To continue from yesterday’s post, we begin in 2010…
Taylor Hall/RNH/Nail Yakupov: 2010-12 to Edmonton
The Black Hole of the Edmonton Oilers #1 Overall picks. 3 straight years, 1 player remains. There isn’t much to say about these guys that hasn’t already been well-documented. Yakupov and RNH simply did not live up to lofty expectations, and that’s on them. Taylor Hall has always been a top-tier winger since his rookie season, but they lacked a real spine since he got there. McDavid came along but that was apparently the end of the road for Hall, who then got shipped to New Jersey and promptly won a Hart Trophy. Edmonton makes no sense. McDavid will probably retire an Oiler, and that’s because they’ll have no choice but to fix themselves for him, because he’s worth it. Or maybe he just ends up in Toronto too, right?
Nathan MacKinnon: 2013 to Colorado
MacKinnon got drafted into a great and fairly stable franchise. They’re long removed from their Sakic/Forsberg/Roy-led hay day, but things could have been a lot worse for a 1st overall pick. A theme with the “finished last but not tire-fire’ franchises, are that they have a backbone. A leader. Although Joe Sakic doesn’t lace them up anymore, his impact is still felt in this room every day, and that type of influence matters around NHL rinks. MacKinnon has enjoyed great success since entering the league and it doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.
Aaron Ekblad: 2014 to Florida
The undisputed 1st overall pick in 2014, Ekblad brought a unique combination of size and offensive skill to round out a prototypical “modern day” NHL defenseman. Years ago, you may have taken pity on a guy who was going to the Florida Panthers, but he’s emerged with a Calder Trophy, and a nice group of good players around him. Ekblad may just find his jersey in the rafters as a career Panther.
Connor McDavid: 2015 to Edmonton
We all remember this moment:
Well, this now seems like an ancient photo of a fresh-faced McJesus. He’s come along way from the “pinpoint the moment his heart breaks” to now, an NHL scoring champion, Hart Trophy winner, a Western Conference final appearance, and he’s also caused the highlight reel to run out of film. Management has taken steps to solidify the middle of the ice with the signing of Draisaitl, but they do still lack scoring wingers. McDavid has committed his foreseeable future to Oil Country, and if they can shore up the wings to ensure perennial playoff appearances, that should go a long way to keep McJesus right there. It doesn’t hurt that Edmonton occasionally entertains the Great One in the building… Not a bad mentor to have at your disposal.
Auston Matthews: 2016 to Toronto
For the sake of sample size, Auston Matthews will be our last spotlight here. He had the best 1st game a rookie could dream of, potting 4 goals in his well-documented debut, and it culminated in his team clinching a playoff spot later that year with him scoring his 40th of the season. Although being knocked out of the 1st round that year, he again celebrated a Calder Trophy. In the past, fans and critics alike wouldn’t be totally surprised if Matthews took his skills elsewhere in search of a Championship. And while nobody can predict exactly what will happen in the future, the Toronto Maple Leafs are different now. They have, in Babcock’s words, ‘made it safe’ for players to be here. Management has cultivated a culture, a prospect pool, and a lot of skill around their top centre, and given him a ton of excuses to stay. I’m not afraid to jinx this one bit when I say Auston Matthews will not wear another sweater his entire career.
Care to disagree? Fight me about it here! @HollandGregJ on Twitter
*edit: originally had McDavid as the Calder Winner. He did not win the Calder as it went to Panarin that season. In my opinion, that is an outrage.