Best: F Alex Ovechkin, 2004, Washington Capitals; F Sidney Crosby, 2005, Pittsburgh Penguins
Did you know Crosby didn’t win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie? No, it instead went to Ovechkin … who was taken with the first-overall pick the year prior. But both guys have gone on to live up to their billing.
Ovechkin and Crosby were selected by franchises, like the Blackhawks in 2007, that were severely down on their luck. Both teams had been among the league’s worst in recent seasons, necessitating a No. 1 selection. And both front offices succeeded in a big way.
Ovechkin is a goal-scoring machine who has led the league in goals six times, been named an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons, and who has won the Maurice Richard Trophy (six times), the Hart Trophy (three times), the Ted Lindsay Award (three times) and the aforementioned Calder Trophy. While he still hasn’t attained the ultimate goal — the Stanley Cup — it isn’t for a lack of trying.
Crosby, meanwhile, has given Pittsburgh a pair of Cups, including the most-recent version this year. When not dealing with injuries, Crosby is the league’s best player. He is a two-time Hart winner, a three-time Ted Lindsay winner, a two-time Art Ross winner, a single-time Maurice Richard and Conn Smythe victor and a 10-time All-Star in 11 seasons.
Worst: D Chris Phillips, 1996, Ottawa Senators
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The fact that Phillips is still in the league and has spent his entire 17-year NHL career in Ottawa despite being such a disappointing first-overall pick is a testament to … the Senators’ front office being clueless? It’s a weird situation, but there’s little doubt Phillips is among the worst, if not the worst first-overall pick still playing today.
Phillips hasn’t led Ottawa to much of anything, as the team has made the Cup Final just once in his tenure (losing to Anaheim in 2007). He eats a lot of minutes and blocks a lot of shots, but he just hasn’t been great at a whole lot in his career.
Phillips has maxed out at eight goals (2006-07) and 26 points (same season). He’s a two-time All-Star and has never won a postseason honor. I guess he’s provided some valuable team leadership in his time, but you’d like to think the Sens were expecting more from Phillips than leadership with the draft’s top choice.
Next: Lemieux and DiPietro