Best: Mario Lemieux, 1984, Pittsburgh Penguins
Lemieux led the Penguins to some extremely fruitful seasons, especially in the early 1990s. The Hall of Famer is eighth all-time in points scored with 1,723 and led the league on six occasions in points produced, including a career-best 199 1988-89.
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Lemieux is a two-time Stanley Cup champion (1991 and 1992; Blackhawks fans would like to forget the latter), a 10-time All-Star, six-time Art Ross winner, four-time Ted Lindsay winner, three-time Hart winner, two-time Conn Smythe winner and single-time Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and Calder Trophy victor.
Oh, and the reason he won the Masterton in 1993? He overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma and still led the league in points. That alone would put a guy toward the better end of the top first-overall NHL draft picks, but Lemieux obviously did so much more on top of that.
Worst: G Rick DiPietro, 2000, New York Islanders
One of just two netminders ever taken first overall (Michel Plasse by Montreal in 1968 was the other), DiPietro was a huge swing and miss for general manager Mike Milbury, who traded a young Roberto Luongo so he could take DiPietro here.
What followed was a disaster of an NHL career. He maxed out at 28 wins in a single season, was a one-time All-Star and received votes for the Vezina Trophy just once in 11 seasons. He had four serviceable seasons between 2003 and 2008, but then the wheels fell off.
DiPietro was signed to an inconceivable 15-year contract in 2006 and promptly got injured at every turn. Following the 2007-08 season, DiPietro would start in six or fewer games in four of his final five NHL seasons, never again winning more than eight times in a season.
One of his final lasting moments was getting into a fight with Pittsburgh backup Brent Johnson in 2011 and being knocked down — and subsequently injured — by a single punch. DiPietro was out of the league by 2013 and now co-hosts a radio show. Nice job, Milbury.