The Correlation Between Having Success at the Top of the Draft and Winning Championships

By Coby Maeir on June 10, 2022 at 10:15 am
Zach Werenski
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If a team hits on their high picks, they have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.

That is why Blue Jackets fans should be hopeful heading into the 2022 off-season. Following a season that saw the team miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Blue Jackets have two lottery picks for the second straight draft. In 2021, they selected Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger fifth and 12th overall, respectively, and own the sixth and 12th overall picks this year. Another high pick on the roster is arguably their best player, Zach Werenski, who was selected eighth overall in the 2015 draft.

When you take a look at the past Stanley Cup champions, you will see teams that drafted players in various rounds and acquired players through free agency and trades. However, one constant is that they will have at least one player that was a top-ten pick and/or multiple players that were top-20 picks that have turned out to be foundational pieces for those franchises. Let's take a look at the past champions and the top picks on those teams. One caveat is that I will only include players that were drafted by the team they won a title for, so Ryan McDonagh will not be included on Tampa Bay's list, since he was drafted by Montreal in 2007. 

The reigning back-to-back champs are a prime example of this. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Steven Stamkos first overall and in 2009 they selected Victor Hedman second overall. Three years later, in 2012, they drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy 19th overall. That's only three players, but three foundational pieces that have combined to win two Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, a Norris Trophy, and a Vezina trophy. 

The 2019 St. Louis Blues are one of the only teams on this list of past champions that had just one top-ten pick on the roster, which was Alex Pietrangelo, who the Blues selected fourth overall in 2008. However, they drafted Vladimir Tarasenko 16th overall in 2010 and selected Robert Thomas 20th overall in 2017. 

The 2018 Washington Capitals roster is highlighted by Alex Ovechkin, who the Capitals selected first overall in 2004, and Nicklas Backstrom, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft. Additionally, Tom Wilson was selected 16th overall in 2012 and Jakub Vrana was the 13th overall selection in the 2014 draft. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. They also won in 2009, and I will make a distinction if a player mentioned did not play on all three teams. Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury were selected first overall in 2005 and 2003, respectively. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, who only played on the 2009 team, were selected second overall in 2004 and 2006, respectively. 

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015. They selected Patrick Kane first overall in 2007 and Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006. 

The Blue Jackets have drafted at least one foundational piece in Werenski, and are hoping Johnson and Sillinger become the same. If they do, and the team hits on the sixth and 12th picks in this year's draft, the Stanley Cup could be coming to Columbus in the not-so-distant future. 

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