In most instances, National Hockey League scouts and others who evaluate draft-eligible players have to try and find the players that will not be the best at age 18, but rather at 25. It is why the NHL draft in itself is such a hard task, as players can really change for the better or worse over the course of seven years.
Within the next few months, almost all of the 213 men that were selected in the 2006 NHL entry draft will be 25. And while nobody in 2006 had the luxury of seeing how these players would be perceived in 2013, we can now formally evaluate their performance. If all the players drafted in this year were thrown back into the pool and re-selected, the top ten picks would look much, much different. Here is the 2006 NHL Draft: Revisited.
1st overall: St. Louis Blues select Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson will likely go down as the worst 1st overall selection of the post-lockout era. Johnson was a star of the USNT development program, and was a big-body with an offensive prowess. Unfortunately, the Blues did not experience the Erik Johnson that they had hoped to when they selected him with the 1st overall selection. He played only two and a half seasons in St. Louis before being shipped off to Colorado for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. Had EJ been taken outside of the top five, he would be a solid pickup for any team that drafted him. Unfortunately, he never lived up to his top pick expectations, therefore making him a “miss” for the Blues.
Revised pick: Jonathan Toews (up 2 spots, from 3 to 1)
Overall, the Pittsburgh Penguins got exactly what they expected in Jordan Staal. He was not an offensive dynamo for the Peterborough Petes, but he certainly was a dependable two-way forward, and that was evident with the Pens. Staal was a versatile player that could play any role on the top three lines, penalty kill, or power play. Despite being the third centre on the depth chart, he always filled in when an injury occurred and was deemed the “best third-line centre in the league”. His reign in Pittsburgh ended with a trade to Carolina because of his desire to play a more prominent role, but there is no denying that Jordan Staal’s time in Pittsburgh was a success. He did not become the second-best player in the draft, but the Penguins certainly did not make a mistake by drafting him.
Revised pick: Claude Giroux (up 20 spots, from 22 to 2)
3rd overall: Chicago Blackhawks select Jonathan Toews
With the 3rd selection in the 2006 draft, the Blackhawks hit the jackpot, selecting the best player in Jonathan Toews. Toews’ body of work in his six NHL seasons is remarkable. He has won two Stanley Cups for the Hawks, including a Conn Smythe Trophy during their run in 2010. Point production aside, Toews has been a force to be reckoned with. He will play any role on the team, and his work ethic and leadership skills have been recognized across the league. He was named the youngest captain in league history in terms of games played, a Selke Trophy winner in 2013, and was an integral part of the Canadian Olympic gold in 2010 at Vancouver. Jonathan Toews has morphed into a perennial player amongst the league, and the Blackhawks got extremely lucky that he skipped past the first two picks.
Revised pick: Nicklas Backstrom (up 1 spot, from 4 to 3)
4th overall: Washington Capitals select Nicklas Backstrom
When the Capitals selected franchise player Alex Ovechkin in 2004, they could not have molded a better player from scratch to play with him. Nicklas Backstrom, ever since he made the squad in 2007-08, has been the perfect compliment to Ovechkin’s game. He has 306 assists in 413 games, creating a lethal duo on the first line. In addition to his ability to dish the puck, Backstrom has also been incredibly reliable in terms of health. Aside from a concussion in 2011-12, Backstrom has only missed five games with the Caps. He’s a pretty bad actor, but Backstrom was a perfect selection for the Capitals in this draft.
Revised pick: Phil Kessel (up 1 spot, from 5 to 4)
5th overall: Boston Bruins select Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel’s tenure in Boston was short, but certainly lively. Kessel left the U of Minnesota to play immediately for the Bruins, and started slow out of the gate. However, he broke free in his third year with a 36 goal campaign. However, he was shipped to Toronto in a highly controversial deal involving Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton shortly after. But that trade did not stop Kessel from being a top-flight goal-scoring threat in the NHL. In four seasons with the Leafs, Kessel has scored 119 goals in 282 games, and has been over a point-per-game in his last two seasons. He’s also been very healthy and consistent in Toronto, not missing a single game after sitting 12 games out recovering from surgery at the beginning of his first season. He may have left the team at a young age, but the Boston Bruins selected a fantastic player, one of the premium players of this draft.
Revised pick: Jordan Staal (down 3 spots, from 2 to 5)
6th overall: Columbus Blue Jackets select Derick Brassard
Not surprisingly, the Blue Jackets did not draft well with their 6th selection. Derick Brassard, despite being a force to be reckoned with in the QMJHL with Drummondville, was never an impactful player amidst his time in Columbus. In 309 games, Brassard only netted 169 points, and never regained the form he showed in 31 games in 2008-09, where he got a very promising 25 points. He was at the forefront of controversy when his agent Allan Walsh publicly voiced his displeasure with head coach Scott Arniel, and was ultimately traded in a package with John Moore and Derek Dorsett to New York. While it has been a small sample size, Brassard has flourished in the big apple, and perhaps a change of scenery was all he needed. However, for now it is apparent that Brassard was not a top ten selection in this draft.
Revised pick: Milan Lucic (up 44 spots from 50 to 6)
Similar to Derick Brassard, Kyle Okposo has never quite lived up to the hype or potential that everybody has expected of him. Okposo has scored 185 points in
319 games, failing to show the point-production that was apparent at the university and AHL levels. Also similar to Brassard, Okposo was fantastic during the 2013 playoffs, scoring 3 goals and 4 points in 6 games. While it is a very small window to judge a player by, it is entirely possible that Okposo will be a very good player soon enough. However, so far it can be ruled that Okposo was a reach of a pick by the Islanders, and not a top ten player in this draft.
Revised pick: Chris Stewart (up 11 spots from 18 to 7)
8th overall: Phoenix Coyotes select Peter Mueller
Had it not been for injuries, it is possible that Mueller would be a top player in this draft. However, the injury bug hit Mueller hard, with concussions, post-concussion syndrome, and even a groin injury. In his 6 NHL seasons, Mueller has only played 297 of a possible 458 games, and 90 of a possible 212 games in his last three seasons. He showed glimmers of talent, but considering he is still an unrestricted free agent heading into August, it is unlikely that Mueller will ever justify his 8th overall selection.
Revised pick: Erik Johnson (down 7 spots from 1 to 8)
9th overall: Minnesota Wild select James Sheppard
James Sheppard will likely be considered the biggest bust of this draft. After showing signs of offensive talent for Cape Breton in the QMJHL, Sheppard has been a highly disappointing player. He has only broken 20 points once in his career, and has twice failed to hit double digits in ample opportunity in game. Even a trade to San Jose couldn’t change Sheppard’s lack of success. It is very apparent that he was not worth a first round selection, let alone one in the top ten.
Revised pick: Semyon Varlamov (up 14 spots from 23 to 9)
10th overall: Florida Panthers select Michael Frolik
As it is seen so often, Michael Frolik has been a good NHL player and a good role player. However, being a good bottom six player is not the ideal role for a top ten pick, and unfortunately that was where Frolik was selected. His point totals are average, his goal totals are average, and his play in general is average. He is a fine player that many teams would like as a penalty killer and role player, but he is not by any means extraordinary. Had Frolik been taken in the late first round or early second round, he would be considered a solid pickup. However, he is certainly not the tenth best player in this draft, and would not be taken with this pick if the draft was redone in 2013.
Revised pick: Bryan Little (up 2 spots from 12 to 10)