Looking at the Last 25 No. 3 Overall Picks and Seeing How They Fared in the NHL

By Coby Maeir on May 10, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Logan Cooley after being selected as the number three overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets have the third overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, which will take place on June 28-29 in Nashville. 

However, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is confident the team will select a "great player" with their pick.  

How many of the last 25 No. 3 overall picks have been great players? First, here are some numbers. Including last year's No. 3 selection, Logan Cooley, who has yet to play in the NHL, the last 25 No. 3 picks have averaged a career of approximately 654 regular-season games played, 135 goals, 245 assists, and 380 points, according to data from stathead.com.

That can be broken up by position, as the 18 forwards have averaged 596 regular-season games played, posting approximately 168-269--437. The seven defensemen have averaged around 794 regular-season games played, recording 56-187--243. 

For players like Cooley who have either yet to make their NHL debut or have yet to reach 100 games in the NHL, it's difficult to say if they lived up to being such a high pick, and some players have had good careers, just not for the teams that drafted them, so grading these picks will take some nuance. Just for reference, unless otherwise noted, all stats are from the regular season. Now, let's get to the last 25 No. 3 overall picks, starting from 1998 and moving up to 2022.

1998: Brad Stuart, D, San Jose Sharks

Whenever someone plays over 1,000 NHL games, and Stuart played in 1,056 (80-255--335), that is a successful career. Stuart also made the all-rookie team in 2000 and played 21:40 a night over 21 games in the 2008 playoffs, helping the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup. This was a solid selection by the San Jose Sharks, especially when you consider that he was part of the package that they sent to Boston in exchange for Joe Thornton.

1999: Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver Canucks

Sedin is already in the Hall of Fame after a stellar 17-year NHL career where he played 1330 games, posted 240-830-1070, and won the 2010 Hart and Art Ross trophies. A great selection here by Vancouver.

2000: Marian Gaborik, RW, Minnesota Wild

Gaborik was the first pick in Wild history, and like Sedin, was a great selection. In 17 seasons, he played 1035 games, posting 407-408--815, and was a key member of the Stanley Cup-winning 2014 Los Angeles Kings, where he scored a league-leading 14 goals in the playoffs. He also appeared in 34 games for the Blue Jackets in 2012-13 and 2013-14, posting 9-13--22. Gaborik may not be in the Hall of Fame, but he still had a great career. 

2001: Alexander Svitov, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

This is where we encounter our first bust of the list so far. Svitov played just three NHL seasons, appearing in 179 games where he registered 13-24--37, including 105 games with the Blue Jackets in 2003-04 and 2006-07.

2002: Jay Bouwmeester, D, Florida Panthers

Bouwmeester had a fantastic career, playing in 1240 games where he posted 88-336--424, made the 2003 All-Rookie team, and won the Stanley Cup in 2019 with the Blues. Like Gaborik, Bouwmeester is proof you can have a great career without being in the Hall of Fame. 

2003: Nathan Horton, RW, Florida Panthers

Horton had a solid career, playing in 627 games, scoring 203-218--421, and winning the Cup in 2011 with Boston. We'll never know how good he could have been due to several injuries that derailed his career, as he was out of the league after his age-28 season, which he spent in Columbus.

2004: Cam Barker, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Barker is definitely closer to Svitov on the bust meter, having played just 310 games and recording 21-75--96. However, he was traded to Minnesota for Nick Leddy, who helped the Blackhawks win championships, so it wasn't a total flop.

2005: Jack Johnson, D, Carolina Hurricanes

Johnson may not have lived up to the billing of a No. 3 overall pick, but he's still playing, recording 1107 games played with 74-246--320 along with a Stanley Cup in 2022. He spent seven seasons in Columbus from 2011-12 through 2017-18.

2006: Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

Toews may be the best player on this entire list. He's played 1,067 games and scored 372-511--883 while being one of the game's best two-way centers. He's won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, a Selke, and was named one of the NHL's 100 greatest players in 2017-18. From the time he entered the league in 2007-08 through the 2014-15 season, only Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby recorded more wins above replacement, per evolving-hockey.com. Toews is one of the more underrated players of the past 15 years and is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

2007: Kyle Turris, C, Phoenix Coyotes

Turris had a solid career, posting 168-257--425 in 776 games. He also played more games than the two players drafted directly after him.

2008: Zach Bogosian, D, Atlanta Thrashers

Bogosian has had a good career. He's played 783 games, scored 57-156--213, and won a Stanley Cup. However, the next pick in that draft was Alex Pietrangelo, who's had a far better career than Bogosian. Nevertheless, Bogosian was a solid pick.

2009: Matt Duchene, C, Colorado Avalanche

Another player who's had a solid career, Duchene is approaching 1,000 games (976), and he's recorded 316-428--744, including being named to the All-Rookie team in 2010. He was part of the 2019 Blue Jackets team that swept the Lightning, scoring 5-5--10 in 10 playoff games.

2010: Erik Gudbranson, D, Florida Panthers

Known as a defensive defenseman, Gudbranson has played in 711 games, posting 28-79--107 across a 12-year career that finds him entering the second year of a four-year deal, $16M deal he signed with the Blue Jackets in 2022. Maybe he hasn't been what you'd expect as a No. 3 overall pick, but playing over 700 NHL games is impressive.

2011: Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers

For the first time since 2006, I can confidently say this was a great pick. Huberdeau ranks first in games and assists in Panthers history, and has recorded 213-455--668 in 750 games, in addition to winning the Calder Trophy in 2013. 

2012: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal Canadiens

Galchenyuk has scored 146-208--354 in 654 games. However, the 2012 NHL Draft isn't great, with the best players all being picked outside the top four, so considering he's played more games than the top two picks in that draft, maybe he's not a total bust.

2013: Jonathan Drouin, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Drouin spent just three seasons in Tampa before being traded for Mikhail Sergachev. The Lightning certainly look like thieves in the aftermath, as Drouin has posted 77-204--281 in 485 games. However, he revealed that he's had to deal with anxiety during parts of his career.

2014: Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers

I said Toews might be the best player on this list, but you could argue that the honor should go to Leon Draisaitl, who has scored 306-438--744 in 638 games, winning the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, and Hart Trophies in 2019-20. Additionally, only Wayne Gretzky has a higher points/game average than Draisaitl in the playoffs

2015: Dylan Strome, C, Arizona Coyotes

Strome isn't a bust, but he isn't close to the player drafted directly after him either, with that player being Mitch Marner. However, he's still posted a respectable 90-145--235 in 354 games and is about to enter the first season of a five-year, $25M contract with the Capitals.

2016: Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

Dubois has established himself as one of the premiere two-way centers in the league throughout his six-year career, posting 129-173--302 in 434 games played.

2017: Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas Stars

While Heiskanen isn't better than Cale Makar who was drafted one pick after him, this is still a slam-dunk pick. Heiskanen has been one of the league's best defensemen, setting the Dallas Stars' record for points by a blue-liner in a single season in 2022-23. He's recorded 44-160--204 in 354 games and is on a Hall of Fame arc. 

2018: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Montreal Canadiens

Kotkaniemi has had a decent career, but not one that fits the bill of a No. 3 overall pick. He's scored 52-82--134 in 319 games, and he's still young, so there's potential for him to become worthy of a No. 3 selection.

2019: Kirby Dach, C, Chicago Blackhawks

I'm not going to get into how the Blackhawks messed up Dach's development because that would take too long and this is a Blue Jackets site. After being traded to Montreal, it looks like Dach, who has posted 33-64--97 in 210 games, can finally bloom into a solid power forward.

2020: Tim Stützle, LW, Ottawa Senators

If it weren't for the aforementioned Draisaitl, we might be talking about Stützle as the league's best German player. He's recorded 73-104--177 in 210 games, including 39-51--90 in 78 games this season. 

2021: Mason McTavish, C, Anaheim Ducks

While he's played just 89 games, McTavish has posted 19-27--46 and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him. 

2022: Logan Cooley, C, Arizona Coyotes

He hasn't signed his NHL entry-level contract yet, but this is looking like a great pick by Arizona. As a freshman at Univ. of Minnesota in 2022-23, Cooley posted 22-38--60 in 39 games, helping lead the Golden Gophers to the National Championship game while being the Big Ten's co-scoring leader. He was also a top-three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to the top player in college hockey and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Seeing Cooley play in person, he looks like the real deal.

Of the 25 players listed, there were some solid players, some great players, and some busts. The three best players on this list are arguably Toews, Draisaitl, and Sedin, in whatever order you'd pick. Heiskanen, Dubois, Gaborik, Bouwmeester, Huberdeau, and Stützle probably make up the second tier of players, although you could argue there should be two tiers within that second tier.

Anyway, this just shows that it depends on the draft whether or not a player is worth the No. 3 pick. For example, if the player the Blue Jackets draft has the career of Galchenyuk, it will be a monumental disappointment. But, Galchenyuk had the best career of the top-four picks in his draft. On the other hand, if the player they select has a career like Heiskanen's, they'll be ecstatic, even if the player isn't the best in this year's class. 

Fortunately, this year's class looks more like one where the Heiskanen example comes to fruition more than the Galchenyuk example, so the Blue Jackets and their fans should be excited about who they select in June.

The Last 25 No. 22 Overall Picks (data via Stathead)
Year Round Overall Team Player Nat. Pos Age To Amateur Team Amateur Lg. NHL GP G A PTS +/- PIM
1998 1 3 San Jose Sharks Brad Stuart CA D 18 2016 Regina Pats WHL x 1056 80 255 335 8 565
1999 1 3 Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin SE C 18 2018 MoDo Hockey Sweden x 1330 240 830 1070 165 680
2000 1 3 Minnesota Wild Marian Gaborik CS RW 18 2018 HK Dukla Trencin Slovakia x 1035 407 408 815 95 492
2001 1 3 Tampa Bay Lightning Alexander Svitov SU C 18 2007 Avangard Omsk Russia x 179 13 24 37 -22 223
2002 1 3 Florida Panthers Jay Bouwmeester CA D 18 2020 Medicine Hat Tigers WHL x 1240 88 336 424 -17 635
2003 1 3 Florida Panthers Nathan Horton CA RW 18 2014 Oshawa Generals OHL x 627 203 218 421 54 567
2004 1 3 Chicago Blackhawks Cam Barker CA D 18 2013 Medicine Hat Tigers WHL x 310 21 75 96 -29 290
2005 1 3 Carolina Hurricanes Jack Johnson US D 18 2023 USA U-18 Development Team USDP/NAHL x 1107 74 246 320 -129 599
2006 1 3 Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews CA C 18 2023 North Dakota WCHA x 1067 372 511 883 148 607
2007 1 3 Phoenix Coyotes Kyle Turris CA C 18 2022 Burnaby BCHL x 776 168 257 425 -7 343
2008 1 3 Atlanta Thrashers Zach Bogosian US D 18 2023 Peterborough Petes OHL x 783 57 156 213 -82 715
2009 1 3 Colorado Avalanche Matt Duchene CA C 18 2023 Brampton Battalion OHL x 976 316 428 744 -92 266
2010 1 3 Florida Panthers Erik Gudbranson CA D 18 2023 Kingston Frontenacs OHL x 711 28 79 107 -111 765
2011 1 3 Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau CA LW 18 2023 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL x 750 213 455 668 43 377
2012 1 3 Montreal Canadiens Alex Galchenyuk US C 18 2023 Sarnia Sting OHL x 654 146 208 354 -85 257
2013 1 3 Tampa Bay Lightning Jonathan Drouin CA LW 18 2023 Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL x 485 77 204 281 -86 185
2014 1 3 Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl DE C 18 2023 Prince Albert Raiders WHL x 638 306 438 744 29 230
2015 1 3 Arizona Coyotes Dylan Strome CA C 18 2023 Erie Otters OHL x 354 90 145 235 -34 110
2016 1 3 Columbus Blue Jackets Pierre-Luc Dubois CA LW 18 2023 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles QMJHL x 434 129 173 302 13 383
2017 1 3 Dallas Stars Miro Heiskanen FI D 18 2023 HIFK Finland x 354 44 160 204 6 96
Year Round Overall Team Player Nat. Pos Age To Amateur Team Amateur Lg. NHL GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2018 1 3 Montreal Canadiens Jesperi Kotkaniemi FI C 18 2023 Assat Finland x 319 52 82 134 2 148
2019 1 3 Chicago Blackhawks Kirby Dach CA C 18 2023 Saskatoon Blades WHL x 210 33 64 97 -24 114
2020 1 3 Ottawa Senators Tim Stützle DE LW 18 2023 Adler Mannheim Germany x 210 73 104 177 -48 105
2021 1 3 Anaheim Ducks Mason Mctavish CH C 18 2023 Peterborough Petes OHL x 89 19 27 46 -16 46
2022 1 3 Arizona Coyotes Logan Cooley US C 18   USA U-18 Development Team USDP/USHL              
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