The Chicago Blackhawks have basked in the glory of winning the top overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. It’s expected they take Connor Bedard with that pick and become the envy of every other team in the league. Welcome to the second piece of the Rebuild Report series on the top overall picks.
Chicago Hockey Now has gone through every single first overall pick dating back to the start of the Cap Era. We started yesterday with the number one picks from 2005-2007. Today we look at the 2008-2010 selections.
2008: Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
(1003 Games: Goals-Assists-Points) – (515-541-1056)
Stamkos has been a mainstay in Tampa and when he was drafted, was considered to be the consensus #1 pick in the 2008 draft. It turned out that way. He was given some latitude to develop into a star, which is exactly what happened.
Rebuild Status in 2008
The Lightning were four seasons removed from their first Stanley Cup championship and were trying to rebuild a new foundation for the franchise. Stamkos was the first step. The Lightning were playoff participants the three seasons prior to the 2007-08 seasons so they were in an odd spot. They would miss the playoffs again in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before making to the Eastern Conference Final. After that, they’d miss until 2014-15. Of the first four entries in this series so far, Tampa was in the most awkward stage of rebuilding.
Championship Window Length, Cup Hauls, and Stamkos’s Factor in It
Tampa got within an eyelash of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 before bowing out in seven games to Boston. From there, then general manager Steve Yzerman let the team bottom out a bit and wouldn’t truly open the contention window until the 2014-15 season. Stamkos, along with Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, and netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy would build Tampa into a powerhouse. After several near misses, the Lightning would break through with two back-to-back Cups in 2020 and 2021. They fell in six games to Colorado in 2022, missing a third consectutive Cup. Stamkos would fight through injury but was absolutely a main driver of the Lightning’s success in those years.
Stamkos is as close to generational as it gets. He is absolutely a star player of the highest order. His number will be retired and he’ll be a first-ballot hall of fame selection. Interestingly, he nearly became a free agent in 2016 before Yzerman locked him up in the 11th hour. It would have been a feeding frenzy for teams looking for primiere scoring and leadership. He stayed–and so too did Tampa’s status as one of the NHL’s best franchises. Two Cups and several awards later, Stamkos was front and center for Tampa Bay’s success.
Did the First Overall Pick Fare As Expected? Yes
2009: John Tavares – New York Islanders
(1029 Games: Goals-Assists-Points) – (427-528-975)
Rebuild Status in 2009
The Islanders made the playoffs two years prior, but had a brutal campaign in 2008-09 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Along comes Tavares, who was a sure-bet top player who had exceptional status as a 15-year-old entry into the Ontario Hockey League. They wouldn’t qualify for another four seasons.
Championship Window Length, Cup Hauls, and Tavares’s Factor in It
Tavares’ case is one that is a bit complicated. He was the sure bet star of the Islanders but on a flawed team. Of the teams profiled so far, the Islanders never really found the consistency that the Penguins, Blackhawks, Blues, and Lightning had. They would make the playoffs and then miss a few and by the time they hired head coach Barry Trotz in 2018, Tavares was off to Toronto in free agency.
There were no Stanley Cup hauls, not even a Final appearance for the Isles. The furthest they made it was the second round and even then they were bounced in five games. Tavares’ final two years on the island resulted in the team missing the playoffs. Aside from his eye popping numbers in his final season with the team, the Islanders could never really put it all together with Tavares in tow–which couldn’t be pinned on him.
Yes he delivered the results on the score sheet but his numbers were never at the level of what’s expected of a top overall pick. He never hit 50 goals. He came close to 40 a couple times, and never had more than 86 points in a season. Compared to other entries on the list so far (Crosby, Kane, Stamkos), Tavares failed to deliver on the promise. However, he never truly had the supporting cast that the aforementioned three enjoyed. Perhaps it’s just an example of things not working out as either party intended.
Did the First Overall Pick Fare As Expected? Not exactly
2010: Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
(822 Games: Goals-Assists-Points) – (264-429-693)
Rebuild Status in 2010
The Oilers were in the hockey wilderness. Aside from their miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, it had been a nightmare in the front office, the bench and also the roster since. Hall would be the first of four (4!) top overall picks in the decade for Edmonton. Three of them would be in consecutive years (2010, 2011, 2012). Yet they could never do anything with it.
It would take them six more seasons to finally reach the playoffs. From there, it would be another three before they would make consecutive appearances. The rebuild status for Edmonton seemed to be indefinite until Connor McDavid would rescue them in 2015.
Championship Window Length, Cup Hauls, and Hall’s Factor in It
Being that Edmonton wouldn’t even sniff the playoffs until later two years after Hall left, there’s little to focus on here. Hall’s numbers never reached what they should have been and he was unceremoniasly traded to New Jersey in 2016 for Adam Larsson. The trade paid dividends for the Devils, not so much for Edmonton. Of the entries so far, this pick has been the one that never really came close to being what either thought it would be.
It’s the first of two for Edmonton that never panned out. Hall’s numbers were far below the expectations of a top overall pick, and the Oilers struggled to find any sort of consistency in the front office, making it a nightmare for the team on the ice to succeed. Worse, gifted three consecutive first-round picks in consecutive seasons, Edmonton never could figure it out. Hall would have a great season in New Jersey during the 2017-18 season but hasn’t come close to posting those numbers since. Between injury and shuffling to other teams via trades, this is an example of a first overall pick that really didn’t work out as anyone intended. Circumstances likely damned both to the results.
Did the First Overall Pick Fare As Expected? No