The first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft featured no fewer than 11 defensemen, most of whom have achieved some measure of success at the NHL level over the past 4 years. From a Senators perspective, this particular draft class yielded Erik Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner and a risen star who will remain in Ottawa for at least the next 7 years.
Selected 15th overall, Karlsson was actually the 6th D-man to be selected, and, in looking at those who were taken before him, it can be argued that at least 4 of those teams may have made a big, big mistake.
Let’s take a look at the list, with a brief comment about the current state of the respective player’s career to date:
Drew Doughty (2)
Doughty is right there with (if not ahead of) Karlsson in terms of all-around skills & potential, and already has a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal on his resume. Doughty has 13 more career points to his name, but has played 100 more games than Karlsson; stack up their point per game averages (0.51 for Doughty vs 0.68 for EK) and it’s really no contest in terms of offensive production.
Zach Bogosian (3)
His game appears to be taking a bit longer than expected to develop, although he did reach a career high in points (30) and +/- last season (-3) in only 65 GP. Bogosian is only 22 years old, and still has time to become the bruising defenseman with a scorer’s touch that the Thrashers were hoping he would become when they drafted him.
Alex Pietrangelo (4)
A key piece of the puzzle for the Blues in 2011-12, many have pegged him to be the next young defenseman to enter into the Norris echelon in the very near future. Here are a few things of note, as Adam Stafki points out in his recent piece:
In just his second season in the NHL he anchored a Blues defense that led the league in goals against (1.89) as well as shots against per game (26.7). At an age where most defenseman are still attempting to adapt to the speed of the NHL Pietrangelo was averaging 24 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time per game, good for 16th amongst NHL defensemen, as well as averaging 32.9 shifts per game which topped NHL defensemen.
Luke Schenn (5)
As a member of the Maple Leafs, Schenn’s struggles were fairly well documented. This past summer, he was shipped to Philadelphia for James Van Riemsdyk, and the Flyers are hoping that a new city and a reunion with his brother can launch him to a level he was never able to reach in Toronto.
Tyler Myers (12)
Myers made the most immediate impact by taking home the Calder Trophy in 2009, and rebounded nicely during an injury-shortened ’11-’12 season from a bit of a slide through his sophomore season. Under contract in Buffalo for another 7 years (including a $10 million bonus during the lockout), he’ll be counted on by Pegula & Co. to lead the Sabres resurgence and their quest for a Cup.
Colten Teubert (13)
The main component in the deal that sent Dustin Penner out of Edmonton, to say that he hasn’t panned out would be an understatement. 24 games played, 1 career point. Just imagine if the Kings had drafted Doughty AND Karlsson. Scary.
Those six players comprise the list of defensemen drafted before Karlsson; as for the rest of the first round, here’s the quick breakdown.
Say what you want about Brian Burke, but his acquisition of Jake Gardiner (17) AND Joffrey Lupul from the Ducks for Francois Beauchemin looks more and more like highway robbery. After Gardiner, there’s the underwhelming Luca Sbisa (19) and the more promising Michael Del Zotto (20) of the Rangers, a guy who struggled early on, but, like a Pietrangelo-light, was a big factor on a winning squad last season. 3 spots behind him, there’s a ‘where are they now’ post waiting to happen in Tyler Cuma (23), and to round out the first round, the Caps selected John Carlson with the 27th pick, who, until he accomplishes something greater, will always be known for this.
Which brings us back to Karlsson. While he may or may not end up being the best of the bunch in 2028, it’s fair to say that only Doughty or Pietrangelo could end up eclipsing him, and if only for the fact that they (for now) possess more complete, all-around games.
Remember, despite Karlsson’s impressive offensive stats, there’s still room to grow in terms of his abilities in his own end, and whether or not he does so will go a long way in terms of defining his lasting legacy.
For now, enjoy this compilation of all his goals and assists from his Norris Trophy season, and judge for yourself whether that year is liable to go down as a flash in the pan (albeit a very bright one), or if he’s far and away the best defenseman to come out of the 2008 Draft.
End note: It’s also very much worth mentioning that the 2nd round of the ’08 Draft featured a few guys who are poised to break out and make a mark of their own when NHL play resumes, namely Vyacheslav Voynov, Roman Josi, Justin Schultz & Travis Hamonic.