By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Not all NHL stars enter the league as first round picks. In fact, most are nothing more than diamonds in the rough. With help from the Philly is Flyer fans through polls, I rank the best late round draft picks in NHL history.
Number 5- Daniel Alfredsson 6th round 133 overall in 1994
Easily the biggest star to ever play for the Senators, Alfreddson almost doubles the scoring totals of anybody else. Finishing his career with the Sens in 2013, it capped of his 17 year run with the Organization. Alfredsson ended his historic run with 426 goals, 682 assists, for 1,108 points, which are all franchise records. He has also won the King Clancey Trophy in 2012 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2013. Alfredsson’s number 11 was retired by the Senators in 2016, only the second player to have that honor.
Number 4- Nikolai Khabibulin 9th round 204 overall in 1992
Better known as “The Bulin Wall”, Khabibulin’s career spanned nearly 20 years. Unlike most players on this list, Khabibulin played with five different franchises during his historic career, eventually winning the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. The four-time all-star started 50+ games in ten different seasons, including three seasons where he started in 70 games. Even though his later career was marred by injuries, he still managed 799 career games with a 2.72 GAA and .907 SV%.
Number 3- Miikka Kiprusoff 5th round 116 overall in 1995
One of many stars the San Jose Sharks organization drafted through the years, he was caught up in a goaltending trio with Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala that he ultimately lost. Kipper was traded to the Flames in late 2003 and immediately turned his game around. Kiprusoff dominated the crease in Calgary for much of the next decade, he started 70+ games in seven of those years. While the Stanley Cup eluded him in his career, he did manage to win the Vezina Trophy and the William M. Jennings in 2006. Kiprusoff holds the flames franchise record for wins (305), shutouts (41) and games played as a goalie (576) to go along with a career 2.49 GAA and .912 SV%.
Number 2- Henrik Lundqvist 7th round, 205 overall in 2000
Already an established star in Sweden by the time he made his NHL debut, it didn’t take long before he took his throne in New York. King Henrik somehow has only won the Vezina trophy once in 2012, though he has been nominated on four other occasions. While Lundqvist has yet to add the Stanley Cup to his trophy case, he holds multiple records for both the Rangers organization and in the NHL. He is the only goaltender in history to record eleven 30 win seasons in his first twelve seasons. Lundqvist has the most wins by a european-born goaltender with 405. With the Rangers on the downward trend, and Lundqvist himself not getting any younger (36), who knows what’s next for the King. He currently has a career 2.37 GAA and .919 SV%.
Number 1- Pavel Datsyuk 6th round, 171 overall in 1998
The Magic Man is simply one of the greatest players of all time. Datsyuk is known for his elite two-way play and his elite scoring ability. Datsyuk’s career peaked offensively in 2009 as he recorded back-to-back 97-point seasons. His trophy case is extensive, winning the Stanley Cup twice, a four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, a three-time Selke winner, as well as a four-time all-star. Datsyuk wrapped up his NHL career after the 2015-16 season, posting 314 goals and 918 points in 953 games with only 228 penalty minutes.
Evgeni Nabokov- 9th round, 219 overall in 1994
As mentioned before, Nabokov was one of the three star goalies the Sharks organization during the early 2000’s, eventually winning the starting role from both of them. While the Sharks organization went through multiple ups and downs during the early and mid-2000’s, Nabokov helped them make the playoffs eight times during his tenure in San Jose. Nabokov would also spend three seasons with the Islanders, and 11 games in Tampa before hanging up the skates in 2015. He ended with a career 2.44 GAA and .911 SV%.
Kimmo Timonen- 10th round 250 overall in 1993
Timonen wasn’t considered a serious threat early in his career. After a trade to the Nashville Predators, things turned around. Steadily improving as his career progressed, he was traded to the Flyers in the summer of 2007 where he would be a pillar of the Flyers blueline for the next seven years. Timonen would win the Barrry Ashbee Award as the Flyers best defenseman five times. Timonen would later be dealt to the Blackhawks to pursue his dream of winning the Stanley Cup before he retired, a feat he would accomplish in 2015.
Pekka Rinne- 8th round, 258 overall in 2004
The most recent Vezina winner has patrolled the Preds crease for a decade now. Rinne was thrust into the starting role for the Predators minor league team through the 2005-06 season. After bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL for the next three years, he secured his NHL job in december of 2008, recording nine wins in twelve games with a 1.72 GAA and .944 SV%. The three-time all-star was nominated three previous times for the Vezina trophy before winning it in 2018.
Henrik Zetterberg- 7th round, 210 overall in 1999
Zetterberg made an immediate splash in the NHL, leading all rookies in points during the 2002-03 season, though he ended up being the runner-up for the Calder Trophy. His career peaked in 2008 when he wont he Cup in Detroit, where he was also named the Conn Smythe winner. Zetterberg has played 1,082 NHL games with 960 points.
photo credit: ftw.usatoday.com