June has arrived, and the NHL is preparing for two of their biggest summer events.
For the next two weeks, the eyes of the hockey world will be fixated on Chicago and Tampa as the Blackhawks and Lightning clash for the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, the other 28 teams are gearing up for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft held in Sunrise, Florida. The Arizona Coyotes hold the third overall pick this year, and while they will likely not acquire Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, they hope to bring in someone that will help turn things around in the desert. Here is a look at a few former third overall picks that have turned out to be stars.
Nearly a decade ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were at the bottom of the league, much like where the Coyotes find themselves now. Now, Chicago is one series win away from their third Stanley Cup in six years, which would bolster the argument that the Blackhawks are a modern dynasty. Jonathan Toews, picked third overall in the 2006 Draft, has been a vital part of Chicago’s turnaround over the last 10 years. Toews has had an incredibly successful career which has seen him win two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, and the Winnipeg native still has plenty of good years left in front of him at 27 years old.
While Matt Duchene has not had the same sort of success that Toews has enjoyed, he has still made a difference with the team that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche. After finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference in 2008-09, the Avalanche took Duchene in the 2009 Draft with the third overall pick. In the following season, Duchene led all rookies with 55 points, one better than 2009 first overall pick John Taveras, and Colorado improved their record by 26 points to grab the eighth seed in the West. The Avalanche would miss the next three postseasons, but Duchene would lead them to another bounceback in 2013-14. During that campaign, Duchene set a career-high with 70 points, which led Colorado in scoring that year, and helped the Avalanche to their first division title since the 2002-03 season.
Marian Gaborik has been an offensive force in almost every year he has played in the NHL since the Minnesota Wild drafted him third overall in 2000. In 14 NHL seasons, Gaborik has scored 30 or more goals seven times, including three seasons where he broke the 40-goal mark. Gaborik also boasts some impressive postseason numbers, with 32 goals and 57 points in 80 career playoff appearances. He led all players during last year’s playoffs with 14 goals, which helped him finally capture his first Stanley Cup title with the Los Angeles Kings.
Nathan Horton, the third overall pick in the 2003 Draft by the Florida Panthers, put together six consecutive 20-goal seasons from 2005-06 to 2010-11. In the last year of that streak, his first season with the Boston Bruins, Horton was a key part of Boston’s Stanley Cup run. Horton notched seven goals in the 2011 postseason, including the series-winning goal in Game 7 of the first round against the Montreal Canadiens and in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning.
A devastating hit from Aaron Rome of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final ended Horton’s postseason prematurely, but he was in Vancouver when the Bruins won the Cup in Game 7. Horton’s career took an unfortunate turn last year when he was diagnosed with a degenerative back condition that kept him out for the entire 2014-15 season, but he is still determined to return to his hockey career.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.