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
The Ottawa Senators received the second overall pick in the 2001 Draft from the New York Islanders, along with Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckalt, in the disastrous Alexei Yashin trade. They used the pick to select Jason Spezza and in a draft that's short on star power behind number one selection, Ilya Kovalchuk, it's hard to argue that they didn't make the right choice. The Senators received three seasons of 90 or more points from Spezza and he helped them to reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2007. He also ranks second behind Kovalchuk from that year's draft in career points, nearly 200 points ahead of third place, Jason Pominville.
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.
Looking back, Duncan Keith was clearly the second best player taken that year and would've stabilized a suspect blueline for years to come. The Thrashers shouldn't feel too bad about passing on Keith twice as numerous other teams did as well before he went 54th overall.
12 2003 - Eric Staal - Carolina Hurricanes
The 2003 Draft is arguably the deepest draft in NHL history and there are plenty of intriguing options for the second overall pick behind Marc-Andre Fleury in a re-draft. Stars like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Byfuglien and Shea Weber stick out and most of them remain productive players while the original selection, Eric Staal, is clearly on the decline. However, Staal was the face of Hurricanes franchise for over a decade, recording seven consecutive 70 point seasons and leading the team to its lone Stanley Cup win in 2006. If they had a do over with this pick, it's hard to imagine that the Hurricanes would change a thing.
11 2004 – Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins
It's rare that two generational talents get drafted in the same year, but that was the case in 2004 when the runners up in the Alex Ovechkin sweepstakes were rewarded with Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has posted three 100 plus point seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and won two Art Ross Trophies, a Calder Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and a Stanley Cup with another one possibly on the way. He also holds a lead of nearly 300 points over the 2004 Draft's third place scorer, David Krejci. It would be ridiculous to think that anyone else would go second in a re-draft and this selection is a no-brainer.
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.
There are several candidates to replace him in a re-draft, including Carey Price, but the Ducks goaltending was not an issue at the time, nor is it now for that matter. Anze Kopitar looks like the best candidate as a one-two punch of Getzlaf and Kopitar up the middle would've been lethal for the Ducks and likely kept their state rivals in Los Angeles from winning two Stanley Cups.
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.
Still, the player taken directly after him, Jonathan Toews is clearly the better selection in hindsight. Toews would even go first overall in a re-draft, but this list implies all the first overall picks remain the same in this alternate universe. Can you imagine the Blackhawks captain and three-time Stanley Cup Champion on the same team as Crosby and Malkin? In this alternate reality, Toews, like Staal, likely would've become to expensive for the team to keep, but they might have been able to win another Stanley Cup before having to ship him out of town.
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.
Deciding between 43rd overall pick, P.K. Subban, and 129th overall pick, Jamie Benn, would be incredibly difficult, but given that the Flyers have found plenty of fire power up front while defense has often been a point of consternation, they'd likely have to go with the Norris Trophy winning defenseman.
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.
It's no slight to Doughty, but Karlsson was the best defenseman taken that year and the second best player behind Stamkos. In a re-draft, the Kings would be doing themselves a disservice by passing on him, regardless of what their fans would like you to believe.
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.
The 6-foot-6 Swede has shut down opponents and helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and then get within one win of the Final again this year. He's also upped his offensive production in recent years, recording 55 points in 2013-14 and 47 points this past season followed by 14 points in 17 playoff games. Hedman hasn't yet won a Norris Trophy, but there could be one in his not so distant future.
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.
Seguin has been over a point-per-game player in the last three seasons with the Dallas Stars and has formed a dynamic duo with teammate Jamie Benn. If the Bruins could change one thing about this selection, it would likely be to not inexplicably trade him away after the 2013 playoffs simply for being immature.
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.
However, Johnny Gaudreau, who fell to the 104th pick largely due to his small size, is on a bit of another level offensively. Gaudreau scored 64 points and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 2014-15 and scored 30 goals and 78 points this past season. If you're willing to sacrifice offense for "leadership", then Landeskog is still a fine choice, but if you want someone who can help fill the net, then "Johnny Hockey" is probably a better selection.
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.
For now, the distinction of being the second overall pick in a re-draft belongs to Filip Forsberg. Forsberg was originally expected to be one of the top forwards taken in 2012, but he fell to the Washington Capitals at the 11th pick and was traded to the Nashville Predators at the 2013 trade deadline before playing a game for Washington. Forsberg has posted back-to-back 60 point seasons for the Predators, including 33 goals this past season, and so far is the biggest offensive threat taken in 2012.
2 2013 - Aleksander Barkov - Florida Panthers
There were several candidates to go second overall behind Nathan MacKinnon in the 2013 Draft and the Florida Panthers ultimately chose Aleksander Barkov over Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones. While the latter two would be candidates for the second spot in a re-draft along with sixth overall pick, Sean Monahan, who has two 60 point seasons on his resume, Barkov is still the right choice here. Barkov had a breakout season in 2015-16 with 28 goals and 59 points in 66 games to help the Panthers to win a division title. He's also already one of the game's best shut down forwards and at just 20 years old, looks like he's well on his way to superstar status.
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.
For now, we'll give the Sabres the benefit of the doubt that they made the right choice. Although, if Fabbri's 15 points in 20 playoff games, which tied him for the Blues team lead, are any indication of his future success, he could find himself rushing up the rankings in a hurry.
2015 – Jack Eichel - Buffalo Sabres
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.