A quick question: what do Aki Berg, Chad Kilger and Steve Kelly have in common? Before you go off and pull a Cliff Clavin, there is a legitimate answer to be had. All three men were drafted by teams now in the Pacific Division in 1995 before the Winnipeg Jets selected Shane Doan.
Doan was the No. 7 overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, a draft headlined by three blueliners and produced a number of quality NHL players. Doan is among the most productive of those selected, but is he the best player of those chosen in that year? In the interest of celebrating the greatness of No. 19 today, let's take a deeper look into Doan and the '95 draft class.
The first three picks of the draft were all defenseman: Bryan Berard went No. 1 to the Ottawa Senators, Wade Redden went No. 2 to the New York Islanders and the aforementioned Berg was drafted third by the Los Angeles Kings. All three had quality NHL careers that were derailed for different reasons: Berard's career was forever altered by an errant high stick, Redden was done in by the ridiculous upscaling of NHL contracts and Berg went to play overseas rather than wait for an end to the interminable lockout of 2004. Of the three, Redden is still active having not yet retired, but is currently an unrestricted free agent.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had the next pick, selecting 19-year-old left wing Chad Kilger. Ironically, Kilger would join Doan in Winnipeg during the 1995-96 season, part of the payment from the Temmu Selanne trade. The Ducks will surely take the results of that trade any day though. Kilger was a useful NHL player for 12 seasons with six different teams and actually was a pretty good player for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final four years of his NHL career.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were up next at No. 5 and chose future Doan linemate Daymond Langkow. Langkow did not play much in the first season after he was drafted, but became an NHL mainstay for the next 13 seasons, playing in at least 70 games in 11 of those years. After suffering a devasting neck and spine injury blocking a shot on March 21, 2010, Langkow was never the same player. He finished his NHL career in 2011-12 by rejoining the Coyotes, scoring 30 points and helping the Yotes advance to the Western Conference Final.
The next pick in the draft was Steve Kelly, a 19-year-old center selected by the Edmonton Oilers who would play 149 NHL games over parts of nine seasons with five different teams.
Winnipeg was next on the clock and would end up taking a player who would end up being the rock of the organization for the next two decades. Shane Doan, the captain, No. 19, has played 1315 games, scoring 354 goals, 508 assists and 862 points while tallying 1142 PIMs, notching 108 power play markers with a 10.3 career shooting percentage and averaging 18:54 ice time per game. He os a two-time All-Star, winner of the 2009-10 King Clancy Memorial Trophy (for leadership and humanitarian contribution) and currently ranks 49th in career shots taken in NHL history. Amazingly, he has also been nominated for the Lady Byng trophy for gentlemanly conduct four times, difficult for someone with over 1000 career minutes in the sin bin.
The Montreal Canadiens were next in the draft and chose arguably the only bust in the top 10, Terry Ryan, a left wing who only appeared in eight NHL games over parts of three seasons with Les Habitants, scoring exactly zero points.
The final pick of the 1995 Draft's top 10 was right wing Radek Dvorak, who played more than 1000 games scoring more than 200 goals and 590 points in 18 NHL seasons.
The 11th overall pick of the 1995 draft is the player most often used in comparison with Doan, and for good reason. Jarome Iginla was chosen by the Dallas Stars as an 18-year-old out of Kamloops, the same junior team as Doan. Unlike Doan, Iginla would never play for the team that drafted him as he was acquired as the prize for the Calgary Flames in the trade that brought Joe Nieuwendyk to the Stars on Dec. 19, 1995. Nieuwendyk helped the Stars win a Stanley Cup and eventually became the team's GM, but one has to wonder how different the Stars would have developed with a combo of Iginla and Mike Modano as the top line for a decade.
Iginla played 1219 games for the Flames, scoring 525 goals, 570 assists and 1095 points. He led the Flames to within one game of a Stanley Cup in 2004, scoring 13 goals and 22 points in 26 games that postseason, while playing more than 23 minutes a game. He also was involved in the only memorable part of the last Cup Final before the first NHL lost season in 2004-05. He is a six-time All Star and the winner of two Maurice Richard Trophy for most goals scored in a season (2002 and 2004). He also won the 2002 Art Ross Trophy for most points, the 2002 Ted Lindsay Award for MVP as chosen by the players and the 2004 King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
Iginla and Doan would come to define their respective teams for more than 10 years, exuding the same basic traits that every team wishes in their captains. While Iginla is the more decorated player with higher statistical totals, Doan played on deeper teams to start his career, playing a different role than primary scorer. Iginla appeared to be nearing the end of the road before having a bounce back 2014 campaign with 30 goals and 61 points for Boston. Doan was having a great 2014 as well before suffering a horribly timed illness that left him with 23 goals and 47 points in 69 games. While both players have had pretty similar careers, Iginla's stats and the fact that he does have a Cup Final appearance edge the decision in his favor.
Doan and Iginla aren't the only members of the 1995 draft still active in the league though. With the recent retirement of 13th overall pick (of the Hartford Whalers no less, long live brass bonanza) Jean-Sebastien Giguere, there are currently two other 1995 picks still active and on NHL rosters: Michal Handzus (101st overall, 4th round) with the Chicago Blackhawks and Stephane Robidas (164th overall, 7th round) with the Maple Leafs.
All told, seven different players from the 1995 draft have played over 1000 NHL games: Redden, Langkow, Doan, Dvorak, Iginla, Handzus and Petr Sykora (18th overall to New Jersey). Six more players played at least 800 games in the league: Robidas, Jay Mckee (14th overall to Buffalo), Jochen Hecht (49th pick, 2nd round), Sami Kapenen (87th pick, 4th round), Marc Savard (91st pick, 4th round) and Filip Kuba (192nd pick, 8th round). P.J. Axelsson just missed the mark, playing in 797 games over 11 seasons.
It was also a pretty good goalie draft, with Giguere going 13th, Martin Biron going 16th to the Sabres, Brian Boucher going 22nd to the Flyers, the Colorado Avalanche getting Marc Denis 25th, Chris Mason going 122nd to New Jersey and Brent Johnson going to the Avs at 129. There was another goalie taken in this draft at 116th overall by the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks would keep him in the system for years, giving him some backup duty before trading him to Calgary on Nov. 16, 2003 for a second round pick that would become Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That goaltender was Miikka Kiprusoff. Not a bad crop of goalies.
The 1995 NHL Draft certainly had a major impact on the future of the league, producing some quality talent, two players whose injuries changed the safety rules of the game moving forward (Berard's eye injury leading towards mandatory visors and Marc Savard's concussion from a blindside hit leading toward the headshot and targeting rules), a Vezina winning goalie and two all-world Canadian right wings from the same junior team. While Doan may not be the best player from this draft, he is definitely been a great NHL player. Coyotes fans have certainly been lucky to witness Doan's career from No. 7 overall pick to what is hopefully multiple more seasons of the Captain's presence culminating in a Stanley Cup skate for the ages.