Auston Matthews has long been touted as the consensus number one pick for the 2016 NHL Draft with a pair of Finnish players, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, projected to go behind him. For awhile, both Laine and Puljujarvi were thought to be in the running for the number two selection, but in recent months Laine's stock has elevated him to the point that he's become the surefire second choice. In fact, Laine's also been mentioned in conversations as a possibility to go first in this year's version of the debate that seems to take place every year in which it's suggested that the consensus number one won't go first.
Of course, Matthews will go first and Laine is pretty much guaranteed to be the second pick and Winnipeg Jets fans should be ecstatic to have him, but there's no guarantee that he'll actually wind up being the second best player. That's not to suggest that Laine isn't extremely talented, but more a point of how unpredictable the NHL Entry Draft can be. It's incredibly difficult to predict how an 18-year-old will progress and every team is bound to make some mistakes. Players who were highly thought of will falter and players that very few people gave any thought to will emerge. That's just the nature of the draft.
When we look back 10 years from now, Laine could very well end up being the second or even the best player from his draft class. However, we can't rule out the possibility that someone else will surpass him. For an idea of how often that happens, let's take a look back at the past 15 NHL Drafts and see which players would now be taken with the second overall selection if teams had a do over. To be clear, this is assuming all the first overall picks didn't change. We'll also show you which team these players would have ended up on had they been picked second (some are unchanged). Without further ado, here's a re-draft of the last 15 second overall picks.
14 2001 - Jason Spezza - Ottawa Senators
13 2002 - Duncan Keith - Atlanta Thrashers
This is a selection the defunct Atlanta Thrashers would definitely like to do over. After drafting Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley in the two years prior, the Thrashers set their sights on improving their goaltending and took Kari Lehtonen with the second pick. Lehtonen battled injuries throughout his time in Atlanta and despite showing flashes with the Thrashers and later the Stars, he never became an elite level netminder.
12 2003 - Eric Staal - Carolina Hurricanes
11 2004 – Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins
10 2005 - Anze Kopitar - Anaheim Ducks
The 2005 Draft was unique in that it followed the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire season and a 30 team lottery was held to see who would have the right to draft Sidney Crosby. While the Penguins won that honor, the Anaheim Ducks were the runners up and selected Bobby Ryan. Ryan posted four 30 goal seasons for the Ducks, but hasn't produced as much since the team traded him to Ottawa and they seem to be doing alright without him.
9 2006 - Jonathan Toews - Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins can't be too upset about their selection of Jordan Staal second overall in 2006. After all, he helped the team to a Stanley Cup victory in 2009. He never blossomed into the offensive player everyone imagined, but playing on the team's third line behind Crosby and Malkin may be partially to blame for that.
8 2007 - P.K. Subban - Philadelphia Flyers
The 2007 Draft was viewed as one of the shallowest drafts in years, with not much potential star power available behind number one pick, Patrick Kane. The Philadelphia Flyers used the second pick to draft James van Riemsdyk and while he has a 30 goal season under his belt with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the team likely regrets trading him more than they do drafting him, there are a couple of better candidates for this pick in a re-draft.
7 2008 – Erik Karlsson - Los Angeles Kings
This may be a controversial choice because Drew Doughty was a solid number two selection behind Steven Stamkos in 2008 and has helped the Los Angeles Kings win two Stanley Cups. Having said that, a two-time Norris Trophy winning defenseman who can lead your team in scoring and produce at a point-per-game pace are extremely rare and it would be difficult for any team to pass on one.
6 2009 - Victor Hedman - Tampa Bay Lightning
Heading into the 2009 Draft, Victor Hedman was talked about as a likely number two selection behind John Tavares with Matt Duchene also in the running. The Lightning went with Hedman while Duchene went third to the Avalanche. So far, it looks like Tampa Bay made the right choice. Duchene has been a productive centre in Colorado, but he has yet to reach the heights projected of him. As for Hedman, he was the best defenseman taken in 2009, just ahead of Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
5 2010 - Tyler Seguin - Boston Bruins
Prior to the 2010 Draft, there was a year-long debate of Taylor vs. Tyler, with many people discussing which of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin was more worthy of being the top selection. The Edmonton Oilers ultimately chose Hall with the Bruins getting Seguin second overall. There really isn't any argument to be made that Seguin was the wrong choice. He is the leading scorer from that draft year and the Bruins got a glimpse of his potential early on after he scored 67 points in his second NHL season.
4 2011 - Johnny Gaudreau - Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche selected Gabriel Landeskog second overall behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and if a re-draft was done, no one could really blame them for making the same selection again. The Swedish forward has shown an ability to produce offensively with one 65 point season and three 50 plus point seasons and he was named the youngest captain in NHL history by the Avalanche.
3 2012 - Filip Forsberg - Columbus Blue Jackets
The 2012 Draft is interesting because we're only four years removed from it and no one has really established themselves, head and shoulders above the rest, including first overall selection, Nail Yakupov. The Blue Jackets originally selected Ryan Murray second, but he's battled through some injuries and has yet to justify the selection. Other candidates for this spot include defensemen Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm and Jacob Trouba as well as centre Alex Galchenyuk who has shown flashes, but has had his talents suppressed in Montreal under head coach Michel Therrien.
2 2013 - Aleksander Barkov - Florida Panthers
1 2014 – Sam Reinhart - Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres used the second overall pick in 2014 to draft Sam Reinhart behind top selection, Aaron Ekblad, and Reinhart contributed 42 points as a rookie this past season. An argument could be made for other players like Leon Draisaitl, Sam Bennett, Dylan Larkin, or Robby Fabbri to go in this spot, but we're only two years removed from that draft and it's way too early to tell.
The 2015 Draft was touted as a tale of two players: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. As a generational talent, McDavid was the clear number one, but Eichel was no slouch either and both players were viewed to be a step above anyone else that was available. While the Buffalo Sabres made it known that they were displeased with losing the lottery and ending up with the second pick after spending the whole season tanking, they gladly selected Eichel.
So far, he's lived up to his billing as he produced 56 points as a rookie. Of course, it's still way too early to consider anyone else for this pick, especially considering that Eichel, McDavid, and Hurricanes defenseman, Noah Hanifin, are the only players from the 2015 NHL Draft to have played a significant amount of this past season in the NHL.
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