The NHL draft, it has been said many times, is an imperfect science. The No. 1 pick might end up a bust (hello, Nail Yakupov, the first selection in 2012), while the last pick might end up one of the best players from his draft year (hello, Patric Hornqvist, the 230th and final selection in 2005).
Here’s a look at the best late pick in the 10 NHL drafts from 2006 through 2015. (Wondering why we didn’t include the drafts from 2016 to 2019? Too soon, those prospects are still percolating.) We tried to limit it to seventh-rounders, but a few fifth- and sixth-round picks snuck onto the list as well.
There are also a couple of other late-round steals included for each draft year. In some cases, these players may have turned out to be better NHLers – but they were drafted earlier, so we’re featuring the most accomplished player who was taken the deepest in the draft.
Mathieu Perreault (sixth round, 177th overall by Washington): The hardworking, middle-six winger ranks in the top 25 among 2006-drafted players in NHL games, and he’s in the top 20 in goals and points. The latest-drafted player who has more games, goals and points than Perreault? Brad Marchand, whom Boston nabbed in the third round with the 71st pick.
Other late-round steals: Leo Komarov (sixth round, 180th overall by Toronto); Derek Dorsett (seventh round, 189th overall by Columbus).
Justin Braun (seventh round, 201st overall by San Jose): Two hundred players were picked before Braun – and only 10 players were taken after him – but the defensive defenseman sits 17th among 2007-drafted players in NHL games (669).
Other late-round steals: Carl Gunnarsson (seventh round, 194th overall by Toronto); Nick Bonino (sixth round, 173rd overall by San Jose).
Jason Demers (seventh round, 186th overall by San Jose): Well, would you look at that, the Sharks discovered a stay-at-home blueliner in the seventh round for the second year in a row. Demers (658) ranks 15th in NHL games among players drafted in 2008.
Other late-round steals: Cam Atkinson (sixth round, 157th overall by Columbus); Jared Spurgeon (sixth round, 156th overall by NY Islanders).
Erik Haula (seventh round, 182nd overall by Minnesota): The first pick in the last round ranks among the top 20 in goals and top 30 in points among players drafted in ’09. The only other seventh-rounder who registered was Jordan Nolan, who won two Stanley Cups with Los Angeles in a fourth-line role.
Other late-round steals: Anders Lee (sixth round, 152nd overall by NY Islanders); Darcy Kuemper (sixth round, 161st overall by Minnesota).
Frederik Andersen (seventh round, 187th overall by Carolina): Great pick by the Hurricanes, if only they had signed him. They didn’t, so Andersen re-entered the draft two years later and went 100 picks earlier, 87th overall, to Anaheim.
Other late-round steals: Mark Stone (sixth round, 178th overall by Ottawa); Brendan Gallagher (fifth round, 147th overall by Montreal).
Ondrej Palat (seventh round, 208th overall by Tampa Bay): The Lightning had themselves a draft to remember in 2011. Not only did they land the two-way talents of Palat with the fourth-last selection, but they snagged the best player in the draft, Nikita Kucherov, with the 58th overall pick, and all six players they chose made it to the NHL (three as full-timers, three for shorter stints). Vladislav Namestnikov was Tampa Bay’s first-round selection at No. 27.
Other late-round steals: Ryan Dzingel (seventh round, 204th overall by Ottawa); Josh Manson (sixth round, 160th overall by Anaheim).
Connor Brown (sixth round, 156th overall by Toronto): Nobody out of the seventh round in 2012 amounted to much at the NHL level, and Brown is the best of an underwhelming bunch in the sixth round. The Jets nabbing Connor Hellebuyck in the fifth round wasn’t too shabby, though.
Other late-round steals: Connor Hellebuyck (fifth round, 130th overall by Winnipeg); Alexander Kerfoot (fifth round, 150th overall by New Jersey).
MacKenzie Weegar (seventh round, 206th overall by Florida): The sixth-last selection in 2013 is coming off his third NHL campaign and crested 20-plus minutes of average ice time – third among Panthers defensemen – for the first time in his career.
Other late-round steals: Andreas Johnsson (seventh round, 202nd overall by Toronto); Dominik Kubalik (seventh round, 191st overall by Los Angeles).
Ondrej Kase (seventh round, 205th overall by Anaheim): The sixth-last player chosen, Kase ranks among the top 25 in NHL games, goals and points among 2014-drafted players.
Other late-round steals: Victor Olofsson (seventh round, 181st overall by Buffalo); Kevin Labanc (sixth round, 171st overall by San Jose).
Markus Nutivaara (seventh round, 189th overall by Columbus): He’s a depth defenseman to be sure, but you have scroll all the way up to the 37th overall pick (Boston’s Brandon Carlo) to find a 2015-drafted player who has seen more action than Nutivaara’s 244 NHL games.
Other late-round steals: Samu Niku (seventh round, 198th overall by Winnipeg); Matt Roy (seventh round, 194th overall by Los Angeles).