From Nolan to Nash, the players who raised a team's profile
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) From Chicago to Montreal, the original six teams still headline the NHL after all these years.
The 1967 additions in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles have sure had their share of the league spotlight, and Edmonton reigned in the 1980s with Wayne Gretzky not long after the WHA exile.
Name recognition for the NHL's most recent members has been harder to come by, with national popularity of the sport lagging behind football, baseball and basketball, and new franchises placed in Sun Belt markets where ice time has long been a novelty rather than an after-school ritual.
A rundown of the expansion teams of the last 25 seasons and the players who raised their profiles the most:
SAN JOSE SHARKS (1991): Owen Nolan.
Traded on Oct. 26, 1995, by Colorado for Sandis Ozolinsh shortly after that franchise's relocation from Quebec, Nolan reached the playoffs in five of his six full seasons with the Sharks. The first overall pick in the 1990 draft, Nolan became a 42-goal scorer after starting his second year in the league at age 19. His 44 goals for the Sharks in 1999-2000 were a career high. Nolan was gone by the time Joe Thornton came in a trade with Boston on Nov. 30, 2005, but Silicon Valley's team was a postseason fixture by then.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (1992): Vincent Lecavalier.
While tumbling through their first 10 seasons with just one appearance in the playoffs, the Lightning were taking steps toward becoming the first post-1991 expansion team to win the Stanley Cup in 2004. They drafted Lecavalier with the first overall pick on June 27, 1998. Then they quietly signed sidekick Martin St. Louis on July 31, 2000, after the eventual league MVP went undrafted out of Vermont and had an uneventful stint with Calgary.
OTTAWA SENATORS (1992): Dany Heatley.
The Senators made a shrewd move on June 29, 1994, by drafting Daniel Alfredsson, who started his 17 seasons in Canada's capital with the rookie of the year award. The arrival of Heatley in a trade with Atlanta for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries on Aug. 23, 2005, introduced another elite scorer to the lineup, and Alfredsson and Heatley combined for 93 goals in their first season together. The Senators reached the Stanley Cup Final the following year. Heatley, the second overall pick in the 2000 draft, sought a fresh start in Ottawa after his speeding sports car crashed and killed Atlanta teammate Dan Snyder in 2003.
ANAHEIM DUCKS (1993): Teemu Selanne.
Drafted 10th overall in 1988 by the original Winnipeg Jets, Selanne was a 76-goal scorer in his rookie season. The Finnish Flash came to Southern California on Feb. 7, 1996, in a trade with Marc Chouinard and a fourth-round pick for Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round selection. The Ducks didn't do much in Selanne's first stint, but he joined them again as a free agent on Aug. 22, 2005, after the lockout and totaled 88 goals over the first two seasons. They won the Stanley Cup that second year.
FLORIDA PANTHERS (1993): John Vanbiesbrouck.
Acquired on June 24, 1993, through the expansion draft, Vanbiesbrouck was a 30-year-old, four-time All-Star who had already won the Vezina Trophy while backstopping the New York Rangers when he first set foot in the net for the Panthers. When they made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals in his third season there, Vanbiesbrouck compiled a .932 save percentage over 22 playoff games .
NASHVILLE PREDATORS (1998): Paul Kariya.
After Steve Sullivan came in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 16, 2004, Kariya signed as a free agent on Aug. 5, 2005. Then the 31-year-old duo became the first Predators to top 30 goals in the same season, the franchise's seventh in 2005-06. Defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter debuted that year, too, both products of the 2003 draft. That season was the second time the Predators made the playoffs during a run of seven appearances in eight years under coach Barry Trotz.
ATLANTA THRASHERS/WINNIPEG JETS (1999): Dustin Byfuglien.
Taking Ilya Kovalchuk with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft was a strong start on June 23, 2001. Kovalchuk topped the 40-goal mark five straight times, but he took the Thrashers to the playoffs only once in a market where they were always going to have a hard time getting noticed. The franchise's highest-profile move was actually the one to Manitoba, where hard-core hockey fans immediately welcomed the second iteration of the Jets. Byfuglien's acquisition from Chicago on June 24, 2010, in a seven-player, two-draft pick trade for the last of 11 seasons in Atlanta gave the club a Stanley Cup champion and a burly defenseman with a nose for the net.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (2000): Rick Nash.
The first draft pick in Blue Jackets history, Rostislav Klesla at fourth overall, lasted nine years with the club but was a stay-at-home defenseman who had trouble staying healthy. Nash immediately became the face of a losing franchise on June 22, 2002, when the Ontario native heard his name called first in Toronto at the draft held that year in his home province. Nash twice hit the 40-goal mark and was part of the Blue Jackets' first appearance in the playoffs in 2009, but he was eventually traded to the New York Rangers. Columbus, along with Atlanta/Winnipeg, is one of two NHL franchises yet to win a playoff series.
MINNESOTA WILD (2000): Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Signed to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on July 4, 2012, free-agent pals Parise and Suter left their original teams, New Jersey and Nashville, for the hockey-rich state both players have strong ties to. Until then, the Wild had made the playoffs only three times in 11 seasons. Next week will mark their fifth straight appearance since Parise and Suter arrived.