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NHL Draft: No. 1 picks that have gone on to shine

Living up to the hype of being the #1 overall pick in the NHL Draft is never easy, but we’ve had quite a few do so in the last 20 years.

With the 2023 NHL Draft on the horizon, we’ve taken a look back at some of those that have gone on to shine.

2003: Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT Penguins)

Fleury is the only goaltender that has been drafted #1 overall since 2000, and he did not disappoint. 

He led the Penguins to three Stanley Cups (2009, 2016, 2017). Since then, he’s become just the third goalie with over 500 wins (544). 

That puts him just seven behind Patrick Roy for second all-time, and with him looking set to be a part of the Minnesota Wild in 2023/24, he has a great opportunity to surpass him.

2004: Alex Ovechkin (WAS Capitals)

Just a year after Fleury came Ovi the Great, or the Great Eight. He was born just two days after the cutoff for the 2003 draft, but the Florida Panthers still attempted to draft him several times.

 They never got it overturned, and Ovechkin has gone on to become arguably the greatest goal-scorer of all time. 

Wayne Gretzky’s mark of 894 felt untouchable, but with Ovi still going strong with 822 (second-most), he may go on to top that number.

2005: Sidney Crosby (PIT Penguins)

The Penguins yet again had the #1 overall pick and their selection would ultimately turn the Eastern Conference into an epic rivalry for years to come. 

It was always Ovi vs. Crosby, and Sid the Kid also finds himself inching up the leaderboards. He’s done it in terms of assists - his 952 is good for the 16th-most all-time - as well as being part of three Stanley Cup wins with Fleury.

2007: Patrick Kane (CHI Blackhawks)

The lifelong right-winger looked poised to end his career as a Blackhawk after being synonymous with the franchise since being drafted #1 overall, but he was ultimately traded to the New York Rangers in 2023. 

Regardless, he led Chicago to Stanley Cup wins in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and is a future first ballot Hall-of-Famer.

2008: Steven Stamkos (TB Lightning)

Some fans would argue that we haven’t had a true dynasty in quite some time, but the Lightning would have something to say about that. 

Stamkos led Tampa to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 and went to the Final in 2022 as well. He also has over 500 goals (515) and assists (541) in his illustrious career.

2013: Nathan MacKinnon (COL Avalanche)

Prior to Connor McDavid entering the NHL, MacKinnon was widely regarded as the best skater in the world, and still is by some. 

Regardless of your stance, he’s still an elite talent, and only injuries have kept his stats from being even greater than they already are. 

He finally had his first 100-point season (111) in 2022/23 and led the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title over the Lightning in 2022.

2015: Connor McDavid (EDM Oilers)

In the leadup to and following the 2023 NHL Draft,  #1 overall pick Connor Bedard has been likened to McDavid. 

However, living up to this man is virtually impossible. He just became the first skater in 27 years with a 150-point season (153) en route to his fifth Art Ross Trophy (most points) in just eight seasons. 

He also won his third Hart Trophy (MVP) this season along with his first Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals). McDavid could retire today and still be considered one of the best skaters of all time, but he’s still hunting for the first Stanley Cup.

2016: Auston Matthews (TOR Maple Leafs)

Like McDavid the year prior, the primary flak received by Matthews is his inability to lead the Leafs to a deep playoff run. 

In fact, they just won their first playoff series since 2004 this season but were eliminated the following round. 

Even still, Matthews has already proven himself as one of the best goal-scorers, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2021/22 while becoming the first American-born (Arizona) skater to record a 60-goal season.

2019: Jack Hughes (NJ Devils)

The Devils just had one of the best turnarounds in NHL history, going from the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference in 2021/22 to a 112-point season. 

That was in large thanks to the emergence of Hughes, who recorded 43 goals and 99 points - nearly producing his first 100-point season if not for a few missed games. 

The 21-year-old truly looks to be a future Hart Trophy winner and, with his brother Luke now on the team, New Jersey could have one of the best duos in the league for years to come.  

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