2016 NHL draft prep: History of the 18th pick

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Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said it again.

Hextall is going to take the best player available when the Flyers draft at No. 18 Friday night in Buffalo, New York.

"What it's going to be, quite honestly, I don't know," he said at Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, last Thursday. "Our feeling is at 18, we're going to get a real good prospect.

"And I believe beyond our pick, there's still good players there. We're going to have some emphasis on skill and size. Hopefully combined, but it's a tough thing to grab.

"If you look at the history of the draft, there's a lot of players who don't play in the league, or don't play many games in the league.

"If you start getting specific in trying to fill needs, you can miss."

We've provided potential options for the Flyers at 18, so now let's take a look back at the history of the 18th pick and see how successful the pick has turned out in the NHL.

In all, there have been 10 picks at 18 dating back to 1963 that have never played a game in the NHL, not including the last two drafts, according to Hockey Reference's draft database.

There have been hits and misses at 18 — as there is with every draft position — and some players have molded themselves into role players to prolong their NHL career.

Dating back to 1963, no Hall of Famers have been selected 18th. So what does this all mean? A whole lot of nothing, but it's interesting to look at as we prepare for Friday.

So let's take a look at a few hits, a few misses and a few who the jury's still out on.

Hits

1995: Petr Sykora, RW, New Jersey Devils
Sykora went on to play 16 years in the NHL with six different teams, appearing in six Stanley Cups and winning two — 2000 with the Devils and 2009 with the Penguins.

The Czech-born winger's career took off in his fourth season in the NHL when he was 22, when he scored 29 goals and 72 points in 80 games during the 1998-99 campaign.

When it was all said and done, Sykora played over 1,000 games and registered 323 goals and 721 career points. His best season came in 2000-01, when he potted 35 goals and 81 points.

1980: Barry Pederson, C, Boston Bruins
A two-time All-Star, Pederson won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 near the end of his career. He played 12 years with four different organizations, and registered 654 points in 701 games.

Pederson, who had two 100-point seasons and a 92-point campaign to his name, might be best known as the piece that landed the Bruins Hall of Famer Cam Neely.

The Big River, Saskatchewan, native, finished his career as a role player for the Penguins — where he won his Stanley Cup — Hartford and then back again with Boston.

1970: Bill Clement, C, Flyers
Clement is well known around this neck of the woods. It was the Flyers who drafted Clement 18th overall in 1970, and the center won two Stanley Cups with the orange and black.

He spent 11 seasons in the NHL, from 1971 to 1982, playing for three teams. Clement registered 105 points in 229 career games with the Broad Street Bullies from '71-75.

When he hung up the skates, Clement finished with 356 points in 719 games with two NHL All-Star Game appearances. He retired after playing 69 games with Calgary in 1981-82.

1991: Glen Murray, RW, Boston Bruins
Murray enjoyed a successful 16-year career playing mostly with the Bruins, spending two stints in Beantown and making two All-Star games with Boston in 2003 and 2004.

The big-bodied right winger netted 337 goals in 1,009 career games, with two 40-plus goal seasons and seven 20-plus goal campaigns. His best season came with Boston in 2002-03, when he recorded a career-high 44 goals and 92 points playing with Joe Thornton and Mike Knuble.

While Murray is not a Hall of Famer, he is exactly the type of player the Flyers would love to find in this year's draft with the 18th pick- a winger with size and skill (see story).

1992: Jason Smith, D, New Jersey Devils
A gritty defensive defenseman, Smith spent 16 years in the NHL, mostly with the Edmonton Oilers, where he helped lead the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

Smith captained the Oilers and also served as captain of the Flyers in 2007-08, his lone season here. He scored 41 goals in 1,008 career games, but that was never his game.

During his lone season with the Flyers, Smith was lauded for his leadership and played an important role for a young team that finished as the league's worst the year before.

1982: Ken Daneyko, D, New Jersey Devils
Now a color analyst for MSG Plus for Devils games, Daneyko holds the franchise's record for games played with 1,283 games over his 20-year NHL career in New Jersey.

Daneyko won three Stanley Cups with the Devils — 1994-95, '99-00 and '02-03. In 2006, the Devils retired Daneyko's No. 3 after he hung up his skates.

Never a high-scoring defenseman —he had six seasons in which he did not score a goal — Daneyko piled up over 2,200 penalty minutes in his career, and once went 255 consecutive regular-season games without scoring a marker.

Misses

2009: Louis Leblanc, C, Montreal Canadiens
Leblanc face-planted in Montreal despite being the Habs' next great French hope. He failed to catch on with the Canadiens and never even established himself as a scorer in the AHL.

The 6-foot center played 42 underwhelming games with Montreal during the 2011-12 season, and then eight more underwhelming games in 2013-14. But that's it — 50 games in Montreal.

He was traded to the Ducks in 2014 for a conditional fifth-round pick, but never played for Anaheim. He then signed with the Islanders in 2015, but he was released after being assigned to New York's AHL affiliate, Bridgeport. He's been overseas ever since.

2005: Ryan Parent, D, Nashville Predators
Drafted by Nashville, Parent came to the Flyers as a key piece of the trade that sent Peter Forsberg to the Preds in 2007 and as a defenseman that would patrol the blue line for years.

But that never happened, as Parent spent four mediocre seasons with the Flyers. He was a member of the 2010 team that went to the Cup, but he averaged just 7:28 in the playoffs.

After the 2010 season, the Flyers traded Parent back to Nashville for the rights to talk to Dan Hamhuis, who didn't sign with the Flyers. He was traded again before the season to Vancouver, where he played four games. He's been stuck in the AHL since.

2006: Chris Stewart, RW, Colorado Avalanche
Stewart is still floating around the NHL, but he failed to live up to his potential and never reached the level of production he showed as a 22-year-old with Colorado.

In 2009-10, Stewart led Colorado with 28 goals and finished second on the team with 64 points. The next year, the Avs traded him to St. Louis as part of the Erik Johnson trade.

He had 28 goals and 53 points combined between the Avalanche and the Blues in 2010-11, but failed to regain that type of production. Last season, he scored eight times in 56 games with the Ducks. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Jury still out

2012: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Chicago Blackhawks
Teravainen appears on track to be a hit, but the 21-year-old will have to do so in Carolina, as Chicago traded him to the 'Canes with Bryan Bickell on Wednesday.

It was a salary cap trade, as the Blackhawks wanted to get out of Bickell's $4 million cap hit but in order to do so, they had to include Teravainen to sweeten the deal.

The Finnish winger has 17 goals and 44 points in 117 career games, but given it's still a few years out of his draft year, it's way too early to label him as a hit or miss.

And, of course, it's also too early to say that he won't go off track. He's got a ton of skill, and he contributed to Chicago's 2015 Stanley Cup, scoring 10 points in 18 games.

2011: Mark McNeill, C, Chicago Blackhawks
McNeill, Chicago's 2011 first-round pick, has appeared in just one game in the NHL thus far into his professional career — last season against Carolina on Jan. 26.

A 6-foot-2, 214-pound center, McNeill has played 215 games in the AHL with Rockford, registering 66 goals with the IceHogs. Given Chicago's depth and dominance in recent years, it's understandable as why he hasn't cracked its roster yet.

This year, however, might be the season in which we can fairly judge whether or not McNeill will pan out. Given the 'Hawks' cap issues — see Teravainen — it's not out of the realm of possibilities he'll have a chance to earn a spot in camp this season.

2010: Austin Watson, LW, Nashville Predators
Watson appeared in 57 games with Nashville last season, scoring three goals and 10 points. His first season in the NHL didn't go as well as he'd like. He spent a lot of the campaign in the press box as a healthy scratch, and didn't play for Nashville in the playoffs.

There was a questionable headshot on Winnipeg's Marco Dano on March 8, though he did not receive a suspension from the league. Watson showed he could score in the AHL, potting 68 goals over three-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals.

For Watson — like McNeill — this is an important season coming up. He made the team last year, and stuck around the entire season but didn't impress. He's a young player who will go through growing pains. But it'll be a good year to see if he'll flash anything of note.

Verdict
We won't exactly know what will come of the Flyers' pick at 18 this year. Drafts are hard to predict, and it takes a few years to see what a player truly becomes.

But looking back at past drafts, there have been several players drafted at 18 who went on to contribute in key roles for teams in the NHL.

It relies much on scouting, and the Flyers' department under Hextall has done an excellent job thus far. At least in finding prospects with a lot of upside.

Let's remember Hextall's first draft. He drafted Travis Sanheim at 17, a pick that caught a lot of people by surprise, as Sanheim was a little lower on the rankings than 17.

However, the Flyers believed Sanheim was trending upward and felt he was the best player available at that spot. In two years since, Sanheim is still a promising prospect, and proving to be worthy of a high first-round pick.

The Flyers will hope to accomplish the same thing again this year.

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