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 1st 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 ten 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’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Legitimate talent on the blue line has come out of the 14th spot. Sergei Gonchar was selected by the Washington Capitals in 1992, and the Chicago Blackhawks drafted franchise great Brent Seabrook in 2003. The Colorado Avalanche drafted Kevin Shattenkirk four years later with the 14th overall pick. Recent players selected 14th have turned into top-tier NHL talent. This year, the Philadelphia Flyers own the 14th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft for the third time in four years.
2010- Jaden Schwartz (C, St. Louis Blues)
The first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft had a monumental impact on the Blues franchise. They selected Schwartz at 14 and winger Vladimir Tarasenko at 16. Both blossomed into franchise centerpieces that have played top-six offensive roles for substantial periods of time.
Schwartz was selected from the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He subsequently played two seasons at the NCAA level for Colorado College before moving to a full-time role at the professional level during the 2012-13 season. His breakout season came in 2013-14 when he scored 25 goals in 80 games for the Blues. He has reached the 20-goal plateau four times in his career, but his greatest contributions came as a member of the Stanley Cup champion Blues team in 2019. He played a key scoring role with 20 points in 26 playoff games, second on the team behind only Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly.
2011- Jamie Oleksiak (D, Dallas Stars)
The 6-foot-7 Oleksiak was chosen with the 14th pick just weeks after the hockey world watched mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara play a pivotal role as the captain and top defenseman for the Boston Bruins during their Stanley Cup run.
Oleksiak is now in his second stint with the Stars after a trade sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins for parts of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 regular seasons. During the Stars ‘ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, he played in 27 playoff games with an average time on ice (ATOI) over 21 minutes. Although he has recorded just 47 points in 286 regular-season games for Dallas, his physical presence on the blue line has provided good value for their selection. Oleksiak will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he is due for a sizable new deal.
2012- Zemgus Girgensons (C, Buffalo Sabres)
Latvian center Girgensons from the USHL was chosen by the Sabres in 2012. He showed flashes of potential in 61 games during the 2014-15 season, but he has failed to record 20 points in any season at the NHL level since. He suffered an injury that kept him out for the entire 2020-21 season, but he is expected to make a full recovery and return to a role in the bottom six for a Sabres team with serious question marks heading into next season.
The players picked with the ensuing six selections have all outperformed Girgensons by a considerable margin. Most notably, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning was picked 19th. The decision to pass on what has now proven to be superior talent is just another mishap of the Sabres franchise in recent years.
2013- Alexander Wennberg (C, Columbus Blue Jackets)
Wennberg climbed the Swedish Hockey League ranks in the two seasons before being drafted in 2013 and spent another year in Sweden before coming to the NHL in 2014-15. He played 415 games over six seasons with the Blue Jackets as a depth scorer with considerable size down the middle.
He signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers last offseason. The addition paid off in a turnaround season for the Panthers organization. Wennberg scored a career-high 17 goals, despite playing fewer games in the shortened season than in any of his six seasons in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets made a solid evaluation by selecting Wennberg 14th, as none of the next few picks have exceeded his production in drastic ways. However, his success in 2020-21 provides yet another example of a bonafide NHL talent drafted by Columbus that has moved on to another organization during the prime years of his career. The narrative has become all-too-familiar for the organization in the cases of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
2014- Julius Honka (D, Dallas Stars)
Honka jumped onto the radar of NHL scouts during international competitions, including the 2014 World Juniors, when he helped Team Finland win the gold medal. He had a strong season for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in 2013-14, leading into his first year of draft eligibility. He was touted as a puck-moving defenseman with a high upside after finishing with 56 points in 62 games in the WHL.
After two seasons spent predominantly in the American Hockey League (AHL), Honka made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season at age 21. He never gained footing in three seasons with the Stars, playing just 87 career NHL games. His standing in the organization soured over time, and he chose to play professionally in Finland for the 2019-20 season. His subsequent return to the Stars was short-lived. After clearing waivers in January 2021, he moved on to play the season in the SHL.
David Pastrnak was selected 25th overall by the Boston Bruins, but no true superstars emerged from the 10 picks following Honka. However, Travis Sanheim, Dylan Larkin, and Alex Tuch would have been far more beneficial choices for Dallas.
2015- Jake DeBrusk (LW, Boston Bruins)
DeBrusk was the second consecutive member of the Swift Current Broncos to be drafted 14th overall. He spent one more season in juniors and another in the AHL before carving out a full-time role with the Bruins during the 2017-18 season at age 21. He has been a solid contributor for a Bruins team that has won at least one playoff series in each of his first four NHL seasons.
DeBrusk had a breakout season in 2018-19 when he finished with 27 goals. He followed by playing key minutes for the Bruins throughout the playoffs during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. His offensive production, however, has progressively declined over the past two seasons. He lost favor with head coach Bruce Cassidy during the shortened 2020-21 season and even found himself out of the lineup as a healthy scratch at certain points.
The Bruins elected to protect DeBrusk for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft while exposing high-profile forwards Nick Ritchie and David Krejci. Despite a frustrating season, he still holds the potential for continued development and a return to the form he showed during his second NHL season in 2018-19.
2016- Charlie McAvoy (D, Boston Bruins)
The top 10 picks of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft included star-caliber talent like Auston Matthews, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mikhail Sergachev, among other young players who have already put together solid NHL resumes. When the Bruins selected McAvoy 14th, they knocked one out of the park.
Outside the top 10 selections, McAvoy has outperformed every other draft choice taken in the remainder of the first round. A majority of these picks are not relatively close to his acumen. The American-born defenseman had already established a reputation in international tournaments. He continued to generate excitement in New England with two strong seasons at Boston University before making it to the NHL.
McAvoy has helped sustain Boston’s recent success, along with DeBrusk, as part of an infusion of young talent that has complemented their veteran stars. During his first two NHL seasons, his continual development allowed him to step into a more significant role in 2019-20 when he finished 10th in voting for the Norris Trophy.
The departures of Chara and Torey Krug last offseason put immense pressure on McAvoy, along with teammate Matt Grzelcyk, to become the focal point of the Bruins blue line in 2020-21. He finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting, and legitimate arguments for him as the winner can be made because of the overall value he brought to his team. The development of his puck-moving skills has allowed him to put up consistently impressive assist totals in four NHL seasons.
2017- Callan Foote (D, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Foote, the son of long-time Colorado Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, was taken after playing two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. He spent one more year with Kelowna as their captain in 2017-18, when he posted 70 points in 60 games for his most impressive statistical season in junior hockey.
Foote spent most of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons in the AHL with the Lighting’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. During that time span, the emergence of Sergachev and Erik Cernak crowded a Tampa Bay blue line that already included reputable veterans Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh.
Foote finally got his first opportunity at the NHL level this season. The 6-foot-4 defenseman played in 35 games in a minimal role. He did not appear in the 2021 Playoffs for the Stanley Cup champs, but his future in Tampa looks bright.
2018- Joel Farabee (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers selected Farabee, a standout from the US National U18 team, with a pick acquired in the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues. The native of New York played 37 NCAA games at Boston University the following season as an 18-year-old. He also made significant contributions at the U20 World Juniors for Team USA.
Farabee played significant time at the NHL level in his first professional season. He showed flashes of brilliant play but never carved out a top-six role for a Flyers team that entered the bubble last year with high expectations for a long playoff run. His inexperience showed in 12 playoff games, and he was inserted in and out of the lineup several times by head coach Alain Vigneault because he struggled to deal with the physical demands of playoff tempo. He finished his rookie season with eight goals and 13 assists, supplemented by five playoff points.
Farabee broke out in 2020-21. He led the Flyers in goals and noticeably improved his physical game playing along the boards with grit and tenacity. He figures heavily into the future plans of the Flyers, a team that is undergoing major offseason changes. He will likely get the chance to play on the wing for Sean Couturier on Philadelphia’s top line in 2021-22.
2019- Cam York (D, Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers selected York in 2019, the second consecutive year they chose a player who starred for Team USA in international competitions with the 14th pick. York spent the past two seasons at the University of Michigan and captained Team USA to the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2021.
York played eight AHL games and three NHL games after signing his entry-level contract late in the 2020-21 season. His chances to earn a roster spot entering 2021-22 will largely depend on the moving pieces on the Flyers blue line. The strong impression he made during his short professional stint this spring will certainly help his case.
Philadelphia’s choice to select York over Cole Caufield, who slid to the Montreal Canadiens at 15, was heavily scrutinized during Caufield’s emergence during the 2021 Playoffs. While Caufield impressed in a limited sample size, no accurate judgment can be made about Philadelphia’s decision at this point.
2020- Dylan Holloway (C, Edmonton Oilers)
Holloway played his first season at the University of Wisconsin in 2019-20, registering 17 points in 39 games, prior to being selected by the Oilers last summer. He followed it up with a stronger season, accumulating 35 points in just 23 games for the Badgers in 2020-21. The Calgary native also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2021.
He signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Oilers. He is expected to compete for a roster spot with the Oilers in 2021-22. Including Holloway, four of the last five players picked at 14 have experience at major NCAA programs.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 14th Overall In 2021
ALL-TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 14th OVERALL
1968 – Ron Snell (RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1969 – Dennis O’Brien (D, Minnesota North Stars)
1970 – Dan Maloney (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
1971 – Terry O’Reilly (RW, Boston Bruins)
1972 – John Van Boxmeer (D, Montreal Canadiens)
1973 – Rick Middleton (RW, New York Rangers)
1974 – Dave Maloney (D, New York Rangers)
1975 – Doug Halward (D, Boston Bruins)
1976 – Alex McKendry (RW, New York Islanders)
1977 – Rick Seiling (RW/C, Buffalo Sabres)
1978 – Danny Lucas (RW, Philadelphia Flyers)
1979 – Brian Propp (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
1980 – Jim Malone (C, New York Rangers)
1981 – Norman Leveille (LW, Boston Bruins)
1982 – Paul Lawless (LW, Hartford Whalers)
1983 – Bobby Dollas (D, Winnipeg Jets)
1984 – Terry Carkner (D, New York Rangers)
1985 – Calle Johnson (D, Buffalo Sabres)
1986 – Everett Sanipass (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
1987 – Stephane Quintal (D, Boston Bruins)
1988 – Claude Boivin (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
1989 – Kevin Haller (D, Buffalo Sabres)
1990 – Brad May (LW, Buffalo Sabres)
1991 – Pat Peake (C, Washington Capitals)
1992 – Sergei Gonchar (D, Washington Capitals)
1993 – Adam Deadmarsh (RW, Quebec Nordiques)
1994 – Ethan Moreau (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
1995 – Jay McKee (D, Buffalo Sabres)
1996 – Marty Reasoner (C, St. Louis Blues)
1997 – Michael Riesen (RW, Edmonton Oilers)
1998 – Patrick DesRochers (G, Phoenix Coyotes)
1999 – Jeff Jillson (D, San Jose Sharks)
2000 – Vaclab Nedorost (C, Colorado Avalanche)
2001 – Chuck Kobasew (RW, Calgary Flames)
2002 – Chris Higgins (LW, Montreal Canadiens)
2003 – Brent Seabrook (D, Chicago Blackhawks)
2004 – Devan Dubnyk (G, Edmonton Oilers)
2005 – Saha Pokulok (D, Washington Capitals)
2006 – Michael Grabner (RW, Vancouver Canucks)
2007 – Kevin Shattenkirk (D, Colorado Avalanche)
2008 – Zach Boychuk (C, Carolina Hurricanes)
2009 – Dmitri Kulikov (D, Florida Panthers)
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the Legion of Doom and Claude Giroux to no-namers like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. Colin is an also an editor/co-expert for Broad Street Buzz, a Philadelphia Flyers blog through FanSided, and an author of fictional sports stories.