Re-Drafting The Disappointing First Round Of The 2004 NHL Entry Draft

The 2004 NHL Draft will go down as one of the absolute worst in recent memory. The depth of quality players remains somewhat high. Many of the selections beyond the first-round actually tuned in fine careers for the most part, but there were very few bonafide stars compared to its predecessor, the 2003 draft.

Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were the top-two picks and both became top-10 NHL players during their respective generations. They panned out nicely, but you can't say the same for a large majority of the remainder of the first round in their draft class. We would see some of the greatest draft steals in recent memory come aboard in 2004, but that still doesn't take away the idea that overall star power lacked throughout this draft.

Perhaps it would have been a different story if a re-draft took place? Maybe some of these players would have developed better under different coaches and players? Maybe some who suffered career-derailing injuries would have actually stayed healthy throughout and gone on to become true stars?

But find most general managers who called names in 2004 and the majority will tell you they wish they could have a re-do. A large number of players in this draft became Stanley Cup Champions and useful players, but the vast majority of the first-round are players you can easily deem as busts or at least players the GMs would never take again.

With that in mind, let's take a look at how the 2004 NHL Draft would play out if a DeLorean with Doc Brown were to arrive today.

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30 Washington Capitals - Alex Ovechkin

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Like there was a question about it.

Hockey was not all that popular in Washington after years of losing, but Alex Ovechkin single-handedly started bringing sell-out crowds to the nations' capital for every home game and the Capitals have been a perennial playoff team.

He collected his sixth Rocket Richard Trophy this season, has won three Hart Trophies, one scoring title and led the Capitals to a pair of President's Trophies. There's zero reason to believe they would re-do this pick.

It's as likely as Donald Trump changing his hairstyle.

29 Pittsburgh Penguins - Evgeni Malkin

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Evgeni Malkin to Sidney Crosby is like Robin to Batman: You can't succeed and be as dangerous without the other. Both are necessary to conquer your opponents and be the best of the best.

As Crosby's dealt with concussions and other injuries throughout his career, Malkin has stayed healthier and done his fair share of work in Pittsburgh. It wasn't until his arrival in 2006-07 where the Pens started making noise in the NHL Playoffs.

He led them to a Stanley Cup in 2009 and has won two scoring titles as well as the Hart Trophy in 2012. Malkin also has a pair of 100-point seasons and was the Conn Smythe Winner as playoffs MVP during the Pens title run.

So again, the Pens would not be changing this pick.

28 Chicago Blackhawks - Pekka Rinne

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Corey Crawford has backstopped the Blackhawks to a pair of Stanley Cups, but what if Chicago had Pekka Rinne during the entire Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane era? We could very well be talking about four or five championships by now.

With Kane, Toews, Marian Hossa, and elite defencemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith playing in front of him, Rinne would undoubtedly be the league's top goaltender with multiple Vezinas by now. Surely, he would have done better than Cam Barker, who didn't accomplish much of anything in the NHL.

He has two 40-wins seasons under his belt, plus three more 30-win campaigns. His save percentage has topped .920 three times, and he has two seasons where he posted seven shutouts.

27 Carolina Hurricanes - Cory Schneider

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Though the 'Canes got a solid player in Andrew Ladd with the fourth-pick, he actually didn't develop into the dangerous forward we know today until he joined the Blackhawks. So this wasn't a great pick for Carolina.

But adding Cory Schneider would have done them wonders. Yes, Cam Ward guided them to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006, but he hasn't accomplished a whole lot since. Schenider, meanwhile, has been one of the league's top goaltenders.

On a mediocre New Jersey Devils squad, Schneider has posted elite numbers. In his three seasons with the team, he's posted 1.97, 2.26, and 2.15 goals-against-average numbers and his save percentage has been above .920 in all of them.

26 Arizona Coyotes - David Krejci

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The Coyotes took Blake Wheeler, who has since become a superstar...for the Winnipeg Jets franchise.

But they could have used the play-making skills of David Krejci, who is one of the best all-around forwards in the NHL and was a central part of the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team.

As a second-line center, he's a sure-bet for 60-points a season, reaching the mark in five different seasons. In Dave Tippett's very defensive-minded system, the Coyotes really could have used his offence when their Cup window was open from 2010-2012.

25 New York Rangers - Blake Wheeler

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The Rangers surely regret taking goaltender Al Montoya with the sixth-pick, as they ended up with Henrik Lundqvist a couple years later, who easily became the best netminder of his generation.

As such, Blake Wheeler would be the right pick for the Blueshirts. He just finished his third-straight 20-goal season in Winnipeg, and set a career-high with 78 points. He's reached 60 points in four of the last five seasons.

Now we can only imagine what he could have done with the likes of Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan in Manhattan. Perhaps it would have been enough for them to win a Stanley Cup, for all we know.

24 Florida Panthers - Andrew Ladd

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Honestly, Florida would probably have happily taken anyone else had they known how big of a bust Rostislav Olesz ended up being. But in all seriousness, Andrew Ladd would have been the right pick here.

After the 2015-16 season, it was the fifth time in six seasons where he hit 20 goals (the 2013 season had just 48 games, and he still managed 18 goals).

Ladd became the captain of the Jets franchise and made hockey HUGE in Manitoba once again. His leadership skills and two-way hockey have made him one of the forgotten stars of the 2010s, but we wouldn't have overlooked him in all likelihood if Florida took him.

23 Columbus Blue Jackets - Alexander Edler

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If it makes the Blue Jackets feel any better, they are far from being the only team who made an awful draft mistake in the first round during 2004. They took forward Alexandre Picard eighth overall and it sure did not pan out.

The other Alex they should have taken was Alexander Edler, the slick, puck-moving blueliner who became a semi-star with the Vancouver Canucks.

During their Cup contention period, he was widely regarded as their best defenceman, quarterbacking a dangerous power play. He's still effective at both ends of the ice, and we just wonder what could have happened to the Jackets if they ended up with him.

22 Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Callahan

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While the Ducks took Ladislav Smid, who never was all that spectacular in the NHL with this pick, they at least used him as a center piece in the Chris Pronger trade that helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2007.

But all of these years later, they can ask themselves what if they took Ryan Callahan, one of the NHL's best leaders and two-way forwards who has been a monster playoff performer? Callahan has four 20-goal seasons and led his Lightning to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2014-15.

Given how much Anaheim was melted down in the playoffs over the years, someone like Callahan could have been that last piece missing all those years to help them overcome their recent Game 7 meltdowns.

21 Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers - Travis Zajac

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The Devils ended up with Travis Zajac, and as we all know, that team was always known for its shut-down defence and slick goaltending by future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur.

But Zajac scored a lot anyway, even if he was taught to play more in his own end.

He has two 20-goal seasons under his belt, but has also been in the high-teens, scoring 17 in 2006-07 and 18 in 2013-14. The two-time 60-point man just finished up his six season in which he netted at least 40 points.

Surely, anything over Boris Valabik would have worked.

20 Los Angeles Kings - Johan Franzen

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Another late draft pick out of Europe, another piece of gold for the Detroit Red Wings. But a time machine would have prevented that for Motown and could have been treasure for the Kings.

Before injuries began to slow him down in the last couple of seasons, he had four 20-goal seasons,  and he was a key cog in helping Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2008. Johan Franzen wasn't drafted until he was 25, but we still would like to think he'd be a center piece in the Kings recent reign of success.

The Kings instead took Lauri Tukonen, who only played in five NHL games.

19 Minnesota Wild - Brandon Dubinsky

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Brandon Dubinsky has been one of the most overlooked players throughout his career, and the Wild would have surely taken him over their original selection, A.J. Thelen, who never played in an NHL game.

The underrated center wasn't taken until 60th overall. He has two 20-goal seasons but has been used more as a second-line center. Dubinsky has 367 points in 620 games and could have been a stud on a Wild team that traditionally lacks scoring.

18 Buffalo Sabres - Alexander Radulov

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Though Alexander Radulov has spent the bulk of his career in the KHL, we'll take a gamble here and assume he would have stayed with the Sabres the whole time, given the major hockey market and talent he could have played with.

The speedy Russian scored 47 goals and 102 points in 154 games, and the door remains open for an NHL return. With the likes of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Drew Stafford once playing together with the Sabres, Radulov could have been a stud in Buffalo.

17 Edmonton Oilers - Mike Green

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The Oilers ended up selecting Devan Dubnyk with this pick. As we all know, he didn't make a name for himself until he was traded to the Wild during the 2014-15 season. Edmonton simply failed to develop him and he turned out to be a bust in their hands.

However, Mike Green would have been a nice selection in the re-draft. Though his 31-goal outburst (as a defenceman) in 68 games during 2008-09 is now a decent memory, he remains a solid top-four blueliner who can be effective on the powerplay.

He's a sure bet for 30-40 points a season and given how weak the Oilers have been on rearguards for years, Green would have been able to fix it.

16 Nashville Predators - Alex Goligoski

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The Preds got burned with the selection of Alexander Radulov, as one of their rising stars ditched them for the KHL...twice. So imagine if they had the slick Alex Goligoski joining a blue line with Shea Weber and Roman Josi.

Goligoski has posted 55 goals and 277 points in 562 games, and has registered an incredible plus/minus rating of +68. He is reliable at both ends of the ice, registering 30-plus points in five of the last six seasons.

15 New York Islanders - Mark Streit

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Mark Streit was a steal who went 262nd overall in 2004. Every team passed up on him multiple times, but the Islanders made a major mistake by selecting Petteri Nokelainen, who played in just 245 games, registering 41 points.

The Swiss defenceman has been one of the best offensive-minded blueliners in the league, scoring 90 goals and 407 points in 716 games. Streit has three seasons of reaching 50 points and has registered double-digit goals in five different seasons.

New York would sign him in free agency in 2008, where he played four years. But his services would have helped more if they drafted him in the first place.

14 St. Louis Blues - Troy Brouwer

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Troy Brouer is one of those players the Blues lacked for years in the playoffs. He's physical, plays great two-way hockey and always seems to play his best season when the stakes are at an all-time high.

Over the past seven seasons, his goal totals have been: 22, 17, 18, 19,  25, 21, and 18. He's usually reliable for 30-40 points a season and has fit perfectly in the Blues system.

Now, if only they had Brouwer much longer. They ended up taking goaltender Marek Schwarz here, who only played in six NHL games.

13 Montreal Canadiens - Dave Bolland

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Dave Bolland's career hasn't been the same since he missed most of 2013-14 after putting up a respectable 12 points in 23 ganes with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Florida Panthers threw a lot of money at him and his contract is considered one of the league's worst.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion, however, was a key cog in the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 and 2013 titles. He played physical two-way hockey, scoring so many clutch goals and shutting down the opponents' top players.

He's the type of player the Canadiens never had for the playoffs. They have always been undersized players who were vulnerable to bigger teams. A guy like Bolland could have been the difference in championship runs. They wound up taking Kyle Chipchura, whose been a career bottom-six forward.

12 New York Rangers - Drew Stafford

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Drew Stafford has been everything you could ask for from a perennial second-line winger. The Buffalo Sabres wound up taking him 13th overall in 2004 and the Rangers took decent but inconsistent center Lauri Korpikoski with this selection.

The former Sabre and current Winnipeg Jet has scored double-digit goals in each 82-game season. He's reached the 20-goal plateau four times, including a 31-goal season in 2010-11. Stafford has also scored 50-plus points in a season twice.

Given the plethora of talented forwards the Rangers have boasted over the years, Stafford could have easily been a consistent 25-30 goal scorer with the team.

11 New Jersey Devils - Carl Soderberg

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It took Carl Soderberg a while to make the NHL, but it was well worth the wait as he became a reliable and underrated top-six forward through his four seasons in North America.

Soderberg was taken 49th overall by the Blues in 2004, but after years overseas, finally joined the Bruins in 2012-13. He's posted a respectable 41 goals and 145 points in 243 games.

New Jersey actually selected Travis Zajac with this pick, so they're obviously thrilled a re-draft won't happen. But if it did, Soderberg would have been the most logical and safest pick for the team.

10 Colorado Avalanche - Devan Dubnyk

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Until Semyon Varlamov came around, the Avalanche spent years looking for Patrick Roy's semi-successor. They knew there'd be no one like him again, but they also had problems finding someone reliable.

Devan Dubnyk would have been the guy. After years of underachieving on perennially awful Oilers teams, Dubnyk finally got to play with a decent team, the Minnesota Wild. In both 2014-15 and 2015-16, he took them out of the Western Conference basement and into the playoffs. He has 59 wins and 10 shutouts so far with the Wild, and in 39 games with them last year, posted a ridiculous 1.78 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage.

They initially selected Wojtek Wolski, but he's already out of the league.

9 San Jose Sharks - Alexei Emelin

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After being selected 84th overall by the Canadiens, Alexei Emelin spent most of his pro hockey career in the KHL, before finally joining the Habs in 2011-12. His career numbers won't flatter anyone: 12 goals and 50 points in 232 games.

But that's besides the point: He's been one of the most reliable top-four rearguards on the Habs. He's a dangerous shutdown blueliner, hence why they signed him to a four-year extension in 2013.

Numbers don't always tell the story and he is a proven playoff performer. The Sharks wound up taking Lukas Kaspar, but he never found full-time work in the NHL.

8 Ottawa Senators - Mikhail Grabovski

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He's been the captain of inconsistency for most of his career, but the speedster out of Germany has been better than most guys taken in the first-round during the 2004 NHL Draft.

Ottawa ended up taking Andrej Meszaros instead. Now he was a solid defenceman for a few years, but his tenure in the nation's capital lasted just three seasons. Not exactly worth a first-round pick.

Mikhail Grabovski was a three-time 20-goal scorer on an awful Toronto Maple Leafs team. Imagine what he could have done on a team that featured stars Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher.

7 Calgary Flames - Roman Polak

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The Flames took Kris Chucko, who played two seasons in the NHL and who has been out of hockey since 2010-11, when he was with Calgary's farm team.

Roman Polak would be an ideal selection here. The 6-foot-1, 237-pound blueliner has emerged as an elite shutdown defenceman. His offense isn't mind-boggling, but he's certainly better and more productive than most of the guys in this round.

Then again, plenty of teams passed up on Polak, who wasn't taken until 180th overall.

6 Edmonton Oilers - Andrej Sekera

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It's odd placing Andrej Sekera here because the Oilers did sign him to a six-year, $33 million deal last summer, so it's not like they had to use a first-round pick on him. Until you realize how Sekera could have benefited them much earlier.

The Oilers selected Rob Schremp, who obviously didn't make a name for himself in the pros. Sekera has established himself as a reliable top-four rearguard and his 30 points in 2015-16 were the second-most of his career.

Sekera's play could have helped the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final or even helped them speed up the rebuilding process.

5 Vancouver Canucks - Kris Versteeg

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The Canucks ended up with Cory Schneider...only for GM Mike Gillis to make an incredibly mind-boggling move and trade him while he was in his prime.

Kris Versteeg has been a consistent 20-goal scorer since his 2008-09 rookie season. But another reason why he'd be helpful for the Canucks in a re-draft? Well, he was a Canuck killer during the 2009 and 2010 playoffs with the Chicago Blackhawks.

He'd slot in nicely with the Sedin twins.

4 Washington Capitals - Nicklas Grossmann

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The Capitals used this pick to select defenceman Jeff Schultz, whose been an average player throughout the bulk of his NHL career. Selecting Nicklas Grossmann would have given them a quality top-four blueliner.

He's not known for his scoring, putting up just 13 goals and 86 points in 589 games, but he hasn't played on great teams either. He logs over 17 minutes a game and has a career plus/minus of +8.

Grossmann would be an ideal veteran defender for the Caps today.

3 Dallas Stars - David Booth

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It seems like a long and distant memory when David Booth had no problem scoring on an otherwise porous Florida Panthers squad.

He had 22 g0als in 2007-08, 31 in 2008-09, and 23 in 2010-11. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks the following season, putting up 16 goals in 56 games. But multiple injuries derailed his career potential.

However, the fact remains he was a top forward when healthy, and perhaps he would have avoided injuries if the Stars took him. They wound up with blueliner Mark Fistric, who has struggled to find full-time minutes in the NHL.

2 Washington Capitals - Tyler Kennedy

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The Caps got the steal of Round One when they took Mike Green with this pick, but in a re-draft, he would not be available, making Tyler Kennedy the next best logical option.

Kennedy fell to 99th overall, being taken by the Penguins. Despite having to play behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he reached double-digit goals in his first five seasons there, including a 21-goal campaign in 2010-11.

Though his best years are a distant memory, he'd be a nice complementary option behind Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

1 Tampa Bay Lightning - Bryan Bickell

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Truth be told, the 2004 NHL Draft wasn't one of the best in recent times. That being said, Bryan Bickell would probably be the best player to close out Round One.

The Lightning opted to take blueliner Andy Rogers, who never appeared in an NHL game. Bickell is best remembered for his heroics in the 2013 playoffs that led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.

Bickell's career-high season was 2010-11, when he had 17 goals and 37 points. But his energy and playoff contributions would make him a solid player for the Lightning today.

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