Best pick at No. 3: Scott Niedermayer, Devils
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, NHL.com assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. NHL.com will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Today: The best No. 3 pick: Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils, 1991
Tom Kurvers was coming off his best NHL season when the New Jersey Devils traded him on Oct. 16, 1989, in exchange for the Toronto Maple Leafs' first pick in the 1991 NHL Draft.
When Toronto finished with the second-fewest points in the League in 1990-91, the Devils ended up with the third selection. With it they found a player who knew how to do one thing as well as any player who's ever laced on a pair of skates: win.
With championships at all levels of play, including the Stanley Cup four times, Scott Niedermayer was the choice of the NHL.com Dream Draft panel as the best No. 3 first-round pick.
Niedermayer was coming off a season in which he scored 26 goals and 82 points in 57 games with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League and won a gold medal with Canada at the 1991 IIHF World Junior Championship.
He carried that strong play into an opening-night spot with the Devils, but after one assist in four games he was sent back to Kamloops for one more season of development that included helping it win the Memorial Cup championship and earning tournament MVP.
He stuck for good with the Devils for the 1992-93 season and had 11 goals and 40 points in 80 games. In 1994-95, he had 11 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including a goal and two assists in Game 2 of the Final, and the Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings to win their first championship.
In 1999-2000, after totaling 38 points in 71 regular-season games, Niedermayer had five goals in the 2000 playoffs, including the opening goal of Game 6 of the Cup Final, and played 34:41 when New Jersey defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in double overtime for its second Stanley Cup.
After helping the Devils get back to the Cup Final in 2001, where they lost Game 7 to the Colorado Avalanche, he had two points in six games at the 2002 Olympics for Canada, which snapped a 50-year gold-medal drought with a win against the United States.
In 2002-03, Niedermayer tied for the postseason scoring lead with 18 points in 24 games, including assists on two of the Devils' goals in their 3-0, Game 7 win against the Anaheim Ducks.
After so much team success, Niedermayer won his first major individual award in 2004, the Norris Trophy. He was second among defensemen with 54 points and had a plus-20 rating while averaging 25:55 of ice time per game.
He capped the season by helping Canada win the gold medal at the 2004 IIHF World Championship. That made him, at the time, the fourth Canadian to earn membership in the Triple Gold Club -- players who have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and World Championship gold (Rob Blake, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan; Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron have done it since).
Niedermayer helped Canada win the 2004 World Cup, and after sitting out during the 2004-05 lockout, he signed a four-year contract with the Ducks as a free agent. Named captain prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, Niedermayer set a personal-best with 63 points, and had 11 points in 16 playoff games to help Anaheim reach the Western Conference Final.
He was even better the next season, setting career highs of 15 goals, 54 assists and 69 points, which led NHL defensemen, and the Ducks set franchise records with 48 wins and 110 points. He averaged 29:50 per game in the postseason when Anaheim reached the Cup Final, where he set up the game-winning goal in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators, had another assist in Game 5, and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup, his fourth.
At 33, Niedermayer considered retiring after the 2007 playoffs, but he returned to the Ducks for the final 48 games of the 2007-08 season. He played two more full seasons before retiring in 2010 with 740 points in 1,263 games.
Niedermayer is the only player in hockey history to win the Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup, World Cup, and a gold medal at the Olympics, World Championship and World Junior Championship.
"The bottom line is, Scott Niedermayer is a winner," NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen said. "He's won at every level, on every team he's ever played on. He was a leader, a captain, a Norris Trophy winner. I think you can make the argument for Niedermayer to be included among the top-five defensemen of all time. There was literally nothing the guy couldn't do on the ice. He was such a fluid skater, such a smart defender, a threat offensively, dangerous in all areas. There are some high-end No. 3 draft picks in history, namely Jonathan Toews, Denis Savard, Henrik Sedin and Pat LaFontaine, but none of them can say they have the same resume as Niedermayer. And the best thing about Niedermayer is he was never a passenger."
Voting: Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey (1991) 10; Pat Lafontaine, New York Islanders (1983) 1; Denis Savard, Chicago (1980) 1; Jonathan Toews, Chicago (2006) 1