This is part two of my series of re-drafting the first round of the NHL Draft between 2004 and 2009.
One thing I noticed as I was working on this project was how quickly the bottom of the round thins out. I never had much trouble lining up candidates who had been selected in the second round and beyond, but filling the holes left by the first round misses led the bottom of each first round to be tricky to round out. Luckily there were a healthy number of mid-round picks to choose from in 2005 as the draft itself was very deep.
This draft, particularly at the bottom, became more of a need-based selection process as opposed to simply listing the best players. However, having a happy medium of re-ranking and actually selecting players for need was my goal going into this.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
2. Anaheim Ducks: Anze Kopitar (LA, 11) – Original Pick: Bobby Ryan
This is more about Kopitar than Ryan. The former has become one of the league’s elite centers and has garnered serious attention for a number of individual awards despite playing on the west coast.
3. Carolina Hurricanes: Tuukka Rask (TOR, 21) – Original Pick: Jack Johnson
Can you believe the Maple Leafs traded Rask for Andrew Raycroft? That never ceases to astound me. Rask is in a class with only a few other goaltenders who can honestly be considered elite on a year-to-year basis. Even with some of the skaters on the big board, I don’t see how Rask would make it past three today.
4. Minnesota Wild: Bobby Ryan (ANA, 2) – Original Pick: Benoit Pouliot
I like Ryan here for a few reasons. Not only do I think he’d serve the Wild well on their current roster, but I don’t have many other skaters ranked ahead of him in terms of overally rankings.
5. Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
I’m sure a case could be made to move him down the overall rankings, but he’s such a great fit in Montreal that I couldn’t consider moving him out of the fifth spot.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ, 35) – Original Pick: Gilbert Brule
The Blue Jackets only have one first round pick from their drafts between 2004-2010 in their system at this time. Vlasic wouldn’t just be part of the organization today, he’d be the cornerstone that defines their blueline corps.
7. Chicago Blackhawks: TJ Oshie (STL, 24) – Original Pick: Jack Skille
It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around for a team when they have multiple top picks. Chicago whiffed on Cam Barker and Skille but hit the ball out of the park on Toews and Kane. Just imagine Oshie skating on a team with those two.
8. San Jose Sharks (from ATL): Martin Hanzal (PHX, 18) – Original Pick: Devin Setoguchi
Hanzal shares a number of desirable traits with Anze Kopitar and none of them have to do with being European. Hanzal is a big, talented center who is not only gifted in the offensive zone but an effective defensive forward as well.
9. Ottawa Senators: Marc Staal (NYR, 13) – Original Pick: Brian Lee
On the surface, Staal over Lee gives the Senators the effective defender they were seeking with this pick. Moreover, Staal represents one of the most talented defenders in this draft class in his own zone. He’s overshadowed by Ryan McDonagh in New York but he’s a phenomenal top-four defender.
10. Vancouver Canucks: James Neal (DAL, 33) – Original Pick: Luc Bourdon
Luc Bourdon was going to be a phenomenal defenseman in the NHL before his passing. It was an unfortunate, tragic event that goes well beyond hockey. For the lone purpose of this exercise I put Neal in this spot.
11. Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick (LA, 72) – Original Pick: Anze Kopitar
This pick was made more off the premise of where Quick has taken the Kings since being selected. I could be convinced to put him in the top-ten of this draft quite easily. The Kings drafted Jonathan Bernier in 2006 but considering everything that Quick has brought to the table (including the eventual trade of Bernier) I slotted him to the Kings here.
12. New York Rangers (from SJ via ATL): Keith Yandle (105, PHX) – Original Pick: Marc Staal
If Staal’s stock didn’t rise, in my opinion, I would have him right in this neighborhood. The Rangers top four today is solid and it would be even more substantial if Yandle was thrown in the mix.
13. Buffalo Sabres: Paul Stastny (COL, 44) – Original Pick: Marek Zagrapan
This was not motivated by the countless Stastny for Miller rumors that swirled in Buffalo for the last few years. The Sabres still need a quality centerman and Stastny would have filled that need quite nicely. Add in the colossal miss that is Zagrapan and the pick makes sense.
14. Washington Capitals: Kris Letang (PIT, 62) – Original Pick: Sasha Pokulok
Not much in the form of justification here. Letang falls right in the middle of this first round in terms of the players selected in the 05 draft. He’d be a fit in Washington as well, regardless of the selection of Mike Green the year before.
15. New York Islanders: Ben Bishop (STL, 85) – Original Pick: Ryan O’Marra
The choice of Bishop here focuses on New York’s lack of goaltending in recent years more than anything else. In 2005 he wouldn’t have been considered thanks to Rick DiPietro, but as a hindsight pick, it makes perfect sense. Add in that he likely falls in this range for this particular draft class and I feel confident with the selection.
16. Atlanta/Winnipeg (from NYR): Niklas Hjalmarsson (CHI, 108) – Original Pick: Alex Bourett
I’m a big fan of Hjalmarsson. He’s a solid, stay-at-home guy who serves as a perfect second-pair defender. The Jets could really use a player of his skillset right now.
17. Phoenix Coyotes : Patric Hornqvist (NSH, 230) – Original Pick: Martin Hanzal
Mr. Irrelevant has turned into a perennial 20-goal scorer for the Predators. Scoring 20 goals on an annual basis for a club that doesn’t exactly fill the net is impressive. He’d be a nice consolation with Hanzal going earlier than he did in 2005.
18. Nashville Predators: Mason Raymond (VAN, 51) – Original Pick: Ryan Parent
For a team consistently searching for offensive production, a speedy winger with that ability to produce would be a welcome addition.
19. Detroit Red Wings: Jakub Kindl
This decision was born from convenience more than anything. Kindl was Detroit’s pick in 2005 and he’s growing into a quality defender for the Red Wings.
20. Florida Panthers: Jack Johnson (CAR, 3) – Original Pick: Kenndal McArdle
Johnson certainly isn’t an elite shutdown defender, nor is he the most dynamic puck mover in the league. However, he’s still capable of playing quality minutes and serving his team well. While his possession numbers are ugly, he fits well when compared with missing on McCardle.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs: Darren Helm (DET, 132) – Original Pick: Tuukka Rask
I still can’t believe Toronto traded Rask. Don’t read too much into this pick. There are some quality defensemen left but I think the Leafs could use a few more effective two-way forwards like Helm.
22. Boston Bruins: Matt Niskanen (DAL, 29) – Original Pick: Matt Lashoff
Niskanen has really raised his profile since moving to Pittsburgh but his draft status has simply been confirmed. A slight bump up here due to his recent success.
23. New Jersey Devils: Cody Franson (NSH, 79) – Original Pick: Nicklas Bergfors
To me, the Devils appear to be a team who could use a bit more depth along their blueline. A player like Franson would certainly add skill to a blueline group that seems to be missing a couple pieces.
24. St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Sobotka (BOS, 106) – Original Pick: TJ Oshie
There’s a big gap between Oshie and Sobokta. While Sobotka is a stellar defensive forward, his offensive contributions are somewhat lacking. Given what’s left over at this point in the draft, I’d be pretty pleased if Sobotka is who I wound up with.
25. Edmonton Oilers: Andrew Cogliano
Similarly to the Kindl selection, this fits in terms of the player’s current skill and the role he’d fill with the team. While Cogliano has moved on to Anaheim, he’d still serve the Oilers well in this spot.
26. Calgary Flames: Kris Russell (CBJ, 67) – Original Pick: Matt Pelech
Given that Russell has served the Flames well since he was acquired and the general plateau of talent that hit around pick 20, or so, Russell works well in this spot.
27. Washington Capitals: Justin Abdelkader (DET, 42) – Original Pick: Joe Finley
Abdelkader has truly become a nice complimentary piece for the Red Wings and I could see him filling the same role equally well with the Caps.
28. Dallas Stars: Adam McQuaid (BOS, 55) – Original Pick: Matt Niskanen
McQuaid fills quality minutes for the Bruins and you could argue they missed him in their exit from the playoffs this season. While he doesn’t carry the same flash that you’d expect to see from a first round pick, he’d certainly fill a solid role with the Stars.
29. Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Downie
30. Tampa Bay Lightning: Nathan Gerbe (BUF, 142) – Original Pick: Vladimir Mihalik
These last two picks are pretty much interchangeable. Downie and Gerbe can play on a team’s middle six and fill that role quite well. Gerbe probably has a little more offensive upside while Downie brings more grit. There wasn’t much left to choose from and this pair rounds out the first round well.