With the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft quickly approaching, and with the Sabres picking 7th overall in the first frame, we thought it might be interesting to turn back the clock to see what recent 7th overall picks have become to this point in their NHL careers.
2010: Jeff Skinner (LW)
An interesting player, hailing from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, the former figure skater had a tremendous season by accumulating 90 points in 64 games, as well as 33 play-off points that season. The question was, could his slight stature handle the grit of the NHL.
Well with 661 NHL games currently under his belt, and 244 goals to his credit, Skinner has proven he can handle it and has thrived and justified his high selection. Of course, Sabres fans know him very well, with his 40-goal season for the Blue and Gold, and subsequent massive extension that will keep him in the Queen City for quite some time.
"Jeff Skinner, you are ON FIRE!" 🔥 pic.twitter.com/VF8fjKVDNn
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 8, 2019
2011: Mark Scheifele (C)
After a masterful career in Barrie of the OHL (217 points in 158 games) the Jets looked to create some high-end offense. What they got was an excellent selection at 7th overall position.
Scheifele finished his most recent campaign by playing the full 82 games of the regular season, and accumulating better than a point-per-game pace. To date, the Jets center has played in 448 NHL games, and accumulated 371 points, not to mention 26 points in 27 play-off contests as well.
Mark Scheifele with the OT winner as the Jets take a thriller over the Lightning. 🚨
— theScore (@theScore) December 17, 2018
2012: Matt Dumba (D)
Here’s an interesting one. Dumba played for Red Deer and Portland of the WHL (151 points in 225 games between the clubs), and was known as an offensive-defenseman. He got his first taste of the NHL in 2013-14 and collected only 2 points in 13 games. His first full season with the club saw him notch 16 points in 58 games, which didn’t exactly meeting expectations.
However, as is common with defensemen coming into the league, his last two campaigns have shown that Dumba indeed is worth his high draft pedigree. By scoring 72 points over his last 114 games, he’s shown the Wild’s brass that choosing him 7th overall was not a mistake.
Stand back for Matt Dumba 🔥🎯 pic.twitter.com/Nq5F0J3Z5C
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 16, 2017
2013: Darnell Nurse (D)
Somewhat of a polarizing player coming out of junior hockey, the jury was out on Nurse in terms of what type of player he could be at the NHL level. The 6’4”, 221 pound defenseman was obviously viewed as a monster in his own zone, with the physical tools to give headaches to even the most staunch NHL players, however it was his offensive potential that was questioned.
Coming into the 2018-19 season with Edmonton he had still never cracked 30 points, but he blew by that total this year with a 41-point outing, to go along with a respectable 87 penalty minutes. He really is rounding into form for Edmonton and living up to the high-draft status of a 7th overall pick.
Darnell Nurse's opener for the Oilers: 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zZpnv9G1lP
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 8, 2019
2014: Haydn Fleury (D)
Here we find the first questionable selection (at least in hind-sight) for this slot. Fleury was viewed as a more stay-at-home defenseman, whose offensive upside was somewhat limited, though he would be relied upon as an excellent defensive player.
In three professional seasons though, he’s had two stints with the big club in Carolina, and has amassed nine points in 87 NHL games. The rest of the time, he’s played for the Hurricane’s AHL club in Charlotte, winning a Calder Trophy this year. Despite his AHL success, the Hurricanes decision-makers just haven’t found a permanent home for the 7th overall pick.
Haydn Fleury toe-drags around Bracco, before beating Kaskisuo five-hole.
Carcone turned a high-danger scoring chances into a horrible turnover just before this clip pic.twitter.com/CnH7xZUP20
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 18, 2019
2015: Ivan Provorov (D)
Coming out of Brandon of the WHL, Provorov was viewed as a complete defenseman, and one that may make the NHL quickly. He did just this. In fact, he never actually played in the AHL, jumping directly to Philadelphia in his draft year.
He immediately showed his offensive chops in the NHL, by scoring 71 points over his first two seasons. His numbers took a bit of a dip this past year, but he’s shown how durable he is by never missing a game in three complete seasons, and also showing he will be the Flyers’ number one defenseman for the foreseeable future.
— NHL (@NHL) November 24, 2016
2016: Clayton Keller (C)
An incredibly gifted offensive player, Keller was chosen by the Coyotes for his high-end playmaking and ability to fill the net. Keller spent time in the US National Development Program (107 points in 62 games) and at Boston University (45 points in 31 games) before making his debut for the NHL’s Coyotes. Chosen as an All-Star representative for his club last season also goes to show that he was a fine pick at 7th overall.
Can confirm: Clayton Keller is good at hockey. pic.twitter.com/V7f96Dap9u
2017: Lias Andersson (C)
We’re in the portion of the list where it’s probably too soon to pass any judgement on the quality of the player’s career, but just for kicks, let’s check in with their development.
Andersson was not drafted necessarily as a high-end scorer, as it seemed his ceiling was somewhat limited. However, the certainty of him being an NHL player out of the SHL (Sweden) was fairly high. So, the Rangers took a gamble that his offensive upside would flourish under the right circumstances.
To this point, it seems the draft pundits were right about Andersson as he’s compiled eight NHL points in 49 games, to go along with 34 AHL points in 61 games at that level. Andersson looks to crack the Rangers’ line up full-time this season, where the Rangers will be better able to gauge his progress.
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) September 17, 2018
2018: Quinn Hughes (D)
Another player that falls into the “way too soon to judge” category, Hughes was selected by Vancouver to be a playmaking, puck-distributing defender that can dazzle in the offensive zone. He was granted a five-game look this season, where he was able to notch three assists in that short span.
He also played for the University of Michigan for two seasons, amassing 62 points in 69 games. To his credit, he was also selected to play for Team USA in the World Championships this year and registered three assists in eight games played. Things are looking good for the young rearguard, as there is an excellent chance he’s a regular in the Vancouver line up sooner rather than later.
Quinn Hughes can play.
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) April 5, 2019
All in all, as you can see, the 7th overall selection usually will net the selecting team at the very least, a positive impact player. With the exception of Haydn Fleury, and the last two very young players, the other players on this list have not only made a fine NHL career for themselves, but can be seen as strong, contributing, day-to-day players.
For the Sabres, the hope is that they can fortify their scoring woes organizationally speaking, or at the very least, a top-4 defender that they can count on moving forward. Our staff writer John Krieger detailed 5 of Buffalo’s options for the No. 7 pick here.