Alexei Yashin's career in Ottawa may have been tumultuous and relatively disappointing, and he may be one of the most loathed figures associated with Ottawa sports, but he did give Senators fans this: it's because of him, and the maniacal dealings of a former New York Islanders general manager, that the Senators now have one of the game's top play-making centers.
During the 2001 NHL draft, Islanders general manager Mike Milbury, making bold trades for the sake of making bold trades, parted ways with up-and-coming defenseman Zdeno Chara, forward Bill Muckalt, and the No. 2 overall pick to acquire the moody Yashin, and then signed him to an outrageous 10-year contract extension (the Islanders are still paying him today). The No. 2 pick that year? Jason Spezza.
Since making his NHL debut during the 2002-03 season, Spezza has become a point-per-game player and a three-time 30-goal scorer for the Senators. The Islanders eventually bought out Yashin's contract and are currently paying him to not play for them. Amazing trade for the Senators. Horrendous trade for the Islanders.
Draft Year: 2001
The second overall pick in 2001, Spezza was taken out of Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League. Ilya Kovalchuk, the player taken No. 1 by the Atlanta Thrashers, is the only player selected that year with more goals and points in the NHL.
Why He's On My List
There are few players in the NHL that can distribute the puck like Spezza. He's twice eclipsed the 90-point barrier, and he's finished in the top-six in assists-per-game three times in his career, most recently during the 2007-08 season. His current mark of .668 assists-per-game puts him right between San Jose's Joe Thornton (.690) and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk (.667) among active players. That's pretty strong company. Had his numbers not taken a rather large dip this past season I would have had him significantly higher.
Obligatory YouTube Video
Spezza undresses a Montreal defender, and then lifts a shot over Jose Theodore for a game-winner in overtime.