If there’s anything we need as Blackhawks fans, it’s a reminder that good players aren’t necessarily always first-round picks in the draft. Indeed, some No. 1 overall picks end up living up to the hype but postseason heroes come in all shapes, sizes and draft classes.
Looking around this year’s postseason, there have been players making a big time play in a key situation from all over the draft board. Of course players like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid are putting up eye-catching numbers, but some of the more productive players in this year’s tournament have come from the third rounds of their respective draft classes.
Let’s take a quick lap around the 2022 postseason leaderboard and consider how these impactful players arrived at their current destination.
Connor McDavid, EDM — 14 points in 7 games (4 goals, 10 assists)
McDavid aka McJesus was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 and Buffalo is still bitter about it. He’s living up to the hype on a daily basis right now.
Carter Verhaeghe, FLA — 12 points in 6 games (6 goals, 6 assists)
Verhaeghe was originally a third-round pick (N0. 82 overall) by Toronto in 2013. The Leafs traded him to the Islanders in the deal to get Michael Grabner in 2015; the Islanders then traded him to the Lightning for Kristers Gudlevskis in 2017. Verhaeghe didn’t make his NHL debut until the 2019-20 season but has been a hero for the Panthers this postseason while making $1.0 million. He has signed an extension with the Panthers, however, so his cap hit adjusts to $4,166,667 for the next three years.
Brad Marchand, BOS* — 11 points in 7 games (4 goals, 7 assists)
Marchand was a third-round pick (No. 71 overall) by the Bruins back in 2006. The Bruins’ postseason is over, so this will be his final line for the playoffs.
Mika Zibanejad, NYR — 11 points in 7 games (3 goals, 8 assists)
Zibanejad was the sixth overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft by Ottawa. The Sens traded him to the Rangers in the Derick Brassard deal in 2016.
Sidney Crosby, PIT* — 10 points in 6 games (2 goals, 8 assists)
Crosby was the No. 1 overall pick by the Penguins in 2005 and will head to the Hall of Fame whenever he decides his career is over. He’s been the generational talent we were told he would be 18 years ago. His postseason, however, is over.
Jake Guentzel, PIT — 10 points in 7 games (8 goals, 2 assists)
Guentzel, like Verhaeghe, was a third-round pick in 2013; he came off the board five selections before Verhaeghe when Pittsburgh called his name at No. 77 overall. He has developed into a star for the Penguins.
Adam Fox, NYR — 10 points in 7 games (3 goals, 7 assists)
Fox is a fun story. He was a third-round pick by Carolina (No. 66 overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. After three years at Harvard the Canes traded his rights to the Rangers for second-round picks in the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts. Last year, he won his first career Norris Trophy and he has emerged as one of the better defensemen in the NHL.
Cale Makar, COL — 10 points in 4 games (3 goals, 7 assists)
Makar was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and might win the Norris this year. He’s as good as advertised and yes, you read his postseason stat line correctly: ten points in four games.
Four players are tied for ninth overall in the NHL in point production after the first round of the playoffs with nine points. All four were first-round picks:
Auston Matthews, Toronto (#1 overall in 2016)*
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton (#4 overall in 2014)
Evander Kane, Edmonton (#4 overall in 2009)
David Perron, St. Louis (#26 overall in 2007)
* – Matthews is the only player of these four eliminated.
Big time plays come from players in the right place at the right time, not the biggest contract or the highest draft player. That’s common sense. But we can forget that sometimes.
When we were discussing the Blackhawks’ want/need to win the draft lottery this year or whether or not they would benefit more from having their pick in the 2023 draft that analysts consider to be significantly better/deeper, the consideration that the Hawks don’t have a first-round pick this year was significant.
Four of the top eight overall players in the NHL’s postseason point leaderboard were drafted in the third round; the other four were top-six picks in their respective years. The work ethic of the player and the situation are two critical factors when looking at a players’ production; the Blackhawks benefitted from players selected after the first round during their dynasty years.