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10 best draft classes in NHL history

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Which draft class is the best NHL Draft class of all time? Plenty of drafts produced tons of talent, but which ones stand clear from the rest?

Best NHL Draft class

The best NHL Draft class is tough to figure out at first. At the time of the draft, a group of players may be regarded as the most talented NHL Draft, but it takes over a decade to find out if they actually lived up to and exceeded expectations.

Some draft classes had “greatest draft class in NHL history” written all over them, while others proved years later that they were greatly underrated at the time.

10. 2005

The 2005 class had some of the best NHL Draft prospects of any draft.

The two players that stand out the most from that year are first overall pick Sidney Crosby and fifth overall pick Carey Price. Crosby and Anze Kopitar as the only two players from that draft to achieve the 1000-point mark.


In addition to Price, the 2005 draft contained a few other goaltenders who have gone on to have great careers so far. Tuukka Rask (21st overall), Jonathan Quick (72nd overall), and Ben Bishop (85th overall) have all surpassed 200 wins in their careers. Some other notable players drafted in 2005 include Kris Letang, Paul Stastny, and T.J. Oshie.

9. 1993

Although Alexandre Daigle, who was drafted first overall in 1993, did not live up to expectations, the rest of the draft had plenty of stars.

The 1993 draft features two players currently in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Paul Kariya, who finished with 989 points, was inducted in 2017, while star defenseman Chris Pronger was inducted in 2015.

There were eight players selected in 1993 that finished with at least 700 career points and three goaltenders with at least 200 wins. Some of the greatest players from that class include Jason Arnott, Saku Koivu, and Todd Bertuzzi. Of the 286 players drafted that year, 137 of them were from Canada.

8. 1990

1990 is not the best NHL Draft class, but it is one of the deepest.


There were 11 players from the draft who had at least 700 career points and three that had at least 1000 points. Jaromir Jagr, who was drafted fifth overall in 1990, finished with the second-most points in NHL history with 1921 points. Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight were the other two who finished with more than 1000 points.

The draft also featured one of the greatest NHL goalies of all time.

Martin Brodeur, the league’s all-time wins leader, was drafted by the Devils with the 20th pick in 1990.

7. 1980

The 1980 draft contained a lot of players who went on to have outstanding NHL careers.

Many of the best players from that year turned out to be a steal in the draft. One of those players was Jari Kurri, who was drafted in the fourth round and went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Steve Larmer and Bernie Nicholls were late-round picks as well, and they each went on to score more than 1000 points in their careers.

Kurri wasn’t the only one to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as Denis Savard, Larry Murphy, and Paul Coffey also earned that honor. Six players drafted that year finished with at least 1000 career points, and seven finished with over 550 career assists.

6. 1982

The 1982 NHL Draft featured a lot of busts in the first round, as five of the first 10 players chosen had less than 250 points in their careers. However, the draft did produce five 1000-point scorers and eight 300-goal scorers.

Four players ended up with Hall of Fame careers, which included Doug Gilmour, Scott Stevens, Phil Housley, and Dave Andreychuk. Gilmour was the steal of the draft that year, as the St. Louis Blues selected him 134th overall.

Some other players who were selected in the 1982 draft include Pat Verbeek, Brian Bellows, Ray Ferraro, and Ron Hextall.

5. 1983

The 1982 draft had more depth, but 1983 featured two of the greatest players in NHL history.

With the fourth overall pick, the Detroit Red Wings selected center Steve Yzerman. He went on to score 1755 points, which is by far the most of any player in the draft. The other NHL legend drafted that year was Dominik Hasek, who is arguably the greatest goaltender ever. He was chosen 199th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks.

There are seven players from the 1983 draft who were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. A few of them are known for their play overseas, while Cam Neely, Pat LaFontaine, Hasek, and Yzerman are known for their amazing NHL careers.

4. 1988

The 1988 draft class had a ton of players who survived a long time in the NHL. 19 players played at least 800 NHL games, while 13 played more than 1000 games in the league.

The list of players who scored at least 1000 career points includes six names. The player with the longest career and the most points scored is Mark Recchi. Recchi played 1652 games and scored 1533 points. Another big name from the draft is Teemu Selanne, who averaged more than a point per game in his career.

In addition to Recchi and Selanne, first overall pick Mike Modano and fourth-round pick Rob Blake were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

3. 1984

It wasn’t the best NHL Draft class, but the 1984 class did feature some of the game’s greatest players.

Four players ended up with Hall of Fame careers. Two stand out above the others, as both Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy were drafted in 1984. Lemieux went on to score 1723 points in 915 games, while Roy had 551 wins in his career.

Lemieux wasn’t the only player drafted that year to score over 1000 NHL points, as Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull both scored over 1300 points in their Hall of Fame careers.

10 players who were drafted in 1984 finished with over 750 career points, and five of those players scored more than 400 career goals.

2. 1979

Arguably the greatest draft class in NHL history, 1979 had seven players who finished their careers with over 1000 points.

Of those seven players, five ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Two others also had careers worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame. Mark Messier had the greatest career of the entire draft class, scoring 1887 points in 1756 games. Ray Bourque was the only other player from that class to score over 1500 points.

The other five Hall of Famers includes Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet, Kevin Lowe, Guy Carbonneau, and Glenn Anderson.

1. 2003

The best NHL Draft class of all time is the class of 2003. The draft was loaded with talent at the beginning, middle, and even at the end.

There are still many active players from the 2003 draft. As of June 2022, there are two players who have had over 1000 points in their careers, but there will surely be at least one or two more by the time everyone retires.

In addition to Eric Staal and Ryan Getzlaf, the two leading scorers currently from the draft, there are eight others who have had at least 700 career NHL points. Arguably the best player from the draft is Patrice Bergeron, who has 982 points in his career so far.

The 2003 draft also features some great goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall in 2003 and has gone on to win more than 500 games. Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Corey Crawford, and Jimmy Howard were also all drafted that year.

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