The NHL draft is where hockey teams find their next breakout superstars. Teams picking first overall have a better chance of getting the best player, but sometimes superstars are unleashed from the ‘rough.’ Here’s an overview of the best picks from the last five NHL drafts, from 2017 to 2021. We’ve left out the 2022 and 2023 draft picks because it’s still too early. They need more game time to prove their value.
2017 Best Pick – Elias Pettersson
Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson announced himself as a future start from the get-go. During his rookie campaign, the center scored 28 goals and assisted 38, doing so in 71 games. He was a lock for the All-Star break Calder and emerged with memorable performances that made him a fan favorite. Petterson has also become a punter’s choice, with bettors backing him on player prop bets across online betting sites. You can back him to score or at least assist, or back the Canucks on the money line and spread bets when he is in the lineup. The center has lived up to expectations after emerging as the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, and the Canucks have found a suitable successor to the Sedin Twins throne.
2018 Best Pick – Rasmus Dahlin
Buffalo Sabres Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has spent five years proving why he was the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. No one from his class has come close to matching his output. Few players from the draft have had any real playing time in the league, making Dahlin an easy pick, given his performances over the last couple of seasons. Dahlin managed 44 points as an 18-year-old rookie defenseman, which is unheard of in the NHL. Brady Tkachuk is the only other player who comes close to the best performances from the 2018 class. However, Dahlin remains the choice pick and someone the Sabres rely on regularly to stop the best offenses.
2019 Best Pick – Cole Caufield
Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield has always had to show his brilliance on the ice. He was a skating goal with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Wisconsin, winning the Hobey Baker with 30 goals in 31 matches. With his stats, you’d think Caufield would be among the top picks in the 2019 drafts. However, his slim build and 5’8” frame had some wondering if he would stand up to the intense NHL games. Caulfield was the 15th pick when the Montreal Canadiens picked him. The winger has had some injury issues during his time in the NHL but scored 26 goals in 46 games in his second season. If he stays fit, there’s no doubt he can score over 50 goals in a season.
2020 Best Pick – Tim Stutzle
Ottawa Senators depth forward Tim Stutzle is easily the best pick of the 2020 NHL draft. If the draft were to be redone, the German center would undoubtedly be the first pick. Stutzle managed 29 points in the 53 games he played for the Senators in his teenage rookie season. After such a great promise, the center became part of the starting team and didn’t disappoint. He was stacking 90 points by his third season, demonstrating his strength and ability on the ice and showing himself to be a true star. If his performances continue in this trend, Stutzle is poised to become one of the greatest German hockey players to grace the NHL.
2021 Best Pick – Wyatt Johnston
Dallas Stars center Wyatt Johnston has surpassed expectations and paid off as a 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft. Joining the league as the 23rd pick doesn’t always come with much hype, but that wasn’t the case for Johnston. Johnston debuted as a rookie in the 2022-2023 season and featured in all 82 matches. During that time, Johnstone potted 24 goals and was an important part of the NHL playoff run for the Dallas Stars. Getting a reliable depth forward late in the first round is exciting, but having one who scores over 20 goals in his rookie season is even better. His rookie season stats make Johnston the best pick from the 2021 NHL draft.
More Best Picks from NHL Drafts
The first overall pick of the NHL draft doesn’t always end up as the best pick. Injuries, performance dips, and new breakout stars can all change how things pan out. However, that wasn’t the case for the NHL’s best player, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. The center has had two Art Ross Trophies and is set to become the league’s face, at least for the next decade. He was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and has remained the best player. Other superstars that have emerged from NHL drafts include Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine, who has scored 30+ goals every season since the 2016 second overall pick. His story is often intertwined with Auston Mathews, who was the first overall pick and has had some great performances. However, Laine looks more like the future 50-goal scorer.
Barry Lachey is a Professional Editor at Zobuz. Previously He has also worked for Moxly Sports and Network Resources “Joe Joe.” he is a graduate of the Kings College at the University of Thames Valley London. You can reach Barry via email or by phone.