How have other No. 1 draft picks fared in the NHL? As this year's draft gets under way Friday, here's a look at some recent No. 1s and what mark they have (or haven't) made in the bigs.
Before the Bolts even drafted Lecavalier, the Canadian teenage phenom was being praised as the next Mario Lemieux. (Gee, that sounds awfully familiar.) Then-Lightning owner Arthur Williams said Vinny could be the "Michael Jordan of hockey." Quite the bar for an 18-year-old. Lecavalier tallied only 28 points in 82 games in his debut NHL season. He more than doubled that the following season, but his numbers declined over the next two seasons. Lecavalier seemed to come into his own during the 2002-03 season, totaling 78 points and helping the Bolts make the playoffs. Then in 2003-04, Lecavalier played an instrumental part in Tampa Bay's run to a Stanley Cup win. He finished with 66 points in the regular season and added nine goals and seven assists in the postseason.
Stats from 2007-08 season: Lecavalier had 40 goals and 92 points in 81 games for the Lightning.
When Stefan was selected first overall, he was one of only two players expected to jump right into the NHL (Pavel Brendl of the Rangers was the other). Thrashers GM Don Waddell said then: "We're not worried about Patrik Stefan this year or next year. We're worried about Patrik Stefan five years from now." Stefan was expected to be the team's franchise player, the one who would give the Thrashers more offense. It didn't exactly turn out that way. In his rookie season, Stefan scored just five goals in 72 games and he's never scored more than 14 goals in a single NHL season. Plagued by injuries, particularly concussions, Stefan continued to struggle in Atlanta before landing in Dallas for the 2006-07 season (he posted just 11 points in 41 games). His contract then expired and the Stars did not bring him back. Stefan signed a deal with SC Bern, but played only three games before retiring in October 2007.
Stats from 2007-08: N/A.
DiPietro made history before he even played an NHL game, becoming the first goaltender ever selected with the No. 1 overall pick. DiPietro voided his remaining three years of eligibility at Boston University. He was the draft's top-ranked goalie and he was supposed to single-handedly turn things around for the Islanders, who had not had a winning record since the 1992-93 season. DiPietro said he welcomed the pressure. He immediately went to the NHL and went 3-15-1 with a 3.49 GAA in 20 games in 2000-01. He spent the next few seasons going back and forth between the Islanders and the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers. After the 2005-06 season, when DiPietro went 30-24-5 with a 3.02 GAA in 63 games, he got the big payday -- a 15-year deal worth $67.5 million. In 2006-07, he helped the Isles down the stretch before suffering a concussion in late March. He returned for part of the team's first-round series loss to Buffalo.
Stats from 2007-08: He went 26-28-7 with a 2.82 GAA before having season-ending hip surgery in March. The goalie reportedly had knee surgery, as well, in early June.
Again, another history maker before he even played in an NHL game. Kovalchuk was the first Russian player to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick. He went straight to the NHL and had 29 goals and 22 assists in 65 games for the Thrashers, a much better debut season than Stefan. But early on, Kovalchuk received a lot of criticism for not playing enough defense. Offensively, Kovalchuk is the first player on our list to show a steady progression over the years. He had 67 points in his sophomore season, but his best season was in 2003-04. He finished with 87 points and his 41 goals tied for tops in the league. During the 2006-07 season, Kovalchuk and the Thrashers made their first playoff appearance, but were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers.
Stats from 2007-08: He had 52 goals and 87 points in 79 games for the Thrashers.
GM Doug MacLean took control of his club's destiny and traded with the Florida Panthers for the No. 1 overall pick so the Jackets wouldn't miss Nash. Nash was another youngster to make the big leap to the NHL immediately following the draft, playing his first NHL game at age 18. He had 17 goals and 22 assists in 74 games during his rookie season. Nash slightly improved to 57 points the following season, a season where he became the youngest player to lead the league in goals, scoring 41 to share the title with Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Kovalchuk. An excellent puck handler and scorer, the center wasn't able to build on that success as he battled ankle and knee injuries. But since the arrival of coach Ken Hitchcock in November 2006, Nash has learned to play better on both sides of the puck. He went from posting 57 points in 75 games and a minus-8 in 2006-07 to posting 69 points in 80 games and a plus-3 this past campaign.
Stats from 2007-08: Nash averaged 20:29 in ice time, the most of his career.
The Penguins were in the middle of their seemingly never-ending rebuilding efforts in 2003 when they traded up for the No. 1 pick to select goaltender Fleury. Like DiPietro, Fleury immediately went to the NHL. And like DiPietro, Fleury struggled. He posted a 4-14-2 record in 22 NHL starts (he also spent time in the QMJHL and with the Pens' AHL club) and spent the lockout season and most of the 2005-06 campaign in the AHL. But the 2007-08 season was his breakout year. After suffering a high-ankle sprain midway through the season, Fleury seemed unflappable in net and helped lead the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since they won it all in 1992.
Stats from 2007-08: Fleury missed time with the ankle injury, but posted a 10-3-1 record over his last 14 regular-season starts.
Ovechkin was one of the best players to come out of Russia when he was drafted by the Capitals and the plan was to rebuild the franchise around the big winger. Things have gone according to plan. Because of the NHL lockout, Ovechkin's NHL debut was put on hold, but the extra year with Moscow Dynamo paid off. In his 2005-06 rookie season, he finished with 52 goals and 54 assists in 81 games and beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy. After posting 92 points the following season, Ovie led the league with 112 points and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. More important to him, he helped take the Capitals to the postseason before losing in a physical seven-game, first-round series versus Philadelphia.
Stats from 2007-08: Ovechkin led all scorers with 65 goals in 82 games.
The anticipation surrounding the NHL draft lottery announcement was palpable. The NHL was looking to save its image and bring back fans and it would do it behind the ace of Crosby, no matter which team was awarded the top pick. It wound up going to Lemieux and the Penguins, who were also hoping Sid the Kid would help keep the team in Pittsburgh (he did). While the actual draft day was anticlimactic, Crosby was a proven scorer with great vision and strength. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he had 66 goals and 102 assists in 62 games after a rookie campaign that featured 54 goals and 81 assists in 59 games. He jumped right to the NHL in October and hasn't looked back. In his second season, he won the Hart Trophy and led the Pens to the playoffs. In his third campaign, he recovered from a high-ankle sprain to lead Pittsburgh to the Cup finals before losing to Detroit in six games. One of the regular-season highlights: Crosby scoring the shootout winner versus Buffalo in the Winter Classic.
Stats from 2007-08: He had 24 goals and 72 points in 53 games.
When the Blues drafted the young defenseman out of the U.S. Developmental Program, they got an offensive-minded blueliner. After playing one season at the University of Minnesota, Johnson signed on with St. Louis before 2007-08. His rookie season was decent. He ranked 11th among all NHL rookies in scoring, while his 33 points were good enough to rank 33rd among all defensemen. The Blues are rumored to be looking for another offensively strong D-man to pair with Johnson along the blue line.
Stats from 2007-08: The rookie had 33 points in 69 games and averaged 18:11 in ice time.
When the Blackhawks selected Kane, many were quick to point out, and criticize, the forward's small frame (he checked in at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds). But the American showed his time with the London Knights of the OHL paid off and made him ready for the NHL as he jumped straight to the bigs in October. Along with fellow rookie star Jonathan Toews, Kane helped bring excitement back to hockey in the Windy City. He posted 72 points in 82 games and won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
Stats from 2007-08: Along with his 72 points, Kane averaged 18:22 in ice time.