Was Sidney Crosby’s Draft Class the Deepest in History?


The NHL draft is an intriguing animal.

Every season, the league’s top minds come together to select their newest talent, thereby shaping the futures of their teams and the league as a whole.

While these events are interesting in real-time due to their promise of the future success to come, the true intrigue lies in taking a look back.

Years later, we can analyze these previous drafts, these archives of the sport’s present state, and gain an understanding of how, for example, the present powerhouse clubs built their glory, or how the basement-dwellers missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

Looking back at draft classes as a whole is a different situation. It’s a matter of judging which group of players, due entirely to the fated chance of them becoming eligible simultaneously, turned out to be the strongest.

Many different opinions have been voiced regarding the best draft class in history.

There was the ’79 class that came about a year after the NHL and WHA merged, which saw all 21 players selected in the first round go on to have legitimate NHL careers.

Then there was the 2003 class, featuring stars like Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, and Nathan Horton as the top three, with guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter sprinkled throughout the rest of the first round as well.

Like ’79, the ’03 class featured a plethora of future stars in the first round – 16 of the top 30 players were eventually named All-Stars.

While both classes were undeniably strong in the early goings, they do both share one defining characteristic – the talent was all concentrated to the opening round.

Sure there were outliers (Mark Messier in the third round of the ’79 draft, Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber in the second round of the ’03 group), but for the most part, the drafts were known for the elite players that came off the board on day one.

That wasn’t necessarily the case in 2005.

The first round was certainly notable in the ’05 class – the first player off the board was a kid from Nova Scotia named Sidney Crosby.

He was followed by stars like Bobby Ryan, Carey Price, and Jack Johnson.

While the first round wasn’t overflowing with the same number of future All-Stars, it was still brimming with legitimate talent – Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Tuukka Rask, T.J. Oshie, etc. etc.

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After the first round, however, the talent didn’t dry up.

The second round saw the selection of notable forwards like James Neal and Paul Stastny, alongside Olympic gold medalist Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The third round was kicked off by Norris trophy nominee Kris Letang, who was followed by two-time Stanley Cup champion netminder Jonathan Quick.

In the fourth round came All-Star offensive defenseman Keith Yandle.

Even the very last player in the draft went on to become a consistent, reliable NHL goal-scorer for the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins. That player? Patric Hornqvist.

It’s impossible to say which class was truly better – whether value lies in a strong first round or talent spread throughout later rounds.

Perhaps all the ’05 draft results indicate is that the league’s scouts missed the mark numerous times before selecting quality talent, causing the players we know now to be spread throughout the later rounds. Perhaps the overall talent level was thus the same.

Regardless, looking back at the various draft classes shows just how difficult it is to properly assess the talent of these young athletes.

What happens if you’re not gifted a class like ’03, where you can pretty much throw a dart at a list of names and come up with a future star?

It’s a tough task, to say the least.

With the 2015 NHL draft only a few months away, figuring to be another deep group featuring the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the league’s top minds will be put to the test once again, hoping to make selections that won’t be looked back upon as franchise-altering mistakes.

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