After looking at the worst drafts in NHL history on Friday, it seemed only fair to give equal play to the teams that did it best.
The criteria used to determine the best drafts is a little different than ranking the worst. If you pick players who don’t make the NHL — or don’t last long — that team obviously had a bad draft.
When looking at the best drafts, games played doesn’t factor in as much. Drafting two Hall of Famers and nothing else is clearly more meaningful than drafting six players who stick around but aren’t impact guys. It’s more about quality over quantity, but hitting the combo is key.
The only other caveat is that each team listed was only allowed to be represented once, simply to keep things interesting. The Oilers and Canadiens had multiple drafts that could have made the cut, but only one was selected.
As before, the drafts in consideration are from 1979 to 2010.
Detroit Red Wings, 1989
There’s a reason the Red Wings have a reputation as one of the league’s most savvy teams on the draft floor.
They’ve had some impressive drafts over the years, but nothing comes close to 1989.
Snagging Hall of Famers Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov in the mid rounds was a major coup, but they also acquired some quality players who went on to have long careers — and one who had his tragically cut short.
Edmonton Oilers, 1980
In 1979, the Oilers had one of the most impactful drafts ever when they picked Kevin Lowe (21st), Mark Messier (48th) and Glenn Anderson (69) with their first three picks.
They somehow managed to one-up themselves a year later.
In 1980, the Oilers snagged Paul Coffey at No. 6 and Jari Kurri in the fourth round, along with Andy Moog in the seventh round.
It’s hard to pick between the two drafts, but we’re going to give the edge to ’80 for a few reasons.
Messier is the best of the bunch and Anderson and Lowe had great careers, but Coffey and Kurri are both top-20 in all-time scoring. That’s insane.
When you add in Moog and Walt Poddubny, who had some brief flashes of brilliance with the Rangers, the scale tips in favor of the Class of 1980.
Montreal Canadiens, 1987
When you have three of the top-seven point producers from a draft class, you probably did alright.
That was the case for the Canadiens in 1987, when their first four picks off the board were Andrew Cassels, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins and Mathieu Schneider.
Although most of them would make their biggest impact after leaving Montreal, they all carved out long and productive NHL careers.
This gets the slight edge over Montreal’s 1984 draft, which was also ridiculous and included Patrick Roy, Stephane Richer, Shayne Corson and Petr Svoboda.
Calgary Flames, 1984
The Flames took a page from the Red Wings in 1984, walking away with two of the biggest steals in the draft.
Brett Hull, taken in the sixth round, is one of the best goal-scorers in NHL history. Gary Suter, a ninth-round pick, was one of the most dominant defensemen in the NHL for a decade.
They also grabbed Gary Roberts, who was not only a heart and soul player for the Flames but one of the team’s top producers before being slowed by a career-threatening neck injury.
Paul Ranheim, although not a game-changing player, lasted 17 years in the NHL.
Not a bad haul.
Chicago Blackhawks, 1980
The Blackhawks had 15 picks in the 1980 draft, and they made them count.
Not only did they select two of the franchise’s all-time leading scorers in Denis Savard and Steve Larmer, they also picked up some nice complementary pieces.
Troy Murray had a solid run in Chicago, scoring a career-best 45 goals and 99 points in 1985-86. Carey Wilson didn’t make an impact in Chicago, as he was traded two years after being drafted, but he put together some strong seasons in Calgary. They also had three other players play more than 200 career games.
Including notable players
Avalanche, 2009: Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyson Barrie
Canadiens, 2007: Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban
Bruins, 2006: Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand
Sabres, 1982: Phil Housley, Dave Andreychuk
Whalers, 1982: Ray Ferraro, Kevin Dineen, Ulf Samuelsson
Kings, 1980: Bernie Nicholls, Larry Murphy, Jim Fox
Bruins, 1979: Ray Bourque, Brad McCrimmon, Mike Krushelnyski
Nordiques, 1979: Dale Hunter, Michel Goulet, Anton Stastny