Boston Bruins drafted "Jumbo Joe" Thornton first overall in 1997. He played for the Bruins for 7 seasons before joining the Sharks in 2005. Thornton's size (6'4", 222 lbs.) and passing talents have helped him score over 1300 points in 20 years. He was 2005-2006 NHL MVP and led the league in points. Thornton won Olympic gold in 2010 and 2 World Cups in 2004 and 2016.
Mike Modano was picked first by Minnesota (later Dallas) in 1988. Modano leads the franchise in games, goals, assists, and points. He won the Stars' only Stanley Cup in 1999. Modano retired after 1 season with the Red Wings with 1374 points. Modano is the highest-scoring American-born NHL player and helped the USA win the 1996 World Cup.
Mats Sundin was drafted first overall by Quebec (now Colorado) in 1989. He played 4 seasons for the Nordiques, 13 for the Maple Leafs, and 1 for the Canucks. Sundin, born in Europe, won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006. Sundin had 13 30-goal NHL seasons. He's in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Maple Leafs retired his number 13.
Gilbert Perreault was the first player picked in the 1970 NHL draft in Buffalo Sabres history. Perreault played 17 seasons for the Sabres and is their all-time leader in games, goals, assists, and points. Perreault was an 8-time All-Star and 1971 NHL Rookie of the Year. The Quebec native was inducted in 1990.
Winnipeg Jets picked Cornwall Royals' Dale Hawerchuk first in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. Hawerchuk played 9 seasons for the Jets, but also for the Sabres, Blues, and Flyers before retiring in 1997. He's a 5-time NHL All-Star, 1982's Rookie of the Year, and has 100 points 6 times. Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 as the greatest player in Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes history.
Denis Potvin was picked first overall by the Islanders in 1973. From 1980-1983, Potvin captained the Islanders to 4 Stanley Cups. He was the NHL's all-time leader in regular season and playoff goals, assists, and points by a defenseman when he retired. 1976 Canada Cup winner. 1991 inductee.
Washington Capitals drafted Ovechkin first overall in 2004. He's the brand's face. Ovechkin has won 3 Hart awards as NHL MVP, a scoring title, and 6 Rocket Richard trophies. His goal-scoring, physical play, and dynamic temperament are well-known. Still only 31, Ovechkin will be a top NHL scorer. Russia has won 3 World Championships.
Crosby was the Penguins' first-overall choice in 2005. Crosby has won 2 MVPs, 2 scoring championships, 1 goal-scoring title, 2 Stanley Cups, and 1 Conn Smythe since 2005-2006. Crosby has had injury issues, but he's the best player of the last decade. He won two Olympic gold medals (2010 and 2014), a World Cup (2016), and two World Championships (2005 and 2016). Crosby, 29, will keep winning trophies and climbing NHL lists.
"Bloom" He played for the Canadiens, Rangers, and Nordiques. Lafleur won 5 Stanley Cups and led Montreal in points. 3 scoring titles, 2 MVPs, 1 Playoff MVP. The right winger was a critical offensive piece on Montreal's legendary 1970s teams, and fans will never forget his flowing hair as he raced down the ice. The Canadiens retired his #10 in 1988.
Mario Lemieux is the best ever. The 1984 first-overall pick retired in 2006. 6 NHL scoring titles, 3 MVPs, 2 Conn Smythes. Lemieux ranks 8th in NHL points and 10th in goals despite Hodgkin's Lymphoma and injuries. Wayne Gretzky topped Mario Lemieux in 100-point seasons. In points, goals, assists, and games, Lemieux is first. 1997: Inducted.