DREAM DRAFT: Best pick at No. 22: Claude Giroux
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.
The best No. 22 pick: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers, 2006
One of the funnier moments in the history of the NHL Draft came in the first round of 2006, when the Philadelphia Flyers stepped to the podium to announce their selection at No. 22.
General manager Bob Clarke led the Philadelphia contingent to the stage that night in Vancouver -- then forgot who the team had decided to pick. He quickly was reminded by a team official and a laugh was had by all involved.
Clarke may have momentarily forgotten Claude Giroux's name, but no one has been able to forget him or what the center has done since he entered the NHL.
That includes the NHL.com Dream Draft panel, which voted Giroux the best No. 22 first-round pick.
The Flyers selected Giroux after a 103-point season with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He spent two more seasons with Gatineau, totaling 48 goals and 112 points in 63 games in 2006-07, and 38 goals and 106 points in 55 games in 2007-08.
He made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season, going scoreless in two games as an emergency call-up. The first game came Feb. 19, 2008, against the Ottawa Senators, just across the river from Gatineau.
Giroux started the 2008-09 season with the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, but after he scored 34 points in 33 games, he was promoted. He had nine goals and 18 points in 42 NHL games and showed his promise by leading the team in scoring in a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with five points in six games.
He had 47 points in 82 games in 2009-10 and was credited with scoring the Flyers' most important goal of the regular season: the shootout winner in the final game against the New York Rangers to get Philadelphia into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He upped his level of play in the postseason, finishing second on team with 10 goals and third with 21 points to help the Flyers reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. There he had two goals against the Blackhawks, including the overtime winner in Game 3 of a series the Flyers lost in six.
The 2010-11 season saw Giroux score 20 goals for the first time; he led the Flyers with 76 points and skated in his first NHL All-Star Game. Giroux's development was cited by general manager Paul Holmgren as a reason he was able to trade franchise stalwarts Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in June 2011.
Installed as the top-line center to start the 2011-12 season, flanked by Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, Giroux responded with his best NHL season, finishing third in the League with 93 points. He then turned in a dominant postseason performance against the Penguins in the first round of playoffs, totaling six goals and 14 points in a six-game win.
The capper came in Game 6, when he demanded to start, told his teammates to watch what he did, then leveled Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and scored a goal 32 seconds into the game, all of which prompted Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to proclaim Giroux "the game's best player." He earned further recognition when fans voted him to be on the cover of EA Sports' NHL13 video game.
Giroux was named captain prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, and though he had 48 points in 48 games, he struggled to find consistency -- in part due to injuries to linemates and the departure of Jagr -- and the Flyers missed the playoffs.
"It was during Giroux's second playoff season, in 2010, when you just got the feeling this kid was going to be something really special," NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale said. "He became a player that coach Peter Laviolette counted on to play in every situation, and he proved to be a clutch performer. I like the fact that in addition to his strong offensive play, he's just as solid defensively and an extremely good penalty killer. … He is a franchise player with plenty of seasons left to build upon his already impressive resume."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK