Of the 30 choices made in the first round of the NHL draft, 17 fell on Canadian nationals, 7 on Swedes, 5 Americans and just one from Russia. The seven Swedes were one more than their best year so far in 1993. What's more remarkable is that not a single goaltender was selected among the first 30!
First choice overall was John Tavares, selected by the New York Islanders, followed by Sweden's Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay, and Matt Duchene, Colorado. The only notable trade was that of Chris Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers otherwise, there was only minor movement in the draft order.
Much of the Swedish success is credited to the players' clubs in the Swedish Elitserien, which have allowed their young players regular places in their first teams. The only other European nation to have a player selected in the first round was Russia but with the growth of young players being a cyclic phenomenon, Russia could well be more successful next year, or perhaps even the Finns, Czechs or Slovaks.
So if you're not picked among the first in the drafts, is it all over? Not at all. Since the NHL Entry Draft was introduced in 1963, many good prospects that have been picked early in the draft haven't had glorious NHL careers, while others who have failed in the draft have turned out to become stars.
The International Ice Hockey Federation's website iihf.com recently had a list that illustrated this fact in recent years:
Scott Scissons (6th overall) 2 NHL games.
Peter Bondra (156th overall) 16 NHL seasons, 503 goals.
Ryan Sittler (7th overall) 0 NHL games
Nikolai Khabibulin (204th overall) 13 NHL seasons and counting.
Alexander Kharlamov (15th overall) 0 games
Daniel Alfredsson (133th overall) 13 NHL seasons and counting.
Rico Fata (6th overall) left the NHL after 27 goals in eight seasons
Pavel Datsyuk (171st overall) MVP candidate, all-star forward
Patrik Stefan (1st overall) 7 disappointing seasons and retired.
Henrik Zetterberg (210th overall) probably the NHL's best two-way forward.
Alexandre Picard (8th overall) 58 NHL games in four years, 0 goals.
Johan Franzén (97th overall) 63 playoff games in four years, 29 playoff goals.