Everytime you turn on the TV or tune into sports radio these days, there’s a lot of chatter about 2 defensemen currently playing for Ontario clubs: Erik Karlsson & Luke Schenn. The former is highlighted for some sparkling play (offensively, at least) that has him ranked 7th in NHL scoring & a clear 23 points ahead of the next highest scoring D-man; the former gets talked about for, well … this.
The crazy thing is that both of these guys were selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, with Schenn actually being selected 10 spots higher than Karlsson. With their respective clubs currently heading in opposite directions, just imagine how things might be different if you swap those two picks.
With that oddity in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at that particular draft as a whole (position by position), and see if there are any other interesting tidbits to be dug up.
With the #1 overall selection, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Steven Stamkos, which was and is an absolute no brainer. Almost 4 years in, and he is just lapping the rest of the field in terms of production; in fact, he has scored more than 3 times as many goals as the next highest ranked in that department (167 to Jordan Eberle’s 48), and more than twice as many points as LA’s Drew Doughty. After him, the jury is still very much out on the next few forward selections, if not all but ready to throw the book at the #6 overall pick, Nikita Filatov (no wonder the Blue Jackets are in such a state these days). Colin Wilson (7) & Joshua Bailey (9) have demonstrated some potential, while Mikkel Boedker (8) has yet to make much of an impact in the desert. It’s the 10th overall seclection that has made the most news recently, as Cody Hodgson was traded from Vancouver to Buffalo at the trade deadline, a move that may elevate his status as he steps into a more prominent offensive role with the Sabres (along with another 1st round pick in ’08, Tyler Ennis). Two more names that stand out from the first round are Joe Colborne (16) & the aforementioned Jordan Eberle (22). Colborne, of course, was part of the deal that sent Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins; in 9 games so far for the Leafs, he has 1 goal & 3 assists, but many hope he can become the big physical centre that Toronto desperately needs. Eberle is a key piece in the Oilers youth movement, and has exploded this year for 30 goals & 63 points in 62 games, good for 12th in overall NHL scoring (and who can forget his amazing first career goal?) While he has as many career points as fellow draftee Bailey, he has played less than half as many games. Apart from Stamkos, Eberle is essentially the only forward to have made any kind of meaningful impact to his team thus far, albeit without any playoff games on his resume. In terms of busts, Kyle Beach (11) has yet to play a game in the NHL, and Anton Gustafsson (21) doesn’t appear to be stepping into the Washington lineup anytime soon.
In looking at the list of blueliners selected in 2008, there’s no shortage of names that stand out. Karlsson has elevated his game to a totally different level, but Drew Doughty (2) is right there in terms of skills & potential, and already has an Olypmic gold medal on his resume. Doughty has more career points to his name, but has more than a full season on Karlsson in terms of games played. While Zach Bogosian’s game is taking longer than expected to develop (drafted 3rd overall) & Luke Schenn’s struggles are fairly well documented (drafted 5th overall), Alex Pietrangelo (4) has become a key piece of the Blues success this year, and Tyler Myers (12) – who made an immediate impact by taking home the Calder Trophy in 2009 – has rebounded nicely from a bit of a slide his sophomore season. Colton Teubert (13) was considered a nice return for the Oilers after they dealt Dustin Penner to the Kings, and say what you want about Brian Burke these days, but his acquisition of Jake Gardiner (AND Joffrey Lupul) from the Ducks for Francois Beauchemin looks more and more like highway robbery. Rounding out the first round, there’s Michael Del Zotto (20) of the Rangers, a guy who struggled early on, but, like Pietrangelo, is now a huge factor on a winning squad; 7 spots behind him, the Caps selected John Carlson (who will always be known for this), and Washington management can only hope he & his teammates can bring some of that magic out down the stretch this season. Throw Luca Sbisa in the mix as well, and 2008 was a very good year to draft a defenseman, with the exception of Luke Schenn … (?)
[In fairness, Schenn was never projected to be an offensive dynamo, and was picked more for his potential truculence; but, you know something's off when you're a healthy scratch 3 games into your new coach's tenure behind the bench. Hopefully he can find his game at some point, and it must be noted that it often takes D-men longer to develop than forwards. If Carlyle can't get through to him, it's quite possible that a change of scenery would do him some good].
Only 2 goalies were selected in the 1st round of the 2008 Draft (Chet Pickard, 18th by Nashville & Thomas McCollum, 30th by Detroit), and neither have made an NHL start. Round 2 featured some potential future NHL’ers in Jacob Markstrom of the Panthers (31) & Jake Allen of the Blues (34), with the latter set to become a number one option as early as next year, and the former having risen up the depth chart with the trading of Ben Bishop (yet still firmly behind Halak & Elliott in the St.L). Another potential standout – Braden Holtby – was taken in the 4th round (93), and Dustin Tokarski (the 122nd overall pick) is currently up in the NHL with the Lightning. Not much to write home about, then, when it comes to goaltending in the ’08 Draft, but watch out for Markstrom to make an impact very soon for the Panthers.
(And hey, be sure to check out this nice video on the 77th overall pick, Michael Hutchinson, courtesy of theScore.)
Beyond the 1st round, there are a few names that stand out. Luke Adam (44th by Buffalo) won the AHL ROY award in 2010-11, and the Rangers appear to have plucked an absolute steal out of the 2nd round in Derek Stepan (51). Which current Calder candidate was selected 82nd overall by the New Jersey Devils? Adam Henrique, that’s who. And Travis Hamonic (53), Jared Spurgeon (156) & Jason Demers (186) only reinforce the notion that ’08 was a strong draft year for D-men.
So what does this exercise prove? Well, not all that much, as we are only 4 years removed from this crop of guys being introduced to professional hockey, and many have yet to get a shot in the NHL. Again, it takes time for guys to find their way, and some will blossom later than others. Having said that, it seems fair to say that certain names on that list simply
don’t do rebounds aren’t going to make it. It will be interesting to see if some of the names near the top of the list can live up to their draft ranking (*cough*Schenn/Bogosian*cough*), and which can jump up from the later rounds and make an unexpected impact.