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
We now dive further into the top-20 as we look at the previous decade of 17th overall picks. The Stanley Cup is quite familiar to some of the names called at No. 17. Bobby Clarke helped bring The Cup to Philadelphia in 1974 and 1975 as captain of the Broad Street Bullies. Brothers Duane and Brent Sutter were strong contributors to the New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s.
While none of the players examined have the same pedigree as Clarke and the Sutters, some do have the potential to get there. Let’s get started.
2010 – Joey Hishon (C, Colorado Avalanche)
Hishon had a solid junior career with the Owen Sound Attack before being taken 17th overall. He scored 110 goals and 255 points in 214 games. During the 2010-11 season, his final junior season, he tied for the team lead with 24 points in 22 playoff games, helping lead the Attack to an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) title.
During the Memorial Cup, he was elbowed by then-Kootenay Ice defenseman Brayden McNabb. Hishon suffered a concussion and missed the 2011-12 season with post-concussion syndrome. He had a decent return, scoring six points in nine games in the American Hockey League (AHL) during the 2012-13 season, but struggled the following year. He made his NHL debut during the 2013-14 playoffs and had an assist in three games.
He only played 13 regular-season games in 2014-15 and scored a goal and an assist while playing decently in the AHL for his final two seasons in North America. He finished his playing career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He’s since returned to Owen Sound as an assistant general manager and assistant coach.
2011 – Nathan Beaulieu (D, Montreal Canadiens)
Beaulieu had solid offensive numbers during four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the Saint John Sea Dogs. He scored 37 goals, including three straight double-digit goal-scoring seasons, and 152 points in 233 regular-season games, and had similarly strong playoff performances. It gave all indications that he would be a good offensive piece to an NHL defensive corps. Those expectations were never met.
He had a decent 2012-13 season in the AHL, his 31 points tied him for first on a bad Hamilton Bulldogs team. He cracked the Canadiens lineup full-time during the 2014-15 season but has never played to the offensive potential he showed in juniors. He had a career year for Montreal in 2016-17 with four goals and 28 points, but was traded to the Buffalo Sabres and hasn’t come close to that mark since.
He was traded again, this time to the Winnipeg Jets, and re-signed there. The 28-year-old has one more year on his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
2012 – Tomas Hertl (C, San Jose Sharks)
Tomas Hertl has become a key piece to the San Jose Sharks lineup and one of the few bright spots of the past few seasons. He had a decent career in the Czech Republic League, scoring 30 goals and 55 points in 82 games. After making the move to North America, he stepped right into the NHL and has only played two games in the AHL in his career, during his second season, tallying two assists.
He has had constant power-play time and scored a career-high 11 power-play goals during the 2018-19 season. That same year, he lit the lamp 35 times and 10 times in the playoffs on a run to the Western Conference Finals. While that season looks to be an outlier, he is still a threat for around 20 goals and 40 points a year. Seeing time on the penalty kill has turned him into a valuable asset on special teams.
He is entering the final year of his contract with a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC). If the Sharks continue to struggle next year, it may not be surprising to see him waive that and move to a contender. At the very least, he should garner some attention when he becomes a UFA.
2013 – Curtis Lazar (C, Ottawa Senators)
Coming off three successful full-Western Hockey League (WHL) seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lazar was a bonafide goal scorer. He recorded more goals than assists in each season, totaling 99 goals and 168 points in 193 games. However, his transition to the NHL didn’t see him replicate his junior hockey performance.
Lazar’s scoring touch never made it out of the WHL. He’s scored 27 goals and 74 points in 334 NHL games and only has hit his career-high six goal-mark twice. He found some success in the AHL but hasn’t been able to bring it to the NHL level. He’s now generally seen as a bottom-six player and has suited up for four different teams.
While he may still be a serviceable NHLer, it doesn’t look like he’s going to come close to his WHL or even AHL offensive potential.
2014 – Travis Sanheim (D, Philadelphia Flyers)
One could make the argument that Sanheim should have been drafted higher than 17th overall. He had a great junior career in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen to the tune of 35 goals and 162 points in 186 games. He carried that into the AHL and put up strong numbers before becoming a regular NHLer.
Sanheim has performed well for the Philadelphia Flyers during his four seasons. He finds time on both the power play and penalty kill and has enjoyed a pairing with fellow first-rounder Ivan Provorov. Despite a rough 2020-21 season that saw the Flyers perform below expectations, Sanheim should bounce back better next season. Especially if the Flyers can bring in a veteran presence to help out, thus filling the void left by Matt Niskanen’s retirement following the 2019-20 season.
Sanheim is a restricted free agent this offseason. If the Flyers can lock him up long-term for a reasonable price, he should be a staple on their blue line for years to come.
2015 – Kyle Connor (LW, Winnipeg Jets)
With the way he’s been out-performing himself year after year, one would think Connor would be leading his draft class in scoring. That just goes to show how much firepower the 2015 draft held. Connor owned the United States Hockey League (USHL) with back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons for the Youngstown Phantoms. He followed that up by dominating the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and finding more success in the AHL before cementing himself in the NHL.
Connor’s Junior, College and Minor Hockey Career – A Quick Summary:
USHL: 80 goals, 113 assists and 193 points in 174 games.
NCAA: 35 goals, 36 assists and 71 points in 38 games.
AHL: 28 goals, 21 assists and 49 points in 56 games.
Connor is a three-time 30-goal scorer and was on pace to do it again this past COVID-shortened season. The 24-year-old has also shown he is a true goal scorer and will be for years to come.
2016 – Dante Fabbro (D, Nashville Predators)
Fabbro had a strong junior hockey and college hockey career as a two-way defender with high offensive prowess. He scored 18 goals and 100 points in 99 games for the British Columbia Hockey League’s (BCHL) Penticton Vees before playing in the NCAA for Boston University (BU), eventually becoming captain.
He showed improvement in each of his three seasons at BU, scoring 18 points in his first season, then 29 and 33, respectively. He joined the Nashville Predators following his junior year. The offensive production that Fabbro enjoyed in the BCHL and NCAA has yet to show itself in the NHL.
He’s only 23 years old and just coming out of his entry-level contract. He shouldn’t see too much of a raise as his performance hasn’t backed that up. However, if he finds his offensive game, the Predators could have him locked on a team-friendly deal for years to come.
2017 – Timothy Liljegren (D, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Liljegren was drafted and expected to turn into an offensive, puck-moving defenseman but has yet to show that offensive upside at the professional level. The 22-year-old saw a breakout 2019-20 season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies to the tune of 30 points in 40 games but hasn’t seen success in his limited NHL minutes.
He saw limited action in 13 games with the offensively-stacked Toronto Maple Leafs over the past two seasons. A lone assist, four penalty minutes and a minus-four rating are all he has to show for his efforts. He still has the time to find his game and become an NHL regular on the Leafs’ blue line, especially if Morgan Rielly is wearing a different sweater next year.
2018 – Ty Smith (D, New Jersey Devils)
Smith was one of few bright spots for New Jersey Devils fans this past season. The former Spokane Chiefs captain stepped into the NHL after a very successful WHL career. He scored 45 goals and 235 points in 240 games. It’s interesting that he dropped to 17th overall.
Smith led Devils defensemen, as a rookie, with two goals and 23 points in 48 games. The 21-year-old’s offensive upside will take him far as fellow youngsters Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier develop alongside him. He should be a key cog to the Devils’ blue line for years to come.
2019 – Peyton Krebs (C, Vegas Golden Knights)
The Golden Knights have a good one in Peyton Krebs. The playmaking pivot had a dominant WHL career with the Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice and has a strong chance of becoming a full-time NHLer next season. Krebs suited up for three teams in three different leagues for the 2020-21 season. While his NHL and AHL time was limited, he still found point-per-game success in the latter.
Krebs’ 2020-21 Season – A Quick Summary:
WHL – Winnipeg Ice: 13 goals, 30 assists and 43 points in 24 games.
AHL – Henderson Silver Knights: one goal, four assists and five points in five games.
NHL – Vegas Golden Knights: one assist in four games.
If he doesn’t crack the Knights’ opening day roster, expect him to have a strong start to the AHL campaign. Seeing Krebs in the NHL next season is more of an expectation than wishful thinking.
2020 – Lukas Reichel (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
The most recent 17th overall pick has yet to jump to North America and currently plays in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in his native Germany. Lukas Reichel is a winger who will backcheck as hard as he forechecks. Despite his commitment to a 200-foot game, his offense isn’t lacking; 22 goals and 51 points in 80 games over two seasons for the Berlin Polar Bears.
Something that stands out is his six penalty minutes over those 80 games, all coming this past season. The Chicago Blackhawks are in a bit of a weird spot as a team right now, so having Reichel play another year in the DEL isn’t the worst thing, he’s still just 19 years old. If there’s more turnover among the current Blackhawks core, he will be a key piece to the team’s future.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 17th Overall in 2021
ALL TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 17th OVERALL
1963 – Jim McKenny (D, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1964 – Mike Pelyk (D, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1965 – No Selection
1966 – Jude Drouin (C, Montreal Canadiens)
1967 – Al Karlander (C, Detroit Red Wings)
1968 – Herb Boxer (RW, Detroit Red Wings)
1969 – Bobby Clarke (C, Philadelphia Flyers)
1970 – Fred “Buster” Harvey (RW, Minnesota North Stars)
1971 – Bobby Lalonde (C, Vancouver Canucks)
1972 – Lorne Henning (C, New York Islanders)
1973 – Glenn Goldup (RW, Montreal Canadiens)
1974 – Ron Chipperfield (C, California Seals)
1975 – Bob Sauve (G, Buffalo Sabres)
1976 – Mark Suzor (D, Philadelphia Flyers)
1977 – Kevin McCarthy (D, Philadelphia Flyers)
1978 – Dave Hunter (LW, Montreal Canadiens)
1979 – Duane Sutter (RW, New York Islanders)
1980 – Brent Sutter (C, New York Islanders)
1981 – Jiri Dudacek – (RW, Buffalo Sabres)
1982 – Murray Craven (C, Detroit Red Wings)
1983 – Alfie Turcotte (C, Montreal Canadiens)
1984 – Kevin Hatcher (D, Washington Capitals)
1985 – Chris Biotti (D, Calgary Flames)
1986 – Tom Fitzgerald (RW, New York Islanders)
1987 – Andrew Cassels (C, Montreal Canadiens)
1988 – Kory Kocur (RW, Detroit Red Wings)
1989 – Shayne Stevenson (C, Boston Bruins)
1990 – Scott Allison (LW, Edmonton Oilers)
1991 – Brent Bilodeau (D, Montreal Canadiens)
1992 – Sergei Bautin (D, Winnipeg Jets)
1993 – Jason Allison (C, Washington Capitals)
1994 – Wayne Primeau (C, Buffalo Sabres)
1995 – Brad Church (LW, Washington Capitals)
1996 – Jaroslav Svejkovsky (LW, Washington Capitals)
1997 – Robert Dome (RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1998 – Martin Skoula (D, Colorado Avalanche)
1999 – Barret Jackman (D, St. Louis Blues)
2000 – Alexei Mikhnov (LW, Edmonton Oilers)
2001 – Carlo Colaiacovo (D, Toronto Maple Leafs)
2002 – Boyd Gordon (C, Washington Capitals)
2003 – Zach Parise (LW, New Jersey Devils)
2004 – Marek Schwarz (G, St. Louis Blues)
2005 – Martin Hanzal (C, Phoenix Coyotes)
2006 – Trevor Lewis (C, Los Angeles Kings)
2007 – Alexei Cherepanov (RW, New York Rangers)
2008 – Jake Gardiner (D, Anaheim Ducks)
2009 – David Rundblad (D, St. Louis Blues)
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.