As a hockey fan, have you ever wondered what would have happened if your team had drafted a certain player instead of another? Like in 2000, when the New York Islanders drafted goaltender Rick Dipietro 1st overall instead of taking Dany Heatley (drafted 2nd overall) or Marian Gaborik (drafted 3rd overall)? We all know what happened after… The organization traded top goaltending prospect Roberto Luongo along with Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for a bag of pucks and a dirty jock straps. The upper management thought Dipietro would become the #1 netminder of the future, but instead he became a regular client of the medical clinic!
After a very successful first round during which Montreal drafted D Ryan McDonagh (now with the Rangers) and F Max Pacioretty, Trevor Timmins and his scouting staff drafted an electrifying defenseman named P.K. (or Pernell Karl) Subban coming off a season of 56 points (15 goals and 41 assists) in 68 games with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL. Yet, a few NHL teams made strange selections in the first round, as well as in the beginning of the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft and the Canadiens were able to land Subban 43rd overall.
Below you will find the 16 defensemen who were drafted before Subban in 2007. Some of them turned out to be very good hockey players, while others have yet to make it to the “big show”.
1. Thomas Hickey – Selected in the 1st Round (4th Overall) by the Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings surprised everyone when they drafted Hickey fourth overall in 2007. Pegged to be a mid-to-late first round pick, Hickey turned into a bust over the years, having yet to play in the NHL. After a successful career, Hickey has played for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL for the past few seasons, never recording more than 26 points in a single campaign.
2. Karl Alzner – Selected in the 1st Round (5th Overall) by the Washington Capitals
A very solid defensive defenseman, Alzner and his long-time partner John Carlson have been the top shut-down defensive pairing for the Washington Capitals in the past few seasons. Not known for his offensive abilities, Alzner, who has never cracked the 20-point barrier, is a combined +24 plus/minus differential over the past two campaigns. The Burnaby, B.C. native is also a very good penalty killer and shot blocker (he blocked 139 in 2011-12 and 132 shots in 2010-11).
3. Keaton Ellerby – Selected in the 1st Round (10th Overall) by the Florida Panthers
Another defensive rearguard, Ellerby can be dubbed as another disappointment of the 2007 draft year, albeit not to the same extent as Hickey. The towering defender has played 116 games over three seasons for the Florida Panthers, recording 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points in the process.
Ellerby’s lack of overall development has turned him into a depth defenseman rather than a top-four rearguard with the Panthers. Despite his tall frame, Ellerby is not very physical and, as a result, he has been passed by highly-touted prospect Erik Gudbranson on the Panthers’ depth chart.
4. Ryan McDonagh – Selected in the 1st Round (12th Overall) by the Montreal Canadiens
Traded by the Montreal Canadiens along with Christopher Higgins and prospect Pavel Valentenko to the New York Rangers in the now infamous Scott-Gomez trade, McDonagh has turned into a very solid top-four defenseman for the Blueshirts.
McDonagh had the best season of his young career last year, registering 7 goals and 25 assists for 32 points in 82 games, while posting a impressive +25 plus/minus rating. Not afraid to hit (118 hits) and block shots (182 BkS), McDonagh can do it all on the ice: play on the power play, kill penalties, carry the puck and protect leads. This trade will go down as the worst trade made by Bob Gainey during his tenure as the Habs’ general manager.
5. Kevin Shattenkirk – Selected in the 1st Round (14th Overall) by the Colorado Avalanche
The best defenseman to be drafted in the first round that year, Shattenkirk blossomed with the St. Louis Blues last season, notching 9 goals and 34 assists for 43 points in 81 contests.
The offensive rearguard, who posted an impressive +20 plus/minus differential, was acquired from the Avalanche with Chris Stewart and a second-round pick in February 2011 in exchange for defender Erik Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a first-round pick. Along with teammate Alex Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk will be part of the Blues’ defensive corps for the years to come.
6. Alex Plante – Selected in the 1st Round (15th Overall) by the Edmonton Oilers
Similar to Ellebery, the oversized defenseman has turned out into a major deception for the Oilers. Plante, who has only played in ten NHL games recording only only assists over three seasons, has never been able to make the transition to the higher level. He is currently playing for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons where he is having a disappointing campaign so far.
7. Ian Cole – Selected in the 1st Round (18th Overall) by the St. Louis Blues
Splitting his time between the NHL and the AHL over the past two campaigns, Cole has been a very useful rearguard for St. Louis despite having not locked a full-time NHL gig yet. A call-up in case of injuries, Cole has played 26 games with the Blues in each of the last two seasons, recording a total of 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points. Before the lockout, Cole was slated to make the team as the 6th or 7th defenseman.
8. Jonathon Blum – Selected in the 1st Round (23rd Overall) by the Nashville Predators
A very offensive defensive in the WHL for the Vancouver Giants, he was seen as a future power-play quarterback when the Predators drafted him in 2007. After learning the ropes in the AHL for two seasons, Blum finally managed to make it to the NHL, playing 56 games with Nashville over the past two campaigns.
The skilled rearguard recorded a total of 6 goals and 9 assists for 15 points with the pros. After Ryan Suter’s departure via free agency this off-season, Blum was slated to become an important piece of the Preds’ defensive unit, but now he is currently wasting his time in the AHL.
9. Brendan Smith – Selected in the 1st Round (27th Overall) by the Detroit Red Wings
Another player who was supposed to finally get his chance in the NHL following Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement. Smith made his professional debut with Detroit last year, playing 14 games while registering 1 goal and and 6 assists for 7 points. The talented blue-liner, would have played every night for the Wings, is also wasting his time in the AHL this season.
10. Nick Petrecki – Selected in the 1st Round (28th Overall) by the San Jose Sharks
The rugged defenseman, who has yet to play in the NHL with the Sharks, has turned into a marginal AHL player at best. Petrecki has been playing with the Worcester Sharks since the 2009-10 season without ever getting a taste of the big show.
11. Nick Ross – Selected in the 1st Round (30th Overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes
Another player who has never played in the NHL, Ross is now playing in Europe with the Augsburg Panthers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga after he was not re=-signed by the team when his entry-level contract expired at the end of the 2011-12 season.
12. T.J. Brennan – Selected in the 2nd Round (31st Overall) by the Buffalo Sabres
One of the quality prospects with Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb the Sabres have on defense, Brennan finally made his NHL debut in 2011-12 when he played 11 games with Buffalo, recording one goal. Brennan is currently perfecting his skills in the AHL with the Rochester Americans.
13. Taylor Ellington – Selected in the 2nd Round (33rd Overall) by the Vancouver Canucks
After a successful career in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, Ellington dropped off the map playing 21 AHL games since he was drafted by the Canucks. Ellington has been such a disappointment that he cannot even crack AHL rosters any more, having only played in the ECHL since 2011-12.
14. Josh Godfrey – Selected in the 2nd Round (34th Overall) by the Washington Capitals
A prolific offensive rearguard in the OHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Godfrey has never been able to replicate his offensive numbers at a higher level (not even in the AHL). Having never a match in the NHL, Godfrey is currently playing in the ECHL for the Las Vegas Wrangler. The perfect place to bet a few dollars that he will never play in the bigs.
15. Tommy Cross – Selected in the 2nd Round (35th Overall) by the Boston Bruins
After playing four years for Boston College, Cross only dressed for two games with the Providence Bruins of the AHL last season. Still under contract with the Bruins, Cross is currently playing for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.
16. Kevin Marshall – Selected in the 2nd Round (41st Overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers
The former defenseman from the QMJHL finally graduated with the Flyers in 2011-12, dressing for ten games. The rugged rearguard is currently playing for the Hershey Bears of the AHL, and if not for the lockout, Marshall would have every chance to stick with the Flyers this season following a rash of injuries to key defensemen such as Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros.
17. P. K. Subban – Selected in the 2nd Round (43rd Overall) by the Montreal Canadiens
Averaging 24:18 per game on the ice last season, the colorful Subban had already become a mainstay on the Habs blue line on his second NHL season. Blessed with a booming slapshot and a great hockey sense, Subban is taking full leverage of his excellent foot speed and strength to carry the puck and support the offense. Despite an up-and-down season, the Toronto-native managed to record 7 goals and 29 assists for 36 points in his sophomore campaign.
Still unsigned by Montreal, the Subbanator is currently a restricted free agent who has yet to re-sign with the team that drafted him five years ago. With his extravagant personality, you can bet Subban will work in the media after his professional career, whether it is as a television analyst or as a weatherman as shown in the video below.
Hat tip to Ian C McLaren for the idea to write on this topic.
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