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 2021 NHL Draft Guide
After taking a trip down memory lane with the last decade of 32nd overall picks, let’s continue the journey with the 31st overall pick. Like the 32nd pick, this selection became a first-round pick due to the addition of another NHL team by way of expansion. When the Vegas Golden Knights officially became a part of the league in 2017, it was upgraded from the first pick in the second round to the last pick in the first round.
Over the last decade, five defencemen, five forwards, and one goaltender have been taken with the 31st overall pick. To date, six of them have seen time in the NHL with Tyler Pitlick (2010, Edmonton Oilers) being the most successful with 286 games under his belt.
2010 – Tyler Pitlick (C, Edmonton Oilers)
After taking Taylor Hall first overall out of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Edmonton Oilers went south of the border and drafted Tyler Pitlick out of the NCAA with their second pick of 2010. The 6-foot-2 Minneapolis native spent his draft year with Minnesota State University (Mankato) and recorded 19 points in 38 games, then decided to move to Canada and join the Medicine Hat Tigers for his only season in the WHL.
Pitlick made his NHL debut with the Oilers during the 2013-14 season and ended up playing ten games while being shuttled between the parent club and the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons. He spent the next two seasons as a frequent call-up before playing a career-high (at the time) 31 games during the 2016-17 campaign where he registered seven goals and 21 points.
After that, Pitlick signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars in 2017 and went on to have his best season in the NHL posting 14 goals and 27 points in 80 games. He followed that up with another eight goals in 47 games before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ryan Hartman just after the 2018-19 season ended. He only played one season in the City of Brotherly Love before signing a two-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason. He is now in the final year of that contract after finishing 2020-21 with six goals and 11 points in 38 games. Since being drafted in 2010, he has become an effective penalty killer and useful depth forward, and as a result, one of the most successful 31st overall picks in the last decade.
2011 – David Musil (D, Edmonton Oilers)
Part of a strong hockey lineage that included former NHLers Bobby Holik and Frantisek Musil and international veterans Jiri and Jaroslav Holik, David Musil was thought to be destined for a long NHL career. Unfortunately, that never really materialized for the Calgary native. After four strong seasons in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants and Edmonton Oil Kings where he recorded 115 points in 254 games, he only ever got into four NHL games with the Oilers during the 2014-15 season before he got sent back to the AHL for the rest of his North American career.
Following the 2016-17 season where he split his time between the Bakersfield Condors and Tucson Roadrunners, Musil went overseas to join HC Ocelari Trinec, a club he still plays with today. Since leaving North America and his NHL dream behind, he has played in two World Championships and two Spengler Cups with Team Czech Republic and has won two Extraliga Championships with the aforementioned HC Ocelari Trinec.
2012 – Oscar Dansk (G, Columbus Blue Jackets)
Before Oscar Dansk was selected by the Blue Jackets in 2012, he spent his draft year in Europe with Brynas IF’s Under-20 team where he posted a 2.78 goals against average (GAA) and .911 save percentage (SV%) in 28 games. Then after being selected third overall by the Erie Otters in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, he joined them for the 2012-13 season and ended up playing two seasons as their starting goaltender.
Described as an agile goaltender with a large frame, Dansk turned pro with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons in 2014 and split his time between them and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings before signing as a free agent with the Vegas Golden Knights in the offseason. Since then, he has bounced around the AHL and NHL, playing six NHL games including a four-game stint where he went undefeated posting a 3-0 record and a stingy 1.78 GAA and .946 SV%. He spent the 2020-21 season primarily with the Henderson Silver Knights where he recorded a 2.99 GAA and .902 SV% in 11 games.
2013 – Ian McCoshen (D, Florida Panthers)
Going into the 2013 Draft, Ian McCoshen was a highly touted defenceman out of the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks after putting up 11 goals and 44 points in 53 games. So much so that the Panthers spent a second-round pick on him. Committed to Boston College, he went on to play three seasons in Bean Town where he posted 17 goals and 50 points in 110 games.
Since turning pro in 2016 with the Springfield Thunderbirds, McCoshen has appeared in 60 NHL games and recorded four goals and seven points. His last appearance came during the 2018-19 season when he played 19 games for the Panthers before they traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for Aleksi Saarela. He has spent the last two seasons in the Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild organizations, the latter of which he signed a one-year contract with in 2020.
2014 – Brendan Lemieux (LW, Buffalo Sabres)
After a dominant showing in the OHL playoffs where he posted seven goals and 10 points in 11 games, the Sabres selected Brendan Lemieux with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. He then returned to the Barrie Colts for his draft-plus-one season and proceeded to put up a career-high 41 goals and 60 points in 57 games. He finished his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires where he recorded 23 goals and 48 points in 34 games before turning pro with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Since making his debut with the Winnipeg Jets during the 2017-18 season, Lemieux has become a serviceable bottom-six player in the NHL. In stints with the Jets, Minnesota Wild, and Los Angeles Kings, he has recorded 23 goals and 47 points in 180 games. The gritty winger has also accumulated 313 penalty minutes and 17 fighting majors. Under contract with the Kings for 2021-22, he will look to continue that role next season.
2015 – Jeremy Roy (D, San Jose Sharks)
Yet another defenceman drafted with the 31st overall pick, Jeremy Roy was a prominent player with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix before entering the 2015 NHL Draft. After an excellent season that saw him post 43 points in 46 games, the injury bug reared its ugly head and cut his draft-plus-one season short, leading to only 34 points in 45 games. That offseason he was traded to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada where a season-ending knee injury felled him after only 10 games. After rehabbing that particular injury, he turned pro with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda at the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
Roy’s surgically repaired knee has given him problems to this day. Since the initial surgery, he has only appeared in 129 games and has never seen a full campaign in the AHL yet. The once-promising blueliner is now 24-years-old and has been added to the long list of draft busts. The Sharks didn’t send him a qualifying offer in 2020, and he ended up spending the 2020-21 season under an AHL contract with the San Diego Gulls where he posted two assists in 16 games.
2016 – Yegor Korshkov (RW, Toronto Maple Leafs)
It’s always a risk drafting Russian players out of the KHL, but the skill and potential of Yegor Korshkov proved difficult to ignore for the Maple Leafs, who drafted him 31st overall in 2016. After an impressive draft year that saw him score six goals and 12 points in the KHL and another nine goals and 19 points during the MHL playoffs, his rather lofty draft position seemed justified at the time.
Like most Russians, Korshkov took his time before coming over to North America. It wasn’t until he was 23-years-old before he made his pro debut in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. He ended up playing nine games in the playoffs before the 2019-20 season saw him score 16 goals in 44 games. That campaign also marked his debut with the Leafs, where he scored his first NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately, the pandemic threw a wrench in his NHL development as he rejoined Lokomotiv Yaroslavl for the 2020-21 season. He has also since been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Alex Galchenyuk.
2017 – Klim Kostin (C/LW, St. Louis Blues)
Unlike Korshkov, Russian dynamo Klim Kostin didn’t take long to make his debut in North America. After a draft season bouncing around the KHL, MHL, and VHL, he couldn’t wait to showcase his game in the AHL. At the young age of 19, he made his way over to the San Antonio Rampage and had a rather impressive season recording 10 goals and 24 points playing against men. He also played in the 2018 World Junior Championship (WJC) and finished with five goals and eight points in five games.
Kostin followed that up with another solid showing with the Rampage and a standout performance with Team Russia at the 2019 WJC where he scored three goals and six points. He also wore the “C” and led his team to a bronze medal finish. Since then, he has bounced around the AHL, NHL, and KHL appearing in six NHL games with the Blues and 43 games overseas with Avangard Omsk when the pandemic delayed the start to the 2020-21 NHL season. He will be looking to stick with the Blues full time when training camp begins for the 2021-22 campaign in a few months.
2018 – Alexander Alexeyev (D, Washington Capitals)
The third straight Russian taken with the 31st overall pick, Alexander Alexeyev made the trek over to North America very early in his career. By the time he was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2018, he had already completed two seasons in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels, while most of his countrymen were still plying their trade back home. After a rookie season that saw him record four goals and 21 points in 41 games, he broke out with a career-high seven goals and 37 points in 45 games before capping off his WHL career with another high of 10 goals and 43 points in 49 games.
Alexeyev made his pro debut during the 2019-20 season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears and put together a solid 21 points in 58 games before the pandemic shut everything down. While the wait was on for the AHL to decide the status of the 2020-21 season, he made his way over to the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa where he posted 16 points in 55 games. When the AHL eventually got going, he returned to the Bears and proceeded to dominate with nine points in 12 games. With how his development is progressing, he should be in the NHL as soon as next season.
2019 – Ryan Johnson (D, Buffalo Sabres)
The fifth defenceman taken with the 31st overall pick since 2010, Ryan Johnson spent his 2019 draft year in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede where he recorded 25 points in 54 games. He also was a standout in the playoffs that season, posting eight points in 12 games, which led to his selection by the Sabres in the first round.
Committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2019-20 season, Johnson struggled to gain a footing in the league as a freshman, amassing only eight points in 37 games along with a minus-9 in the plus/minus column. Fortunately for the Sabres and their fans, he bounced back with 14 points in 27 games during his sophomore season, re-establishing his status as a top prospect. He also represented Team USA at the 2021 WJC, finishing the tournament with four points in seven games and a gold medal around his neck.
2020 – Ozzy Wiesblatt (RW, San Jose Sharks)
Selected with the first-round pick the San Jose Sharks received in the Barclay Goodrow trade, Ozzy Wiesblatt was a shining star in the WHL in his draft year with the Prince Albert Raiders. The slick Calgary native wowed scouts with his creativity, smarts, and playmaking en route to a season that saw him dominate the league to the tune of 25 goals and 70 points in 64 games.
Like most things, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in Wiesblatt’s draft-plus-one year. After waiting around for almost a year, he was fortunate enough to play a few games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda where he ended up scoring his first professional goal only three games into his AHL career. He then re-joined the Raiders when the WHL got up and running again and finished the season with 28 points in 23 games before returning to the AHL for another three games to cap it all off.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 31st Overall in 2021
ALL TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 32ND OVERALL
1969 – Larry McIntyre (D, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1970 – Steve Carlyle (D, Montreal Canadiens)
1971 – Jim Cahoon (C, Montreal Canadiens)
1972 – Rene Villemure (LW, New York Rangers)
1973 – Jimmy Jones (RW, Boston Bruins)
1974 – Tiger Williams (LW, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1975 – Russ Anderson (D, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1976 – Jim Roberts (LW, Minnesota North Stars)
1977 – Brian Hill (RW, Atlanta Flames)
1978 – Al Jensen (G, Detroit Red Wings)
1979 – Paul Marshall (LW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1980 – Tony Curtale (D, Calgary Flames)
1981 – Mike Sands (G, Minnesota North Stars)
1982 – Jocelyn Gauvreau (D, Montreal Canadiens)
1983 – John Tucker (C, Buffalo Sabres)
1984 – Jeff Rohlicek (C, Vancouver Canucks)
1985 – Alain Cote (D, Boston Bruins)
1986 – Mike Posma (D, St. Louis Blues)
1987 – Daniel Lacroix (LW, New York Rangers)
1988 – Russell Romaniuk (LW, Winnipeg Jets)
1989 – Rick Corriveau (D, St. Louis Blues)
1990 – Felix Potvin (G, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1991 – Martin Hamrlik (D, Hartford Whalers)
1992 – Denis Metlyuk (C, Philadelphia Flyers)
1993 – Scott Langkow (G, Winnipeg Jets)
1994 – Jason Podollan (RW, Florida Panthers)
1995 – Georges Laraque (RW, Edmonton Oilers)
1996 – Remi Royer (D, Chicago Blackhawks)
1997 – Jeff Zehr (LW, New York Islanders)
1998 – Artem Chubarov (C, Vancouver Canucks)
1999 – Charlie Stephens (C/RW, Washington Capitals)
2000 – Ilja Nikulin (D, Atlanta Thrashers)
2001 – Matthew Spiller (D, Phoenix Coyotes)
2002 – Jeff Deslauriers (G, Edmonton Oilers)
2003 – Danny Richmond (D, Carolina Hurricanes)
2004 – Johannes Salmonsson (LW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
2005 – Brendan Mikkelson (D, Anaheim Ducks)
2006 – Tomas Kana (C, St. Louis Blues)
2007 – T.J. Brennan (D, Buffalo Sabres)
2008 – Jacob Markstrom (G, Florida Panthers)
2009 – Mikko Koskinen (G, New York Islanders)
Catch up on the Series So Far
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.