The NHL Draft & The Birth Of Champions

This is a story of decisions, dreams, and giving hope to 30 NHL teams.

The NHL Draft is rapidly approaching us. Starting on Friday, and continuing through the weekend, 30 teams will make franchise altering decisions. The impact of these critical decisions are felt many years later. Teams will select those players, who in their estimation, will help them achieve the ultimate dream, of winning the Stanley Cup.

No matter what happened in previous seasons, everyone comes into the draft hoping to strike gold. Teams like Edmonton and Buffalo will have an opportunity to draft generational talent. Teams like Toronto, Philadelphia, Winnipeg, and Calgary have two first round draft picks this year to help improve their teams. No matter which team you are coming into this draft, you have hope.

This is where the story begins.

The NHL Draft is just the first chapter of many in one of the greatest reality stories ever told. Seasons are played out. Playoff stories will develop. A select few will achieve their ultimate dream of winning the Stanley Cup.

stanley cup
The Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize. It all starts at the draft. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Luckily for everyone, the NHL Draft is much more than just the first round (here’s looking at you, Pittsburgh). There are seven rounds in which teams can acquire the talent needed to build a championship roster. That’s the best part of the draft. Every pick matters. Whether it’s the first pick, or the last pick, or anywhere in-between, that pick has the chance to put your team over the top.

We decided to look back at two past Cup winning teams to show you first-hand that this is true. Both of these teams proved that you don’t have to have the first pick in order to succeed. It was their ability to pick out talent that has separated them. Let this be a lesson to those who want to win the Cup.

The Boston Bruins

The Bruins are thought of as one of the most consistent teams in the Eastern conference, and for good reason. Last season was just the first time since 2006-2007 that they didn’t make the playoffs. What is a major reason for their consistency? The success of the 2006 draft. Couple that with the success of the 2003 draft, and you see why Boston was able to achieve their ultimate dream.

In the 2003 draft, the Bruins had a compensatory pick at round two, 45th overall. They selected Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron’s eventual teammate, Nathan Horton, was the third overall pick of the 2003 draft. The Bruins acquired Horton in the summer of 2010, the season before they won the Cup.

Bergeron was a later selection, but a crucial part of the Bruins championship run. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 2006 draft saw the Bruins enjoy even more success. This draft is known as the Jonathan Toews draft. Toews was selected 3rd overall by the Blackhawks. Boston’s first round selection that draft, was Phil Kessel. He eventually got traded. It was the later picks in the 2006 draft that setup Boston for many seasons.

The Bruins had two second round selections. The first pick became Yuri Alexandrov. The second pick, at 50th overall, became Milan Lucic. But it didn’t end there. The Bruins had one selection in the third round. At 71st overall, they took Brad Marchand. Talk about a team having an eye for talent.

In the 2004 draft, with the first pick of the third round, the Bruins selected David Krecji. If you consider the fact that Horton was acquired via trade, the Bruins built a championship roster, with core players that were either second or third round picks. This is how you win at the draft.

The Kings & The Crosby Draft

Sidney Crosby was the talk of the hockey world in 2005. Which team would win the right to draft him? Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Penguins won that right, and have enjoyed years of success with him, including one Cup win. While this was going on, the Los Angeles Kings were in the midst of something special.

The Kings had the 11th selection of the Crosby draft. The top of the draft had loads of talent. Players like Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, and Carey Price were gone by the time the Kings were on the clock. Turns out things fell just right for them. With the 11th pick, Los Angeles took the top ranked European skater, a player by the name of Anze Kopitar.

But it gets better. In the third round, with the 72nd overall pick, the Kings needed a goaltender. They found one. His name was Jonathan Quick. The Crosby draft produced two core players involved in the Kings remarkable run. It shows once again that you don’t need a top pick in order to find success.

In the fourth round of the 2007 draft, the Kings again found a diamond in the rough. With the 95th overall selection, they drafted a defenseman by the name of Alec Martinez. Later in the same round, they drafted Dwight King.

The following season, the Kings found themselves with the second overall pick. They hit a home run with the pick, adding all-world defenseman Drew Doughty to the mix. In the second round, Los Angeles drafted Slava Voynov. The Kings have won two Cups with this core of players.

doughty kopitar
Doughty & Kopitar helped lead the Kings to multiple cups. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

If your team has desires to become the next Bruins, or Kings, or Blackhawks for that matter, they must find success in the middle rounds of the draft. The first round gets all of the attention. But the later rounds give birth to eventual champions. This is why every pick matters. This is also why any of the 30 teams can rise to the top. Your team may potentially be only one pick away from getting over the hump. Enjoy what is about to unfold. It could be the beginning of great things for your franchise.