This is part three of a five-part series looking back at previous NHL Drafts between 2004 and 2009.
I noticed that the juiciest years to analyze fell between 2006 and 2009. There weren’t as many players to flame out and head overseas and there was also a healthy contingent on mid and late-round picks that made filling in the top portion of the round a breeze. While none of the drafts held the same type of value of 2005, these relatively recent years offered a bit more to work with.
Like with the last two, the bottom portion of the round does get thin and attributing proper value to some of the players became a bit of a challenge.
1. St. Louis Blues: Jonathan Toews (CHI, 3) – Original Pick: Erik Johnson
This is the first draft with a change in the first overall selection. While Johnson has found a healthy role with the Avalanche, he probably hasn’t lived up to the billing of a first overall selection. Toews has grown into a poster boy for leadership and two-way play as one cornerstone of Chicago’s burgeoning dynasty.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins: Phil Kessel (BOS, 5) – Original Selection: Jordan Staal
Kessel edges out (spoiler) Claude Giroux as the second player off the board here because I leaned towards more organizational need than a strictly value-based choice. Not that the Penguins are hurting for lethal goal scorers, but I feel like Kessel and that Crosby guy would work well together in the offensive zone, just a hunch.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Claude Giroux (PHI, 22) – Original Selection: Jonathan Toews
The Hawks lose out on Toews the second time around but gain an equally valuable first line centerman. Grioux has grown into a phenomenal talent for the Flyers and qualifies as one of the league’s most elite centers.
4. Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom
I kept Washington’s pick the same here as Backstrom has been just about everything the Capitals could have wanted with this pick. While I wouldn’t put him in the same company as Toews and Grioux, he’s certainly one of the few true number one centers in the league today.
5. Boston Bruins: Milan Lucic (BOS, 50) – Original Pick: Phil Kessel
I firmly believe that if the league had the opportunity to go back and reselect players from this draft that Lucic wouldn’t escape the top 10. I also believe that if the draft was conducted based on the order of finish this year that he’d be flirting with the top five. He’s the die that all other power forwards are cast around and 29 other teams are searching for their version of him with little success. He’s a rare talent who is immensely valuable in today’s game.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Kyle Okposo (NYI, 7) – Original Pick: Derick Brassard
If the Jackets were dead set on a center with this pick I’d assume they’d consider someone like Jordan Staal or Patrik Berglund today. However, Okposo has developed into a dynamic talent on the wing and he’d be an asset to the Jackets today.
7. New York Islanders: Jordan Staal (PIT, 2) – Original Pick: Kyle Okposo
Staal presents the Islanders with a quality compliment to John Tavares and puts him in a position similar to the one he had in Pittsburgh where he isn’t the focal point of his team’s attack.
8. Phoenix Coyotes: Patrik Berglund (STL, 26) – Original Pick: Peter Mueller
The American shootout star never found his footing in the NHL and has since moved along to the European leagues. Berglund has carved out a nice niche as a big, skilled centerman on a deep Blues team. He’d add a dynamic piece to the Coyotes’ puzzle.
9. Minnesota Wild: Jonathan Bernier (LA, 11) – Original Pick: James Sheppard
There are perhaps a few more skaters who rank above this draft’s best goaltenders. However, the perfect storm of Bernier’s talent and potential and the current state of the Wild crease leads me to slot him in at nine. While this may not have been a pick made in 2006 – Backstrom and Harding were both locked in for the foreseeable future – he would secure Minnesota’s crease for quite some time.
10. Florida Panthers: Erik Johnson (STL, 1) – Original Pick: Michael Frolik
Johnson remains in the top 10 for me on the power of his recent resurgence with the Avalanche. While his time in St. Louis wasn’t regarding as a success, he’s found a role in Colorado and is a steady presence on their blueline. He’s certainly the best defenseman remaining and would also address a need for the Panthers.
11. Los Angeles Kings: Nick Foligno (OTT, 28) – Original Pick: Jonathan Bernier
The Kings have exhibited that they are a well-oiled machine driven by a handful of players who have either met or exceeded their expectations from draft day. Giving them a quality middle-six winger like Foligno would add to their depth and skill.
12. Atlanta/Winnipeg: Semyon Varlamov (WSH, 24) – Original Pick: Bryan Little
Perhaps you’ve heard about Ondrej Pavelec. Varlamov’s time in Washington and especially Colorado would make him a tremendous upgrade in net for the Jets.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs: Brad Marchand (BOS, 71) – Original Pick: Jiri Tlusty
This seemed like a good spot to move Marchand to. He’s far surpassed his third round selection and would more than likely be a highly sought after asset if this draft were to be reconducted today.
14. Vancouver Canucks: Bryan Little (ATL, 12) – Original Pick: Michael Grabner
This might seem like a bit of a reach, but Little has been a steady contributor for the last few seasons and would add a nice dynamic to Vancouver’s forward group.
15. Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrew MacDonald (NYI, 160) – Original Pick: Riku Helenius
The raise MacDonald just received was one for a defenseman who is looked at as a top-four player. While his possession numbers don’t necessarily indicate that skillset, he developed into a marketable asset with the Islanders and now he’s getting paid handsomely for his on-ice growth.
16. San Jose Sharks (from MTL): Chris Stewart (COL, 18) – Original Pick: Ty Wishart
Stewart’s precise value is hard to quantify based on the streakiness that has travelled with him from team to team. He’s still a big body who has a nose for scoring goals. While he isn’t a consistent game breaker, he has plenty of value to plenty of teams around the league.
17. Los Angeles Kings (from EDM): Derick Brassard (CBJ, 6) – Original Pick: Trevor Lewis
Brassard drops from his initial spot in the top ten to the middle of the pack and Los Angeles’ second pick in this first round. Brassard isn’t an offensive dynamo, but offers a quality 200-foot game.
18. Colorado Avalanche: Mathieu Perreault (WSH, 177) – Original Pick: Chris Stewart
It’s conceivable that the stretch between 16 and 20 in my redraft could be fully interchanged. Perreault, like the players around him, is a quality middle six player who would fit in a number of systems and contribute a fair amount offensively.
19. Anaheim Ducks: Michael Grabner (VAN, 14) – Original Pick: Mark Mitera
Grabner has speed for days and would give the Ducks another great element to what is already a very impressive offensive attack. Side note: Does Mark Mitera sound like a name that would belong to an MTV VJ instead of a hockey player?
20. Montreal Canadiens (from SJ): Jamie McGinn (SJ, 36) – Original Pick: David Fischer
McGinn has grown into a dependable forward during his time in the league. He doesn’t do anything overly explosive, but he’s still a quality forward.
21. New York Rangers: Cal Clutterbuck (MIN, 72) – Original Pick: Bobby Sanguinetti
Clutterbuck doesn’t really offer that first round pizazz that a team is typically looking for but he’s still going to bring a fair amount of value at this point, especially considering where the Rangers are as a team today.
22. Philadelphia Flyers: Eric Gryba (OTT, 68) – Original Pick: Claude Giroux
Missing out on Giroux the second time around would sting and Gryba isn’t exactly the most prized defenseman in this draft class. However, he’s a big body and the Flyers organization tends to find a use for players like that.
23. Washington Capitals (from NSH): Michael Frolik (FLA, 10) – Original Pick: Semyon Varlamov
I didn’t have much trouble looking past goaltender in this case because the Capitals not only invested two picks on goaltenders in this draft (Michal Neuvith being the other) but they traded Varlamov away not long after picking him. Frolik would provide the Caps with a steady two-way presence on a team that tends to be defined by the narrative that they don’t defend well.
24. Buffalo Sabres: Jhonas Enroth (BUF, 46) – Original Pick: Dennis Persson
I’m not sure if there’s a first round pick from the 2000s that I dislike more than Persson. It’s disappointing that he wound up as the pick when you consider the players that came after him. Enroth slots in here based on convenience and the level of play he’s elevated himself to at this time.
25. St. Louis Blues (from NJ): Jiri Tlusty (TOR, 13) – Original Pick: Patrik Berglund
Tlusty didn’t catch on in Toronto but seems to have found a home in Carolina. I place him here as a potential addition of depth scoring to St. Louis’ attack.
26. Calgary Flames: Michael Neuvirth (WSH, 34) – Original Pick: Leland Irving
It’s odd that the Capitals spent two picks so close together on goaltenders in this draft. Neuvirth still has value and I believe he’ll enjoy a decent resurgence in Buffalo this coming season. He’d certainly be a welcome change in Calgary these days.
27. Dallas Stars: Artem Anisimov (NYR, 54) – Original Pick: Ivan Vishnevskiy
Anisimov is a quality forward with admirable size and a skillset that many teams covet. With the overall talent pool dwindling a bit, he’d be a welcome change in this spot.
28. Ottawa Senators: Jeff Petry (EDM, 45) – Original Pick: Nick Foligno
Petry is probably ranked a little too low in this practice. He could easily be swapped with at least one or two of the players between here and pick 20 but he falls to the Senators in this case who get a piece for their blueline.
29 . Phoenix Coyotes (from DET): Viktor Stalberg (TOR, 161) – Original Pick: Chris Summers
30. New Jersey Devils (from CAR via STL): Steve Mason (CBJ, 69) – Original Pick: Matt Corrente
These last two picks almost serve more as filler than anything else as I quickly ran low on consistent NHL contributors from this class.