As the 2020 NHL entry draft approaches there has been a lot of buzz due to the hype of the top end talent this year and the controversial results of the draft lottery. There’s always an aura surrounding the player pegged to go first overall in a draft but this year there is truly a special prospect. One of those franchise altering players can be the key to turning an entire organization around, winning Cups and lifting fans out of their seats.
That player is Alexis Lafrenière. Already poised to be a superstar winger at the NHL level, Lafrenière erased all doubt at the World Juniors and put an emphatic stake in his spot as the number one pick. In hockey there is no bigger goal than winning the Stanley Cup. The 1st overall pick is considered so valuable because it is supposed to be the biggest factor in making this happen.
This made me wonder. Over the last 40 years how often has a first overall selection actually helped their team capture a Cup? Let’s take a look.
- 2019: Jack Hughes: Still with original franchise
- 2018: Rasmus Dahlin: Still with original franchise
- 2017: Nico Hischier: Still with original franchise
- 2016: Auston Matthews: Still with original franchise
- 2015: Connor McDavid: Still with original franchise
- 2014: Aaron Ekblad: No Cup: Still with original franchise
- 2013: Nathan MacKinnon: No Cup: Still with original franchise
- 2012: Nail Yakupov: No Cup: No longer in NHL
- 2011: Ryan Nugent Hopkins: No Cup: Still with original franchise
- 2010: Taylor Hall: No Cup: No longer with original franchise
- 2009: John Tavares No Cup: No longer with original franchise
- 2008: Steven Stamkos: No Cup: Still with original franchise
- 2007: Patrick Kane: 3 Cups: Still with original franchise
- 2006: Erik Johnson: No Cup: No longer with original franchise
- 2005: Sidney Crosby: 3 Cups: Still with original franchise
- 2004: Alex Ovechkin: 1 Cup: Still with original franchise
- 2003: Marc-Andre Fleury: 3 Cups with original franchise: No longer with original franchise
- 2002: Rick Nash: No Cup: Retired
- 2001: Ilya Kovalchuk: No Cup
- 2000: Rick Dipietro: No Cup: Retired
- 1999: Patrik Stefan: No Cup: Retired
- 1998: Vincent Lecavalier: 1 Cup: Retired
- 1997: Joe Thornton: No Cup: No longer with original franchise
- 1996: Chris Phillips: No Cup: Retired
- 1995: Bryan Berard: No Cup: Retired
- 1994: Ed Jovanovski: No Cup: Retired
- 1993: Alexandre Daigle: No Cup: Retired
- 1992: Roman Hamrlik: No Cup: Retired
- 1991: Eric Lindros: No Cup: Retired
- 1990: Owen Nolan: No Cup: Retired
- 1989: Mats Sundin: No Cup: Retired
- 1988: Mike Modano: 1 Cup with original franchise: Retired
- 1987: Pierre Turgeon: No Cup: Retired
- 1986: Joe Murphy: 1 Cup after being traded: Retired
- 1985: Wendel Clark: No Cup: Retired
- 1984: Mario Lemieux: 2 Cups with original Franchise: Retired
- 1983: Brian Lawton: No Cup: Retired
- 1982: Gord Kulzak: No Cup: Retired
- 1981: Dale Hawerchuk: No Cup: Retired
- 1980: Dough Wickenheiser: No Cup: Retired
There we have it. In the last 40 years 8 first overall players have won the Cup, 7 of them with the team that drafted them. Of those eight, four actually where drafted in a five year span. Joe Murphy, the lone player to win with a different franchise was quickly traded after being drafted first overall and won one Cup with an absolutely stacked Edmonton roster.
What this exercise shows is not that 1st overall picks don’t have massive value, but just how difficult it is to win a Cup. Some of these guys like Lindros, Thornton, Hawerchuk, Sundin, are absolute legends of the game and never managed to grasp hockey’s ultimate prize. It’s hard.
Hockey has the most notoriously difficult playoffs in all of sports. In order to win it takes a ton of skill, commitment and a lot of luck. How many more of these guys would have Cups if they didn’t get screwed over by injuries, or a hot a goalie, or sharing an era with some of the greatest dynasties and players?
A first overall pick is an amazing start, but hockey is a team sport through and through and no one does it alone. Look at Sidney Crosby. The greatest player of his generation and he still needed a ton of help to win his three Cups. He needed fellow 1st overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury, future first ballot Hall of Famer Evgeni Malkin, All-Star defenseman Kris Letang and a whole bunch of other supporting depth and talent. For every Crosby there’s multiple Joe Thornton’s, legends who do everything right for decades but can’t get over that hump.
A first overall pick hasn’t won a Cup since 2007’s Patrick Kane but the future is looking bright for some of the more recent picks on young star studded teams. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could easily win together, as well the Leaf’s Auston Matthews and John Tavares. Add Nathan MacKinnon and Steven Stamkos to that list as well, both playing on powerhouse perpetual contenders.
With all eyes on Alexis Lafrenière and a unique year which will see him potentially go to a team that’s already a contender, it’s looking strong that some of these current 1st overall picks have Cups in their future.