The 2022–23 NHL season has reached its halfway point, and thus far there have been plenty of talking points from North America’s number one ice hockey league. The Boston Bruins have made it to the postseason playoffs in each of the last six seasons, however, they have only made it past the second round once, which was back in 2018–19. That year, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, before being downed by the St. Louis Blues in a nailbiting seven-game series.
That victory was the first in franchise history for the Blues, and it seemed to send the Bruins into a downward spiral. The Massachusetts-based outfit exited the postseason in the second round in back-to-back seasons, before exiting in the first round last term.
That appears to have lit a fire in the Boston side’s belly this year, however. Jim Montgomery’s side has racked up an impressive 32 wins throughout their 40 games so far this season.
Another story heading into this season was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last term, the Florida-based franchise was aiming to become the first outfit since the 1980s New York Islanders to lift three consecutive Stanley Cups. Their opponents last season, the Colorado Avalanche, was made the outsiders in the championship series by sportsbook Bovada, however, it was Jared Bednar’s side who walked out victorious, winning the series in six games.
This term, the Lightning have been attempting to put that defeat behind them, and they currently lie third in the Atlantic Division. They will be aiming to kick on throughout the second half of the campaign.
Following the culmination of the ongoing campaign, attention will turn to the 2023 NHL Draft. It’s been an exciting few years for recent NHL Draft picks, as the game has seen some incredible young talent join its ranks. From 2017 to 2021, some of the most promising and talented players have been chosen at the top of the draft, and in this piece, we’ll be taking a closer look at the last five top picks in the NHL Draft and their subsequent success.
2017 – Nico Hischier
Back at the 2017 draft, wherein the New Jersey Devils chose Nico Hischier with the first overall selection. Hischier had previously played as part of the QMJHL team, the Halifax Mooseheads, where he picked up both the RDS Cup, awarded to the Q’s Rookie of the Year; the Michael Bossy Trophy, awarded to the Q’s best professional prospect; and the CHL’s overall Rookie of the Year, among other accolades.
He was an instant star in the NHL, and the Devils have had huge success with the Hischier pick, who has established himself as one of the league’s brightest stars. His success hasn’t translated into success for the franchise however, and the Devils have qualified for the postseason just once—in Hischier’s debut season—during his time in New Jersey.
2018 – Rasmus Dahlin
Just one year later, the Buffalo Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. Dahlin was a highly touted draft prospect from Sweden and had even made his NHL debut at age 17, becoming the league’s youngest player in 17 years. Dahlin would go on to feature in the NHL All-Star Game in both 2022 and 2023.
Dahlin is one of the league’s best defencemen; however, the Sabres are still unable to break their playoff duck. It’s been over a decade since the New York state-based outfit reached the postseason. That may change this term however, as they are currently positioned in fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
2019 – Jack Hughes
The New Jersey Devils once again the lucky recipients of the first overall pick in 2019 and chose forward Jack Hughes from the US National Development Program. Hughes had previously recorded an astonishing 180 points in his two seasons with the US National U18 Team and was an instant NHL success. He continued to perform in the NHL, reaching 52 points combined in his first two seasons. In his third full campaign, he posted up 56 points and was named as an All-Star in both 2022 and 2023.
2020 – Alexis Lafreniere
The New York Rangers are one of the most valuable franchises in the NHL and they had the No. 1 pick in 2020. They chose forward Alexis Lafreniere from the QMJHL. Lafreniere scored 42 goals in his rookie season in Quebec, the most goals scored by a rookie since Sydney Crosby back in 2004.
His impact has been immediate in the NHL and Lafreniere is already a fan favorite in New York. He scored 21 points in 56 games in his rookie season and figures to be a franchise cornerstone for the Rangers in the coming years. That would be backed up by the 31 points he racked up last season also.
2021 – Owen Power
Onwards we move to the 2021 NHL Draft, where the Buffalo Sabres once again had the first pick and this time picked defendemen Owen Power as the top selection. Power opted to remain in Michigan to play NCAA in his rookie year, becoming the first number one overall pick to play in college since Erik Johnson in 2006. The decision was a wise one however, as he led the nation in defencemen in points per game before leaving for the Olympics.
2022 – Juraj Slafkovsky
Finally, in last year’s NHL Draft, the Montreal Canadiens made Juraj Slafkovsky the number one overall pick. The pick was somewhat of a shock, with even Slafkovsky himself saying he wasn’t prepared to be picked at number one. The Slovenian plays as a left wing and was drafted from TPS in Liiga, Finland’s top professional men’s league.
From 2017 to 2022, the NHL’s top picks have all proven to be successful and talented players, and the teams that have been rewarded with the first selection have benefited greatly from their decision. We’re sure to continue to see fantastic young talent make their mark in the NHL in the years to come, and there’s also a consensus top pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. Both the Sabres and the Devils however will hope that their numerous number one picks translates into postseason success in the near future.