It seems crazy to think that the 2009 NHL Draft class, one headlined by John Tavares, took place over a decade ago. Given how long ago it took place, it is safe to say which picks worked out, and which ones were busts.
The first round of the 2009 draft, one that took place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, was quite successful and produced many NHL players who are still in the league to this day. Today, we will be looking back at the top-10 selections from this draft to see where they are at now.
1. John Tavares – New York Islanders
As mentioned, the 2009 draft class was headlined by Tavares, who at the time was coming off of a fantastic season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), one in which he was traded midway through from the Oshawa Generals to the London Knights. In a combined 56 regular-season games, he managed 58 goals and 104 points.
To the surprise of no one, he stuck with the New York Islanders out of training camp that next fall, and had a successful rookie season, leading his team in scoring with 54 points. He went on to play eight more seasons with the Islanders, and put up great numbers along the way, including a 2014-15 season where he recorded 38 goals and 86 points. He led the Islanders in points for seven of his nine seasons before a controversial departure after the 2017-18 season.
During the 2018 offseason, Tavares chose to leave Long Island and join the Toronto Maple Leafs on a seven-year, $77 million deal. In his very first season with his new club, he established new career highs with 47 goals and 88 points. Despite his personal success, however, the Leafs have continued to struggle in the postseason, while the Islanders have managed to go on some deep playoff runs.
Despite many Islanders fans turning on him after the decision he made as a free agent, there is no denying how special his tenure with the team was. In 669 career games, he managed 272 goals and 621 points. Both his 364 goals and 819 points currently lead his draft class. Safe to say that he has lived up to his lofty expectations that come with being a first overall pick.
2. Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning
If there was one player in this draft class that you could argue should have gone first overall instead of Tavares, Victor Hedman is the guy. The now 30-year-old was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the second selection after a season in the Swedish Elite League (SEL) in which he had seven goals and 21 points in 43 contests.
He also played in the NHL that very next season and fared out alright as a rookie defenceman, posting 20 points in 74 games. He then took some time to hit his stride, as he had a number of very average seasons before really figuring things out in 2014-15, where he put up a then-career-high 55 points. He has since gone on to win a Norris Trophy in 2017-18, and he also won the Conn Smythe in 2020.
Hedman’s best statistical season came in 2016-17, where he registered 72 points in 79 games. Not only are his offensive numbers elite, but he is very good on the defensive side of the puck, and as a result is regarded by many to be the best defenceman in the entire NHL. In 816 career games he has 114 goals and 518 points, and has played a huge role in the Lightning winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. He is a brilliant player, who by the time his career is said and done, will likely find himself in the Hall of Fame.
3. Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
The third pick from the 2009 draft belonged to the Colorado Avalanche and, they used it to select forward Matt Duchene from the Brampton Battalion (now known as the North Bay Battalion) of the OHL. He showed plenty of promise the season prior with 31 goals and 79 points in 57 games, and like the two above, he became a full-time NHLer the very next fall.
The now-30-year-old’s talent was on display right from the beginning of his career, as he registered 24 goals and 55 points in 81 contests. He went on to play a total of nine seasons with the Avalanche, and while his skill was clearly evident, he struggled at times with consistency. His best NHL season to date came with the Avalanche in 2013-14, where he put up 70 points in 71 games.
During the 2017 offseason, Duchene requested a trade from the Avalanche, who were really struggling at the time as a team. He got his wish early into the 2017-18 campaign as he was dealt to the Ottawa Senators. He played parts of two seasons with the Sens, the second of which he had an impressive 58 points in 50 games before once again being traded, this time to the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead of the 2019 trade deadline.
That very next offseason, he inked a seven-year, $56 million deal with the Nashville Predators, who he remains a member of. Unfortunately, his first two seasons with the Preds haven’t gone as hoped. In 34 games last season he put up just six goals and 13 points and is in need of a major bounce back in 2021-22. Regardless of his recent struggles however, he has still had a very good career with 602 points in 827 games, making it clear he was very worthy of the third overall selection.
4. Evander Kane – Atlanta Thrashers
Another player who has moved around quite a bit from this draft class is Evander Kane, who was selected fourth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers. At the time of being drafted, Kane had established himself as a dominating offensive force with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL), as in 61 games played that season, he tallied 48 goals and 96 points.
In a continuing theme for the 2009 draft class, Kane too played in the NHL that very next season. In 66 games as a rookie he scored 14 goals and 26 points while also recording 62 penalty minutes. He suited up in Atlanta for just one more season as the team moved to Winnipeg after the 2010-11 campaign. He played a total of six seasons for the organization, with his best year coming in 2011-12, one in which he scored 30 goals and 57 points.
As a member of the Jets, Kane had several reported conflicts with teammates and some other off ice incidents which resulted in him being traded to the Buffalo Sabres during the 2014-15 season. He spent parts of three seasons with the Sabres before being dealt to the San Jose Sharks near the 2018 trade deadline. He still remains with the Sharks and is in the midst of a seven-year, $49 million deal.
While his on ice performance with the Sharks has been solid – his 49 points led the team in scoring this past season – he has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons once again this offseason. The league is currently investigating him for a claim alleged by his wife that said he was betting on his own games this past season, and there have also been numerous reports that many of his teammates don’t want him back in 2021-22. Unfortunately, his antics have overshadowed what has been a solid career with 264 goals and 506 points in 769 games.
5. Brayden Schenn – Los Angeles Kings
The fifth pick of the 2009 draft belonged to the L.A. Kings, and with it they selected forward Brayden Schenn. Schenn was coming off of an impressive season in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he scored 32 goals and 88 points in 70 games. Despite the big totals however, he managed just one game with the Kings that fall, and only eight the season after, as he was returned to the WHL on both occasions.
In those combined nine games with the Kings, he recorded two assists in what would turn out to be his only games with the organization. During the 2011 offseason, he was a part of a trade that saw him, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick get moved to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson. Schenn suited up for 54 games with the Flyers that very next season, scoring 11 goals and 18 points.
He went on to play five more seasons with the Flyers and had his best season with the team in 2015-16 when he put up 26 goals and 59 points in 80 contests. He once again found himself on the move during the 2017 offseason when he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick. During his first season with the Blues he had his best NHL season to date, scoring 28 goals and 70 points in 82 games.
The 30-year-old Schenn remains a member of the Blues, and is just one year into an eight-year, $52 million deal. Like the others above him, he has lived up to draft day expectations with 195 career goals and 466 points in 714 games.
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Phoenix Coyotes
Due to spending his career to this point in a non-traditional hockey market in Arizona, Oliver Ekman-Larsson never got the credit he deserved as a truly elite offensive defenceman early on in his career. He was drafted after a rookie season where he put up 17 points in 39 games in the HockeyAllsvenskan, which is the second highest league in Sweden. He spent one more season there before his NHL rookie season in 2010-11.
In just his second season in Arizona it was clear how offensively gifted he was, as he scored 13 goals and 32 points from the back end. In total, he played 11 seasons with the Coyotes before being traded just a few short months ago to the Vancouver Canucks. Though his play has seemingly dropped off in recent years, he had a great run in the desert, including back to back seasons where he scored north of 20 goals.
His 128 career goals lead all defencemen in the 2009 draft class, while his 388 points trail only Hedman and Tyson Barrie. While his play has fallen off as of late, he is still just 30-years-old and may be able to bounce back thanks to the change in scenery. The Canucks are certainly hoping that’s the case as he has six years remaining on a contract that carries a cap hit of $7.26 million
7. Nazem Kadri – Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s easy to forget now, but at one point, it appeared the Leafs selected a bust at the 2009 draft when they picked Nazem Kadri at seventh overall. It was evident how much skill he had proven by his 78 points in 56 games for the London Knights during his draft year, but he was sent back to junior the next season and then spent the majority of the following two seasons with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Despite putting up good numbers with the Marlies, management appeared to be souring on him at the time as then general manager Brian Burke said he was ‘running out of opportunities’ with the team. As if that weren’t bad enough, former Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins ripped into Kadri ahead of the 2012-13 season, saying he showed up to camp in unacceptable shape.
Kadri began that 2012-13 season with the Marlies due to the NHL lockout but did end up playing the entire 48-game schedule with the Leafs. He broke out in a major way that season, trailing only Phil Kessel in points with 44. Whatever bad relationship it seemed he had with the team was forgotten about, and he became a very dependable two way centerman for them before being traded to the Avalanche during the 2019 offseason.
In two seasons with the Avalanche he has continued to play very solid two-way hockey. However, as was a problem with the Leafs, he can be undisciplined in vital moments for his team. Whether or not he is able to control himself moving forward remains to be seen, but regardless he has carved out a very solid career to this point with 191 goals and 425 points in 668 games.
8. Scott Glennie – Dallas Stars
The first bust of the 2009 draft came with the eighth-overall selection, one in which the Dallas Stars took forward Scott Glennie. Glennie, who was teammates with Schenn on the Wheat Kings during his draft season, put up an impressive 28 goals and 70 points in 55 games that year. He spent two more seasons in the WHL before turning pro for the 2011-12 season.
In his first professional season, he suited up for 70 games with the Texas Stars of the AHL, notching 12 goals and 37 points. It wasn’t a fantastic year by any means, but was good enough to earn him his first NHL call up, where he appeared in a lone game with Dallas. No one would have thought it at the time, but that turned out to be the only NHL game of Glennie’s career.
Glennie spent three more seasons with the Stars organization, but was never able to improve his numbers at the AHL level. Injuries suffered during those three years really hampered his development, and caused him to sit out the entire 2015-16 season in order to properly recover. He did return in the 2016-17 season in the Jets organization as a member of the Manitoba Moose, but again didn’t produce much offensively, and retired after that season. He now works as a player agent and video coach.
9. Jared Cowen – Ottawa Senators
Though the Senators taking defenceman Jared Cowen with the ninth overall pick didn’t work out as poorly as the Stars selecting Glennie, there is no doubt they would take a do over on this pick if they could. The 6-foot-5 defender spent his draft season playing for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, where in 48 games, he recorded 21 points.
Cowen spent two more years in the WHL before becoming a regular in the Senators lineup in the 2011-12 season. As a rookie that year, he played in 82 games while chipping in with five goals and 17 points while averaging just under 19 minutes in ice time. He went on to play four more seasons with Ottawa before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the 2016 trade deadline.
Less than a month after being acquired, the Leafs sent Cowen to the minors and subsequently sent him home as they planned on buying him out. He then sat out the entire 2016-17 season as he looked to recover from multiple injuries before signing a professional tryout offer with the Colorado Avalanche for the 2017-18 season. He was released after just one preseason game and retired soon after. For his career, he suited up in 249 games, recording 15 goals and 46 points.
10. Magnus Paajarvi – Edmonton Oilers
The final player to be discussed on this list is Magnus Paajarvi, who the Edmonton Oilers selected at 10th overall. During his draft year he suited up for 50 games in the SEL with Timra IK, registering seven goals and 17 points. He played in one more season with Timra after being drafted, where he was able to up his totals to 12 goals and 29 points in 49 contests.
The following year saw Paajarvi head over to North America and play his rookie season with the Oilers. There was plenty of optimism amongst the city of Edmonton at that time as both he, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle were all rookies and were expected to be the future leaders of the team. His first season was a successful one as he recorded 15 goals and 34 points in 80 games.
Unfortunately for both Paajarvi and the Oilers, that turned out to be the best statistical season of his career. After a horrendous start to the 2011-12 season in which he had just two goals in 41 games, he was assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL for the remainder of the year. He was able to get in 42 games with the Oilers during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season but didn’t fare much better with seven goals and 16 points. He was then traded that offseason to the St. Louis Blues along with a second-round pick in exchange for David Perron.
Paajarvi went on to play parts of five seasons with the Blues organization before being claimed on waivers by the Senators in January of 2018. He finished that season with the Sens and played one more year with them in 2018-19, which was the last we have seen from him in the NHL. He has spent the past two seasons in the KHL split between Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and Moscow Dynamo. It isn’t fair to label him as a bust, but with just 62 goals and 124 points in 467 games, there were plenty of better options the Oilers could have taken.
Unfortunately for the Stars, Sens and Oilers, their top 10 picks in this draft never panned out. Whether these players failed themselves or their organizations played a part will never be known, but it is safe to say they didn’t work out how anyone had hoped.
For the first seven picks however, they were clearly the proper choices as they have all turned into very good NHL players. Of course, that is to be expected when selected within the top 10, but as the bottom three on this list show us, anything can happen.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.