Nikita Kucherov was 20 years old when he made his NHL debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2013-14 season, but the forward didn’t need long to make an impression on coach Jon Cooper.
“I remember having meetings with him when he was a rookie,” Cooper said. “Just his knowledge of the game. … I might be the head coach of the team, but it doesn’t make me the smartest guy in the room, and you learn from players, and I was in awe of some of the … you know, I’d look at a play and see it a certain way, and then ‘Kuch’ might see it a different way, and I remember thinking, like, ‘Wow, he’s … I think he’s right.’ And so, you could see he had that mentality.”
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Kucherov didn’t get the ice time he hoped for that season, averaging 13:07 in 52 games. But in six seasons since, he’s become a centerpiece of two straight Stanley Cup championships.
“The guy’s a special, special player,” Lightning forward Blake Coleman said. “Obviously he’s a big reason why we’re here celebrating, a big part of this team. He’s on another level.”
The Lightning chose Kucherov in the second round (No. 58) and he’s developed into one of the top players in the NHL during his seven seasons. But not every player picked at the 2011 draft has reached that lofty status. So with 10 years of hindsight, how would that draft go if the same players made available today?
1. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning (58)
Kucherov leads the 2011 draft class in goals (221) and points (547) despite being 17th in games played (515) and missing the entire 2020-21 regular season while recovering from hip surgery. He won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award as best player as voted by the NHL Players’ Association after he led the League with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 2018-19. It was the most points in a season by a player since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) in 1995-96. He led the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games, after he was first with 34 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in the 2019-20 postseason. The only other players to score at least 30 points in consecutive playoff seasons are Wayne Gretzky (1983-85, 1987-88) and Lemieux (1991-92). He also has a plus-149 even-strength goal differential, the best of any player in his draft class.
2. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets (7)
Scheifele, the first draft pick of the Jets after the franchise relocated from Atlanta in 2011, has become a franchise player in his 10 NHL seasons. He’s scored at least 20 goals in six straight seasons, including a personal best 38 in 2018-19. He’s third among players in his draft class in goals (201) and points (507).
3. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche (2)
Landeskog tied Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the lead among NHL rookies in 2011-12 with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) and won the Calder Trophy voted as NHL rookie of the year. He’s scored at least 20 goals eight times in 10 NHL seasons, with a high of 34 in 2018-19. He became the youngest full-time captain of an NHL team when he was named Avalanche captain at 19 years, 286 days old Sept. 4, 2012. He’s been a key presence on one of the top lines in the NHL with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, and he’s second among players in the 2011 draft class in goals (218), points (512) and games played (687).
4. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers (3)
Huberdeau tied Nail Yakupov for the scoring lead among rookies in 2012-13 with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 48 games and won the Calder Trophy. His best season was 2018-19, when he tied for 12th in the NHL with 92 points (30 goals, 62 assists), and he’s one of six NHL players with at least 20 goals and 40 assists each of the past four seasons (Leon Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Connor McDavid, Mark Stone). His 330 assists lead the 2011 draft class and his 498 points are fourth.
5. Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers (8)
Couturier’s strong defensive play earned him a full-time NHL role as an 18-year-old in 2011-12. After Couturier was used primarily as a checking center during his first six NHL seasons, he broke out with back-to-back 30-goal seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19. He won the Selke Trophy voted as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2019-20 after finishing second in 2017-18. Couturier plays in all situations for the Flyers and is the only player in his draft class to average at least 2:00 of ice time per game on the power play (2:01) and penalty kill (2:19). His 692 games are the most among players drafted in 2011, and his 174 goals and 443 points are seventh.
6. Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa Senators (6)
Zibanejad has emerged as a No. 1 center in five seasons since being traded to the New York Rangers on July 18, 2016. He was fifth in the NHL last season with 41 goals in 57 games, including five against the Washington Capitals on March 5, 2020. Zibanejad has scored at least 24 goals in four straight seasons, and his 200 are fourth among players drafted in 2011.
7. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames (104)
Gaudreau led NHL rookies with 40 assists in 2014-15, tied Stone for the lead with 64 points and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy. He scored 30 goals in 2015-16 and tied MacKinnon for seventh in the NHL with 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 2018-19. He’s 16th in games played in his draft class (520), but his 494 points are fifth and his average of 0.95 points per game are second to Kucherov (1.06).
8. Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (208)
Chosen with the fourth-to-last pick of the 2011 draft, Palat has been one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL during his nine seasons. His 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists) in 2013-14 were second among rookies behind MacKinnon, and he was runner-up to the Avalanche center in voting for the Calder Trophy. In 2014-15, Palat scored an NHL career-high 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) in 75 games, and was second on the Lightning last season with 11 goals, including three game-winners, during the postseason to help them win the Stanley Cup. Palat is ninth in his draft class with 374 points, but first at plus-132 and second with a plus-134 even-strength on-ice goal differential.
9. Dougie Hamilton, D, Boston Bruins (9)
Hamilton’s 106 goals, 235 assists, 341 points and plus-72 rating are the most among defensemen selected in 2011. His 17 goals for the Flames in 2017-18 tied with Victor Hedman of the Lightning for the NHL lead at the position, and his 18 goals in 2018-19 were the most by a Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers defenseman since the franchise moved to North Carolina in 1997. He’s the only NHL defenseman to score at least 10 goals in each of the past seven seasons, and his 94 goals in that span are tied with Roman Josi for third, behind Brent Burns (120) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (96).
10. Jordan Binnington, G, St. Louis Blues (88)
Binnington didn’t start his first NHL game until Jan. 7, 2019, when he had a 25-save shutout against the Flyers. That win kicked off the Blues’ memorable run to the Stanley Cup, with Binnington emerging as their most important player. He went 24-5-1 and led the NHL with a 1.89 goals-against average, then during the playoffs became the first rookie goalie with 16 wins. He won 30 games in 2019-20, and his 72 wins and 125 games are second among goalies in his draft class.
11. John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks (39)
Gibson had a shutout in his NHL debut against the Vancouver Canucks on April 7, 2014. At 20 years, 297 days old, he was the youngest NHL goalie with a shutout in his first game since Darren Puppa (20 years, 223 days) in 1985. He also had a shutout in his first NHL postseason game, defeating the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round on May 10, 2014. Gibson shared the William Jennings Trophy with Frederik Andersen for the Ducks allowing the fewest goals in 2015-16. His 148 wins and 22 shutouts are the most among goalies drafted in 2011.
12. Brandon Saad, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (43)
Saad has scored at least 20 goals five times in 10 NHL seasons. He led NHL rookies with a plus-17 rating in 2012-13 and helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. He was part of Chicago’s Cup championship in 2015, scoring the game-winning goal against the Lightning in Game 4 of the Final and assisting on Patrick Kane‘s insurance goal in the Cup-clinching 2-0 win in Game 6. His 184 goals are sixth in his draft class and his 371 points are 10th.
13. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers (1)
Nugent-Hopkins tied Landeskog for the rookie scoring lead with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 62 games in 2011-12 and was second to Landeskog in Calder Trophy voting. He’s scored at least 20 goals four times in his past seven seasons, including a personal-best 28 in 2018-19. His 185 goals are fifth among players in his draft class, and his 293 assists and 478 points each are sixth.
14. Vincent Trocheck, C, Florida Panthers (64)
Trocheck emerged as a top scorer for the Panthers in 2015-16 with 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in 76 games. He led them with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 2016-17 and 31 goals in 2017-18. Trocheck was traded to the Hurricanes on Feb. 24, 2020, and this season was second on Carolina with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 47 games. His average of 0.69 points per game (327 points in 474 games) is eighth in his draft class.
15. J.T. Miller, C, New York Rangers (15)
Miller has scored at least 20 goals four times in his nine NHL seasons. Last season he scored an NHL career-best 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in 69 games to lead the Canucks, and 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 17 playoff games to help them reach the second round for the first time since 2011. Miller is 11th in his draft class with 355 points (137 goals, 218 assists).
16. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Ottawa Senators (96)
Pageau has reached the third round of the playoffs three times in his nine NHL seasons, including the past two with the New York Islanders. He became the first player in seven years to score four goals in a playoff game when he did it for the Senators against the Rangers in Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Second Round, and his eight goals led Ottawa, which lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Pageau has played a key third-line role for the Islanders the past two seasons. He’s averaged 0.53 points in 76 postseason games, up from 0.43 in 489 regular-season games.
17. William Karlsson, C, Anaheim Ducks (53)
Karlsson showed what he could accomplish with more playing time when he was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He averaged 13:44 of ice time in his first three seasons with the Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets, but 18:43 in 82 games in 2017-18 and finished third in the NHL with 43 goals. His 23.4 percent shooting percentage was the highest for a 40-goal scorer since Cam Neely for the Boston Bruins in 1993-94 (27.0 percent). He also led the NHL with a plus-49 rating and was voted the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. He’s scored 96 goals, most in Golden Knights history, and is 16th in his draft class with 269 points (114 goals, 155 assists).
18. Rickard Rakell, LW, Anaheim Ducks (30)
Rakell led the Ducks with 33 goals and led the NHL with 10 game-winning goals in 2016-17, then scored 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and was plus-13 in 15 postseason games to help them reach the Western Conference Final. He led Anaheim with 34 goals in 2017-18, skated in the 2018 NHL All-Star Game and ended his season by helping Sweden win the 2018 IIHF World Championship. His 138 goals are 10th among players drafted in 2011.
19. Ryan Strome, C, New York Islanders (5)
Strome has found a consistent top-six role since being traded to the Rangers on Nov. 16, 2018. He set NHL bests in assists (41) and points (59) in 2019-20 and this season he was third on the Rangers with 49 points (14 goals, 35 assists) in 56 games and averaged a personal-best 0.88 points per game. He’s 15th in his draft class with 303 points (109 goals, 194 assists) in 547 games.
20. Andrew Shaw, RW, Chicago Blackhawks (139)
Shaw supplied grit and toughness to the Blackhawks for their Stanley Cup championships in 2013 and 2015. He also added timely offense, including the triple-overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the 2013 Final. Shaw announced April 26 he was ending his playing career because of concussions. He finished with 247 points (116 goals, 131 assists) in 544 games.
21. Phillip Danault, C, Chicago Blackhawks (26)
Danault has developed into a top defensive-minded forward since he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 26, 2016. He was sixth in voting for the Selke Trophy this season, the third time he’s finished in the top 10 in voting for the award. Danault has been on the ice for 227 even-strength goals-against since 2015-16, eighth fewest among forwards to average at least 14:00 per game at even strength (minimum 300 games).
22. Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota Wild (10)
No skater selected in 2011 has played more minutes than Brodin (13,305:58). His 608 games lead defensemen and are fifth among players in his draft class. His 169 points (39 goals, 130 assists) are second among defensemen chosen in 2011, and his nine goals this season were a personal high.
23. Blake Coleman, C, New Jersey Devils (75)
Coleman has given important secondary scoring and toughness to the Lightning during back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. He scored the second goal in Tampa Bay’s title-clinching 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Final last season, and his spectacular diving, one-handed goal was the winner against the Canadiens in Game 2 of the 2021 Final. He’s also led the Lightning in hits during the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
24. Boone Jenner, C, Columbus Blue Jackets (37)
Jenner set personal NHL-highs of 30 goals and 49 points in 2015-16 and has scored at least 16 goals four other times during eight NHL seasons. His 499 blocked shots are second to Landeskog (500) among forwards in the 2011 draft class, and his 1,291 hits are third (Landeskog, 1,370; Adam Lowry, 1,305).
25. Joel Edmundson, D, St. Louis Blues (46)
Edmundson was a physical presence for the Blues when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019, leading St. Louis defensemen with 42 hits during the postseason, and he brought that same level of toughness to the Canadiens to help them reach the Final this season. He scored a personal-best 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 68 games for the Hurricanes in 2019-20.
26. Oscar Klefbom, D, Edmonton Oilers (19)
Klefbom missed this season recovering from shoulder surgery, and shoulder injuries have allowed him to play more than 66 games once since debuting with the Oilers in 2013-14. He played 82 games in 2016-17 and scored 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists), and 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 62 games last season. Despite being eighth among defensemen in his draft class with 378 games, he’s third with 156 points.
27. Connor Murphy, D, Phoenix Coyotes (20)
Murphy has been a solid, defensive-minded defenseman during his eight NHL seasons with the Coyotes and Blackhawks. He set his NHL best with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 58 games for Chicago last season. His 1,044 hits are second among defensemen in his draft class (Adam Larsson, 1,453), and his 891 blocked shots are third (Larsson, 1,059; Brodin, 989).
28. Scott Mayfield, D, New York Islanders (34)
Mayfield has seen his responsibilities and ice time go up in three seasons since Barry Trotz was hired as Islanders coach. Since 2018-19, Mayfield is averaging 19:20 of ice time per game, including 2:22 per game shorthanded. In that time, New York has allowed 2.46 goals per game, fewest in the NHL, and its 81.1 percent success rate on the penalty kill is eighth. Mayfield has been on the ice for 117 even-strength goals-against the past three seasons, fewest among any NHL defenseman to average at least 16:00 of even-strength ice time per game (minimum 200 games).
29. Josh Manson, D, Anaheim Ducks (160)
Manson led the NHL defensemen in 2017-18 with a plus-34 rating and plus-32 even-strength goal differential and was first among Ducks defensemen with 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 80 games. He’s in the top 10 among defensemen selected in 2011 in games (fifth, 408), points (sixth, 104), plus/minus (fourth, plus-39), hits (third, 967) and blocked shots (ninth, 455).
30. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (27)
Namestnikov scored 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 62 games for the Lightning in 2017-18 and then was dealt ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline to the Rangers for defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Miller. Namestnikov also scored 17 goals in 65 games for the Rangers, Senators and Avalanche in 2019-20. His 206 points (91 goals, 115 assists) are 20th among players in his draft class.
Missing first-round picks: Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey Devils (4); Duncan Siemens, D, Colorado Avalanche (11); Ryan Murphy, D, Carolina Hurricanes (12); Sven Baertschi, LW, Calgary Flames (13); Jamie Oleksiak, D, Dallas Stars (14); Joel Armia, RW, Buffalo Sabres (16); Nathan Beaulieu, D, Montreal Canadiens (17); Mark McNeill, C, Chicago Blackhawks (18); Stefan Noesen, RW, Ottawa Senators (21); Tyler Biggs, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (22); Joe Morrow, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (23); Matt Puempel, LW, Ottawa Senators (24); Stuart Percy, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (25); Zack Phillips, C, Minnesota Wild (28); Nicklas Jensen, RW, Vancouver Canucks (29)