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Going over history of No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft

Connor Bedard will be the latest to go first overall in the draft. We look back at the first pick the past 20 seasons.

Connor McDavid, first overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers, is given an Oilers hat onstage during Round One of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

With the coming of the 2023 NHL Draft, we will see another player etched in history as the No. 1 overall pick. First picks in the NHL are always a polarizing debate topic. Will they or won’t they bust? For the 2023 draft, chances are we won’t see this player bust. Connor Bedard is expected to go to the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 1 overall on Wednesday, June 28. Bedard has been compared to other great first picks such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. He’ll be the first player selected first overall by Chicago since 2007, when the team selected Patrick Kane.

Below we’ll go over the history of the past 20 first overall picks in the NHL Draft.

NHL Draft History: First picks

2022: Juraj Slafkovsky, RW, Montreal Canadiens
2021: Owen Power, D, Buffalo Sabres
2020: Alexis Lafreniere, LW, New York Rangers
2019: Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils
2018: Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres
2017: Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey Devils
2016: Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
2015: Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
2014: Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers
2013: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
2012: Nail Yakupov, F, Edmonton Oilers
2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers
2010: Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers
2009: John Tavares, C, New York Islanders
2008: Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
2007: Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
2006: Erik Johnson, D, St. Louis Blues
2005: Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
2004: Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
2003: Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh Penguins

Looking at this group, it’s very difficult to go wrong selecting No. 1 overall in the draft. The only true bust at No. 1 overall would be considered Nail Yakupov by the Oilers in 2012. Every other player has gone on to become a future Hall of Famer, Stanley Cup champion, All-Star or serviceable NHLer. We won’t count Slafkovsky, Power or Lafreniere in 2020 since it’s still very early in their careers. The weakest outside of him would be Johnson by the Blues, though he’s played 15 NHL seasons and helped the Avs win the Cup in 2022.

About half of the past 20 first overall picks should be Hall of Fame inductees down the road. The Oilers have four of the past 20 first picks while the Penguins, Sabres and Devils each have had two in that span. Most of the time when a franchise center is involved, it translates to an immediate franchise turnaround. We saw this past season with Hughes and the Devils being one of the best teams in the NHL. He was able to break the Devils single-season points record with 99 in 78 games.