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McDavid & Eichel are special, but very far from best 1-2 draft duo

The Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel NHL draft showdown is a towering monster, thanks in various parts to their amazing skill levels, an insatiable media appetite and social media. But where do they rank among the top tandems?

The
Connor McDavid
Jack Eichel NHL draft showdown is a towering monster, thanks in various parts to their amazing skill levels, an insatiable media appetite and social media. They’re being touted as better than
Taylor Hall
Tyler Seguin, the dynamic duo that topped the 2010 draft board. As for their careers, however, they have many miles to skate to rank with the best-ever No. 1-2 tandems. That distinction is held by Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne, who occupied the top slots in 1971. Montreal nabbed Lafleur first, following Sam Pollock’s legendary machinations; the Habs GM pried the No. 1 pick out of California a year earlier, then traded Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles to help prop up a flagging Kings squad when it appeared they might finish last overall. The dipsy-doodling worked, as Los Angeles moved past the Seals, cementing the top choice for Montreal.

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Lafleur went on to become an icon. He won two Hart trophies, a Conn Smythe, was a six-time first-team all-star, earned five Cup rings and was voted the 11th-best player of all-time by a THN panel in 1999. Hidden in Los Angeles much of his career, Dionne ranks fifth all-time in points and placed 38th on THN’s best players list. Dionne and Lafleur remain the only 1-2 draft pair who are enshrined in the Hall.

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That’s likely to change three years after the retirement of
Alex Ovechkin or
Evgeni Malkin, whoever bows out last between the 2004 top selections. ‘Ovie’ already has three Harts, surpassed in that category only by
Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Eddie Shore. He’s also the owner of six first-team all-star berths and a Calder Trophy. Malkin is a Hart Trophy and Calder alum, a Conn Smythe winner and a three-time first-team all-star. We were tempted to place this duo at the top of the heap, but their stories are still to be completed. Ovechkin’s a Hall shoo-in and Malkin is a very good bet, but there is time for the latter’s career to be derailed. We aren’t banking on that happening, but remember what befell
Eric Lindros. He had credentials similar to Malkin’s at about the same age, but fate intervened and he’s still awaiting enshrinement. Another duo who could move into this stratosphere is 2008’s
Steven Stamkos and
Drew Doughty. Honorable mentions to
Mario Lemieux/
Kirk Muller (’84) and
Mike Modano/
Trevor Linden (’88).
This feature appears in the Jan. 5 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.