ShareThis Page
Penguins

Crosby, Fleury reflect on being No. 1 overall pick ahead of meeting with Matthews

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, 10:48 p.m.

Everywhere the Penguins have turned in recent days, they've run into a No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft.

On Saturday night, 2016 top choice Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs paid his first official visit to PPG Paints Arena.

Last Saturday, they met 1997 first pick Joe Thornton in San Jose. On Tuesday, 2015 phenom Connor McDavid and 2011 top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins came to town with the Oilers.

Four of their next five opponents will have a No. 1 overall pick on the roster as well — Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals (2004) on Wednesday, John Tavares of the Islanders ('09) on Friday and Rick Nash of the Rangers ('02) twice the next week.

There's no secret handshake among top overall picks. They don't meet for a reunion in the summer or have a special lounge where they can sit in the airport.

There are, however, common experiences that bond them in a way, '05 top choice Sidney Crosby said.

“If anything, you can relate to the experience that they're going through, their emotions and the excitement they have,” Crosby said. “That's probably some of the best times, when you're going to every building for the first time, and you're playing against guys you watched on TV the year before. I think that's probably the most exciting time, your first year or two when you're in the league.”

And no matter how their careers unfold, being a No. 1 overall pick is always a line that stays near the top of a player's hockey resume.

“It's a good accomplishment, from your young days, your junior days, to be put in there as the No. 1 pick. It's an honor,” said '03 top choice Marc-Andre Fleury. “Something I've learned quickly though is it doesn't matter where you're drafted after that. You've got to earn your spot, and you've got to keep your spot. But it's nice at the time, and it's nice to look back and think about.”

Fleury said he doesn't think Crosby gets up for matchups with No. 1 overall picks any more than any other game.

“I think Sid plays like that every night,” Fleury said. “That last road trip, I don't think we saw any (No. 1 picks) and he was on fire every night.”

Fleury said there might be one exception, however.

“Maybe Ovy,” Fleury said. “Maybe with that guy a little more.”

The numbers bear that out.

Crosby has 19 goals and 55 points in 31 career games against Ovechkin in the regular season. Ovechkin has 22 goals and 38 points in those games. Crosby's points-per-game average against Ovechkin (1.77) is better than against any top pick he faced more than five times.

Some other notes on Crosby and Fleury against No. 1 overall picks:

• On Dec. 10, 2005, Crosby and Fleury played against the earliest top pick they would face in their careers, No. 1 choice Pierre Turgeon ('87), who was then with Colorado. The Penguins won, 4-3. Turgeon was drafted about two months before Crosby was born.

• One No. 1 pick who had surprising success against Crosby in his career was Toronto's Mats Sundin ('89). Sundin had more points than Crosby, by a 21-19 margin, in 12 career meetings.

• In an unlikely matchup, Crosby and '91 top pick Eric Lindros went head-to-head in a 2007 game. Crosby had two assists, Lindros was held scoreless and the Penguins beat Dallas, 4-3.

• Two high-profile No. 1 picks, Thornton and Chicago's Patrick Kane ('07), have never scored on Fleury. Thornton has been held scoreless on 19 shots over 12 games. Fleury has stopped Kane 24 times in nine games.

• One other top choice had unexpected success against Fleury. Alexander Daigle, the '93 pick who widely is considered a massive bust, scored on the only shot he ever took on Fleury in 2004.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me