As NHL fans, we love the draft, especially looking over the selections years later. For GMs and scouts the same can’t be said, as although it’s exciting, the reality is that it’s almost impossible to predict who will thrive and who will flounder.
Over the years, we’ve seen a blend of both. Dating back to more than a decade ago, in 2003, the Ducks managed to rebuild their entire core by selecting both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round. The same can’t be said for certain teams like Edmonton, who year after year manage to fail despite having several first round selections.
This article will specifically look at that side of the coin pertaining to teams that would love a do-over. Look at the Pens, for example, who took Jordan Staal second overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. The pick right after.. Jonathan Towes to the Blackhawks. Can you imagine a depth chart of Crosby, Toews and Malkin down the middle? Good heavens! Thankfully for 29 other teams, this did not happen, but mistakes happen and you’ll most certainly see that in this list.
Let us now take a look at some big draft mistakes and where these 15 NHL stars really should have ended up, enjoy!
15 Erik Karlsson: Vancouver Canucks
Original Pick: Cody Hodgson (10th overall, 2008 Draft)
The Canucks haven't been the same since losing to the Bruins on home ice in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. After another failed campaign in 2012, the team broke down its core and decided a rebuilding plan was best.
They're nowhere near a Cup at the moment, though, to the team's credit, they have drafted some tremendous young players in Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. This all sounds great on paper, but they still have a glaring issue and it's their weak defensive core. Going forward, Ben Hutton is their only standout prospect.
In terms of established d-men, the team really doesn’t have one at this point. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are solid players, but can't be mistaken for #1 or #2 defensemen. Things could have been much different had the Canucks drafted a defender in the 2008 NHL Draft. With the 10th pick overall, the Canucks drafted another forward in Cody Hodgson, who has done nothing since being drafted beside bouncing around from team to team. Only five picks later, the Sens drafted Erik Karlsson 15th overall. Had things went differently, the Canucks would be a totally different franchise today.
14 Vladimir Tarasenko: Los Angeles Kings
Original Pick: Derek Forbort (15th overall, 2010 NHL Draft)
The Kings are built differently than other teams, as they generally rely on defense to get it done. With Jonathan Quick in goal and a solid defensive core made up of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez, the team wins games based on their tremendous defensive posture.
An area that has been lacking however is offense. Asides from Jeff Carter lighting it up with young linemates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, the team is still struggling to find Anze Kopitar a permanent sniping partner. Marian Gaborik has fit the bill, but injuries have made it impossible for them to sustain the success they once had together.
In the 2010 draft, the Kings took yet another defender 15th overall in Derek Forbort. To make matters worse, the Blues had the next selection and took Superstar sensation Vladimir Tarasenko. Forbort has played in 14 games since being drafted while Tarasenko has turned into the most lethal scorer on the planet. Can you imagine Kopitar and Tarasenko together? Thankfully for all the teams in the league that is only a dream and not a reality.
13 Roman Josi: Detroit Red Wings
Original Pick: Tom McCollum (30th overall, 2008 NHL Draft)
It wasn’t too long ago that the Wings were considered the best defensive team in the league with a d-core that was loaded from top to bottom. In May of 2012, that all changed when legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom decided to leave the NHL on a high, retiring after countless seasons of nearly perfect play.
With his retirement came a huge hole in the Wings defense that they still have not been able to fill. Niklas Kronwall is solid, but he is not a number one defenseman. His stats have declined over the last few years, which make this draft mistake an even bigger issue.
With Kronwall's time slowly coming to an end, the Wings decided against a defender and took a goalie with a surprising first round pick. McCollum is still in their system, but will never get near a starting job and probably won't even be a backup in the league. The Wings should've selected Swiss defender Roman Josi, who was picked up by the Nashville Predators eight picks later. The Preds knew they were getting something special, so they moved up in the draft, taking the selection from Toronto. The pick would have been perfect for Detroit, as they would've got a Nic Lidstrom type player who eats massive minutes.
12 Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Colorado Avalanche
Original Pick: Matt Duchene (3rd overall, 2009 NHL Draft)
Like so many other teams, Colorado has built their franchise around a healthy dose of youth mixed with veteran talent. Upfront, the team is lead by young talents Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene.
A need that's still haunting Colorado to this day is defense. Similar to Edmonton, if the Avs want to make a trade for a top blueliner, they’ll need to pay a pretty steep price. The Oilers have traded away a franchise forward for a defenseman that isn’t even quite established yet, so the asking price is quite high.
A name that always seems to be involved in trade rumors is Matt Duchene. With Landeskog leading the way with the C on his jersey and MacKinnon being pretty much untouchable, Matt serves as the inevitable trade bait piece.
If the Avs were to be given another shot, they'd probably change their pick. Instead, the Avalanche would opt for one of the best defenders in the league, Oliver-Ekman Larsson. OEL went sixth overall that year and was the second defender of the board, after Victor Hedman went second overall.
11 Brad Marchand: Toronto Maple Leafs
Original Pick: Nikolai Kulemin (44th overall, 2006 NHL Draft)
After years and years of re-tooling, Toronto finally made the correct decision and decided to start from scratch. The rebuild is currently in effect and the team is relying heavily on skilled players with the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and defenseman Morgan Riley.
All these parts are great, but the team can certainly use some goal scoring sandpaper to go along with such players. Although Leaf fans don’t want to hear this, Brad Marchand could have been a perfect fit for them. Actually, with Marchand almost scoring 40 goals last season, he may end up in TO anyway, as he’ll likely be asking for some big time cash next offseason.
Though, putting that aside, the team had the chance to pick him up in the second round in 2006. However, they instead opted for Nikolai Kulemin, who ultimately became nothing more than a third liner. Can you imagine a top line of Matthews, Nylander and Marchand? It sounds pretty good to be honest.
10 Wayne Simmonds: Boston Bruins
Original Pick: Tommy Cross (35th overall, 2007 NHL Draft)
The Bruins had one of the best 1-2 center combos in the league in 2007, along with a solid d-core, so their decision to draft another center and defenseman with their first two picks during the 2007 NHL draft was strange. With their first pick, they selected Zack Hamill. The pick was a huge bust and Hamill is currently playing overseas in the Swiss League. With their second pick, the one in question here, they selected Tommy Cross, who only managed to play in three NHL games.
What Boston really needed was a big depth scoring presence on the first or second line, so we'll have them choose the 61st pick overall in Wayne Simmonds. Last season, Simmonds elevated his game to new heights, becoming a leader on the team and playing top line minutes. He finished the year with a career high in goals, scoring 32 and tying his highest mark in point totals with 60. He’d fit in perfectly on a second unit alongside David Pastrnak and skilled center David Krejci who plays a similar game to Simmonds' current linemate, Claude Giroux.
9 Claude Giroux: Minnesota Wild
Original Pick: James Sheppard (9th overall, 2006 NHL Draft)
Speaking of Claude Giroux, several teams were probably kicking themselves when Claude turned out to be a franchise player for the Flyers. Philly stole their captain in the draft, selecting him 22nd overall. Looking back at that draft, apart from Jonathan Toews, who was picked third, Giroux was the best player taken.
A team that certainly could have used his services was, and still is, the Minnesota Wild, who are continuously starved for a set-up man to play alongside Zach Parise. The team is still searching for the right piece and recently took a chance by signing Eric Staal to a low risk deal. If they had the chance, the team would certainly scrap their James Sheppard selection, as Sheppard was a major bust and ended up leaving the league for a career overseas in the Swiss league.
8 Ben Bishop: New York Islanders
Original Pick: Shea Guthrie (76th overall, 2005 NHL Draft)
Apart from John Tavares, who they really couldn't miss with, the Islanders have a terrible draft history. In recent years, the team has been much better in this regard, but we're going back to 2005 for this pick.
Back in 2005, the team was continuously going in the wrong direction and their first round pick pick further proved that point. The club selected Ryan O’Marra who left the league to play in the United Kingdom and later retired from hockey. However, the pick in question was their third round pick, a winger by the name of Shea Guthrie, who never made it to the NHL.
Instead, the team needed to select a goalie, a problem they still haven't fixed. Jaro Halak seemed like the answer at one point, but injuries have created doubts. Backup Thomas Greiss filled in quite nicely, but he is a second goalie and not a starter.
Bishop was the steal of the draft, as the 6’7" goalie was picked at the end of the third round 85th overall by the St. Louis Blues, only nine picks after Guthrie. Seeing how he turned out, the Islanders would love to get their pick back and take Big Ben.
7 Cory Schneider: Edmonton Oilers
Original Pick: Rob Schremp (25th overall, 2004 NHL Draft)
In almost the exact same situation as we just mentioned with the Islanders, Edmonton has struggled to find a sustainable face between the pipes. Ever since Dwayne Roloson carried them to the Stanley Cup Finals, they've had difficulty finding a consistent number one goalie, with guys like Devan Dubnyk, Ben Scrivens and Nikolai Khabibulin failing to win the crease. It remains to be seen if their current number one, Cam Talbot, will live up to expectations.
InAtthe 2004 NHL draft, the Canucks took Cory Schneider 26th overall. The Oilers were selecting 25th overall, after trading Mike Comrie to the Flyers in December for the pick. They ended up selecting Rob Schremp, who never panned out in the league, scoring 20 goals in 114 NHL games.
6 Zach Parise: New York Rangers
Original Pick: Hugh Jessiman (12th overall, 2003 NHL Draft)
The 2003 NHL draft was absolutely loaded with stars. The likes of Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Shea Weber were just some of the names available that year. Despite a huge crop of talent to chose from, mistakes were bound to be made and the Rangers arguably made the biggest one, taking right winger Hugh Jessiman 12th overall. The forward played in two NHL games with the Panthers and signed to play in Austria in 2014.
For years, the Rangers have been looking for a franchise forward to lead the way and Zach Parise could have done exactly that for them, as he was selected five picks later by the Devils. He also plays the same position as Jessiman, meaning that the Rangers likely considered selecting him. Parise has been a beast in the playoffs, scoring 68 points in 89 games and could've helped the Rangers get over the hump over the last few years.
5 Braden Holtby: Winnipeg Jets
Original Pick: Danick Paquette (64th overall, 2008 NHL Draft)
The Winnipeg Jets possess one of the most entertaining teams in the NHL, with plenty of talented young players up and down their lineup. One glaring issue, though, is that the team's goaltending is one of the worst in the entire NHL and you’d think they would addressed this need by now, though they still haven’t.
The team had high hopes for Ondrej Pavelec, but he just hasn’t been able to stay consistent enough. Michael Hutchinson showed flashed of brilliance last season, only to stumble later on. The 2008 draft could have fixed that problem, as the then-Thrashers could've selected Holtby in the third round over Danick Paquette, who never made it to the NHL. Only two goalies were selected between Paquette and Holtby, who went 94th overall, so Atlanta could've potentially been looking at him.
Had things gone differently, the Jets could have been a potential cup contender with their goaltending situation fixed.
4 Anze Kopitar: Ottawa Senators
Original Pick: Brian Lee (9th overall, 2005 NHL Draft)
Since the departure of Daniel Alfredsson, the Senators have been still looking for a suitable franchise player to lead the way offensively. Down the middle, Ottawa has put all of its faith in the hands of Kyle Turris, who has played quite well in the role. As good as he’s played, Turris is still regarded as a second line center and not a first.
The Sens potentially could have filled in that void with the ninth pick by selecting Anze Kopitar, who is regarded as one of the top players in the world. Instead, the team took defenseman Brian Lee ninth overall. Lee is no longer in the league and announced his retirement at the end of 2014, while Kopitar fell to the Kings two picks later. Looking at all the talent in the draft, aside from Sidney Crosby, Kopitar was the best offensive player picked in the draft. A one-two punch of Kopitar and Jason Spezza might've given Ottawa the depth to challenge for a Stanley Cup during Alfie's prime years as captain in Canada's capital.
3 Ryan Getzlaf: Montreal Canadiens
Original Pick: Andrei Kostitsyn (10th overall, 2003 NHL Draft)
The Habs have made some pretty serious runs in the last couple of years (not counting last year), but the one thing that the Canadiens lack is size down the middle.
Alex Galchenyuk is on his way to filling that void, but, as of now, he still has a lot of filling out to do, which leaves the rest of the team. The bulk of Montreal’s other centermen over the last decade have been small, including Tomas Plekanec, Saku Koivu, Scott Gomez, and David Desharnais. The Habs could have fixed that back in 2003, but instead the club opted for sniper Andrei Kostitsyn, who just proved to be a liability in the long run. Nine picks later, the Ducks got themselves a huge steal by taking franchise player Ryan Getzlaf =.
Montreal fans are wondering what could have been with a player like Getzlaf. Imagine a top unit of Getzlaf, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. Wow.
2 Jamie Benn: Carolina Hurricanes
Original Pick: Justin McCrae (102nd overall, 2007 NHL Draft)
If the Hurricanes would be building around Jamie Benn, their situation would be much different. The team selected Brandon Sutter in the first round of this draft, who is a decent player, but a third liner and certainly far from a top end center at this point. Sutter was later traded by the team to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jordan Staal. However, the pick in question here is Justin McCrae, who went 29 picks ahead of Benn. He never made it to the NHL.
Looking at the teams current depth chart, they have good young pieces upfront, just not a player to build around, Jamie Benn could have been that guy. In the 2007 NHL Draft, he was by far the biggest steal ,falling into the laps of the Dallas Stars in the fifth round at 129th overall.
1 Tyler Seguin & Justin Faulk: Edmonton Oilers
Original Picks: Taylor Hall & Tyler Pitlick (1st overall & 31st overall, 2010 NHL Draft)
For some teams, it takes one draft to rebuild an entire franchise. In 2003, the Anaheim Ducks picked up Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. These two players have helped shape the franchise and are still dominating more than a decade later.
Edmonton could have potentially done the same during the 2010 draft. Instead, they took Taylor Hall first and then picked center Tyler Pitlick with the first selection of the second round. Looking at the big picture, Hall was traded for a defender, while Pitlick is in the AHL and has played 27 NHL games thus far in his career.
How things could have played out differently. With the first pick, Tyler Seguin should have been chosen, giving them an elite option down the middle. To make matters worse, the team is still staved for defensemen and they could have had exactly that with Justin Faulk, who eats more than 25 minutes a night with Carolina and is regarded as the next Drew Doughty. The Oilers disregarded him and the Hurricanes picked up the defender six picks later.
Let’s take a second to imagine a power play unit consisting of Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, with Justin Faulk quarterbacking at the point.