For players it's their first step to having a career in the NHL. For teams it's an opportunity to "re-tool" and stack their system with prospects. The annual NHL Entry Draft is one of the biggest and most important events that take place for the NHL. It's all about the future. If your team had a rough season it's their chance to get a high draft choice to make tomorrow better, what happened in the past is gone. But of course some draft classes are better than others. There's hidden gems that get taken in the later rounds and duds that get taken in the first round. But looking back at recent drafts my attention immediately goes to the 2005 draft in which the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby and ultimately saved their franchise. But when you look deeper into the 2005 draft class, you discover that Crosby was not the only gem found in the draft. Other star players such as Jonathan Quick, Carey Price and Bobby Ryan were all taken after Crosby and have had a tremendous effect on their respective teams.
Today I'm going to dive deeper into the 2005 Draft to discover some of the top players that got their careers kicked off and further prove that the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was the best draft class of recent history.
Sidney Crosby: 1st Overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins
If you're reading this post chances are you've heard of Sidney Crosby before. The golden kid, Sid the kid whatever you call him, the point is you know who he is.
Crosby was the first overall pick in the 2005 Draft and became the immediate future of the Penguins. 7 years later he's the Penguins captain and became the youngest captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup in 2009. In his 7 seasons he's racked up over 220 goals and 609 points, what do those stats say? he's not a selfish player more than half of his points are from assist. He's the face of the NHL and one of the most marketable players. His addition to both the NHL and the Penguins has been fantastic, a true gem discovered from the draft.
Nathan Gerbe: 4th round 142nd Overall to the Buffalo Sabres
One of the little guys on the Buffalo Sabres, Gerbe gives it his all night in and night out, he plays with heart and plays the game the right way. Most importantly he doesn't let his size intimidate him or stop him from fighting through. Last season Gerbe at 5 foot 5 was seen taking on the Boston Bruins giant Zdeno Chara. Gerbe has been with the Sabres full time for the last 2 seasons, but has missed time due to injuries during both campaigns. Gerbe is proving that no matter how small, or how late you were drafted, you can make a difference and be an important player.
Jonathan Quick 3rd round 72nd Overall to the Los Angeles Kings
The 2012 Stanley Cup and Vezina winning goaltender, not a bad résumé! Quick was another gem that was drafted in the 2005 draft, but unlike fellow goaltender Carey Price, Quick had to wait until the third round to hear his name. But with his Stanley Cup ring I don't think that's bothering him anymore. 2011-2012 was a big season for the young goaltender, he established himself as a starting goaltender, put up fantastic numbers and was able to knock off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams in the Western conference while playing for a 8th place team, quite a feat! He also surprised a lot of people with his play but has solidified his spot amongst the elite goaltenders in the league.
The Los Angeles Kings have a dangerous team and with Quick as their goalie there's no telling how good this team can further become, they have all the tools to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
Carey Price: 1st round 5th Overall to the Montreal Canadiens
Price was taken 5th overall in the "Crosby draft" and was the highest goaltender selected, turning a lot of heads by his selection. It's odd or rare to see a goalie go inside the top 10 let alone the top 5, but obviously the Montreal Canadiens saw something special in him and were willing to take him. He had a rocky time getting adjusted to the NHL and quickly earned himself a reputation as a winer, as he was often seen pouting and arguing with the refs. He found himself riding the pine during the 2009 season and during the Canadiens Playoff run, but was given a vote of confidence when the guy who stole his job away was traded. Over the last 2 seasons Price has greatly matured and his play reflects his new found maturity. The Canadiens had a very rough year finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference, but Price still played well losing many 2-1 or 4-2 hockey games. But even during his teams struggles you did not find the goaltender pouting or blaming his teammates, a drastic change from his earlier career. Price is the franchise goalie and one of the building blocks for the Habs, they will only be as good as Price can play.
Jack Johnson: 1st round 3rd Overall to the Carolina Hurricanes
Whether it was bad luck, bad timing or he just ticked off the wrong people you have to feel bad for Johnson. He was dealt from the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for Jeff Carter a year after signing a 7 year contract extension. He was the captain of the 2010 US Olympic mens hockey team that won Silver. Johnson has great leadership skills and will be a huge part of the Blue Jackets rebuild.
Tukka Rask: 1st round 21st Overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Here's a player the Leafs organization is kicking themselves for letting get away. In Toronto he just wasn't getting it done, so they shipped him to Boston to be Tim Thomas' back-up. But with solid play and some mind games from Thomas, Rask has earned himself the job of starting for the Boston Bruins. He signed a 1 year deal worth $3.5 million which guarantees him the starting job for the Bruins for next season (whenever the lockout ends), a smart move by Rask only signing a 1 year deal: If things go well he can just ask for more money and a longterm deal but if things go south he can head out of town and not be a scape-goat for tying up major money. Rask's best season came in 2009-2010 where he started 45 games for the Bruins and won the starting job and the right to start during the playoffs, he was the only goalie in the league to have a Goals Against Average under 2.00 and a Save Percentage over .930 but was surprisingly not named to the Rookie of the Year ballot. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2010-2011 and will now have his chance to lead the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bobby Ryan: 1st round 2nd Overall to the Anaheim Ducks
Being the guy that was drafted behind Sidney Crosby is not easy, many people don't even know your name. Often times there's trivia questions asking who was drafted 2nd overall in 2005, and to be honest I didn't have any idea. But despite having the distinction of "the guy drafted after Crosby" Ryan has made himself a solid career with the Ducks. He's played 4 full seasons with the Ducks and was playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Before the beginning of the 2010 season he signed a 5 year $25 million extension with the Ducks, and except for some trade deadline rumours that were used to motivate him, the Ducks haven't had any complains. In all 4 seasons with the Ducks Ryan has scored at least 30 goals, proving that he is a reliable and steady forward. He was named to the United States Mens Ice Hockey team for the 2010 Olympics and helped them capture a silver medal in a heart breaking loss against Canada and the guy he was drafted behind. The 25 year-old has a bright future ahead of him and will no doubt turn out to be a key player for the Ducks on their next playoff run.
James Neal: 2nd round 33rd Overall to the Dallas Stars
Neal is the ultimate feel good story. After not playing exceptionally well in Dallas he was traded to the Penguins in 2011 right at before the Trade Deadline. He got off to a slow start with his new team and many were worried he wouldn't be able to stick around on the star-studded Penguins. But he came out and proved doubters wrong with his strong play last season in the absence of Crosby. Neal played in 80 games and racked up 81 points and earned himself a 6 year contract extension worth $5 million. He along with Evgeni Malkin helped to support and carry the team in their captains absence.
Kris Letang: 3rd round 62nd Overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins had an absolutely fantastic draft in 2005. Not only did they get Crosby they managed to get their hands on young defenceman Kris Letang. In 5 seasons with the Pens, Letang has turned into one of the elite defenceman in the NHL and a leader on the Penguins. When Crosby was injured last season with his concussion, many noticed how well Letang flourished by taking more of a leadership role and helping out both on offence and defence. He was voted Penguins rookie of the year in 2008 and was apart of the Cup winning Penguins team in 2009. Letang is a key member of the Penguins and some have even gone as far as to say he is one of their most valuable players and has the biggest impact on the team. Think about it, who else do they have on the back end?
Adam McQuaid: 2nd round 55th Overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets
Another Stanley Cup winner from that phenomenal draft. McQuaid joined the Bruins in 2009 after a trade from the Blue Jackets. At 6 foot 5 he plays more of the "tough guy" role and fits in with the Bruins style of play perfectly, racking up more penalty minutes (216) than goals (6).
There you have it folks, some of the big names that came out of the 2005 draft. 5 of the players listed above have since won a Stanley Cup, all of which have experience success with their teams and the majority have become household names. Let me know, did I miss any big names? What is your favourite or most memorable draft?