To commemorate the 50th NHL Draft, Web Producer Shane McNeil looks back at the most anticipated draft lottery ever – the 30-team derby for Sidney Crosby in 2005.

Originally published on – June, 2012.

Every once in a while, a prospect so special comes along that the player alone defines the draft.

Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros were all seen as potential franchise cornerstones before they even played a single NHL game.

And in 2005, another such player came along by the name of Sidney Crosby.

Stealing the spotlight for years as a teenager at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and then with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic, many teams knew that a poor showing for the 2004-05 season could mean a chance to lock down ‘Sid the Kid.’

But things would not go according to plan. When the season was wiped out by a 310-day lockout, the question of how to determine the draft order came to the forefront. The solution – the first 30-team draft lottery where all 30 teams would have a crack at the No. 1 pick. Each team would have three balls in the lottery drum, minus one ball for every year in the previous three they had either made the Stanley Cup playoffs or been awarded the first overall selection.

In the end, the first overall pick would go to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Justice!” shouted a smiling Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman revealed Pittsburgh’s logo from the envelope.

The Penguins were one of only a few teams to have three balls in the lottery drum for missing the playoffs in the previous three seasons. And the team wasn’t penalized a ball for having taken Marc-Andre Fleury first overall in 2003 (Fleury was taken after the team engineered a deal to get the first overall pick from the Florida Panthers, so since the Pens had not technically won the 2003 lottery, a ball was not taken away).

Prior to the lockout, the Penguins built up their prospect base with Fleury, a breakout offensive threat in Evgeni Malkin (who would not join the team until 2006) and young defenders Ryan Whitney.

But the team was also facing heavy financial problems and was even the subject of relocation rumours. With owner Mario Lemieux set to play in what would be his final season, the Penguins would get an added boost with such a high profile young talent being brought on board.

The spotlight shone brightly on Crosby playing alongside Lemieux, but it would not prevent the team from finishing with the league’s second-worst record in his rookie campaign. Crosby also lost out on the rookie scoring title and the Calder Trophy race to Alexander Ovechkin, but he would set the gears in motion to return Pittsburgh to its early-90s dominance.

Sid The Kid would be the centerpiece of a young Penguins squad featuring Kris Letang and Jordan Staal and was instrumental in taking the team to a Stanley Cup in just four years.