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 2021.
Now that the 2021 NHL Draft is in the books, we will continue this series in the same format, except instead of looking forward to who might be selected, we will shed a light on who was selected.
After recapping picks 32 to 10, the series continues with a deep dive into the entire history of the 9th overall pick. As we get closer and closer to the first-overall pick, the caliber of players definitely increases. Over the last ten years, every player except for 2020 draft pick Marco Rossi and 2021 draft pick Dylan Guenther have played an NHL game, and eight have played over 100 games. In fact, there have been four that have hit the 500-mark. Needless to say, the ninth overall pick has been really lucky in recent years.
2010 – Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota Wild
Spending most of his draft year with HIFK in the SM-liiga, Mikael Granlund was a highly-touted forward going into the 2010 Draft. In a men’s league at 18 years old, he put up 13 goals and 40 points in 43 games and was a point-a-game player in the playoffs. He also was one of Team Finland’s best players at the Under-18 World Junior Championship where he recorded four goals and 13 points in six games en route to a bronze medal.
After Granlund was drafted by the Wild ninth overall, he spent the next two seasons with HIFK where he continued to dominate with 28 goals and 87 points in 84 games. He turned pro in 2012-13 with the AHL’s Houston Aeros and debuted with the Wild that same season. He finished his rookie campaign with two goals and eight points in 27 games. He ended up playing the next six seasons in Minnesota where he hit 20 goals two times and 40 or points five times. Traded to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Fiala in 2019, Granlund has spent parts of the last three seasons in Music City. He recently signed a four-year extension with them that will potentially keep him in Nashville until 2024-25.
2011 – Dougie Hamilton, D, Boston Bruins
One of the best ninth overall picks of the last ten years, Dougie Hamilton has developed into a legitimate number one defenceman in the NHL. Drafted out of the Niagra IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he finished his draft year with a dominant 12 goals and 58 points in 67 games, which prompted the Boston Bruins to select him ninth overall.
After another season and a half where he recorded 25 goals and 113 points in the OHL, Hamilton went straight to the NHL halfway through the 2012-13 season. Playing 42 games in his rookie campaign, he scored five goals and 16 points in 42 games. Since 2012-13, he has accumulated 101 goals and 325 points in 565 games playing for the Bruins, Calgary Flames, and Carolina Hurricanes. Recently signing a massive seven-year $63 million contract with the New Jersey Devils, he will attempt to be their best defenceman since the days of Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.
2012 – Jacob Trouba, D, Winnipeg Jets
Following Hamilton’s footsteps, Jacob Trouba has also become a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the NHL. He spent his draft year in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the United States Development Program (USDP) where he recorded nine goals and 32 points in 54 games. After only one season in the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines, he moved straight to the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets bypassing the AHL altogether.
Debuting at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, he finished with 10 goals and 29 points in 65 games. Over the next five seasons, the smooth-skating blueliner became the core of the Jets’ defence. Then, after holding out as a restricted free agent (RFA) before the 2019-20 season, they traded him to the New York Rangers for Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019 Draft. He signed a long-term contract with them shortly after and is with them to this day.
2013 – Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks
In a trade that shocked Canucks Nation, general manager Mike Gillis dealt budding 26-year-old goaltender Cory Schneider to the Devils for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 Draft. The pick eventually became current captain Bo Horvat, but at the time, it was in the midst of a goaltending controversy with Roberto Luongo where many thought that he was going to get traded instead of Schneider. Since then, the trade has become one of the best in Canucks’ history as Horvat is now the beating heart of the Canucks and Schneider is out of the NHL.
Since debuting in the NHL after three seasons with the OHL’s London Knights, Horvat has transformed from a slow-skating defensive center to arguably one of the fastest two-way centers in the NHL. He’s tasked with all the tough matchups, key defensive zone faceoffs, and the challenge of being the captain of a Canadian team. To his credit, he’s excelled at all of them. Now entering his ninth turn in the NHL, he has four 20-goal seasons and has hit the 50-point plateau three times over the past five campaigns.
2014 – Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Winnipeg Jets
Yet another home run at ninth overall, Nikolaj Ehlers probably should have been drafted ahead of Jake Virtanen (6th), Michael Dal Colle (5th), and even Sam Bennett (4th). The creative Dane was a scoring machine in junior with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads where he put up two 100-plus point seasons and finished with an astounding 204 points in 114 games.
Debuting with the Jets at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Ehlers promptly continued his scoring ways with 15 goals and 38 points in 72 games. That was just the start of his production as he proceeded to score 20 or more goals for the next five straight seasons as a staple in the top six and on the power play. Now entering his seventh campaign in the NHL, he has accumulated 136 goals and 303 points in 416 games, which ranks as the fourth-highest in his draft class only behind Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, and Brayden Point.
2015 – Timo Meier, RW, San Jose Sharks
Another forward drafted out of the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Swiss-born Timo Meier dominated the junior field during his draft year. Hitting the 90-point plateau, he scored 44 goals in 61 games and got himself on the radar of the San Jose Sharks who selected him ninth overall. Traded halfway through the 2015-16 season to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, he finished his junior career with 95 goals and 211 points in 179 games.
Turning pro with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda and making his NHL debut with the Sharks during the 2016-17 season, Meier completed his rookie campaign with three goals and six points in 34 games. He became a full-time NHLer the next season and hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Since then, he has hit that mark two more times, including a 30-goal campaign in 2018-19. He is now in his fifth season in the NHL with the same team that drafted him in 2015.
2016 – Mikhail Sergachev, D, Montreal Canadiens
Now the third defenceman that has developed into a top-pairing blueliner in the NHL, Mikhail Sergachev has become the one that got away from the Montreal Canadiens. Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning during his first season in the league back in 2016-17, he has hit the 30-point plateau four times and could be considered one of the best defencemen the Lightning have right now.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner and a core piece of the blueline, the former Windsor Spitfires star is now in his fourth full season in the NHL where he has recorded 29 goals and 136 points in 284 games. He is also only 23 years old. Needless to say, I think the best is still yet to come for the Nizhnekamsk native.
2017 – Michael Rasmussen, C, Detroit Red Wings
After 32 goals and 55 points in 50 games in his draft year, Michael Rasmussen impressed Detroit Red Wings’ brass enough to be selected in the top ten of the 2017 Draft. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to his draft position so far in his NHL career. The former captain of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans back in 2017-18 has established himself as a good option in the bottom six, but that’s usually not what’s expected out of a top ten pick.
With only 11 goals and 30 points in 102 NHL games, Rasmussen has bounced around the NHL and AHL as a callup and has never played a full season with the big club. With players like Nick Suzuki (13th) and Martin Necas (12th) still on the board, the pick could be questioned now. However, seeing that he’s only 22 years old, maybe he can still turn it around in the coming seasons.
2018 – Vitali Kravtsov, RW, New York Rangers
As we get closer and closer to 2021, the picks start getting difficult to evaluate on whether they were good or not. Russian Vitali Kravtsov would fall into that category, as he’s only 21 years old and has just recently made his debut in the NHL. Drafted out of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), he surprisingly saw a lot of ice time in a league that is notorious for limiting opportunities for young NHL draft picks.
After being selected by the New York Rangers in 2018, Kravtsov played parts of three more seasons in the KHL where he split his time between the VHL, AHL, and finally the NHL. Turning pro with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack in 2019-20, he scored six goals and 15 points in 39 games while also playing for the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk and the VHL’s Chelmet Chelyabinsk.
Pulling on the Rangers’ uniform for the first time last season, Kravtsov finished his rookie campaign with two goals and four points in 20 games. The gritty winger will attempt to force his way into a full-time NHL role at training camp this coming season.
2019 – Trevor Zegras, C, Anaheim Ducks
Highly touted coming out of the USHL and USDP, Trevor Zegras was ranked as high as sixth by McKeen’s Hockey before the draft in 2019. Ultimately selected ninth by the Anaheim Ducks, he is now considered by many as one of the best up and coming players in the NHL today. The uber playmaker, who hails from the state of New Jersey, made his mark in the AHL and NHL this past season with an eye-opening 10 goals and 21 points in 17 games in the former and three goals and 13 points in 24 games in the latter.
Likely the Ducks’ top-line center for the next decade or so, he is poised to take over from current captain Ryan Getzlaf as the face of the team. Highly skilled at almost everything, he could even win the Selke Award one day. He just needs a sniper on his wing to finish his passes, like Corey Perry was for Getzlaf.
2020 – Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota Wild
From one highly skilled center to another, Austrian-born Marco Rossi, like Zegras, was projected to go much higher in the draft. Ranked as high as fifth overall by FCHockey, he was selected ninth by the Minnesota Wild. The creative two-way pivot spent his draft year with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s where he absolutely blew away the competition with 39 goals and 120 points in 56 games. Finishing as the league’s top scorer with the most assists (81) and best plus/minus (plus-69), he walked away with the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player and the Eddie Powers Trophy as the top point-getter.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health concerns, Rossi only played one game overseas and four games at the 2021 World Junior Championship (WJC) during the 2020-21 season. After recovering from COVID-19 before the WJC, he was diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and was sent home to Austria to be with his parents (from ‘Exclusive: Minnesota Wild’s Marco Rossi on COVID-19 complications, ‘I’m just happy that I’m still alive’’, The Athletic, 4/27/21).
On a positive note, Rossi recently received clearance to resume skating, which is huge for him and his family. He can now continue his pursuit of realizing the dream of being in the NHL. Most importantly, hopefully go back to a life without worrying about a life-threatening heart condition.
2021 – Dylan Guenther, LW, Arizona Coyotes
The most recent addition to the ninth-overall pick family is sniper Dylan Guenther. Like Rossi and Zegras before him, he was not supposed to go this low in the draft. Ranked as high as fourth overall by ISS Hockey, he was even at one point considered a threat for first. After trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to the Canucks for this pick, the Arizona Coyotes promptly selected the Edmonton native to add to their shallow prospect pool.
Arguably possessing one of the most lethal shots in the draft, Guenther sniped his way through the Western Hockey League (WHL) with 12 goals and 24 points in 12 games. Starring for Team Canada at the 2021 U18 World Championship, he also scored four goals and seven points in seven games en route to a gold medal. If he can translate his shot and dangerous offensive arsenal to the NHL, the Coyotes will finally have a goal scorer that could rival Shane Doan one day.
ALL-TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 9TH OVERALL
|1967||Ron Barkwell||C||Detroit Red Wings|
|1968||John Marks||LW||Chicago Blackhawks|
|1969||Ernie Moser||RW||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|1970||Ron Plumb||D||Boston Bruins|
|1971||Pierre Plante||RW||Philadelphia Flyers|
|1972||Wayne Merrick||C||St. Louis Blues|
|1973||Bob Dailey||D||Vancouver Canucks|
|1974||Bill Lochead||LW||Detroit Red Wings|
|1975||Robin Sadler||D||Montreal Canadiens|
|1976||Real Cloutier||RW||Chicago Blackhawks|
|1977||Scott Campbell||D||St. Louis Blues|
|1978||Willie Huber||D||Detroit Red Wings|
|1979||Laurie Boschman||C||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|1980||Mike Bullard||C||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|1981||James Patrick||D||New York Rangers|
|1982||Paul Cyr||LW||Buffalo Sabres|
|1983||Cam Neely||RW||Vancouver Canucks|
|1984||Doug Bodger||D||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|1985||Craig Duncanson||LW||Los Angeles Kings|
|1986||Brian Leetch||D||New York Rangers|
|1987||Bryan Fogarty||D||Quebec Nordiques|
|1988||Rod Brind’Amour||C||St. Louis Blues|
|1989||Jason Marshall||D||St. Louis Blues|
|1990||John Slaney||D||Washington Capitals|
|1991||Patrick Poulin||C||Hartford Whalers|
|1992||Robert Petrovicky||C||Hartford Whalers|
|1993||Todd Harvey||RW||Dallas Stars|
|1994||Brett Lindros||RW||New York Islanders|
|1995||Kyle McLaren||D||Boston Bruins|
|1996||Ruslan Salei||D||Anaheim Ducks|
|1997||Nick Boynton||D||Washington Capitals|
|1998||Mike Rupp||C||New York Islanders|
|1999||Jamie Lundmark||C||New York Rangers|
|2000||Brent Krahn||G||Calgary Flames|
|2001||Tuomo Ruutu||C||Chicago Blackhawks|
|2002||Petr Taticek||C||Florida Panthers|
|2003||Dion Phaneuf||D||Calgary Flames|
|2004||Ladislav Smid||D||Anaheim Ducks|
|2005||Brian Lee||D||Ottawa Senators|
|2006||James Sheppard||C||Minnesota Wild|
|2007||Logan Couture||C||San Jose Sharks|
|2008||Josh Bailey||C||New York Islanders|
|2009||Jared Cowen||D||Ottawa Senators|
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.