On Tuesday, teams with two of the worst records in the NHL will face off in one of the most anticipated games of the season. It’s the first matchup of the top two picks of the 2015 draft, as Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers skate against Jack Eichel’s Buffalo Sabres.
McDavid and Eichel were the two marquee names in this year’s rookie class, but other rookies have put up big seasons, producing a competitive race for the Calder Trophy.
What happened the first time other highly touted Nos. 1 and 2 draft picks met for the first time?
First meeting: Feb. 27, 2011, at Edmonton
The first meeting was a quiet night for both. Neither had a hand in the scoring in the Bruins’ 3-2 win. Hall had 19:52 of ice time compared with Seguin’s 9:32. The Bruins won 3-2 and won the Stanley Cup that season.
Legacy: Their careers have taken vastly different paths since the 2010 draft. Seguin won the Stanley Cup as a rookie and showed flashes of brilliance in Boston, but questions about his off-ice activities led the Bruins to trade him to the Stars after the 2012-13 season. Seguin has become one of the league’s top scorers. The pairing of Seguin and Jamie Benn has turned the Stars into a Western Conference contender.
Hall has shown flashes of the talent that led Edmonton to pick him first in the 2010 draft. He had major shoulder surgery in his second season but bounced back and represented the Oilers as an All-Star this season.
First meeting: Dec. 11, 2006, at Washington
The first meeting of these young Russian stars was a long time coming, thanks to the 2004-05 lockout and other labor-related issues. Ovechkin and Malkin finally squared off 2½ years after they were drafted. It ended up being one of the best games of the season.
Ovechkin had two assists, which staked the Capitals to a 4-0 lead. The Penguins rallied to tie the score on a goal by Malkin early in the third period.
The game went to a shootout, where both scored on their attempts -- but Malkin’s was the game-winner.
Legacy: Two of the best players in the league. Malkin followed Ovechkin’s path by winning the Calder Trophy at the end of the 2006-07 season. Since then, Malkin has won two scoring titles to Ovechkin’s one. Most notably, Malkin’s Penguins have enjoyed more playoff success, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, when Malkin won the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP.
En route to that Stanley Cup, the Penguins eliminated the Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals, taking Game 7 in Washington. Malkin had 10 points in the series, while Ovechkin had a strong series (eight goals, six assists). This season, Ovechkin leads the league in goals and the Capitals are among the Stanley Cup favorites.
First meeting: Oct. 11, 1997, at San Jose
The stars of the 1997 draft met at the beginning of their NHL careers: Thornton’s second NHL game and Marleau’s fourth. Neither player had a shot on goal as Marleau’s Sharks beat the Bruins 5-2.
Legacy: The top two picks of the 1997 draft have had long, productive careers and became teammates when a blockbuster trade sent Thornton from Boston to San Jose in a season he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion.
This is the 11th season that Thornton and Marleau have been teammates with the Sharks. As teammates they have combined for 1,541 points and helped turn the Sharks into one of the best teams in the NHL during the regular season.
The playoffs have been a story of underachievement and the failure to make the Stanley Cup finals, while rivals in Anaheim and Los Angeles have combined to win three Stanley Cups. The public low point of their time in San Jose was both being stripped of Captain/Alternate Captain positions by general manager Doug Wilson after the 2013-14 playoffs.
1988 draft: Mike Modano (MIN) vs. Trevor Linden (VAN)
First meeting: Dec. 3, 1989, at Vancouver
Linden already had played a full NHL season by the time these two met. Second to Brian Leetch in the 1988-89 Calder Trophy voting, Linden was the best player on the ice in a 6-5 Canucks win, scoring twice in addition to assisting to two goals.
Modano went on to do what Linden did the year before, finishing second (to Sergei Makarov) for the 1989-90 Calder Trophy.
Legacy: The top two picks of the 1988 draft are perhaps the greatest players in the history of their respective franchises.
Modano played most of his career with the Stars and won the Stanley Cup in 1999. He is the all-time leader in goals and points by a U.S.-born player and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.
Linden spent 16 of his 19 seasons with the Canucks. When he retired, he was the franchise’s all-time leader in games played and assists and was second in goals and points. He also holds Canucks playoff records for games, goals, assists and points. Linden captained the 1993-94 Canucks, who went to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Rangers in seven games.