Barring a trade, the Calgary Flames will select 26th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. It’s the latest they’ve picked in the first round since 2006 (when they selected Leland Irving).
But recent 26th overall picks haven’t all been like Irving or Matt Pelech, who each played just 13 NHL games. Some of the players selected in that spot over the past decade have played a lot and been really productive during their pro careers.
2009 – Kyle Palmieri (Anaheim)
Palmieri has been a full-time NHL player since the 2012-13 season. He’s played 496 games split between the Ducks and the New Jersey Devils. He’s not an offensive beast, but he’s been a double-digits scorer in every full NHL season he’s had – with between 24 and 30 goals over each of the past four seasons.
Notable players selected after Palmieri: Ryan O’Reilly (33rd), Kyle Clifford (35th), Alex Chiasson (38th), Jakob Silfverberg (39th), Robin Lehner (46th)
2010 – Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington)
Kuznetsov didn’t become a full-time NHLer until 2014-15, but he’s been very productive over 416 games with the Capitals. He’s scored 20-plus goals three times and 70-plus points three times. Finding a reliable scorer late in the first round was tidy work.
Notable players selected after Kuznetsov: Charlie Coyle (28th), Brock Nelson (30th), Justin Faulk (37th), Devante Smith-Pelly (42th), Tyler Toffoli (47th)
2011 – Phillip Danault (Chicago)
Danault became a full-time NHLer in 2015-16. He couldn’t find his footing with the Blackhawks and was traded to Montreal midway through that season. But he’s been a quietly productive player for the Habs in two of his three full seasons there – 12 and 13 goals, and 40 and 53 points.
Notable players selected after Danault: Vladislav Namestnikov (27th), Rickard Rakell (30th), Boone Jenner (37th), John Gibson (39th), Brandon Saad (43th)
2012 – Brendan Gaunce (Vancouver)
Gaunce played 20 games for Vancouver in 2015-16, but has been perpetually NHL adjacent since then – yo-yoing between the Canucks and the AHL. He’s amassed just 15 points so far in 117 NHL appearances.
Notable players selected after Gaunce: Brady Skjei (28th), Tanner Pearson (30th), Jake McCabe (44th), Brock McGinn (47th), Colton Sissons (50th)
2013 – Shea Theodore (Anaheim)
Theodore was promising in bits and pieces of two seasons with the Ducks, enough so that it became clear that he might complicate things for them in regards to the expansion draft. He was traded to the Golden Knights during all of that shuffling, and he’s amassed 29 and 37 points in two full seasons with Golden Knights.
Notable players selected after Theodore: Ryan Hartman (30th), Jacob de la Rose (34th), J.T. Compher (35th), Robert Hagg (41th), Artturi Lehkonen (55th)
2014 – Nikita Scherbak (Montreal)
After four pro seasons, here’s what we think we know about Scherbak: he’s a pretty productive AHL scorer, but he hasn’t been able to translate that to NHL success. He played 37 games for the Canadiens and was claimed off waivers by the Kings early in the 2018-19 season, where he played just eight games before clearing waivers and heading to the AHL.
Notable players selected after Scherbak: Nikolai Goldobin (27th), Adrian Kempe (29th), Ivan Barbashev (33th), Marcus Pettersson (38th), Brandon Montour (55th)
2015 – Noah Juulsen (Montreal)
The good news is that Juulsen has progressed and has played 20+ NHL games in each of the past two seasons. The bad news is injuries limited him a bit over the last two seasons and he only played 24 games last season of any kind. He’s at worst an NHL tweener, but he’ll need to get some games in to make a push for a full-time job.
Notable players selected after Juulsen: Anthony Beauvillier (28th), Christian Fischer (32th), Travis Dermott (34th), Sebastian Aho (35th), Brandon Carlo (37th)
2016 – Tage Thompson (St. Louis)
Since being selected Thompson has played a full year of college, won gold at the World Juniors (and bronze at the World Championship), gone pro, been traded to Buffalo, and began pushing for a full-time NHL gig. He’s played 41 and 65 big league games in consecutive seasons, but his NHL offense hasn’t quite been there yet.
Notable players selected after Thompson: Brett Howden (27th), Alex Debrincat (39th), Sam Girard (47th), Carter Hart (48th), Victor Mete (100th)
2017 – Jake Oettinger (Dallas)
Selecting goalies is a bit of a crap shoot, but Oettinger has had two good college seasons with Boston University and captured bronze for Team USA at the World Juniors since being selected. He’s going pro full-time next season.
Notable players selected after Oettinger: Henri Jokiharju (29th), Eeli Tolvanen (30th), Jared Anderson-Dolan (41th), Alex Formenton (47th), Maxime Comtois (50th)
2018 – Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa)
It’s too early to judge Bernard-Docker, as he’s played just a single season with the University of North Dakota since being selected.
Nobody selected after Bernard-Docker has played a single NHL game yet.
Sum it up
There have been really good players selected at 26th overall that have gone onto been productive NHLers. There have also been a few players that were promising at lower levels but just haven’t been able to translate that into big league success. There have also been really good players that have slipped through the cracks at 26th overall and been selected with later picks.
Sometimes 26th overall will be an Irving or a Pelech. Sometimes they’ll be much, much better, with a bit of preparation and a bit of luck.