Drafting and developing core talent is among the keys to building and maintaining a successful NHL franchise.
Hiring a skilled coach to shape the roster and addressing roster weaknesses via trades or free agency are also crucial factors. In today's salary-cap world, however, building a strong nucleus of talent can be the difference between a contender and a pretender.
NHL history is replete with examples of clubs that built into champions around a talented group of handpicked stars. The Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers built dynasties around such players in the 1970s and 1980s.
The rise of free agency in the 1990s and the implementation of the salary cap in 2005 has made championship dynasties a thing of the past. Nevertheless, a solid core of homegrown talent remains vital to keeping clubs in perennial contention as Cup contenders.
Here's our ranking of the NHL's best homegrown cores since 2011. Depth in talent, championships and longevity among the league's top teams factored into this compilation.
6. Los Angeles Kings
From 2011-12 to 2013-14, the Los Angeles Kings were among the NHL's most dominant clubs. They won two Stanley Cups (2012 and 2014) and reached the Western Conference Final in 2013.
That three-year run wouldn't have been possible without their core of homegrown talent. First-round picks Dustin Brown (2003) and Anze Kopitar (2005) were their top forwards, while defenseman Drew Doughty (2008) anchored their blue line. Third-round pick Jonathan Quick (2005) blossomed into one of the league's best goaltenders.
Captain of the Kings from 2008-09 to 2015-16, Brown is a physical two-way forward who led the club by example during their championships years. His efforts earned him the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2013-14.
Kopitar quickly established himself among the NHL's best two-way centers, winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2015-16 and 2017-18. His disciplined play also earned him the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2015-16. He took over as Kings captain in 2016-17.
One of the league's top all-around defensemen, Doughty won the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2015-16 and was a finalist on three other occasions. Quick's goaltending carried the Kings to their first Stanley Cup in 2012, earning him the Conn Smythe Trophy. He's also a two-time winnerof the William M. Jennings Trophy (2013-14 and 2017-18) and is also a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.
The Kings struggled following their second Stanley Cup, reaching the playoffs only twice since then. Many of the players on their championship rosters have long since departed. Brown, Kopitar, Doughty and Quick, however, still remain as veteran leaders for their rebuilding club.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been among the NHL's best teams over the past six seasons. During that period they won the Stanley Cup (2020), reached the Final in 2015 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018. They also won the Presidents' Trophy in 2018-19 with a record-tying 62 wins.
Leading the way was a talented core of six players the Lightning drafted and developed in stars. The first was center Steven Stamkos. Selected first overall in the 2008 NHL draft, the Lightning captain blossomed into one of the NHL's top snipers, winning the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Taken second overall in 2009, Victor Hedman's become one of the league's top defenseman. He took home the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2017-18 and the Conn Smythe Trophy last year after leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup.
Two years later, the Lightning took Nikita Kucherov in the second round. The skillful Russian winger won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award in 2018-19. Kucherov was also last year's postseason scoring leader with 34 points.
The Lightning struck pay dirt again the following season with first-round pick Andrei Vasilevskiy. He's become one of the league's top goaltenders in recent years, winning the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19 and named a finalist in 2018 and 2020.
Third-round selections Brayden Point (2014) and Anthony Cirelli (2015) have also blossomed into important core forwards in recent years. They played key roles in the Lightning's march to the Stanley Cup last year.