The History Of Six: What Recent Drafts Tell Us About The 6th Pick In The NHL Draft

By Ed Francis on June 6, 2022 at 11:58 am
Derrick Brassard was one of three selections with the sixth pick for the Columbus Blue Jackts.

There's no way to know precisely how the 2022 NHL Draft will shake out, but history will be in the Columbus Blue Jackets' favor in the upcoming draft.

Owners of the 6th and 12th overall picks, the Blue Jackets are in prime position to add two contributing players to their roster for the future. 

But what kind of players have been picked in these spots in past drafts? 

In the first of a two-part series, we look at the history of the sixth pick of the NHL Draft. It's full of names in NHL history, from Paul Coffey (1980) and Peter Forsberg (1991), to former Blue Jackets Scott Hartnell (2000), Mikko Koivu (2001), and Sam Gagner (2007). 

One thing is for sure: the 6th overall pick is going to find his way into the NHL. Minus last year's selection, the last time a pick at number six didn't make it to the league was in 1969. In fact, 20 times since 1963, the spot has produced a player with at least 400 career points. 

Historically speaking, the sixth overall pick has not worked out for the Blue Jackets. They've owned the pick three times — in 2005, 2006, and 2008 — and selected Gilbert Brule, Derrick Brassard, and Nikita Filatov with those selections. 

Combined, those three players skated a total of 499 games with Columbus, scored 76 goals, added 138 assists, and finished with a total of 214 points. That's an average of 0.42 points per game. When you consider that a vast majority of that production came from Brassard (a stat line of 58-111-169 in 309 games), it begs the question if the other two picks (Brule and Filatov combined for a stat line of 18-27-45 in 190 games, or an average of 0.23ppg) were two of the biggest busts in Columbus draft history.

The good news? When pretty much any other team has had the sixth pick, it's worked out. After Columbus' 2008 pick of Filatov, the next eight picks in the spot have at least 300 games at the NHL level, and all have at least 100 more points:

Pick Six: 2009-2016
Year Player GP G A P PPG
2009 D Oliver Ekman-Larsson 848 133 284 417 0.49
2010 F Brett Connolly 536 101 94 195 0.36
2011 F Mika Zibanejad 685 229 286 515 0.75
2012 D Hampus Lindholm 591 57 169 226 0.38
2013 F Sean Monahan 656 212 250 462 0.70
2014 F Jake Virtanen 317 55 45 100 0.31
2015 F Pavel Zacha 386 69 110 179 0.46
2016 F Matthew Tkachuk 431 152 230 382 0.88

Eliminate Vancouver's 2014 selection of Jake Virtanen, who has the weakest numbers across the board, and it gets even better: Every player has no less than 386 games (Pavel Zacha) and no less than 179 points (also Zacha). 

Several of these players, if added to the Blue Jackets roster today, would be game-changers. Both Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Hampus Lindholm would be on the top line of defense, Matthew Tkachuk would be a 24-year-old top line winger, and just look at what Mike Zibanejad is doing in the NHL this postseason. 

It's hard to tell with more recent picks, but there's at least been some potential in drafts of the last five years:

Pick Six: 2017-2021
Year Player GP G A P PPG
2017 F Cody Glass 74 9 14 23 0.31
2018 F Filip Zadina 160 25 36 61 0.38
2019 D Moritz Seider 82 7 43 50 0.61
2020 D Jamie Drysdale 105 7 33 40 0.38
2021 D Simon Edvinsson - - - - -

Detroit, as Columbus did about 15 years ago, had three 6th overall picks in a span of four years. It's worked out for the Red Wings, though: Moritz Seider is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league's best rookie. Teammate Filip Zadina tallied 10-14-24 in 74 games with Detroit this season.

More recently, Anaheim rookie defenseman Jamie Drysdale held his own as a 19-year-old (until the final few weeks of the season) for the rebuilding Ducks. Another Red Wing defenseman — Simon Edvinsson — has not yet made his NHL debut.

If Columbus opts for a defender with the sixth selection, it will mark the fourth consecutive draft in which a defenseman has went with the number six pick.

Let's just hope this sixth pick from Columbus breaks the curse of 6-6-6 from years past.