An NHL team expects its first round pick to make it to the NHL and have a big impact. Hopefully with their team, but not always. What a team hopes, though, is that their picks after the first round make an impact as well. Some teams are better at finding later round gems than others. Everyone knows about the Detroit Red Wings penchant for finding talent in the draft’s later rounds. Scouting is obviously key.
So let’s take a look at each Western Conference team’s best non-first round pick. I tried to stick to current NHL teams, but in the case of Arizona and Winnipeg, their best picks were by the teams they were know as before relocation. Also, a player didn’t necessarily need to primarily play for the team that drafted him.
Anaheim: Matt Cullen
Drafted: Second Round (35th overall) in 1996
While he doesn’t have the star-power that most players on this list have, Cullen has been a good secondary scorer for every team he’s played on, averaging 36.8 points a season. He played the first five-and-a-half seasons with the Ducks before being traded to the Florida Panthers. He won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He has also played for the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators.
Stats: 1,212 GP, 219 G, 407 A, 626 P, 508 PIM
Arizona: Thomas Steen
Drafted: Fifth Round (103rd overall) in 1979
Thomas Steen was a legend in Winnipeg. He spent his entire 14-year NHL career with the team. His number was retired by the original Jets and the Coyotes still honour that retirement. He is commonly referred to as the second best player to wear the Jets uniform, behind only Dale Hawerchuk.
Stats: 950 GP, 264 G, 553 A, 817 P, 753 PIM
Calgary: Joe Nieuwendyk
Drafted: Second Round (27th overall) in 1985
Joe Nieuwendyk won three Stanley Cups in his career, the first of which was with Calgary in 1989. He won the Calder Trophy in 1988. Again, even with all his accomplishments with the Flames, he’s probably more remembered for being sent to the Dallas Stars in the deal that brought Jarome Iginla to Calgary. Nieuwendyk would win his second Cup with Dallas in 1999 ( winning the Conn Smythe Trophy) and his third with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. He finished his career after stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.
Stats: 1,257 GP, 564 G, 562 A, 1,126 P, 677 PIM
Chicago: Dominik Hasek
Drafted: Tenth Round (199th overall) in 1983
The first goalie on this list, Hasek isn’t the latest pick out of everyone but he is the player that went in the latest round of the Draft. He only spent two seasons with the Blackhawks, playing 25 games. However, he became one of the NHL’s best goaltenders after being traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth round pick. He won two Hart Trophies and six Vezina Trophies while playing for the Sabres. He was invited to the All-Star Game five times in his tenure.
However, he could never win the big one with Buffalo. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings and promptly won the Stanley Cup in his first season with the team. He later spent one season with the Ottawa Senators before returning to the Red Wings and winning a second Cup.
Stats: 735 GP, 389 W, 81 SO, 2.20 GAA, .922 SV%
Colorado: Paul Stastny
Drafted: Second Round (44th overall) in 2005
This one difficult. Ryan O’Reilly could have taken this and still might eventually. However, right now, Stastny gets the nod. Up until this season, Stastny spent his entire career with the Avalanche. Being mentored by the great Joe Sakic, who was actually mentored by Stastny’s father Peter, definitely had a big impact on him. He had more than 70 points in three different seasons as well as more than 50 points four times. His only down year was the 2008-09 season, although that was more because of injuries. He had 46 points with the St. Louis Blues this season in 74 games.
Stats: 612 GP, 176 G, 328 A, 504 P, 304 PIM
Dallas: Jamie Benn
Drafted: Fifth Round (129th overall) in 2007
Does anyone ever expect a fifth-round pick (not by the Red Wings) to not only make the NHL, but become your team’s captain and win the Art Ross Trophy? Well, that’s exactly what Jamie Benn has done. He’s only been in the NHL for five seasons and has quietly risen to being one of the elite players in the league. Playing alongside Tyler Seguin also helps his cause. He was also part of Gold Medal-winning Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Stats: 426 GP, 151 G, 208 A, 359 P, 320 PIM
Edmonton: Mark Messier
Drafted: Third Round (48th overall) in 1979
There is no other choice here but Mark Messier. His accomplishments tell the storty: 15-time All-Star, six Stanley Cups, four First All-Star Teams, two Hart Trophies, two Lester B. Pearson Trophies, one Second All-Star Team and one Conn Smythe Trophy. Nothing more need be said.
Stats: 1,756 GP, 694 G, 1,193 A, 1,887 P, 1,910 PIM
Los Angeles: Luc Robitaille
Drafted: Ninth Round (171st overall) in 1984
Robitaille is the highest-scoring left winger in the history of the NHL. He won the Calder Trophy. He was named to the All-Star Game eight times. He won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, along with Hasek, in 2002. However, he’ll always be remembered for his time with the Kings. His number 20 was retired by the team after having three stints in Los Angeles. After becoming a member of the Kings’ front office, he won two more Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
Stats: 1,431 GP, 668 G, 726 A, 1,394 P, 1,177 PIM
Minnesota: Cal Clutterbuck
Drafted: Third Round (72nd overall) in 2006
Another name with not that much star-power, but Clutterbuck was definitely a fan favourite with the Wild. He was a reliable secondary scorer for six seasons with the club. He also set an NHL record for hits, with 356, in the 2008-09 season. That record has since been broken by Matt Martin, a current teammate of Clutterbuck’s now that he is with the New York Islanders.
Stats: 495 GP, 81 G, 64 A, 145 P, 447 PIM
Nashville: Shea Weber
Drafted: Second Round (49th overall) in 2003
There was pretty much no one else to choose from for Nashville. Shea Weber has become one of the best defenseman in the NHL and is known for his hard shot. A two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Weber is still waiting to win his first Norris Trophy after being nominated three times. Only twice has he not amassed 40 points in a season, one of which was lockout-shortened. The other thing he’s remembered for is the offer sheet he signed in 2012 with the PhiladelphiaFlyers that was matched by Nashville.
Stats: 685 GP, 146 G, 246 A, 392 P, 541 PIM
San Jose: Joe Pavelski
Drafted: Seventh Round (205th overall) in 2003
The player known as “Little Joe”, Pavelski has been the traditional second-line center behind Joe Thornton. He is only the second NHLer to have three-straight multi-goal games in the playoffs, the first being Mario Lemieux. That is pretty good company to share. He has twice played in the Winter Olympics for the USA, in 2010 and 2014. Signed for the next four years, Pavelski is probably safe from any of the changes that happen in San Jose this season.
Stats: 643 GP, 228 G, 257 A, 485 P, 244 PIM
St. Louis: Doug Gilmour
Drafted: Seventh Round (134th overall) in 1982
While Doug Gilmour would play five seasons for the Blues and win a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, we all know that he is a Toronto Maple Leaf at heart. Spending six seasons with the Blue & White (the Leafs, not the copycat Lightning), Gilmour became a legend in Toronto. His number 93 was “honored” by the Leafs, so it’s unofficially retired. He later spent two seasons each with the New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. He finished his career playing one game for the Leafs, a game in which he was unfortunately injured.
Stats: 1,474 GP, 450 G, 964 A, 1,414 P, 1,301 PIM
Vancouver: Pavel Bure
Drafted: Sixth Round (113rd overall) in 1989
Bure’s career was great the way it ended. However, just imagine how it could have been had he not had the injury troubles that tarnished his career. He won the Calder Trophy in 1992, edging out another future Hall of Famer in Niklas Lidstrom. He was a vital part of the lineup in the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. Unfortunately, his career in Vancouver was cut short because of problems with management. He was eventually traded to the Florida Panthers, where he would play with his brother Valeri Bure. He finished his career with an injury-plagued season and a half with the New York Rangers.
Stats: 702 GP, 437 G, 342 A, 779 P, 484 PIM
Winnipeg: Tobias Enstrom
Drafted: Eighth Round (239th overall) in 2003
The Jets (formerly the Atlanta Thrashers) haven’t really had anyone other than their first-round picks make the lineup since the move to Winnipeg. But Toby Enstrom, a very late pick by the Thrashers, had a pretty good start to his career, playing 296 straight games. He continues to be a reliable member of the Jets defence.