This post was re-written based on an article published in 2012 by Fred Poulin. We’ve re-written it to better reflect the present and all stats are accurate as of the conclusion of the 2016-17 NHL season.
Not every draft pick is a slam dunk. Even in a draft class full of stars, there are bound to be players who simply don’t make the cut. Subsequently, there are also going to be players who aren’t drafted in the first round but who find themselves making the NHL and even becoming stars in some instances. This was the case in 2007 when the Montreal Canadiens found a player in the second round who has now gone on to become one of the bigger names in all of professional hockey. Whether it was his skill, charisma or a combination of the two, P.K. Subban went from being a second-round prospect to an NHL star with a huge fanbase behind him.
Subban also, however, serves as a reminder that scouting isn’t as easy as many would like to believe. There is a reason there are so few professional scouting jobs in the NHL – the odds of evaluating a player at 16 and 17 years old and determining whether or not they can succeed as a professional hockey player are not very good. Those odds diminish even further once the draft board begins to thin heading into rounds two and beyond.
Canadiens Drafting a Haul
When looking back at the Montreal Canadiens draft from 2007, there is very little to criticize. Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens’ vice president of player personnel, and his staff found three bonafide stars in the first two rounds of the draft that could have served to set up the team for success for over a decade. Starting off strong with the 12th overall pick in the draft, the Canadiens selected defender Ryan McDonagh. Now the captain of the New York Rangers and the subject of a trade the Canadiens would probably like a mulligan on, McDonagh has gone on to have a solid career so far.
Though fans of the Canadiens never got to appreciate McDonagh wearing their brand of blue, blanc and rouge, their next selection, current-captain Max Pacioretty, has done wonders with the Canadiens coming in courtesy of the 22nd overall selection. In 562 games with the Habs, Pacioretty has scored 209 goals and 411 points and has made a name for himself as one of the better goal-scorers in the NHL over the last few seasons.
PK Subban Draft in Hindsight
Finally, the Canadiens went on to draft the aforementioned Subban. Coming out of the OHL as a member of the Belleville Bulls scoring 15 goals and 56 points in 68 games in his draft year, Subban fell to the Canadiens who picked him with the 43rd overall selection in the draft. With 73 goals and 318 points in 500 games and a Norris Trophy to boot, Subban is definitely a player that many scouts would like a chance to evaluate again in hindsight. Though Subban is now a member of the Nashville Predators, it’s safe to say that in a draft class that saw a lot of first and second round picks fizzle out of the league before they ever did anything of note – many of whom never even suited up for a game, the Canadiens did well.
For many NHL teams, however, the draft didn’t go quite as planned. Below are the 16 defenders taken ahead of Subban in 2007 – some turned into very good defenders, while some were simply lost in the mix.
1. Thomas Hickey – Selected in the 1st Round (4th Overall) by the Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles King selection Thomas Hickey with the fourth overall pick in 2007 was a shocker, to say the least. Projected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round, Hickey was taken with a top-five selection in a move that never panned out for the Kings. While Hickey never found himself in a game with Los Angeles at the NHL level, he found a home with the New York Islanders after being claimed off of waivers during the 2012-13 season. Joining the team right away, Hickey has played in 340 regular season games in the NHL and has scored 17 goals and 86 points.
2. Karl Alzner – Selected in the 1st Round (5th Overall) by the Washington Capitals
The second defender taken in 2007 was Karl Alzner. Taken just one pick after Hickey at fifth overall, Alzner quickly found himself in the Capitals lineup in the 2008-09 season for 30 games before splitting the 2009-10 season between the NHL and AHL. A mainstay in the team’s lineup since 2010-11, Alzner has played in every single game, amounting to a total of 540 consecutive games and counting. It’s an impressive streak, and though Alzner might find himself in a different uniform in the 2017-18 season, the Capitals can’t be too upset with themselves over finding such a sturdy and durable defender, even though other players on the board have gone on to become stars.
3. Keaton Ellerby – Selected in the 1st Round (10th Overall) by the Florida Panthers
The 10th overall pick in 2007 is one that the Florida Panthers would like another chance at. Selection 6-foot-5 Keaton Ellerby, the Panthers only got to see their No. 1 pick from 2007 play in a total of 125 games in the NHL. Ellerby spent some time with the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets as well at the NHL level, though to date, he’s only played in a total of 212 games, scoring four goals and 27 points in that time. Not every draft pick is a slam dunk, and the Panthers learned that the hard way with the big-framed Ellerby who has found himself playing professional hockey in Europe for the last two seasons.
4. Ryan McDonagh – Selected in the 1st Round (12th Overall) by the Montreal Canadiens
As mentioned, McDonagh was one of the better defenders picked in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Though he was traded along with Chris Higgins and fellow prospect Pavel Valentenko in exchange for Scott Gomez, that blame doesn’t fall on the back of the Canadiens scouting team. McDonagh has developed into a bonafide top pairing defender and now captains the New York Rangers.
In his 467 NHL games, McDonagh has scored 49 goals and 212 points and was entirely worthy of the 12th overall pick used to select him in 2007. While the trade might serve to haunt the Canadiens and former general manager Bob Gainey forever, it should also encourage the team in knowing that such a talented player was found in the draft considering some of the players taken both ahead of him and after him.
5. Kevin Shattenkirk – Selected in the 1st Round (14th Overall) by the Colorado Avalanche
Kevin Shattenkirk is an interesting defender. Though he was taken in the first round in 2007 with the 14th overall pick, the Colorado Avalanche barely got to see their 6-foot 202-pound defender before sending him to the St. Louis Blues along with forward Chris Stewart and a second-round pick in exchange for former No. 1-overall pick Erik Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a first-round pick. The deal came just 46 games into Shattenkirk’s career when he scored an impressive seven goals and 26 points. Playing in 26 games with the Blues following the deal, Shattenkirk went on to score two goal and 17 points – bringing his rookie totals to nine goals and 43 points in 72 games.
Though Shattenkirk is known more for his offensive prowess than his defensive ability, he has still become a big name in the NHL. Traded to the Washington Capitals at the 2016-17 trade deadline and set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Shattenkirk should see a significant contract offer sent his way early in the free agency process.
6. Alex Plante – Selected in the 1st Round (15th Overall) by the Edmonton Oilers
Similar to the pick of Ellerby, the large frame of Plante went on to be a major deception for the Edmonton Oilers. Measuring at 6 foot 3 and 225 pounds, Plante was certainly an intriguing prospect coming out of the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen. Scoring eight goals and 38 points in 58 games in his draft year with another five goals and 11 points in 13 games coming in the postseason, it isn’t hard to see why the Oilers may have been enamored with the big blueliner. Still, Plante went on to play in just 10 games in the NHL, recording two assists and 15 penalty minutes in that time. He’s since found himself playing in overseas and as of 2017, is a citizen of South Korea.
7. Ian Cole – Selected in the 1st Round (18th Overall) by the St. Louis Blues
Before he was playing top pairing minutes in the Stanley Cup Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017, Ian Cole was drafted 18th overall by the St. Louis Blues a decade earlier in 2007. Though he’s not necessarily a top-pairing defender, the Penguins have found a way to utilize the 6-foot-1, 219-pound Cole in a way that helps fill the void left by Kris Letang – a task left behind to all of the players on the Penguins blueline.
Cole played with the Blues from 2010-11 until 2014-15 when he was traded to the Penguins, but health has been a major issue for the Ann Arbor, Michigan-native. Playing in just 338 games since 2010, Cole’s healthiest season actually came in 2016-17 when he played in 81 games, scoring career highs in goals (five), assists (21), points (26), penalty minutes (72) and plus-minus with a plus-26 rating.
8. Jonathon Blum – Selected in the 1st Round (23rd Overall) by the Nashville Predators
Jonathon Blum is a good reminder that offensive-defenders at the junior level don’t always translate into successful NHL defenders. When players with the skills that Blum displayed with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL do translate into the NHL, they have the potential to become game-changing blueliners at the next level. Scoring eight goals and 51 points in 72 games in his draft year, Blum’s production was impossible to ignore. After the Predators used the 23rd overall selection on him in 2007, his skillset only continued to develop even further. Scoring 18 goals and 63 points in 64 games in 2007-08 and then 16 goals and 66 points in 51 game in 2008-09, there was potential for Blum to become a very good offensive defender at the NHL level.
In his rookie season in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, Blue continued to produce, scoring 11 goals and 41 points in 80 games followed by seven goals and 34 points in 54 games in his sophomore season. Splitting that second year between the AHL and the NHL, Blum skated in 23 games with Nashville, scoring three goals and eight points. Throughout his NHL career split between the Predators and the Minnesota Wild, however, Blum only went on to play in 110 games, scoring seven goals and 24 points in that time. Scoring 10 goals and 51 points in 91 games over the last two seasons with the Vladivostok Admiral of the KHL, however, Blum has proven that he still can produce at a high-level. There’s a chance he can make a return to the NHL one day, but it doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now.
9. Brendan Smith – Selected in the 1st Round (27th Overall) by the Detroit Red Wings
Brendan Smith is one of many players in the history of the NHL to find himself playing for multiple Original Six franchises in his career. Taken near the end of the first round in 2007, Smith has played in 309 games in the NHL, scoring 16 goals and 71 points. Making his debut in 2011-12 with the Red Wings, Smith didn’t find himself as a regular NHL player until the 2012-13 season. Though he didn’t pan out to become a top-tier defender like the Red Wings might have hoped, he was traded to the New York Rangers at the 2017 trade deadline to bolster their blueline in search of a Stanley Cup victory.
10. Nick Petrecki – Selected in the 1st Round (28th Overall) by the San Jose Sharks
Nick Petrecki is yet another big-framed defender who has yet to find his stride as an NHL player. Taken with the 28th overall pick in 2007 by the San Jose Sharks, the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Petrecki has played in just one NHL game to date and has bounced around the AHL and ECHL throughout his career. Playing in a total of just 74 games split between the Worcester Sharks, Rochester Americans, Hartford Wolf Pack and Chicago Wolves since 2013-13 as well as 45 games in the ECHL with the Elmira Jackets and Indy Fuel, it doesn’t look like Petrecki will ever develop into the player he was once believed to be – especially considering he’ll be 28 years old at the start of the next season.
11. Nick Ross – Selected in the 1st Round (30th Overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes
Though he was the fifth player in 2007 taken to never play in an NHL game, Nick Ross is just the first defender who was taken off the board with zero games of NHL experience. It goes without saying, but NHL teams would like their top picks from any draft class to not only play in the NHL, but also play meaningful minutes for their club. For the Coyotes, the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was probably one they’d rather forget, especially with the way both Kyle Turris (third overall) and Ross panned out. Ross has since found himself playing overseas since the 2012-13 season in Germany, Italy and Austria, where he has played for the last four seasons.
12. T.J. Brennan – Selected in the 2nd Round (31st Overall) by the Buffalo Sabres
T.J. Brennan was the first player taken off the board in the second round in 2007. Though the odds of hitting on a successful player after the first round aren’t nearly as high, Brennan has still failed to pan out into anything that he was once deemed capable of coming out of the QMJHL. Playing in just 53 NHL games to date in the NHL with five goals and 13 points to his credit, Brennan didn’t see any time in the NHL in 2016-17. His most recent stretch of play in the NHL came during the 2015-16 season when he suited up for seven games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring one goal and posting a minus-six rating.
Now 28 years old, it seems more likely that Brennan will become a career-AHL player rather than a significant player at the NHL level. It isn’t easy to play in the NHL, but Brennan can still say that he’s played in over 50 games at the highest level in the world with a chance to play in even more in the future.
13. Taylor Ellington – Selected in the 2nd Round (33rd Overall) by the Vancouver Canucks
Starting a run of three consecutive defenders taken in the second round, the Vancouver Canucks selected Taylor Ellington 33rd overall in 2007. Unfortunately, Ellington not only failed to make a name for himself at the NHL level with zero games in the league to date, but he also failed to make much of an impact at the AHL level either. With just 21 games of AHL experience and 198 ECHL games, it’s safe to say that Ellington was a bust for the Canucks.
14. Josh Godfrey – Selected in the 2nd Round (34th Overall) by the Washington Capitals
The second of three defenders taken in succession in the second round, Josh Godfrey had about as much success after being drafted as Ellington. Playing in zero NHL games, 64 AHL games and 153 ECHL games, Godfrey has found himself playing in the EIHL for the last two seasons with the Coventry Blaze.
15. Tommy Cross – Selected in the 2nd Round (35th Overall) by the Boston Bruins
Selected 35th overall in 2007, Cross became one of many picks by the Boston Bruins in a rough stretch of years that failed to pan out into NHL stars. Playing in just three NHL games to date and finding himself passed on the depth chart by the huge influx of defensive prospects that the team has accumulated over the last few years, Cross will likely continue to make a name for himself as an AHL player. That isn’t the worst thing in the world for the 27-year-old Cross, however, who has become a mainstay in the Providence Bruins lineup since the 2012-13 season.
16. Kevin Marshall – Selected in the 2nd Round (41st Overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers
Taken with the 41st pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Kevin Marshall has failed to develop into an NHL player. Skating in just 10 games at the NHL level with the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2011-12 and finding himself in the AHL and then Sweden ever since, it’s unlikely that Marshall will ever suit up for another NHL game again.
17. P. K. Subban – Selected in the 2nd Round (43rd Overall) by the Montreal Canadiens
The man himself, P.K Subban has gone on to become a star in a league that seriously lacks big personalities. Though it isn’t always appreciated by the masses and may have been the reason he was traded to the Nashville Predators in the first place, Subban’s character is a big selling point for why so many people admire him and his game. Finding a Norris Trophy-winning defender in the draft is something that many teams accomplish. For the Montreal Canadiens, drafting one in the second round will go down as one of the better picks outside of the first round in NHL history. Trading him, however, might go down as one of the worse moves that the league has seen in recent years – though that won’t be determined until years down the line.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.