Although the first NHL draft was held in 1963, it wasn’t until 1969 that the draft evolved into its modern format. In the 44 NHL drafts of the “modern era,” the history of the 13th overall pick has been a very fortunate and fruitful one. From 1969-2009 inclusive, only four of the 41 players chosen at No. 13 failed to reach the NHL.
It wasn’t until 1984 that the 13th overall choice failed to play at all in the NHL and that’s when the Minnesota North Stars chose Connecticut high school defenseman David Quinn at No. 13. By all accounts, Quinn was good enough to play in the NHL, but his career ended prematurely because of a rare blood disorder that prevented his blood from clotting when he would sustain a cut.
The New York Rangers selected defenseman Michael Stewart at No. 13 in 1990. A product of Michigan State, Stewart played eight seasons as a pro in North America, toiling in the AHL and the IHL. He also played 10 seasons as a pro in Germany and Austria.
In 1998, the Edmonton Oilers pulled right wing Michael Henrich with the 13th overall choice. Henrich was a productive scorer with the OHL’s Barrie Colts, averaging 39 goals per season in the final three years of his junior career. But he was never able to score as many as 15 goals in any of his four seasons as a North American pro. The Ontario native has played professionally in Sweden, Germany, Italy, Austria and England. Now 34, he spent 2013-14 with the Coventry Blaze of the EIHL.
Buffalo chose Slovakian center Marek Zagrapan at No. 13 in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He signed an entry-level contract with the Sabres in 2006, but failed to crack a talented Sabres club during the three-year life of that pact. He spent three seasons in the AHL , topping out at 21 goals and 49 points with the 2008-09 Portland Pirates. Zagrapan signed with a KHL club in Russia in May of 2009. After two seasons in the KHL, he spent a season playing professionally in Finland before signing on in the Czech League, where he has spent the last two seasons. Zagrapan has totaled just 30 goals and 57 points in 192 games in five seasons since departing North America.
Phoenix selected defenseman Brandon Gormley in 2010, Dallas took center Radek Faksa in 2012 and Winnipeg snared blueliner Josh Morrissey at No. 13 in 2013. While none of those three has reached the NHL yet, all three are on track to do so eventually.
Enough about the few failures of those chosen 13th overall. While none of the No. 13s over the years is likely to go onto the Hockey Hall of Fame, the slot has produced a great number of solid NHL citizens who have been productive for a decade or more in the NHL. That’s good value from that draft slot. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy No. 13 picks over the years.
1969, Chicago – J.P. Bordeleau was the final pick of the first round when he went at No. 13 in 1969, considered by most to be the first “modern” NHL draft. A right wing, Bordeleau played 10 seasons (all with the Blackhawks) and 519 regular season NHL games as a steady, bottom-six forward.
1970, Boston – The Bruins tabbed defenseman Bob Stewart in 1970. He started out with the B’s in 1971, but was soon dealt along with Reggie Leach to the California Golden Seals in the swap that sent Carol Vadnais to Boston. Stewart spent nine seasons toiling for mostly poor teams; he played 575 NHL games and only five Stanley Cup playoff games. Those playoff games came with Pittsburgh in 1980 and represented the end of Stewart’s NHL career. He holds a dubious NHL record with a career plus/minus of minus-260, the lowest in league history.
1971, New York Rangers – The Rangers chose rugged defenseman Steve Durbano, a guy who held the major junior record for most penalty minutes in a single season (371) at the time. He rolled up a CHL-record 402 PIM as a teenager in his first pro season. New York dealt Durbano to St. Louis less than a year after drafting him, and the defenseman debuted with the Blues. His NHL career was dotted with injuries and suspensions, lasting 220 games and producing 1,227 PIM. Durbano also played a season in the World Hockey Association with Birmingham.
1972, Chicago – The Hawks drafted defenseman Phil Russell, who was the second blueliner taken in the draft behind Jim Schoenfeld, taken fifth overall by Buffalo. Russell spent 15 seasons in the NHL, playing for five teams in a career that stretched out to 1,016 regular season games. Russell was a steady and sturdy two-way defender who amassed 25 or more points and 100 or more penalty minutes in each of the first 11 seasons of his career.
1973, Chicago – Picking at No. 13 for the third time in five years, the Hawks chose winger Darcy Rota. Rota spent 11 seasons in the NHL, totaling 794 regular season games. He netted 20 or more goals in each of his first four and each of his last four NHL seasons. The Hawks dealt away Russell and Rota in the same deal, an eight-player blockbuster with the Atlanta Flames on March 13, 1979.
1977, New York Rangers – The Blueshirts drafted flashy (and flow-y) forward Ron Duguay in ’77. Duguay spent a dozen seasons in the league, totaling 274 goals and 620 points in 864 games. He netted 20 or more goals in seven of those dozen seasons, topping out at 40 with the Rangers in 1981-82. Duguay spent his first six seasons in the league with New York before moving on to Detroit, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. He also had another short tour of duty with the Rangers in the latter seasons of his career.
1978, Buffalo Sabres – Buffalo took rugged rearguard Larry Playfair at No. 13 in 1978. He made his NHL debut against the Bruins in Boston months later, absorbing a John Wensink elbow that resulted in a concussion on his first NHL shift. A defense-minded blueliner who was also one of the league’s most feared fighters during his day, Playfair spent 12 seasons in the league with Buffalo and Los Angeles. He racked up 1,812 PIM in 688 career NHL contests.
1979, New York Rangers – The Blueshirts grabbed Doug Sulliman at this spot in 1979. The right wing spent 11 seasons in the NHL, notching five 20-goal seasons and totaling 160 goals and 328 points while skating in 631 games for four teams.
1982, Quebec – The Nordiques selected defenseman David Shaw at No. 13 in the 1982 Entry Draft. His injury-dotted NHL career spanned 16 seasons; he appeared in 769 games for six different clubs but managed to play in as many as 70 games only four times in those 16 seasons. Shaw is best remembered for incurring a 12-game suspension for slashing Penguins star Mario Lemieux in 1988. That incident took place while Shaw was playing with the Rangers.
1983, Calgary – The Flames grabbed Dan Quinn here in 1983, and he went on to an 805-game NHL career playing for eight different clubs. Quinn finished up with 266 goals and 685 points during his NHL career. He had 59 goals and 147 points in 70 games with Belleville (OHL) during his draft year, and had four NHL seasons with 30 or more goals before he was 24, topping out at 94 points with the Penguins in 1988-89. But his production declined sharply thereafter; Quinn’s last 20-goal season came at the age of 25, he played his first-ever minor league games at age 30 and he was out of the NHL for good at 31.
1985, New York Islanders – Just after the end of their dynasty years, the Isles selected Derek King with the thirteenth pick in 1985. King debuted late in the 1986-87 season and went on to pile up 261 goals and 612 points in an 830-game NHL career that spanned 1987-2000. King scored 40 goals in his fifth full season in the league, rewarding the Isles’ patience with his development. After three straight seasons with 30 or more goals, King had three seasons with 20 or more tallies on the backside of his career, including two after New York traded him away in 1997.
1986, Boston – The Bruins went with Boston College pivot Craig Janney at No. 13 in 1986. He was a point-per-game player for most of his NHL career, but was a finesse player who had difficulty staying healthy and whose NHL career came to a rather abrupt halt at age 31. Traded to the Blues for Adam Oates in 1992, Janney had his best season (24-82-106) with St. Louis in 1992-93 at the age of 25. Primarily a playmaker, Janney played for six teams in his final five NHL seasons.
1991, Buffalo – The Sabres drafted blueliner Philippe Boucher here in 1991. Boucher was moved to the Kings in a six-player deal in 1995, and he spent most of his 748-game NHL career with Los Angeles and Dallas, finally playing on a Cup-winning Pittsburgh team in his last season (2008-09) in the NHL at the age of 35. A good power play point man, Boucher scored 42 of his 94 career goals with the extra man.
1994, Vancouver – The Canucks made one of the better 13th overall picks in 1994 – just weeks after their Stanley Cup final appearance against the Rangers – when they tabbed defenseman Mattias Ohlund in 1994. Ohlund didn’t come to North America until 1997-98, but he stepped directly into Vancouver’s top four and remained there for 11 seasons, performing consistently and capably at both ends of the ice. He signed a seven-year contract worth more than $25 million with Tampa Bay in 2009, but severe knee ailments have kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of each of the last three seasons. Ohlund has 93 goals and 343 points in 909 career games in the NHL.
1995, Hartford – Hartford pegged goaltender J-S Giguere with the 13th choice in 1995, and Giguere was still active in the NHL in 2013-14, the last remaining Hartford draft choice to hold that distinction. Now 37, Giguere has served as a backup goaltender for Colorado for the last three seasons but may be on the verge of retirement. He has played in 597 regular season NHL games, posting a 262-216-75 record. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP in 2003 and helped lead Anaheim to its only Stanley Cup title in 2007.
1996, Calgary – The Flames snagged defenseman Derek Morris at No. 13 in 1996. Morris is still toiling away in the NHL; he has played 1,107 games for five teams over the span of a 16-season career. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Morris averaged 19:27 per night last season over 63 games with Phoenix. He has totaled 92 goals and 424 points in the NHL, but has played postseason hockey in only four of his 16 NHL seasons. Morris has played beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs only once, in 2012 with Phoenix.
1997, Chicago – The Hawks chose right wing Dan Cleary with the 13th choice in the 1997 draft. He has played 921 games in the NHL with four different teams over the course of a 16-year career in the circuit. Cleary has spent the last nine seasons with Detroit, and he helped the Wings to the 2008 Stanley Cup championship. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Cleary has totaled 164 goals and 385 points in the league.
2000, Montreal – The Habs selected defenseman Ron Hainsey at No. 13 in 2000. Montreal lost Hainsey on waivers to Columbus in 2005, after he had played only 32 games over parts of two seasons with the Canadiens. He had four straight seasons with 25 or more points from 2006-10, but hasn’t cracked that level since. Hainsey has averaged 21 or more minutes per night in seven of his last eight seasons and each of the last three. The 33-year-old Hainsey has played 673 games for five teams during an 11-year NHL career, and he just signed a three-year contract extension with Carolina.
2001, Edmonton – Winger Ales Hemsky went to the Oilers at No. 13 in 2001. He cracked the Edmonton roster in 2002-03 and was with the Oilers continuously until he was shipped to Ottawa in March of this year. Known mainly as a playmaker, Hemsky has two 20-goal seasons to his credit, the last of which was 2008-09. He has cracked 40 assists in a season four times; the last of those was also 2008-09. Hemsky has 146 goals and 494 points in 672 NHL games. The 31-year-old Czech native is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
2002, Washington – One of the most skilled players ever to wear a Washington sweater, Alexander Semin went to the Caps at No. 13 in the 2002 draft. He showed flashes of potential in his rookie NHL season of 2003-04, and he broke out with 38 goals in his sophomore NHL campaign three years later. Semin spent seven seasons with the Caps, scoring 20 or more goals in each of his last six campaigns in the District. Semin had his best season in 2009-10 when he rolled up 40 goals and 84 points in 73 games. Now with Carolina, Semin has 232 goals and 494 points in 578 NHL games.
2003, Los Angeles – Los Angeles drafted Dustin Brown – the eventual captain of its two Cup champion teams – at the No. 13 spot in 2003. After debuting as a teenager with the Kings in 2003-04, Brown made the NHL for good coming out of the ’04-05 lockout. His string of five straight seasons with 20 or more goals and 30 or more points came to a halt because of the lockout-abbreviated ’12-13 season. Brown has played in 689 of 704 games (98%) since that ’04-05 lockout.
2004, Buffalo – The Sabres snared right wing Drew Stafford with the 13th overall choice in 2004. Stafford’s career has had its ups and downs, but he has had three seasons with 20 or more goals in the NHL, the last of which was 2011-12. Stafford netted 31 goals in just 62 games for Buffalo in 2010-11, his best season to date.
2006, Toronto – The Maple Leafs chose Jiri Tlusty at the bakers’ dozen spot in 2006. It took a while for Tlusty’s NHL career to get rolling; he managed just 10 goals and 20 points in 74 games with the Leafs that were spread out over parts of three seasons. Traded to Carolina early in the 2009-10 season, Tlusty had 17 goals and 36 points for the Canes in 2011-12. He led the team with 23 goals while notching a career high of 38 points in just 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’12-13 campaign, but slipped back to 16 goals and 30 points last season.
2007, St. Louis – The Blues landed Lars Eller at No. 13 in 2007. The Danish pivot debuted with St. Louis in 2009-10, getting into seven games. At the end of that season, Eller became the centerpiece of the package the Blues used to land goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Montreal Canadiens. In four seasons with the Habs, Eller has established himself as a useful third-line center. His single-season bests are 16 goals and 30 points.
2009, Buffalo – Right wing Zack Kassian was the Sabres’ choice at No. 13 in 2009. He was later shipped to Vancouver in a straight-up swap for center Cody Hodgson, a deal that looks really strong for Buffalo so far. Kassian’s future is as an irascible bottom-six winger. He spent the entire 2013-14 season with the Canucks, totaling 14 goals and 29 points to go along with 124 penalty minutes.
Time will tell what the Caps do with that No. 13 choice on Friday night in Philadelphia. There are some talented wingers clustered near that slot on most draft lists, but there’s a real dearth of defensemen in the first round of the 2014 NHL draft and the centers are bunched either much higher or much lower than that No. 13 pick. If the Caps draft for need by landing a center or a defenseman with their first pick, they’ll likely trade either up or down to do so. Remaining at No. 13 will likely result in the selection of a skilled winger, but you never really know what the 12 teams in front of the Caps will do or what dynamics will present themselves in the first half of the first round. We’ll know in another 36 hours or so.