How Boston College Compares to Other Teams That Had Three First Round Picks
No two teams are alike. Players come and players go. When it comes to college hockey, where sixteen teams duke it out in a single-elimination tournament in the spring, the bounce of a puck here and the bounce of a puck there can alter the narrative of an entire season.
That said, there are four historical comparisons for the 2019-20 Boston College Eagles Hockey team. That's because this Eagles team had three players selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, marking only the fifth time a program has accomplished such a feat. So it's an interesting case study to see how those teams performed as a benchmark for how to judge BC's success this season.
2005-06 North Dakota Fighting Sioux
The first team to do it was also the most successful. Of the four teams to have three first round picks from the same draft, this team was the only one to reach the Frozen Four, and it's not hard to see why; they were stacked. The three first rounders were Brian Lee, TJ Oshie and Joe Finley. They were bolstered by Drew Stafford, Travis Zajac and Jonathan Toews. Wait a second, wasn't Toews a first round selection? Yes, but he was selected in 2006, in between his freshman and sophomore seasons, while the trio was selected in 2005. Oshie finished tied for the team lead in goals with Stafford at 24. Lee came to North Dakota with plenty of accolades; he was 2005 Minnesota Mr. Hockey and only the 13th high schooler to make the USA World Juniors roster. The defenseman would go on to finish the season third on the team in assists, behind Zajac and Stafford. Finley, a 6'7" defenseman had three points in 43 games, all assists. Overall, the Fighting Sioux finished 29-16-1, winning the WCHA conference tournament. Commanding wins over Michigan and Holy Cross (yes, that same Holy Cross team that upset the Golden Gophers in what's been labeled the biggest upset in tournament history) put North Dakota in the Frozen Four. Despite a furious late-game comeback attempt, North Dakota would fall in the national semifinals to BC. The three draftees combined for one goal in the team's three tournament games. All three returned for at least one more collegiate season; Lee stayed one extra season, Oshie two and Finley three. Oshie peaked with 52 points during his sophomore season before dipping to his freshman season output of 45 points during his third and final season. The three came in on the heels of a national runner-up season and promptly led the Fighting Sioux to three more Frozen Four appearances from 2006-2008. Interestingly, all three seasons ended with losses to BC in the national semifinals. During Finley's senior season, once Lee and Oshie had left, the string of Frozen Four appearances ended with an overtime loss to New Hampshire in the first round of the tournament.
2006-07 Minnesota Golden Gophers
The draft after three North Dakota players were selected in the first round, four Golden Gophers received the same honor, with three actually going in the top 10. The team is an interesting case, though, as all four never played together. That's because one of those players, Phil Kessel, played the 2005-06 season with Minnesota, got drafted in the 2006 draft and left before the start of his sophomore year. The other three, Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo and David Fischer, were selected in 2006 prior to their freshman seasons. Much like North Dakota, Minnesota had a great supporting cast, with Alex Goligoski and Blake Wheeler also on the team. Despite all the future NHL talent, the team leader in goals and points never played a single NHL game; then-freshman Jay Barriball posted 20 goals and 43 points. Okposo was second in both categories with 19 and 40, respectively. Johnson, the No. 1 pick in 2006, had 24 points in 41 games, while fellow defenseman Fischer had 5 points, all assist. Kessel left after Holy Cross' monumental upset victory in the 2006 tournament. Fueled by the past season's heartbreak, Minnesota went 31-10-3; following an opening-night loss to Maine, the Golden Gophers rattled off a 23-game unbeaten streak. Unfortunately, the freshman trio would come up just short of reaching the Frozen Four, losing in overtime of the regional final to the sophomore trio from North Dakota. Johnson departed after the season. Okposo stayed for one more but played only 18 games. Fischer played all four years. Over the next four seasons, the Gophers alternated finishing 5th and 7th in the WCHA and missed the tournament three times.
2007-08 Wisconsin Badgers
For this feat never having happened prior to the 2005 draft, it's kind of surprising that it happened three years in a row. Wisconsin, however, did not have nearly as much success as its predecessors. The Badgers finished 16-17-7, good enough for the NCAA Tournament (don't ask me how). Somehow they were a 3-seed as an at-large team. They did manage to knock off Denver in the opening round, but their season ended at the hands of North Dakota in the second round. Kyle Turris, Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith, the three draft picks, all had good seasons but didn't have much of a supporting cast. Turris led the team with 35 points, while McDonagh and Smith each chipped in 12 as defenseman. Turris left after his freshman season, but McDonagh and Smith each played two more in Madison. During their sophomore season, Wisconsin went 20-16-4 and missed out on the tournament, despite being markedly better than the 2007-08 team that made the tournament. Before leaving, McDonagh and Smith did manage to lead the Badgers to a national championship appearance during their junior season. They finished as the runner-up to BC, losing 5-0 in the championship game. In terms of single-season performance by the three first round picks, the Badgers easily had the worst, but their three first rounders all went on to have successful careers in the NHL, something North Dakota and Minnesota couldn't say.
2016-17 Boston University Terriers
With four Terriers selected in the first round of the 2016 draft, they became the first program with four first round selections from the same draft who played together. Technically, Minnesota had four as well, but only three played together after Kessel left. Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, Dante Fabbro and Kieffer Bellows all heard their name called on the first night of the 2016 draft. It's still a bit early to judge how good of a supporting cast the group had in terms of future NHL talent, but early indications are that this BU team was very deep. Patrick Harper, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Bobo Carpenter, Jordan Greenway, Chad Krys and Jake Oettinger were on the roster alongside the four first round picks. Keller finished with 6 more goals and 8 more points than anyone else on the team. McAvoy, a sophomore who was drafted following his freshman season, posted five goals and 21 assists. Fabbro and Bellows finished with 18 and 14 points, respectively. The Terriers went 24-13-3, finishing tied for first in the Hockey East regular season standings. After dominating during the regular season, they became the cardiac kids in March, with all five of their postseason games being decided by one goal. They swept Northeastern in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament, winning both games 3-2. The score was reversed when BU lost to BC in the conference semifinal game. In the NCAA Tournament, BU defeated North Dakota in double overtime and lost to Minnesota-Duluth in overtime. Of the four, Fabbro is the only one who stayed past the season, finishing up two more in Boston before heading to Nashville.
So to recap:
- All four of the other teams made the NCAA Tournament, but only one reached the Frozen Four.
- For Minnesota, Wisconsin and BU, their seasons all ended with 3-2 overtime losses in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
- At least one of the players stayed a second season in three of the four cases.
- Two of the 14 players (Finley, Fischer) stayed all four seasons, but neither were that successful in college or in the pros.
Some interesting notes from those seasons:
- Not that this impacts anything, but in three of the four seasons mentioned, BC played in the national title game.
- How about Maine making back-to-back Frozen Four appearances in 2006 and 2007?
- Of the five occurrences of this feat, BC's year produced both the lowest first pick and highest final pick. Boldy at No. 12 was BC's first draftee, but the other four schools all had top 10 picks, including Minnesota's three top 10 selections in 2006. Newhook was BC's third and final first round selection at No. 16 overall. The other four schools all had a player selected No. 19 or below.
- BC's group is the only one with a goalie and only one without a defenseman.