An easy assessment of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft would be to call it the Year of the Defenseman. Twelve defensemen were taken in the first round with twelve more being taken in the second round. Nearly half of the first 60 picks were spent on players to patrol the blue line.
One of those defensemen was Tyler Myers. The Sabres selected Myers, the number four ranked North American skater, with the 12th selection in the first round. Buffalo actually traded up one spot, to ensure they got Myers before the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings selected Colton Teubert with the next selection. Myers was the fifth defenseman taken in the first round, behind blue chips; Drew Doughty (2, LA), Zach Bogosian (3, Atlanta), Alex Pietrangelo (4, St. Louis) and Luke Schenn (5, Toronto).
Myers signed a seven-year $38 million extension this summer. This preempted the massive eight-year $56 million contract given to Doughty by the Kings and the five-year $18 million deal that Schenn got. Bogosian is on his second contract (two years, $10 million) and Pietrangelo will get a new deal in two summers.
As for the six drafted below Myers, only three have seen extended time in the NHL and three have yet to see time in the NHL. Myers is the only one to win an NHL award but isn’t counted on as much as Doughty is. Meanwhile, Schenn and Bogosian both fill top-four roles for their respective clubs but aren’t yet the top defensemen on their teams.
Myers’ contract is one of the best of the bunch, both in terms of length and cost, and he has seen more success than a large fraction of the picks. Of the twelve first rounders, I rank them as follows:
- Del Zotto
Drew Doughty is the most skilled of the bunch. He is getting paid as a superstar and gets superstar minutes. Karlsson and Myers are fairly interchangeable; Myers won the Calder while Karlsson has an All-Star Game to his credit. The remaining NHL regulars are also easy to swap, depending how you see the game. Beginning at Sbisa, you have the players who are still considered prospects but are expected to blossom in the next year or two. At that time a more effective ranking could be made.
A great deal of Myers success can be attributed to how he was handled by the Sabres. He played in a number of preseason games in his draft year before being sent back to junior. He played major minutes for Kelowna and in the World Junior Championships. The organization let him grow as a player that season. Upon his return to training camp in 2009, he was bigger and more mature – on and off the ice. He was paired with a steady veteran and went on to win the Calder Trophy. Last year, he came to camp a little too heavy, by his own admission, and had to rotate partners due to the Sabres failing to resign free agents. However, he settled in during the second half of the season and was a major force during Buffalo’s playoff run.
Myers, Bogosian, Doughty, Karlsson and Schenn are all top-four defensemen. Karlsson is more of a specialist, but he is Ottawa’s MVP. The remaining seven have yet to truly blossom, but it is clear that the Sabres found the right player to fill their needs in 2008.
The Sabres were also lucky enough to pick Tyler Ennis with the 26th selection and Luke Adam with the 44th selection, making the 2008 draft very valuable for the top-end talent the Sabres are playing with.