In the name of hockey science, I've compiled a 15 year survey with the following thesis question: if I'm an NHL GM looking for "pure points" with my first round selection, when, historically, is the optimal time for me to select? #1 overall would seem the obvious choice, but GMs, like many posters here on these humble HF Boards, are prone to the human malady known as Hype. Below I've listed the #1 overall pick as well as the top point-getter from NHL entry drafts between 1980 and 1994. My conclusion is at the bottom, beneath the stats.
Year: Number One Pick (Draft #, Team, total pts)
Top Point-getter (Draft #, Team, total pts)
1980: Doug Wickenheiser F (#1, Montreal, 276 pts)
Top Point-getter: Paul Coffey D (#6, Edmonton, 1531 pts)
1981: Dale Hawerchuk F (#1, Winnipeg, 1409 pts)
Top Point-getter: Ron Francis F (#4, Hartford, 1798 pts)
1982: Gord Kluzak D (#1, Boston, 123 pts)
Top Point-getter: Doug Gilmour F (#134, St. Louis, 1414 pts)
1983: Brian Lawton F (#1, Minnesota, 266 pts)
Top Point-getter: Stave Yzerman F (#4, Detroit, 1721 pts)
1984: Mario Lemieux F (#1, Pittsburgh, 1701 pts)
Top Point-getter: Mario Lemieux.
Notables: Luc Robataille F (#171, LA, 1370 pts); Brett Hull F (#117, Calgary, 1390 pts)
1985: Wendell Clark F (#1, Toronto, 564 pts, 1690 PIM)
Top Point-getter: Joe Nieuwendyk F (#27, Calgary, 1062 pts)
Notables: After Nieuwendyk, the top point-getters were Ulf Dahlen F (#7, NYR, 655 pts) and Igor Larionov F (#214, Vancouver, 644 pts).
1986: Joe Murphy F (#1, Detroit, 528 pts)
Top Point-getter: Vincent Damphousse F (#6, Toronto, 1205 pts)
Notables: John Cullen, taken by Buffalo #3 in the Supplemental Draft that year, put up 550 pts and 898 PIM.
1987: Pierre Turgeon F (#1, Buffalo, 1274 pts)
Top Point-getter: Joe Sakic F (#15, Quebec, 1402 pts)
Notables: Shanahan, taken by NJ at #2, was the only other real *standout* of the draft, with 1151 pts and 2273 PIM. Cassels (MTL), Marchment
(Winnipeg ) and Quintal (Boston) also went in the 1st round at #17, #16 and #14 respectively.
1988: Mike Modano F (#1, Minnesota, 1106 pts)
Top Point-getter: Mark Recchi F (#67, Pittsburgh, 1201pts)
Notables: Jeremy Roenick, taken 8th overall by Chicago, is beating Modano with 1120 pts and 1354 PIM.
1989: Mats Sundin F (#1, Quebec, 1089 pts)
Top Point-getter: Mats Sundin
Notables: Of the players selected in this draft, no one even comes close to the point totals of Sundin - except for Sergei Fedorov, taken in the 4th
round (#74 overall), with 1019 pts; and Niklas Lidstrom, taken in the 3rd round (#53 overall), with 726 pts. Both were selected by Detroit, whose
1st round (#11) pick was Mike Sillinger (398 pts). As far as I know, Sundin was the first non-NA born player to go #1 overall.
1990: Owen Nolan F (#1, Quebec, 735 pts, 1600 PIM)
Top Point-getter: Jaromir Jagr F (#5, Pittsburgh, 1909 pts)
1991: Eric Lindros F (#1, Quebec, 817 pts, 1285 PIM)
Top Point-getter: Eric Lindros
Notables: Although seen as the second coming of Christ prior to the draft, many regard Lindros' career as somewhat of a disappointment due to
the many serious injuries he has suffered. That said, the only other 1991 draftee who comes close to catching Eric is, ironically, Philadelphia's 1st
round (#6) pick, Mr. Peter Forsberg, with 741 pts.
1992: Roman Hamrlik D (#1, Tampa Bay, 441 pts, 985 PIM)
Top Point-getter: Alexei Yashin F (#2, Ottawa, 665 pts)
Notables: Hamrlik was the first D to go #1 overall since Boston selected Gord Kluzak in 1982.
1993: Alexandre Daigle F (#1, Ottawa, 299 pts)
Top Point-getter: Paul Kariya F (#4, Anaheim, 705 pts)
Notables: Oft-slagged Daigle made his comeback last year with his first full season in the NHL with Minnesota. He tallied 51 pts in 78 games,
tying his highest per-year point total ever: 51 pts with Ottawa in 1996-97 - his first *complete* season in the NHL.
1994: Ed Jovanovski D (#1, Florida, 284 pts, 1027 PIM)
Top Point-getter: Daniel Alfredsson F (#133, Ottawa, 569 pts)
Notables: The only other '94 draftees that come close to, 6th round pick, Alfredsson's point totals are: Jeff Friesen (#11, SJ, 493 pts); Patrick Elias
(#51, NJ, 459 pts); and Steve Sullivan (#233, NJ, 449 pts).
First,it is of some interest to note that only thrice in the 15 year period of this study was the #1 draft pick also the #1 point-getter throughout his
career (Lemieux , Sundin  and Lindros ). While the needs of many GMs may not be fulfilled by a pure goal scorer or set-up man (e.g. a
rugged D like Jovo ('94) or an all-rounder like Wendy Clark ('85) are both desirable too), for those who are looking for "pure points" and who hold
the first overall pick, recent history has shown that such GMS may be better off relinquishing their first pick and trading down the list.
"Preposterous," you say indignantly, "And besides," says your friend, "to where would they optimally trade down?" Good question.
And in the name of hockey science, I may have solved the puzzle. By taking the top point-getters of each year's draft from 1980-94 and then
averaging out the numbers at which they were drafted (and knocking off the top and bottom ends [#1 and #134]), I have determined that the
elusive optimal draft position in the first round is.......the 21st pick.
What is truly frightening though, is that in the years following the period of this survey, the 21st pick has been almost exclusively squandered on
a bunch of D-men and Goalies! Some of them may in fact turn out to be great players (e.g., Stuart) but the potential to steal a scoring
powerhouse has escaped the notice of many. Have a look:
1995: Sean Brown D (#21, Boston)
1996: Marco Sturm F (#21, San Jose)
1997: Mika Noronen G (#21, Buffalo)
1998: Mathieu Biron D (#21, LA)
1999: Nick Boynton D (#21, Boston)
2000: Anton Volchenkov D (#21, Ottawa)
2001: Colby Armstrong F (#21, Pittsburgh)
2002: Anton Babcuk D (#21, Chicago)
2003: Mark Stuart D (#21, Boston)
But one GM has apparently caught on to the little game. For, in 2004, The Avalanche's Pierre Lacroix, with his 1st round, 21st overall pick,
selected none other than: 2004: Wojtek Wolski F (#21, Colorado).
But you'd only have a chance at the top point getter in 4 years - '82, '85, '88 and '94, and in '88 you would have missed out on Modano and Roenick....
Good info, and appreciate the work, but don't you think 1 guy like Gilmour skews the data? without him and Alfredsson (therefore in 13 out of 15 years) wouldn't the best pick (averaged) be somewhere between #4-6?