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.
The 14th installment of our series looks at the 19th overall pick. Although this selection has not produced many star players, there is still quality to be found.
This season, the 19th overall pick belongs to the Edmonton Oilers. The last time they held this selection was in 2011 when they selected Oscar Klefbom, who has developed into a top-pairing defenceman. Will they strike gold again or be stuck with a player like 2006 19th overall pick Mark Mitera who never played a game in the NHL.
2010- Nick Bjugstad (C, Florida Panthers)
Coming out of college, Nick Bjugstad was a highly-touted prospect. He won named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey given to the best high school player in the State in 2009-10 and was ready to take on a new challenge at the University of Minnesota. Since then, he has developed into a strong, two-way center who ranks 20th in points from his draft class.
Although his point production has slipped since leaving the Florida Panthers in 2018-19, Bjugstad is still a valuable player for the Minnesota Wild organization. He recently signed a one-year contract valued at $900,000 and projects to be part of the team’s fourth line next season.
Bjugstad was a great 19th overall pick. He has played 483 games in 10 seasons and averages .46 points a game. He may not be the flashiest player, but he gets the job done and provides value year after year.
2011- Oscar Klefbom (D, Edmonton Oilers)
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Oscar Klefbom out of the Färjestad BK farm system in Sweden. He was captain of Sweden’s U18 team in 2010-11, where he helped lead them to a silver medal. He then captured gold at the U20’s the following season and was named to the tournament all-star team. A player who has improved every season since coming over to the NHL ranks third in points by defenseman from his draft class.
Unfortunately, Klefbom is dealing with a serious injury that kept him out the entire season. He ranks second in points by a defenceman with the Oilers since he arrived in 2013 with 156. Before that, he was arguably the Oilers’ best defenceman eclipsing 21:00 minutes per game for the past six seasons. That is only one behind Darnell Nurse despite the fact Klefbom has played 28 fewer games.
If a re-draft occurred, there is no question Klefbom would have gone higher. His size, skating ability and offensive awareness make him an extremely valuable piece any team would be happy to add. The Oilers are very lucky he fell to them at 19.
2012- Andrei Vasilevskiy(G, Tampa Bay Lightning)
In 2012, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a goaltender out of the KHL named Andrei Vasilevskiy. Fast forward 10 years, and he has become arguably the best goaltender in the league. This past season he helped Tampa win their second straight Stanley Cup and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Looking back, he was definitely the steal of the draft at 19th overall.
Vasilevskiy has the opportunity to go down as the greatest Russian goaltender in NHL history. He is on a stacked Tampa team that looks set for years and is on pace to break Evgeni Nabokov’s wins record by a Russian goalie by 2026. Lastly, he has been in the top three for Vezina voting the last four seasons, winning it in 2018-19.
There is little question that in a re-draft, Vasilevskiy is going first overall. He may even be the best 19th overall selection in draft history. A steal for the Lightning and a player who is on track to make the Hall of Fame one day.
2013- Kerby Rychel (LW, Columbus Blue Jackets)
Kerby Rychel had a great junior career with the Windsor Spitfire. He put up 87 points in 68 games during his draft year and was touted as a big power forward who could provide offence. Sadly, his career never blossomed and he has bounced around the AHL the last few seasons.
Rychel has been good in the AHL but has not found consistency at the NHL level. He won the Calder Cup in 2015-2016 and has 198 points in 295 games. What makes this pick painful for Columbus Blue Jacket fans is that Detroit selected Anthony Mantha one spot after and Anaheim picked Shea Theodore with the 26th pick.
There is a bright side in that Rychel is still playing and producing in the AHL. It would have been better to have selected a player who is in the NHL but he has had a better career than the 11th overall pick Samuel Morin. Although he did not carve out a successful NHL career, Rychel can still look back on his overall career and be proud.
2014- Anthony DeAngelo- (D, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Despite having a good junior career, Anthony DeAngelo faced off-ice issues that saw his draft stock drop. He was suspended twice in his draft season for breaking the OHL’s harassment abuse and diversity policy after directing inappropriate comments towards a teammate. Fast forward to this season where he was placed on waivers and only played six games due to off-ice incidents and behaviour.
DeAngelo was traded from the Lightning to the Coyotes back in 2016 and then flipped to the Rangers in 2017. In his NHL career, he has 106 points in 209 games. Despite having decent statistics, no team was willing to take a chance on him after being placed on waivers. His on-ice attitude during games combined with off-ice problems like getting into fistfights with teammates has led him to become a player no team has been willing to take a chance on.
Tampa took a risk and it didn’t pay off. They thought they could reform his behaviour but unfortunately were unable to. This happens on occasion but it should serve to warn that if a player has a history of off-ice behaviour, it may be best to stay away.
2015- Yevgeni Svechnikov (W, Detroit Red Wings)
Yevgeni Svechnikov had a great QMJHL career putting up 78 points in 55 games during his draft season. A highly skilled winger who could skate and score, Detroit was ecstatic when he fell to them at 19. Unfortunately, he has struggled to make the jump to the NHL only playing 41 games over the past five seasons.
Looking back, this pick made a lot of sense. Svechnikov had all the tools to be a successful NHL player. The problem is he could never put it all together. It is a hard pill to swallow for Red Wings fans as players like Brock Boeser, Joel Eriksson Ek, Colin White and Travis Konecny were drafted with five of the next six picks.
There is still time for Svechnikov to develop into an everyday NHLer. He had his best NHL season this year playing in 21 games and putting up eight points. The dream of him being a first-line player may be dead but he can still be successful in a limited role for this rebuilding Detroit team.
2016- Kieffer Bellows (LW, New York Islanders)
After lighting up the USA Development Program in 2015-16, Kieffer Bellows transferred to Boston University. He had 14 points in 34 games and was named to the gold medal-winning USA U20 team. After being drafted, he left school and made his way to the Portland Winterhawks where he put up 74 points in 56 games including 41 goals.
Since leaving the WHL, Bellows has been unable to crack the Islanders lineup consistently. He has played 22 games during his career with 14 of them coming this season. The jury is still out on whether Bellows was a good pick or not as players like Sam Steel, Tage Thompson and Max Jones who were drafted after him have already established themselves as everyday NHLers.
One issue with Bellows is that the team he plays for is very strong and he has not been given opportunities to crack the lineup. As mentioned, he was given a chance this season but was unable to impress and stay in the lineup. He is a talented player but may need a change of scenery to finally get his chance.
2017- Josh Norris (C, San Jose Sharks)
Josh Norris had a successful career in the USA National Development Team before making his way over to the University of Michigan. He is however best known as the key piece in the Erik Karlsson trade. A two-way player who isn’t afraid to play physically, he is already establishing himself as a can’t miss prospect in the Ottawa system.
Norris had a fantastic first pro season in the AHL before jumping to the NHL this year. He had 61 points in 56 games and was named Rookie Of The Year in the AHL. He ranked third in the league when it came to goals and points and was dominating before the season shut down.
Norris has turned into a can’t miss prospect. He finished fourth in Calder voting this season and was named to the NHL all-rookie team after posting 35 points in 56 games. It is early, but he is already proving to be a steal at the 19th overall selection.
2018- Jay O’Brien (C, Philadephia Flyers)
When the Philadelphia Flyers selected Jay O’Brien in 2018, many were surprised. He had a decent year in high school but was not pegged as a first-rounder. Since then, he has dominated the BCHL and had a good first season with Boston University.
Back in 2019-20, O’Brien dominated with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. He led the team with 66 points and was tied for the team lead with 25 goals. He was even named to the BCHL all-star team that season. After dominating the league, he moved to Boston University, where he had 16 points in 16 games which lead the team. He is slowly developing and showing he was worthy of that 19th overall selection.
It is still early, but Flyers fans may be getting impatient considering who was drafted after O’Brien. What is important to remember is that some prospects take time. Players like K’Andre Miller, Rasmus Sandin, Jacob Bernard-Docker, and Isac Lundeström have already played in the NHL. Although he has not made the jump yet, O’Brien could be a solid player for the Flyers in the near future.
2019- Lassi Thomson (D, Ottawa Senators)
Ottawa Senators fans should be excited because Lassi Thomson looks like another solid prospect added to their pipeline. He has had success at every level in Finland and was impressive during his one season with the Kelowna Rockets. Don’t be too surprised if he makes the Senators out of camp this season.
The most impressive part of Thomson’s game is his skating. He rarely finds himself out of position and can transition the puck well. Although he is not the best defender in his own zone, his ability to read the play allows him to be in the right position at all times. The rest of his game will develop, but he has the fundamentals down and projects to be a top-four player.
It is way too early to judge if this was the right pick, but we can compare to those selected after him. Players like Connor McMichael, Ville Heinola, Tobias Björnfot and Nolan Foote have all played games in the NHL, but Thomson should make his debut this season. If his production in the AHL is any indication, the Senators will have a solid prospect who can chip in on occasion and be that future second-pairing defenseman.
2020- Braden Schneider (D, New York Rangers)
New York Rangers fans should be excited when it comes to Braden Schneider. The 6’2″ defenceman dominated the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings the last few seasons and even made Canada’s World Championship team this past season. He can transition the puck extremely well and rarely gets caught flat-footed.
Some may have seen this pick as a reach, but Schneider is already putting that narrative to bed. He had 27 points this season in the WHL, which ranked him third amongst all defencemen. At the World Juniors, and as mentioned, he also played in the AHL at the World Championships. Don’t be surprised if you see him in a Rangers jersey next season.
Looking back at his draft year, there are not many players you would take over him. There are players like Connor Zary, Jacob Perreault and Jake Neighbours, but Schneider fills a need on defence the Rangers organization has been looking for. He looks like a great pick at 19 and should have a successful career in the NHL.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 19th Overall In 2021
All-Time Players Taken at 19th Overall
1963- Jim Blair (Boston Bruins)
1964- René Leclerc (Detroit Red Wings)
1965- No Selection
1966- Tom Webster (Boston Bruins)
1967- No Selection
1968- Barry Buchanan (New York Rangers)
1969- Mike Lowe (St. Louis Blues)
1970- Pete Laframboise (Oakland Seals)
1971- Craig Ramsay (Buffalo Sabers)
1972- Bryan McSheffrey (Vancouver Canucks)
1973- Paulin Bordeleau (Vancouver Canucks)
1974- Mike Marson (Washington Capitals)
1975- Peter Scamurra (Washington Capitals)
1976- Greg Malone (Pittsburgh Penguins)
1977- Jean Savard (Chicago Blackhawks
1978- Steve Payne (Minnesota North Stars)
1979- Jimmy Mann (Winnipeg Jets)
1980- Paul Gagné (Colorado Rockies)
1981- Jan Ingman (Montreal Canadiens)
1982- Alain Héroux (Montreal Canadiens)
1983- Jeff Beukeboom (Edmonton Oilers)
1984- David Pasin (Boston Bruins)
1985- Yvon Corriveau (Washington Capitals)
1986- Jeff Greenlaw (Washington Capitals)
1987- Bryan Deasley (Calgary Flames)
1988- François Leroux (Edmonton Oilers)
1989- Olaf Kölzig (Washington Capitals)
1990- Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg Jets)
1991- Niklas Sundblad (Calgary Flames)
1992- Martin Straka (Pittsburgh Penguins)
1993- Landon Wilson (Toronto Maple Leafs)
1994- Chris Dingman (Calgary Flames)
1995- Dmitri Nabokov (Chicago Blackhawks)
1996- Matthieu Descôteaux (Edmonton Oilers)
1997- Stefan Cherneski (New York Rangers)
1998- Robyn Regehr (Colorado Avalanche)
1999- Kirill Safronov (Phoenix Coyotes)
2000- Krys Kolanos (Phoenix Coyotes)
2001- Shaone Morrisonn (Boston Bruins)
2002- Jakub Koreis (Phoenix Coyotes)
2003- Ryan Getzlaf (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)
2004- Lauri Korpikoski (New York Rangers)
2005- Jakub Kindl (Detroit Red Wings)
2006- Mark Mitera (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)
2007- Logan MacMillan (Anaheim Ducks)
2008- Luca Sbisa (Philidelphia Flyers)
2009- Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken team. His work can also be found at dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Adam is excited to be part of the Kraken’s inaugural season and ready to bring you in depth coverage of the NHL’s 32nd team.