Connor McDavid on NHL draft night 2015
2011 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
RNH came into the league with a extremely hyped up skill level and hockey IQ. The question is whether is was the right decision for him to make the jump to pro at 18 or go back to junior for another season of development. The Oilers ended up electing to bring him into their lineup immediately in 2011-2012, and by no means was he a disappointment posting 52 points in only 62 games. He does possess a slim figure and has had injury issues throughout his career thus far, but regardless of that, he posted back to back 56 point seasons in 2013-2014 & 2015-2016. He had also been the center of speculation for trade bait in Edmonton with the immense talent of McDavid and Draisaitl locked down the middle but due to Edmonton’s recent decision of drafting the Finnish winger Jesse Puljujarvi and trading star Taylor Hall to the Devils, it’s seems as if Nugent-Hopkins is after all included in the long term plan of success of the Oilers. The Oilers are loaded with young talent and Nugent-Hopkins will be an important piece in the continuous development of this emerging Oilers squad.
2012 Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
Yakupov was the 3rd consecutive 1st overall selection taken by the Oilers in 2012 in a weak draft class. With no clear cut consensus pick at #1, the Oilers decided to take the chance on the skilled Russian. Yakupov has sustained several injuries in his time in the NHL, but so far he has shown no signs of being a game changing talent who’s able to reach expectations that come along with being a #1 pick. His career high in points is 33 through 4 NHL seasons and besides that he has been a one dimensional player who seems to drift around the perimeter. Like RNH, Yakupov has too been in the discussion of trade rumours but has remained in Edmonton for numerous reasons. Yakupov was also recently left off Russia’s World Championship roster who won Bronze, after Head Coach Oleg Znarok said that Yakupov’s absence has no implication on Russia’s failure to win Gold and stated that the decision was simply “addition by subtraction”. Yakupov’s skill is undeniable but if he doesn’t turn his game around soon then his future in Edmonton is very much up in the air.
2013, Nathan Mackinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The second coming of Sidney Crosby from Cole Harbour, NS bursted onto the NHL scene with an outstanding rookie season posting 63 points in 82 games, along with a Calder Trophy to boot. Mackinnon displays phenomenal speed and strength with a quick release who can seamlessly change the game in an instant. He did fall into somewhat of a sophomore slump in 2014-2015 with only 38 points in 62 games, followed by a 52 point campaign last year. Expect Mackinnon’s numbers to rise back up in 2016-2017 on an inconsistent Colorado roster. After just signing a new 7yr $44.1 million contract, Mackinnon has now been given the reigns as the centerpiece to the future of the Avalanche and will be expected to handle the pressures that come along with being a consistent superstar, which is completely in his capabailities.
2014 Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Ekblad has been nothing short of exceptional since joining the Panthers. Fresh off signing a new 8yr $60 million contract with the team this July, Ekblad has already secured himself as the face of the Panthers and a Norris Trophy contender for the next decade. After stepping into the league as an 18yo, Ekblad was able to play big minutes every night against the top players of the other team. He also registered 39 points, including 12 goals en route to the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2014-2015. Ekblad followed that up with an All-Star appearance and 36 points(15 goals), leading the Panthers into the playoffs from the back end this past season. Ekblad has all the tools to be one of the best D men in the league and is is no doubt the future Captain on an exciting Florida squad which he will be the leader of for a very long time.
2015 Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
There seems to be a reoccurring theme with the team selecting first overall in the past 6 NHL entry drafts, since 2010, the Oilers have selected 1st four times! Of those 4 selections, none was as important as McDavid who is and will be the face of this franchise and the NHL for a very long time. McDavid portrays elite speed and quickness along with extraordinary hockey IQ. McDavid’s unbelievable start to his rookie campaign was cut short due to a broken collarbone but ended up finishing the year with 48 points in 45 games, as well as incredibly still being named as a Calder Trophy finalist. McDavid has the biggest potential in the NHL right now and is ultimately expected to be the future of hockey and the leader of the Oilers pursuit of getting back into the playoff race and eventually into Stanley Cup contention, which may not be as far down the road as people may think with the strong core of youth instilled in their organization. Either way, McDavid’s raw ability gives him the opportunity to be the best, and according to Wayne Gretzky and Steven Stamkos….he may already be there.