Re-Drafting The First Round Of The 1997 NHL Entry Draft

There were just 26 teams in the NHL back in 1997 as the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and Columbus Blue Jackets were yet to join the league. However, the Hartford Whalers were still around, but moved to Carolina the very next season. This meant the first round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft consisted of 26 picks. It wasn’t a very deep draft even though, as only 101 of the 246 players taken over the nine rounds skated at least one game in the NHL. This represents 41.1% of the players selected.

The average numbers for the 1997 draft class are greatly boosted by the top players and possible future Hall of Famers such as Joe Thornton, Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau, Brian Campbell, and Roberto Luongo, who are all still playing in the NHL today. A total of eight players managed to skate in at least 1,000 regular-season games, but the average number of career games for those who played in the league was 303. In addition, the average number of goals scored by them was 46 with assists being 78 and points being 124.

This is a re-draft of the original 1997 draft based on how the players turned out. Joe Thornton was rightfully taken first overall back then and goes first again 19 years later. But there were several others who didn’t deserve their first-round selections. In fact, three of them never played a single game in the league and five others played fewer than 20 times. Several players taken in the first round of the re-draft jumped up considerably from their original draft positions with a couple of them climbing all the way from the ninth and final round of the event to the first round.

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26 Boston Bruins - Joe Thornton

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The Boston Bruins definitely took the best player in the draft when they selected big centre Joe Thornton out of Sault Ste Marie. The 36-year-old is still going strong and hasn’t lost his offensive flair with 82 points in 82 games this season. Thornton has played 1,367 regular-season games and leads all players from the '97 draft with 1,341 points from 377 goals and 964 assists. He’s first overall in assists and points from the draft class, as well as second in games played and third in goals. Even though Thornton’s taken home the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophies, he’s been knocked for never winning a Stanley Cup. He’s racked up 111 points in 145 playoff games though.

25 San Jose Sharks - Marian Hossa

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The Sharks took a good player in left-winger Patrick Marleau back in 1997, but right-winger Marian Hossa is arguably just a bit better. The 37-year-old Slovakian was taken 12th overall two decades ago, but his play since then sees him as the second-highest scorer from the draft class with 499 goals and 590 assists for 1,089 points in 1,236 games with Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago. Hossa has also won three Stanley Cups with Chicago and has chipped in with 149 postseason points in 201 contests.

24 Los Angeles Kings - Patrick Marleau

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Forward Patrick Marleau will go with the third choice in the updated draft to Los Angeles whereas the club took Olli Jokinen with their original selection, who wasn't a poor selection in his own right. The 36-year-old Marleau has skated with the San Jose Sharks for his entire career after they chose him second overall in 1997. The left-winger is still looking for his first Stanley Cup, but has been a consistent scorer throughout his career with 481 goals and 555 assists for 1,036 points in 1,411 regular-season contests along with another 112 points in 160 postseason outings. Marleau ranks third in goals, assists and points from his draft class.

23 New York Islanders - Roberto Luongo

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The Islanders had the fourth and fifth picks in the 1997 draft and took goaltender Roberto Luongo at number four and they’ll get him in the same spot two decades later. The 37-year-old played just 24 games with the Islanders before heading to Florida and Vancouver and is now back with the Panthers in the Sunshine State. Luongo was a Jennings Trophy winner in 2010-11 and has represented his homeland of Canada in several tournaments. He’s yet to hoist the Stanley Cup though. He has a career GAA of 2.49 with a .919 save percentage, to go along with a 436-350 record and 72 shutouts. His playoff GAA is exactly the same in 70 games and his save percentage is virtually unchanged at .918. Luongo currently sits sixth-overall in games played in NHL goaltending history, ninth in save percentage, seventh in wins, and 11th in shutouts.

22 New York Islanders - Olli Jokinen

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Finnish centre Olli Jokinen will go fifth overall to the Islanders rather than their original pick of defenceman Eric Brewer. Jokinen went third to Los Angeles in 1997, so he has dropped a couple of spaces in the process. The well-traveled 37-year-old retired after the 2014-15 campaign following stints with Los Angeles, both New York teams, Florida, Phoenix, Calgary, Winnipeg, Nashville, Toronto, and St. Louis. Jokinen played 1,231 regular-season games and chipped in with 750 points on 321 goals and 429 assists. Incredibly, he only appeared in just six playoff games, but fared well with five points.

21 Calgary Flames - Brian Campbell

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The Flames originally selected centre Daniel Tkachuk in 1997, but he managed to play in just 19 NHL games with a respectable 11 points. This time around they’ll go with durable defenceman Brian Campbell, who currently plays with the Florida Panthers. Campbell has moved up drastically in the draft as he was originally taken 156th overall by Buffalo. The 36-year-old has also played with San Jose and Chicago and has skated in 1,002 regular-season games with 487 points. Campbell won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2009-10 and also has 44 points in 103 playoff contests. He’s the top-scoring defenceman from the 1997 draft.

20 Tampa Bay Lightning - Kristian Huselius

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Left-winger Kristian Huselius of Sweden will go to Tampa after Florida took him 47th in 1997 and Tampa originally selected defenceman Paul Mara. There was nothing wrong with Mara as he posted 253 points in 734 games, but Huselius contributed 451 points in 662 career outings with Florida, Calgary, and Columbus. He hit the 20-goal mark six times and the 30-goal plateau once. Huselius played in just 24 playoff encounters during his career and chipped in with 14 points. He didn’t make his NHL debut until 2001-02 as he played five more seasons in Europe after being drafted. Huselius played his last game in the NHL in the 2011-12 campaign.

19 Boston Bruins - Brenden Morrow

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Boston chose first overall and picked again at number eight where they will take left-winger Brenden Morrow. He is the fifth-highest scorer from the 1997 draft where he was originally chosen 25th overall by Dallas. Boston originally took Sergei Samsonov, but Morrow had better overall leadership qualities. Morrow racked up 575 points in 991 regular-season games with Dallas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tampa before retiring after 2014-15. He represented Canada in several tournaments and added 46 points in 118 playoff games, but never won a Stanley Cup. He was a solid and consistent performer though.

18 Washington Capitals - Sergei Samsonov

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Left-winger Sergei Samsonov was just 5-feet-8-inches tall, but was an effective NHL player. He drops one spot to ninth overall as Boston took him eighth in 1997 out of Russia. Washington also originally chose a solid player back then in defenceman Nick Boynton. Samsonov is the sixth leading scorer from his draft class with 571 points in 888 games on 235 goals and 336 assists. He also added 47 points in 76 postseason encounters and was named the Rookie of the Year in 1997-98 when he had 22 goals and 25 assists. Samsonov played with Boston, Edmonton, Montreal, Chicago, Carolina, and Florida and retired after 2010-11. He hit 29 goals twice in his career and added another two 20-goal campaigns.

17 Vancouver Canucks - Maxim Afinogenov

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Vancouver chose defenceman Brad Ference in 1997 and he ended up playing 250 NHL games. This time they’ll take talented right-winger Maxim Afinogenov of Russia who originally went 69th overall to Buffalo. He played his entire career with the Sabres before skating his final NHL season with the Atlanta Thrashers. Afinogenov scored 395 points in 651 games and added another 23 in 49 playoff outings. He went back to Russia 2010-11 and the 36-year-old is still playing in the KHL. Afinogenov was a good offensive player who hit the 20-goal mark four times in the NHL.

16 Montreal Canadiens - Ladislav Nagy

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Right-winger Ladislav Nagy of Slovakia was a consistent and underrated player who could produce offensively. He was originally drafted 177th overall by St. Louis after a 126-point season in junior hockey with Halifax. Meanwhile, Montreal took winger Jason Ward in 1997. Nagy played just 435 NHL games with St. Louis, Phoenix, Dallas and Los Angeles, but managed to score 311 points. He left the NHL after the 2007/08 campaign, but the 36-year-old is still playing pro hockey in Europe. Nagy enjoyed three-straight 20-plus goal seasons in Phoenix, but played in just 18 playoff games. He was also responsible in his own end and was a +35 for his NHL career.

15 Ottawa Senators - Joe Corvo

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Joe Corvo is the second-highest scoring defenceman from the 1997 draft with 310 points in 708 games after being chosen 83rd overall by Los Angeles. Ottawa originally got the second-best player in the draft in Marian Hossa, but he went number two to San Jose in this re-draft. Corvo didn’t crack the NHL until 2002 and he also played for Ottawa, Carolina, Washington, and Boston with his last season coming with the Senators in 2013-14. Corvo also added 18 points in 50 playoff matches and the native of Illinois retired with a +25 mark. He reached the 30-point mark four times and the 40-point plateau twice during his career.

14 Chicago Blackhawks - Jason Chimera

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The Blackhawks originally took right-winger Daniel Cleary in the draft, but will opt forleft winger Jason Chimer 19 years later. Chimera has been with Washington since 2009 after stints in Edmonton and Columbus. He was originally drafted 121st by his hometown Edmonton Oilers and has scored 369 points up to now in his career. He’s also added 29 points in 68 playoff games. The 37-year-old, 6-foot-3 forward is still going strong as he scored 20 goals and 20 assists this season, hitting the 20-goalmark for the second time..

13 Edmonton Oilers - Daniel Cleary

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Right-winger Daniel Cleary drops one spot in the re-draft as he was originally taken 13th by Chicago. The Oilers used their 1997 pick on winger Michel Riesen, who played a grand total of 12 NHL games. Cleary on the other hand has appeared in 938 games so far with Chicago, Edmonton, Phoenix, and Detroit and has chipped in with 387 points. He’s also added 52 points in 121 postseason outings and the native of Newfoundland helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2007-08. The 37-year-old has had three 20-goal seasons, but spent last year in the AHL.

12 Los Angeles Kings - Mike York

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The Kings will be taking forward Mike York after originally taking forward Matt Zultek (never played in the NHL) in 1997. York was taken 136th overall by the New York Rangers and he managed to post 322 points in 579 regular-season NHL contests with the Rangers, Edmonton, the Islanders, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Columbus. York played in just six playoff outings and headed to Europe in 2010-11 where the 38-year-old is still playing this season. York had a great rookie season with 26 goals and 24 assists and had one more 20-goal season and three more campaigns with at least 50 points.

11 Chicago Blackhawks - Matt Cooke

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Chicago had another first-round pick in the draft and will take pesky forward Matt Cooke. He originally went 144th to Vancouver while the Blackhawks chose winger Ty Jones with this selection. Jones went on to play 14 NHL games without a point. Cooke may be one of the dirtier players in the league, but he managed to suit up for 1,046 contests with Vancouver, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota. He last played in the NHL for the Wild in 2014-15. Cooke had 398 regular-season points and 38 more in 110 playoff games while helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2008-09. He also served 1,135 career penalty minutes. Cooke never reached 20 goals in a season, but did hit 19 once and double digits on 10 occasions and was a +61 for his career. .

10 Pittsburgh Penguins - Kyle Calder

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The Penguins took winger Robert Dome in 1997 and he lasted 53 NHL games while scoring 14 points. They’ll be taking left-winger Kyle Calder this time, who originally went 130th overall to Chicago. He broke into the league in 2000-01 and skated with the Blackhawks, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. He potted 114 goals and 180 assists for 294 points in 590 games before heading to the KHL in 2010-11. Calder had two 20-goal seasons in the NHL but appeared in just 18 playoff contests. He broke the 50-point barrier twice with his best season being 26 goals and 33 assists for 59 points in 2005-06 in the Windy City.

9 Anaheim Mighty Ducks - Nick Boynton

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Defenceman Nick Boynton goes to Anaheim after he has slipped to 18th from ninth in 1997 when Washington took him. However, Boynton re-entered the draft two years later and was then taken 21st by Boston. The Ducks originally took Swedish centre Michael Holmqvist with this pick. Holmqvist played 156 NHL games with just 35 points to his name. Boynton played 605 regular-season contests and scored 144 points. He scored six points in 21 playoff games and made the most of them as he won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2009-10. He also played with Phoenix, Florida, Anaheim, and Philadelphia before retiring in 2010-11.

8 New York Rangers - Eric Brewer

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The Rangers selected winger Stefan Cherneski two decades back and he never played a single NHL game. Instead, they’ll be taking steady defenceman Eric Brewer who was originally taken fifth overall by the Islanders. Brewer suited up for 1,009 regular-season contests with the Islanders, Edmonton, St. Louis, Tampa, Anaheim, and Toronto. He chipped in with 271 points and had 17 more in 34 playoff clashes. Brewer played several times for Canada in tournaments, but never won a Stanley Cup. His best points total for a season was 29, which he achieved twice.

7 Florida Panthers - Andrew Ference

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Defenceman Andre Ference wasn’t selected until the 208th pick in the original draft when the Pittsburgh Penguins took a chance on him. Ference was still in the league this season with Edmonton. He’s played a total of 907 regular-season games with 225 points under his belt. Ference has a wealth of playoff experience as well and has 38 points in 120 postseason matches and helped the Bruins win the Stanley cup in 2010-11.  His best offensive year was in 2005-06 when he registered 31 points for the Flames. Florida originally took forward Mike Brown in the draft and he scored three points in 34 career NHL games.

6 Buffalo Sabres - Magnus Arvedson

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The Sabres took Finnish goalie Mika Noronen in the 1997 draft and he played 71 games in the NHL. On a side note, Noronen was credited with scoring a goal for Buffalo in the 2003-04 campaign. This time around the Sabres will take Swedish left-winger Magnus Arvedson who was taken 119th overall by Ottawa in the original draft. Arvedson played just seven seasons in the NHL, but the 6-foot-2-inch winger managed to score 100 goals and 125 assists for 225 points with 11 more points in 52 playoff outings. He spent his final 41 NHL games with Vancouver before retiring at the end of 2003-04. Arvedson was very effective in his own end and was a plus player in each of his NHL seasons and retired with a mark of +109.

5 Carolina Hurricanes - Karel Rachunek

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The Hurricanes selected defenceman Nikos Tselios with the 22nd pick back in 1997, but he suited up for just a pair of NHL games. They’ll be taking fellow defenceman Karel Rachunek of the Czech Republic this time around. The 6-foot-2-inch blue liner originally went 229th overall in the ninth round to the Ottawa Senators. His NHL career may not have lasted long as he split it up by heading to Russia to play during it. Rachunek still managed to play in 371 career contests and chipped in with 140 points as well as eight more in 26 playoff encounters. He also spent time with the Rangers and New Jersey before leaving for the KHL after 2007-08. Rachunek was a +49 in his NHL career and broke the 25-point barrier three times.

4 San Jose Sharks - Scott Hannan

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San Jose already took forward Marian Hossa with the second overall pick and will take defenceman Scott Hannan with the 23rd pick, which is exactly where he went back in 1997. Hannan is another of the draft class who managed to play in over 1,000 NHL games. He suited up 1,055 times in his career for the Sharks, Colorado, Calgary, Washington, and Nashville before retiring at the end of 2014-15. Hannan chipped in with 217 points and another 21 in 100 playoff games. The blue liner also ended up as a +2 after all his appearances.

3 New Jersey Devils - Henrik Tallinder

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The Devils more or less wasted their 1997 pick by taking goaltender Jean-Francois Damphousse, who would go on to play in just six NHL games. They’ll be taking Swedish defenceman Henrik Tallinder in this re-draft. Tallinder originally went 48th overall to Buffalo. He didn’t crack the Buffalo lineup until 2002-03, but went on to play 678 NHL contests with the Sabres and New Jersey. Tallinder would sign a tryout with Toronto but didn't make the cut before heading back to Europe to play in 2014-15, as the 37-year-old played in Finland this season. Tallinder registered 142 points in his NHL career with an additional 12 in 39 playoff games and retired with a +8 mark.

2 Dallas Stars - Paul Mara

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The Stars took forward Brenden Morrow in 1997, but he was snagged up by Boston with the eighth choice in this re-draft. Here they'll take Paul Mara, who originally went seventh overall to Tampa Bay. Mara enjoyed a decent NHL career with the Lightning, Phoenix, Boston, the New York Rangers, Montreal, and Anaheim before his last NHL game in 2010-11. Mara chipped in with his fair share of offence as he racked up 253 points in 734 games and had seven more in 33 postseason outings. The native of Ridgewood, New Jersey may have struggled in his own end though, as he had a career rating of -110.

1 Colorado Avalanche-Brett McLean

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The Avalanche originally took defenceman Kevin Grimes two decades ago, but he never saw the light of day in the NHL. The team will select centre Brett McLean this time around. McLean was one of the last players taken in the original draft as he went in the ninth round to Dallas with the 242nd pick. McLean became an NHL regular with Chicago in 2003-04 and ended up playing 385 games in the league with 162 points to his name. He also played with Colorado and Florida before heading to Europe to play in 2009-10. The 37-year-old played in Austria this season.

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