An abundance of 1st overalls
by Andrew PODNIEKS|17 MAY 2024
Canada's John Tavares was drafted 1st overall 15 years ago.
Every year the Men’s Worlds attracts the top players around, but this year has seen an abundance of riches. No fewer than six 1st overall draft choices representing five countries are playing in Prague and Ostrava, all of whom have extensive IIHF experience. 

John Tavares is the greybeard of the bunch, having been chosen by the New York Islanders back in 2009. The 33-year-old is the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to be captain of any Team Canada and comes here after another excellent season with the Leafs. But his red Maple Leaf career has also been special. He won back-to-back gold medals at the World Junior Championship in 2008 and 2009 (when he was named tournament MVP), after which he played three WM’s in a row, 2010-12, without winning a medal. Thus, he has extra motivation this year. But he also won gold at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and was also part of Canada’s winning World Cup entry two years later. 

Crazy to believe but the second-oldest 1st overall’er is Swiss forward Nico Hischier, who was taken by New Jersey in 2017. He has played in nine IIHF events prior to this year and has never won a medal, but he always accepts any invite he gets to represent his country. His resume includes three U18 events, two World Juniors, and four—now five—Men’s Worlds.

"It was tough at first being drafted after McDavid and Matthews," Hischier admitted, "but I always focus on controlling what I can control. I worked hard, listened to what New Jersey had to say, and tried to cancel the noise."

A year after Hischier, Swedish defender Rasmus Dahlin went first overall to Buffalo. The 24-year-old has one silver medal from two World Juniors (2017, 2018), and he also played in the 2018 Olympics and 2022 WM. He was named IIHF Directorate Award winner in 2018 but is looking for his first medal at the senior level.

"I was under the microscope for a lot of years, so I got used to it," Dahin said, "but after a couple of years the whole "1st overall" thing kind of goes away."

Big defender Owen Power joined Dahlin on the Sabres’ blue line in 2021. The 21-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, won gold as a teen with Canada’s 2021 World Championship roster and also played at the ill-fated 2021/22 World Juniors and the 2022 Olympics.

Juraj Slafkovsky recently turned 20. Drafted by Montreal in 2022, the immensely talented Slovakian forward is being counted on for big things here. This is his third WM (2021, 2022) to go with a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics and an appearance at the World Juniors in 2021.

And lastly, we have Canadian 18-year-old sensation Connor Bedard, drafted by Chicago last year and playing a full season in the NHL. He will likely win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, and his international career is almost flawless. He has a gold from the 2021 U18 and two more gold from the World Juniors in 2022 and 2023. His junior career consisted of 27 total games during which time he scored 30 goals. And he has kept that pace up so far, early in the 2024 WM.