKinnon. The team believed that he could become the elite-level winger for Steven Stamkos, but that never came to fruition. However, he showcased potential to become a star, as he scored 53 points in 73 games in his age-21-year-old season.
After that season, the Lightning sold high on Drouin, landing Mikhail Sergachev from the Canadiens in a one-for-one trade. Tampa made out like bandits in this deal, as they have won two Stanley Cups since, with Sergachev being a key member of the team. Drouin is looking to rejuvenate his career with the Canadiens, as he has been good, but not a consistent top-line winger for them.
2014 – Leon Draisaitl (Center, Edmonton Oilers)
Looking back on the players selected in this slot, the Edmonton Oilers selected the greatest player of the past decade in Leon Draisaitl. He is currently part of the NHL’s best dynamic duo with Connor McDavid, and he has taken his game to the next level in each season since joining the league. It was a tough start for him breaking into the NHL, putting up only nine points in 37 games during the 2014-15 season. He was rushed into the league and ultimately sent back down to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League (WHL) to finish the season.
It is safe to say that he has figured it out since, putting up 110 points in 71 games during the 2019-20 season. He won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy that season, and only McDavid is in his way as he looks to win more hardware down the line.
2015 – Dylan Strome (Center, Arizona Coyotes)
For the fifth straight season, a forward would be drafted with the third pick. Known as the McDavid draft, where most teams made out like bandits with their selections, Arizona Coyotes’ choosing Dylan Strome left a lot to be desired. During his time as a Coyote, Strome would produce 16 points in 48 games over the span of three seasons. They were hoping that he was going to become their first-line center for the next decade.
On Nov 25, 2018, Strome was traded with Brendan Perlini to the Chicago Blackhawks for Nick Schmaltz. In a deal where three former first-round selections are dealt with, it ended up being a good move for both sides. Strome has produced 96 points in 156 games as a Blackhawk and has gotten extended opportunities to consistently be the team’s second-line center. He is a good player, but he shouldn’t have been drafted at third-overall.
2016 – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Center, Columbus Blue Jackets)
The most surprising selection of the bunch, as most projected Jesse Puljujärvi to be drafted at this position. It had appeared the Columbis Blue Jackets made out like bandits with this selection, as Pierre-Luc Dubois came into the league during the 2017-18 season and impressed. He scored 20 goals and 48 points as a rookie and improved his production to 61 points in the 2018-19 season.
Before the beginning of the 2020-21 season, it came out that Dubois had requested a trade out of Columbus. After beginning the season, it became quite clear how disengaged he was, as shown by his last shift with the team. He gave no effort in forechecking the opposition and looked to be proving a point to management. Dubois would be traded to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.
2017 – Miro Heiskanen (Defenseman, Dallas Stars)
Miro Heiskanen was only drafted four years ago and is already the best defenseman selected in this position in the past decade. His dynamic skating allows him to drive the play for the Dallas Stars, but he is also defensively responsible and can be used in all situations. His career-best year was during the 2019-20 season, where he produced 35 points in 68 games and 26 points in 27 games during their playoff run.
Heiskanen signed an eight-year contract extension with the Stars this offseason, with an average annual value (AAV) of $8.45 million. This upcoming season is where he is looking to establish himself as one of the NHL’s best defensemen from a point production standpoint.
2018 – Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Center, Montreal Canadiens)
The Finnish center was a surprising selection when Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin called his name, prompting this Canadiens fans negative reaction. During Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s rookie season, he appeared to have proven the doubters wrong, scoring 34 points in 79 games. He was an 18-year old center, and his production aligned with Brady Tkachuk, who was selected at fourth-overall by the Ottawa Senators.
Recently, he has appeared in the news as the Hurricanes signed him to a successful offer sheet for one year at $6.1 million. The Canadiens chose not to match and acquired Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes to replace him. Carolina is getting a player that elevates his game in the playoffs, as he has scored eight goals in 29 career games.
2019 – Kirby Dach (Center, Chicago Blackhawks)
Continuing with the surprising selections, Kirby Dach was picked slightly higher than where he was projected to go in this draft. The 20-year-old from Alberta has proven to be worth his draft position to this point, scoring 33 points in 82 games across two seasons. Those numbers are not very eye-catchy, but he only played in 18 games in 2020-21 due to a wrist injury, putting up 10 points.
He captained the Candian team at the 2021 World Juniors, even after sustaining his injury. He is a natural leader and is set to take over Jonathan Toews’s spot as the future first-line center when the time comes around.
2020 – Tim Stützle (Center, Ottawa Senators)
There have been plenty of centermen drafted recently, and that trend continued with the Senators picking Tim Stützle. The German center has made many fans speculate whether he should have been selected over Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield. He scored 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games during his rookie season.
The Senators have a bright future with plenty of young players on their team, and Stützle is expected to help carry the load over the next decade.
2021 – Mason McTavish (Center, Anaheim Ducks)
Another center drafted in four consecutive drafted, Mason McTavish is an exciting young prospect to add to the Anaheim Ducks system. They hope that either he or Trevor Zegras can carry the mantle that Ryan Getzlaf has held for the past decade. In terms of McTavish, he is set to return to play for the Peterborough Petes in the 2021-22 season. An interesting fact about him is that he was born in Switzerland but identifies as Canadien.
Look for McTavish to play a pivotal role on Team Canada at the 2022 World Juniors.
ALL-TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 3RD OVERALL
1968 – Jim Pritchard (Defenseman, Montreal Canadiens)
1969 – Don Tannahill (Left Winger, Boston Bruins)
1970 – Reggie Leach (Right Winger, Boston Bruins)
1971 – Jocelyn Guevremont (Defenseman, Vancouver Canucks)
1972 – Don Lever (Left Winger, Vancouver Canucks)
1973 – Dennis Ververgaert (Right Winger, Vancouver Canucks)
1974 – Rick Hampton (Defenseman, California Seals)
1975 – Ralph Klassen (Center, California Seals)
1976 – Glen Sharpley (Center, Minnesota North Stars)
1977 – Robert Picard (Defenseman, Washington Capitals)
1978 – Wayne Babych (Right Winger, St. Louis Blues)
1979 – Mike Foligno (Right Winger, Detroit Red Wings)
1980 – Denis Savard (Center, Chicago Blackhawks)
1981 – Bobby Carpenter (Center, Washington Capitals)
1982 – Gary Nylund (Defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1983 – Pat LaFontaine (Center, New York Islanders)
1984 – Ed Olczyk (Center, Chicago Blackhawks)
1985 – Craig Wolanin (Defenseman, New Jersey Devils)
1986 – Neil Brady (Center, New Jersey Devils)
1987 – Glen Wesley (Defenseman, Boston Bruins)
1988 – Curtis Leschyshyn (Defenseman, Quebec Nordiques)
1989 – Scott Thornton (Center, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1990 – Keith Primeau (Center, Detroit Red Wings)
1991 – Scott Niedermayer (Defenseman, New Jersey Devils)
1992 – Mike Rathje (Defenseman, San Jose Sharks)
1993 – Chris Gratton (Center, Tampa Bay Lightning)
1994 – Radek Bonk (Center, Ottawa Senators)
1995 – Aki-Petteri Berg (Defenseman, Los Angeles Kings)
1996 – J.P. Dumont (Right Winger, New York Islanders)
1997 – Olli Jokinen (Center, Los Angeles Kings)
1998 – Brad Stuart (Defenseman, San Jose Sharks)
1999 – Henrik Sedin (Center, Vancouver Canucks)
2000 – Marian Gaborik (Right Winger, Minnesota Wild)
2001 – Alexandr Svitov (Center, Tampa Bay Lightning)
2002 – Jay Bouwmeester (Defenseman, Florida Panthers)
2003 – Nathan Horton (Right Winger, Florida Panthers)
2004 – Cam Barker – (Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks)
2005 – Jack Johnson (Defenseman, Carolina Hurricanes)
2006 – Jonathan Toews (Center, Chicago Blackhawks)
2007 – Kyle Turris (Center, Pheonix Coyotes)
2008 – Zach Bogosian (Defenseman, Atlanta Thrashers)
2009 – Matt Duchene (Center, Colorado Avalanche)
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.