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Hope for Canucks? Iginla, Kopitar, and other great 11th overall picks

Best-case scenario for the Canucks at 11th overall: draft a future Hall-of-Famer like Jarome Iginla, trade him for another future Hall-of-Famer, and win the Stanley Cup a few years later.
The best ever 11th overall pick in NHL history was Jarome Iginla in 1995.

Barring a trade, the Vancouver Canucks will be picking 11th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. 

It’s not where they hoped they would be after the draft lottery and it’s not where they could have been if they had committed to tanking this past season instead of playing the wheels off their top players down the stretch. But it’s where they’re picking.

The Canucks have picked 11th overall once before in their history, selecting defenceman Michel Petit. Although Dave Andreychuk was taken a few picks later by the Buffalo Sabres, Petit was a decent pick. He played a hardnosed, physical game but could also chip in a few points from the blueline.

Petit played 827 career games in the NHL, 226 of them with the Canucks. His main claim to fame is that he was the first player to suit up for ten different NHL teams. It could have been more except his career was ended by a concussion and by being forced back into on-ice action before he was fully recovered — he was part of the class-action lawsuit brought against the NHL a few years ago for the league’s handling of concussions.

There have been plenty of busts taken 11th overall, such as David Cooper, Jeff Heerema, Pavel Vorobiev, and Duncan Siemens. But there have also been plenty of great players taken 11th overall.

Jarome Iginla is the best ever 11th-overall pick

The greatest player ever selected 11th is undoubtedly Jarome Iginla, who was selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 1995. Iginla never played for the Stars, however, as he was traded with Corey Millen to the Calgary Flames for Joe Nieuwendyk just a few months after he was drafted.

The Stars couldn’t be too upset with how the trade worked out, as Nieuwendyk played well for them and had 21 points in 23 playoff games when they won the 1999 Stanley Cup. But Iginla became one of the best players in the NHL.

Iginla was a three-time First Team All-Star, won two Rocket Richard trophies as the NHL’s leading goalscorer, and also won an Art Ross when he led the league in points in the 2001-02 season. He finished his career with 1300 points in 1554 career games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2020.

It would be completely unreasonable to expect the Canucks to pick a future Hall-of-Famer 11th overall in the 2023 draft, though Canucks fans certainly wouldn’t complain if they did so, traded him for another future Hall-of-Famer, and then won the Stanley Cup a few years later. As unreasonable as it may be, it’s a pretty good best-case scenario.

Here are some other great players taken 11th overall in NHL history.

Ivan Boldirev (1969)

1969 was the first true amateur draft in NHL history. Before 1969, the NHL had a sponsorship system where NHL teams would sponsor amateur teams and players, limiting their NHL future to just one team. Although the NHL instituted a draft in 1963, it was only for the remaining unsponsored players, leaving limited talent available. Sometimes, teams wouldn’t even participate in the draft.

The first draft after the sponsorship system also gave the NHL the first great 11th-overall pick, when the Boston Bruins selected Ivan Boldirev in the first round. A sublime stickhandler, Boldirev proved to be the best player taken in the first round in 1969, tallying 361 goals and 866 points in 1052 career games. 

216 of those games came with the Canucks, as he was traded to Vancouver later in his career along with Darcy Rota from the Atlanta Flames in exchange for Don Lever and Brad Smith. Boldirev was third on the Canucks in scoring in the 1981-82 season behind Thomas Gradin and Stan Smyl and he had 8 goals and 11 points during their run to the 1982 Stanley Cup Final.

Lee Fogolin (1974)

An unheralded member of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty in the eighties, Lee Fogolin was the captain of the Oilers before giving up the “C” to Wayne Gretzky. He was renowned for his toughness and his physical, defensive game helped provide the backstop for the Oilers’ run-and-gun style and he was added to the Oilers’ Hall of Fame in 2022.  

Before that, he was picked 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1974. He wound up playing 924 career games.

John Anderson (1977)

Taken 11th overall in 1977 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Anderson had a magnificent red moustache that rivalled that of Lanny McDonald. He was also an underrated winger, who thrived on a line with Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago after the Canucks traded the two star forwards to the Leafs just before they broke out.

Anderson had 631 points in 814 career games.

Brad Marsh (1978)

Just three players from the first round of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft went on to play 1000 career games: top-two picks Bobby Smith and Ryan Walter, and 11th-overall pick Brad Marsh.

Marsh become a beloved member of the Philadelphia Flyers after he was initially drafted by the Atlanta Flames. Though he was never the most talented player, he was excellent defensively, known for his big hits and for throwing his body in front of shots. He was a nightmare to play against and Flyers fans loved him for it.

Mike Ramsey (1979)

Mike Ramsey, selected 11th overall in 1979, became one of the best defencemen in Buffalo Sabres history. But first, he was the youngest member of the “Miracle on Ice” team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics.

While he never racked up points, Ramsey was smothering defensively and represented the Sabres at five All-Star games. He played 1070 games in his NHL career and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

Sylvain Côté (1984)

Taken 11th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1984, Sylvain Côté played 1171 career games and tallied 435 points. An underrated defenceman, Côté was a strong skater with a hard shot, who put together a couple of 50+ point seasons, but was also steady defensively.

Dave Manson (1985)

One of the toughest players in NHL history, Dave Manson backed up his fighting and heavy hitting with some legitimate skill, with four seasons with double digit goals with the Chicago Blackhawks after they drafted him 11th overall in 1985. 

The physical defenceman had a whopping 2792 penalty minutes, but he also put up 390 points in 1103 career games. 

Scott Young (1986)

Selected 11th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1986, Scott Young was the consummate two-way forward, who had actually played defence in college. His focus on the defensive side of the game didn’t prevent him putting up points, finishing his career with 756 points in 1181 career games.

Young was an ideal complementary player on any forward line but also had a 40-goal season with the St. Louis Blues later in his career. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Mike Sillinger (1989)

After he was drafted 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989, Mike Sillinger played for 12 different NHL teams, which stands as an NHL record. He even played three seasons with the Canucks, putting up 37 points in 1996-97. 

Sillinger was traded an NHL-record nine times in his career because he was the consummate third-line centre, who could win faceoffs, kill penalties, and chip in some points. He chipped in a lot of points, really, with 548 points across 1049 games. 

Brian Rolston (1991)

The New Jersey Devils took Brian Rolston 11th overall in 1991, four picks after the Canucks selected Alek Stojanov. Rolston was never quite a superstar, but he was a steady contributor at both ends of the ice, particularly once he left the Devils and their trap system, freeing him up to put up more points.

Rolston had four 30+ goal seasons and was at his best with the Minnesota Wild in the mid-2000s, where he led them in scoring in two of his three seasons. Rolston was known for his blistering slap shot, which he would even unleash on penalty shots.

Along with his solid defensive game, Rolston put up 342 goals and 761 points in 1256 career games.

Anze Kopitar (2005)

Have you heard of this Anze Kopitar kid? He seems pretty good.

The Los Angeles Kings took Kopitar 11th overall in 2005 and has since racked up 1141 points in 1292 games with them. The only player with more points than Kopitar from the 2005 draft is a guy named Sidney Crosby.

Kopitar also has a pair of Selke trophies as the NHL’s best defensive forward. 

Ryan Ellis (2009)

While his career has potentially stopped short because of an unusual and brutal back injury, Ryan Ellis was a very good defenceman for the Nashville Predators after they drafted him 11th overall in 2009.

Ellis consistently put up 30 points per season and was underrated defensively, using his mobility and hockey sense to make up for his smaller stature.

Filip Forsberg (2012)

It’s fair to say that the Washington Capitals might have some regrets about trading Filip Forsberg after drafting him 11th overall in 2012. Forsberg has become the Predators’ top forward, with his best performance coming in the 2021-22 season, when he scored 42 goals and 84 points in just 69 games.

So far in his career, Forsberg has 511 points in 616 games. 

Kevin Fiala (2014)

The Predators might have regrets of their own about trading away Kevin Fiala, who they selected 11th overall in 2014. In return, the Predators received Mikael Granlund from the Minnesota Wild, but Fiala blossomed into a top-tier player after the trade.

Fiala has 355 points in 488 games so far in his career, including 33-goal, 85-point season in 2021-22. He was subsequently traded again to the Los Angeles Kings, where he quickly became one of their best players. He has legitimate game-breaking talent.

Gabriel Vilardi (2017)

While struggles with a back injury meant it took some time to fully break through after going 11th overall to the Kings in 2017, Gabriel Vilardi was very effective this past season. He had 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games and also played very well defensively. 

Getting a legitimate top-six winger with the 11th overall pick would be an excellent result for the Canucks.

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