The beauty of the inexact science of the NHL Draft (or any draft, for that matter) is that hindsight eventually allows us to see who got it right,= and who set their franchise back a couple of years.
With the salary cap crunching general managers more than ever before, teams are forced to hit on their draft picks or succumb to years of suffering before they can rebuild the now crumbling foundation of their franchise.
The 2008 NHL Draft, though, was unique, in a couple of ways.
For starters, the amount of quality defenseman to come out of the first few rounds is astonishing. Every draft produces its fair share of NHL-level blueliners, but the 2008 draft provided several lucky teams with organizational building blocks and likely future Hall of Famers – a handful of which were never even considered to be top ten prospects at the time.
The 2008 draft also saw several of the league’s best teams over the past few years whiff on their picks, some of which were pretty high up the board. The Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, selected Kyle Beach 11th overall. Beach was a bust, never suiting up for an NHL game and spending his career mired in the minors – meanwhile, the Hawks spent what would have been the prime years of his career winning three Stanley Cups.
Looking back, would the Hawks have done anything differently? Of course not. Several teams, however, would have done everything differently.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning – Steven Stamkos
Original Pick: Steven Stamkos
No changes at the top of this re-draft. Elite goal scorers don’t grow on trees and Stamkos has been one of the best at putting the puck in the back of the net over his eight seasons with the Lightning. After a rough start to his NHL career, Stamkos broke out in 2009-2010, bulging the twine 51 times as a 19-year old. Two years later, he scored 60 and has been a key cog in a vaunted Lightning lineup over the past several seasons, despite injuries and having the franchise torch thrust into his hands as Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were ushered out of town.
Stamkos may have played his final game with the Lightning, but there is no question that he lived up to the hype as the No. 1 overall pick in 2008.
2. Los Angeles Kings – Drew Doughty
Original Pick: Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty may not have a Norris Trophy (yet). He may not have Erik Karlsson’s offensive numbers (and likely never will). What he does have, though, is two Stanley Cup rings and he’s played a big role in helping the Kings secure both of those championships. Doughty is a franchise defenseman, a proven winner, and a workhorse – he averaged 26 minutes a night during the 2012 playoffs and nearly 29 minutes during the Kings 2014 run. He’s relied upon in nearly every situation and is the Kings most indispensable player outside of Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar.
3. Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets) – Erik Karlsson
Original Pick: Zach Bogosian
The Ottawa Senators got the steal of the century in 2008 when they landed Karlsson at 15th overall back in 2008. While teams like the Thrashers and Maple Leafs were selecting the likes of Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn, Karlsson was waiting patiently until the Senators called his name – ten picks after rival Toronto grabbed Schenn at No. 5. Karlsson is arguably the most exciting player in the game today (besides Alex Ovechkin) and is an offensive dynamo unlike any of his counterparts in the league today. Only Stamkos has put up more points than Karlsson from the class of ’08 and he currently leads all players taken in his draft year with 285 assists – a number that will likely continue to rise at an exponential rate.
4. St. Louis Blues – Alex Pietrangelo
Original Pick: Alex Pietrangelo
Another pick that remains the same. Alex Pietrangelo doesn’t get the kind of appreciation that is bestowed upon the likes of Doughty and Karlsson, but he’s been a force on the Blues back-end since 2010-2011. Pietrangelo is a smooth skating puck mover with plenty of offensive ability, and has been a staple on the Canadian national team since he was a teenager. The King City, Ontario native has established himself as one of the NHL’s finest rearguards and we likely haven’t seen his best just yet.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs – Braden Holtby
Original Pick: Luke Schenn
Some might argue that this is a touch high for Holtby (who was originally selected 93rd), but Carey Price was also selected at No.5 in his draft year and the league’s two best goalies have had a similar career path up to this point.
Holtby is coming off a record-setting season and can undoubtedly make room on the shelf for his first Vezina Trophy. The Leafs have been plagued by sub-par goaltending for years and having Holtby on the roster they are projected to ice over the next couple of seasons would make them a legitimate threat to come out of the East as soon as 2016-2017. With 149 wins in just 244 regular season games, Holtby is well on his way to establishing himself as one of this generation’s best – he’ll just have to solidify his reputation with a long playoff run at some point in the next few seasons.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets – Jordan Eberle
Original Pick: Nikita Filatov
In this redraft, the Blue Jackets get the exact opposite of the player they actually drafted in 2008. Nikita Filatov was an enigma from the start, whereas Jordan Eberle (originally taken 22nd overall) has developed into a consistent goalscorer. Only Stamkos has more goals than Eberle from the class of 2008, and Eberle will likely finish out his career with the No. 2 spot on the list, especially if he gets to play with Connor McDavid for an extended period of time. We’ve yet to see what Eberle can do come playoff time, but if his World Juniors heroics were any indication, Oilers fans could be in for a treat once the Oilers finally right the always-sinking ship.
7. Nashville Predators – Roman Josi
Original Pick: Colin Wilson
The Predators ended up with Roman Josi in the 2008 draft, taking him at No. 38, but hindsight makes Josi a no-doubt top ten selection. The Predators, with an abundance of riches on the blue line, were able to deal away Seth Jones thanks in large part to the fact that Josi, who is still only 26, has developed into a star defenseman. While Colin Wilson has been solid for the Preds, Josi is one of the smoothest defenseman in the league, eating up minutes and setting up teammates the way only a handful of blueliners can. Josi has already made Jones expendable and Shea Weber might be the next big name on the way out. What was once unthinkable is now a very real possibility thanks to Josi’s immense talent.
8. Phoenix (Arizona) Coyotes – John Carlson
Original Pick: Mikkel Boedker
The 2008 draft was dubbed the year of the defenseman, mostly because four of the top five picks were rearguards. As it turned out, 2008 was the year of the defenseman because the first round alone yielded eight defenseman who are considered among the best in the game today.
John Carlson (originally drafted 27th overall), like Alex Pietrangelo, flies under the radar a bit because he doesn’t play a flashy game, but he has become a fixture on the Capitals blue-line and is the glue that holds the unit together. He’s offensive ability was always there, but he truly broke out once he was asked to shoulder the responsibilities once held by Mike Green, who’s play diminished as he wound down his time in Washington.
Boedker was a solid contributer in Arizona, but John Carlson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson sounds like quite the tandem, doesn’t it, Coyotes fans?
9. New York Islanders – Adam Henrique
Original Pick: Josh Bailey
While the Islanders ended up with a decent player in Josh Bailey with their actual 2008 selection, there’s no doubting that Adam Henrique is a stock that is rising around the league. After a bit of an off year last season, Henrique (originally selected 82nd) stormed back with his first 30-goal season in 2015-2016. While Henrique is yet to be viewed as a premier top-line center, another big season could change that opinion around the hockey world.
The Islanders already have a top-end talent in John Tavares – having Henrique as their second line center would make the Isles an even greater threat, not only to their division rivals, but to the entire Eastern Conference.
10. Vancouver Canucks – Tyler Myers
Original Pick: Cody Hodgson
After a scintillating rookie season, Tyler Myers, who was selected 12th overall originally, seemed well on his way to the one-hit wonder Hall of Fame. A change of scenery helped Myers immensely and he seems to have gotten back on track in Winnipeg, where he displaying some of the qualities a 6’8″ defenseman should be displaying on a nightly basis. A man his size shouldn’t be able to flow around the ice that easily, but Myers has shown he can be an offensive catalyst while still playing a rugged, responsible defensive game. A dash of consistency and perhaps a few more points scattered across an 82-game season will put Myers right back in the conversation as one of the league’s top young defenseman. The Canucks could use a guy like Myers right about now. He’d definitely offer more than Cody Hodgson ever did…
11. Chicago Blackhawks – Derek Stepan
Original Pick: Kyle Beach
Before Artem Anisimov did a decent job last year, the Blackhawks were constantly shuffling names in and out of the second line center slot. If they had known what Derek Stepan would become as he came of age as a hockey player, they would have jumped at him at No. 11 back in ’08. Stepan, originally selected 51st, would have slotted right in behind Jonathan Toews – and while the Hawks did just fine without Stepan, imagine what they could have done without that lingering hole in their lineup during the years they didn’t win the Cup.
12. Buffalo Sabres – Travis Hamonic
Original Pick Tyler Myers
In the real 2008 draft, the Sabres landed Tyler Myers at this spot. In the re-draft, Myers goes a touch earlier, but the Sabres get a nice consolation prize in Travis Hamonic, who went 53rd overall. Hamonic will never reach the ranks of the names at the top of this draft (and re-draft), but he’s a steady defenseman with offensive touch and the ability to play close to 23 minutes a night. He’s got just about everything you look for in a solid No. 2 defenseman and can step up his play to the level of a No. 1 when needed. The Sabres blueline would be set up nicely for several years with Hamonic joining the likes of Ristolainen and Bogosian.
13. Los Angeles Kings – Gustav Nyquist
Original Pick: Colten Teubert
While Gustav Nyquist hasn’t had his breakout season yet, there’s no other player on left on the list who has quite the upside that Nyquist has shown throughout his brief time in Detroit. He definitely has more upside than Teubert, who’s only played 24 NHL games so far. Despite hitting a wall last season, he’s already shown the ability to be a 25+ goal scorer on a consistent basis. Nyquist, originally selected 121st, alongside an already impressive stable of offensive talent in Los Angeles would have perhaps put the Kings over the top during years where the scoring dried up come playoff time.
14. Carolina Hurricanes – T.J. Brodie
Original Pick: Zach Boychuk
T.J. Brodie, originally taken 114th overall, has developed into a fine NHL defenseman over the past three seasons and if everything falls right for him, he could continue to blossom into a excellent offensive defenseman. He’s hit a new career high last season with 45 points in a year where the Flames failed to meet the suddenly heightened expectations after a surprise playoff run the year before. With a new head coach on the way, Brodie is a pivotal point in his career. Will he be stifled by a defensive-minded coach, or will the Flames next bench boss give Brodie the freedom to unleash his offensive potential?
Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain – the Hurricanes would love the idea of lining up Brodie next to Justin Faulk on Carolina’s top powerplay unit.
15. Ottawa Senators – Jason Demers
Original Pick: Erik Karlsson
With no Erik Karlsson to swipe off the draft board, the Senators “settle” for Jason Demers, originally taken 18th overall, who has quietly developed into a steady blueliner for the Sharks over the past several years. Demers would provide some stability and a bit of offensive flair to line up alongside some of the Senators more rugged, physical defensemen. Outside of Karlsson, the Senators blueline leaves a lot to be desired in terms of offensive talent and puck-moving ability – Demers doesn’t fix the problem completely, but he instantly becomes part of the solution.
16. Boston Bruins – Zach Bogosian
Original Pick: Joe Colborne
The Bruins love their defenseman big and mean and Zach Bogosian fits the bill. Originally drafted third overall, Bogosian plays a heavy game and can drop the gloves when he needs to. He may be a case of “having too much on his plate too soon,” as he likely could have grown into a high-end stay-at-home defenseman. His career veered off a bit, but he’s taken on a leadership role in Buffalo and is still young enough to carve out a nice career. Perhaps playing for a team like the Bruins would accentuate his strengths and allow him to fully reach his potential.
17. Anaheim Ducks – Mikkel Boedker
Original Pick: Jake Gardiner
The talent begins to dwindle as we get closer to the end of the first round, but the Ducks are still able to land a decent offensive talent in Boedker at the No. 17 pick, adding a purely offensive player to go along with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Boedker, who originally went eighth overall, gets a bit of knock down the re-draft board as his defensive game has room for improvement and some consider him more a powerplay specialist than anything else. A glance at Boedker’s numbers, though, quickly show that Boedker has been equally as effective with regards to producing points both at even strength and with the man advantage.
18. Nashville Predators – Josh Bailey
Original Pick: Chet Pickard
Former top-ten pick Josh Bailey never really lived up to his draft status, but he’s still managed to carve out a role for himself as an effective two-way forward. Bailey would fit in nicely with the Predators current group of second and third-line forwards, and comes with the added benefit of being a big body with some offensive ability. While it may not be exactly what the doctor ordered, the Preds could do worse, like drafting Chet Pickard again, who still hasn’t played a single game in the big leagues.
19. Philadelphia Flyers – Cam Atkinson
Original Pick: Luca Sbisa
The small, but speedy Cam Atkinson hit 50 points for the first time last season, but we’ll need to see more of the same this year before he gets to join the top half of this year’s draft class. Originally drafted 157th overall, Atkinson would fit in well with a group of Flyers forwards that could use someone with speed to burn on the right wing. Atkinson is coming off his third straight twenty goal season – before long, we could be talking about him as one of the better goalscorers to come out of the 2008 draft class.
20. New York Rangers – Tyler Ennis
Original Pick: Michael Del Zotto
Despite his size, Tyler Ennis (originally taken 26th overall) has managed to establish himself as an offensive talent on a team that, for awhile, was sorrowfully lacking it. Ennis can leave the heavy lifting to Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, but one has to wonder what he might have been able to do playing alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan – not to mention the fact that he would have two other top end “small guys” in Mats Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis to charge into battle with.
21. Washington Capitals – Jared Spurgeon
Original Pick: Anton Gustafsson
Jared Spurgeon, originally taken 156th overall, has quietly gone about his business in Minnesota and only over the past two seasons have people really started to take notice of the Wild’s relatively diminutive defenseman. He plays over 22 minutes a night, hovers around 30 points a year and plays a sound defensive game. What more can you ask out of a No.3-4 defenseman? Maybe the Caps wouldn’t have had to spend as much money as they did on Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik a few years back if they had had Spurgeon on the way through their pipeline.
22. Edmonton Oilers – Jake Allen
Original Pick: Jordan Eberle
For all we know, Cam Talbot is the answer to Edmonton Oilers longstanding problem between the pipes. If he isn’t, though, the Oilers might wish they had taken Jake Allen when they had the chance back in 2008. Granted, the Oilers landed Jordan Eberle with this pick, but in this re-draft Eberle is already on a flight to Columbus when the Oilers get on the clock. Allen has yet to be given a full season’s workload thanks to the presence of Brian Elliott (and Ryan Miller for a short while) and a few unfortunate injuries, but he’s been good during the time he’s had the net to himself. Allen is taking the Cory Schneider path to success – if he gets anywhere near the Devil’s netminder’s level, then he’s a steal at No. 23.
23. Minnesota Wild – Jori Lehtera
Original Pick: Tyler Cuma
Simply put, teams are always looking for top-end centers – players they can slot into their first two lines, give an offensive role too and let them roam free. Jori Lehtera, who was taken 65th overall, has had the added benefit of playing with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, among others, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career and at any moment could break out. He’s already 28 years old and only has two full seasons under his belt, so his window of opportunity has been much shorter than his fellow ’08 draft picks, so the best of Lehtera may very well be on its way – and in this re-draft, it’s the Minnesota Wild who reap the benefits.
24. New Jersey Devils – Marco Scandella
Original Pick: Mattias Tedenby
Marco Scandella is another quality defenseman the Wild managed to get their hands on in 2008 that doesn’t necessarily jump off the page or come to mind when talking about some of the better mid-tier defenseman in the league today. Scandella was originally a second round pick, but his steady development into a 20-minute a night defenseman vaults him into the first round and gives the Devils another solid player on the back-end, further insulating a historically suffocating defensive structure.
25. Calgary Flames – Zack Smith
Original Pick: Greg Nemisz
You may scoff at the sight of this selection, but look at it this way; the Flames traded Alex Tanguay to the Montreal Canadiens during the 2008 draft and took Greg Nemisz. Nemisz played a grand total of 15 games in the NHL, picking up one assist in the process.
Meanwhile, Zack Smith, who went 79th to Ottawa, has put up 114 career points in a grinding role – and while he may be nothing more than the second coming of David Clarkson, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he scored 25 goals last season. That, combined with his rugged style of play and ability to agitate opponents makes him a perfect fit for the Flames. Imagine having to go up against him and Michael Ferland every night?
26. Buffalo Sabres – Luke Schenn
Original Pick: Tyler Ennis
For all the flack Luke Schenn has gotten over the course of his career, no one can blame him for the Leafs ineptitude in keeping an unprepared 18-year old in their lineup and giving him too much to handle much too soon. Countless careers have been destroyed by the impatience of management in high-pressure markets and Schenn should, if anything, be commended for staying the course and finally settling into a role in Philadelphia before being moved to Los Angeles. Who knows what the former fifth overall pick would have become if he had gone lower in the draft and been given time to develop?
27. Washington Capitals – Tommy Wingels
Original Pick: John Carlson
Tommy Wingels, originally taken 177th overall, took a few years to get going, and took a bit of a step back this season in terms of his offensive production, but overall has proven to be a versatile and useful player throughout his NHL career. He’s got NHL size and speed and has shown the ability to produce points in limited opportunities. The Capitals could use some more versatility on their bottom two lines – Wingels wouldn’t have been the difference maker against the Penguins in the second round of this year’s playoffs, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have him around either.
28. Phoenix (Arizona) Coyotes – Colin Wilson
Original Pick: Viktor Tikhonov
While Colin Wilson hasn’t really lived up to his seventh overall selection in this draft, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a solid NHL forward. He hasn’t always had top tier offensive NHL talents to play with in Nashville, but he’s still managed to score around 30-40 points a year, while cranking his play up a notch over the last two postseasons.
One thing is for sure, he’d bring a lot more to the table that Viktor Tikhonov did.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets) – Matt Martin
Original Pick: Daultan Leveille
If we’re going to add Zack Smith to this re-draft, there’s no reason why Matt Martin shouldn’t make the cut as well. If there’s such a thing as a “top-end” fourth-liner in today’s NHL, Matt Martin is it. An imposing figure, Martin, originally selected 148th overall, has teamed up with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas to form what is arguably the best pure fourth line in the NHL. He might be used for more than crashing and banging if he was a member of the Jets – either way, they’d be happy to have him.
30. Detroit Red Wings – Jake Gardiner
Original Pick: Julien Cayer
Ask Toronto fans what they think of Jake Gardiner and they’ll either scoff or launch into a heated rant about his inability to do so and so, his inability to this, his lack of that – but, truth be told, they could do worse than a guy who can skate as well as Gardiner does and can provide a decent amount of offense from the blue line.
Originally drafted 17th overall, Gardiner is prone to defensive mistakes – that’s a given. That, however, can also be coached out of his game (one can try, at the very least). Maybe if Gardiner had landed in Detroit – and had been under the tutelage of Mike Babcock from the start of his career – we’d have a much different impression of Gardiner today.
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