Most of the NHL’s top 20 scorers were first-round selections – but there’s a handful who were drafted later, including one player who wasn’t drafted at all.
The 2022-23 NHL regular season is coming to a close, which means the 2023 draft is approaching and hotly anticipated prospects such as Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli will soon find out their big-league futures.
And while the sky is the limit for Bedard and Fantilli, being picked at the top of the draft isn’t a guarantee of NHL stardom. It certainly helps, of course, to be a No. 1 overall pick or selected in the top 10, but it doesn’t mean automatic scoring success in the best hockey league in the world.
With that in mind, we took a look at the league’s top 20 scorers this season and their draft position.
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Here’s what we found: five of the league’s top 20 scorers were No. 1 overall picks, and 12 were top-10 picks (including the five No. 1s). In total, 15 of the NHL’s top 20 scorers were first-round picks, two were taken in the second round, one in the third round, one in the fifth round and one undrafted player.
Here are the top 20 NHL scorers this season through March 16 and their draft position:
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton (131 points in 69 games): No. 1 overall in 2015
McDavid continues to rule the league, and it’s no surprise he’s the NHL scoring leader. He’s been among the league’s top three scorers in six of his seven previous seasons, including leading the NHL in points four times – and he’s well on his way to a fifth Art Ross Trophy.
2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton (101 points in 67 games): No. 3 overall in 2014
Draisaitl is on pace to surpass his personal best of 110 points, which he set in 2019-20 and matched in 2021-22. This season marks Draisaitl’s fourth 100-point campaign in the past five years – and he had 84 points in the pandemic-shortened 56-game season in 2020-21.
3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay (97 points in 69 games): No. 58 overall in 2011
Kucherov had 128 points in 2018-19, besting Joe Thornton (125 points in 2005-06) for the biggest single-season output of the salary-cap era – until McDavid surpassed Kucherov’s total this season. The next top scorer drafted outside the top 50 is his Lightning teammate Brayden Point, and Kucherov has 17 more points.
4. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida (91 points in 65 games): No. 6 overall in 2016
Tkachuk set a career high last season with 104 points as a Calgary Flame and has a good chance to beat that total this season as a Florida Panther. While the Panthers sunk below expectations this year, it certainly hasn’t been Tkachuk’s fault – he leads his team in scoring by 33 points.
5. David Pastrnak, Boston (90 points in 67 games): No. 25 overall in 2014
It seems hard to believe, but Pastrnak has only ranked higher than 18th in league scoring on one other occasion, when he posted 95 points in 70 games in 2019-20.
6. Tage Thompson, Buffalo (87 points in 67 games): No. 26 overall in 2016
This is Thompson’s first time cracking the top 50 in NHL scoring. He’s followed up last season’s breakout – 38 goals and 68 points in 78 games – with a monster campaign that has established him as one of the league’s most talented offensive players.
7. Mitch Marner, Toronto (86 points in 67 games): No. 4 overall in 2015
Marner has ranked in the top 40 in league scoring since his first season in 2016-17 and has twice cracked the top 10.
8. Jason Robertson, Dallas (85 points in 69 games): No. 39 overall 2017
Robertson has placed in the top 50 in points in the past three NHL campaigns. He ranked 35th last year with 79 points in 74 games, and he’s got a chance at 100 points this season.
9. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver (85 points in 65 games): No. 5 overall in 2017
In part due to injuries, Pettersson has only cracked the NHL’s top 25 scorers on one occasion, when he placed 20th with 66 points in 2019-20.
10. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado (85 points in 56 games): No. 1 overall in 2013
MacKinnon placed in the top 20 scorers last season and the top 10 in the four seasons before that, despite injuries limiting him to only three of 10 years where he played every game.
11. Erik Karlsson, San Jose (85 points in 69 games): No. 15 overall in 2008
Karlsson is on track for his third season in the NHL’s top 10 scorers. His first was in 2011-12 when he placed 10th with 78 points, and he did it again in 2015-16 when he placed fourth with 82 points.
12. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton (83 points in 69 games): No. 1 overall in 2011
In his 12th NHL campaign, Nugent-Hopkins has blasted past his previous personal bests of 28 goals and 69 points, set in 2018-19. He could hit 100 points with a big finish down the stretch.
13. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (83 points in 68 games): No. 1 overall in 2005
Crosby has been a model of superstar consistency throughout his career, averaging more than a point per game every year in his 18 NHL seasons – and counting. Only Wayne Gretzky has more point-per-game seasons than Crosby, with 19 seasons to Crosby’s 18.
14. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado (82 points in 67 games): No. 10 overall in 2015
Rantanen first reached the top 20 in league scoring during the 2017-18 season when he placed 16th. He returned to the top 20 every season since except for 2019-20 when he missed nearly 30 games due to injuries.
15. Jack Hughes, New Jersey (81 points in 64 games): No. 1 overall in 2019
This is Hughes’ first time breaking into the NHL’s top 50 scorers, and he’s doing it in grand fashion. He would’ve done it last season, but injuries limited him to 56 points in 49 games.
16. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay (80 points in 69 games): No. 79 overall in 2014
Point, a third-round pick, hasn’t let his injury from last year’s playoffs prevent him from coming in hot this season. He’s already set a career high in goals (43) and has a shot at beating his personal best of 92 points, which was accomplished in 2018-19.
17. William Nylander, Toronto (79 points in 67 games): No. 8 overall in 2014
Already with a career high in goals (35) and one point away from his season-best 80, Nylander is appearing among the league’s top 20 scorers for the first time in his seventh full season (not counting his 22-game NHL intro in 2015-16).
18. Tim Stutzle, Ottawa (76 points in 64 games): No. 3 overall in 2020
This season marks the debut of the Senators’ talented Stutzle among the league’s top 20 scorers. He’ll be here for a while.
19. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (75 points in 68 games): Undrafted
Undrafted but undeniable, Panarin placed ninth in NHL scoring with 77 points as a rookie in 2015-16, and he’s been a fixture in the top 20 every year since.
20. Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota (74 points in 65 games): No. 135 overall in 2015
Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick in 2015, ranked 22nd in league scoring as a rookie in 2020-21 and moved up to fifth place last season with 108 points. He’s looking good for a second straight 40-goal season and was on track to challenge for 90 points until it was announced he’d be out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury.