Back in June 2006, the NHL was wrapping up its first Stanley Cup Final after the 2004-05 lockout. After Frantisek Kaberle and the Carolina Hurricanes took home their first Stanley Cup, teams prepared for a loaded 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
In 2006, teams didn’t have foresight when selecting their draft picks. But 10 years later, we have the hindsight to determine which teams picked well and which didn’t. So we’re going to re-draft the 2006 draft class by selecting the best 30 players in original draft order.
St. Louis, you’re on the clock…
1. St. Louis Blues: Jonathan Toews | C | Originally #3
Original Pick: Erik Johnson | D
Imagine that. What if the St. Louis Blues had picked their current arch-nemesis, Jonathan Toews? Despite not having any many career points as Nicklas Backstrom, Toews is the best player in this draft. Perhaps he could have led the Blues to three Stanley Cups.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins: Claude Giroux | C | #22
Original Pick: Jordan Staal | C
Coming out of juniors, Jordan Staal was a can’t miss prospect. But because Pittsburgh already had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle, Staal found himself centering the third line in more of a two-way role.
Would drafting Claude Giroux produce the same result? Or would Giroux have found himself putting up points on Crosby or Malkin’s wing? Regardless, Giroux was the second best player to come out of this draft.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Nicklas Backstrom | C | #4
Original Pick: Jonathan Toews | C
Though not Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane would have made a fantastic wing flanking Nicklas Backstrom (provided Chicago still picked #1 overall in 2007) if Chicago picked him third in the 2006 draft. With Jonathan Toews off the board, Chicago would have opted for the next best player in Backstrom.
4. Washington Capitals: Phil Kessel | RW | #5
Original Pick: Nicklas Backstrom | C
Would there have been enough pucks to go around if Ovechkin and Phil Kessel were on the same team—let alone the same line? Maybe, but the Capitals would have been extremely dangerous, provided there was someone to distribute the pucks to the two snipers.
5. Boston Bruins: Erik Johnson | D | #1
Original Pick: Phil Kessel | RW
The first defenseman comes off the board. Erik Johnson didn’t really become a #1 defenseman until recently with Colorado, but he was the best defenseman from the 2006 draft. A top defensive unit of Zdeno Chara and Erik Johnson would have been pretty formidable though.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Milan Lucic | LW | #50
Original Pick: Derick Brassard | C
When Columbus drafted Derick Brassard, they envisioned him as the perfect complimentary center to Rick Nash. He eventually developed into that sort of role, but with the two in New York, not Columbus. Perhaps if the Blue Jackets drafted Milan Lucic to play the opposite wing of Nash and found a different center, the team could have had more success and not moved Nash.
7. New York Islanders: Kyle Okposo | RW | #7
Original Pick: Kyle Okposo | LW
Does anyone have Garth Snow’s contact information? I’d like to know where he got his crystal ball that lets him see the future.
8. Arizona (Phoenix) Coyotes: Jordan Staal | C | #6
Original Pick: Peter Mueller | C
If Peter Mueller was able to avoid the concussion bug, perhaps he would have been a great pick at #8. Unfortunately, he’s now out of hockey.
In his stead, the Coyotes should have picked Staal, just as the Penguins should have drafted Giroux. Staal’s two-way game would have fit perfectly in current coach Dave Tippett’s system. However, Tippett was still in Dallas in 2006 and The Great One oversaw the Coyotes.
9. Minnesota Wild: Derick Brassard | C | #2
Original Pick: James Sheppard | C
While he put up solid offensive numbers in the QMJHL, Sheppard’s play didn’t translate in the NHL and was eventually dealt for a third round pick.
Instead, Minnesota should have drafted Derick Brassard ninth overall. Brassard and Mikko Koivu would have been the one-two punch down the middle that the Wild were likely hoping to achieve when drafting Sheppard.
10. Florida Panthers: Semyon Varlamov | G | #23
Original Pick: Michael Frolik | C
After trading Roberto Luongo, Florida could have drafted their next franchise goalie in Semyon Varlamov. After bursting onto the scene with the Capitals in the 2009 playoffs, Varlamov has been a top-tier starter since. Some injuries and terrible defenses have kept “Varly” from the wins he’s capable of putting up.
11. Los Angeles Kings: Nick Foligno | LW | #28
Original Pick: Jonathan Bernier
Fast, physical, and can score dirty goals. Though it took Foligno a bit of time to reach his potential, he would have fit perfectly into the Kings’ current system. If he stayed on the team, Los Angeles certainly would have brought home the two Stanley Cups they did in the decade since.
12. Atlanta Thrashers (lol): Brad Marchand | RW | #71
Original Pick: Bryan Little | C
Brad Marchand and Ilya Kovalchuk together as roommates would have made a great sitcom considering their different personalities. On the ice, they would have made great linemates with their complimentary skills.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs: Steve Mason | G | #69
Original Pick: Jiri Tlusty | LW
Toronto drafted a goalie in the 2006 draft, but chose the wrong one. If the Leafs drafted the future 2009 Calder Trophy winner, there’s a chance he could still be there today and Toronto would have had more success over the past few years. Success and a steady goalie or failure and Auston Matthews? Tough choice, eh?
14. Vancouver Canucks: Patrik Berglund | C | #25
Original Pick: Michael Grabner | LW
While Michael Grabner has shown flashes of a first round pick in his career, Patrik Berglund would have fit better with the Canucks. If the Canucks had Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Patrick Berglund down the middle, perhaps they could have gotten over the hump and won their first Stanley Cup.
15. Tampa Bay Lightning: Bryan Little | C | #12
Original Pick: Riku Helenius | G
Swing and a miss. The veteran of seven NHL minutes was not the right pick for Lightning at #15 in the 2006 draft. If Tampa Bay took Bryan Little instead, they could have replaced Brad Richards a little easier after they dealt him to Dallas. Currently, Little is an underrated center for the Jets, who didn’t exist at the time of this draft.
16.. San Jose Sharks: Artem Anisimov | C | #54
Original Pick: Ty Wishart | D
Who? Instead of taking a defenseman that would never play for the Sharks, they could have drafted a big center to compete out west behind Joe Thornton. Currently, Anisimov is the perfect center for Kane and Artemi Panarin in Chicago. He could have filled that role for Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
17. Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Bernier | G | #11
Original Pick: Trevor Lewis | C
Bernier and Trevor Lewis or Bernier and Foligno? If Los Angeles waited on Bernier, they could have had him at #17 and picked a better skater earlier.
18. Colorado Avalanche: Jeff Petry | D | #45
Original Pick: Chris Stewart | RW
In his earlier days, Chris Stewart was a great power forward for the Blues, but has since faded. Defenseman Jeff Petry would have made a better pick for the Avalanche at #18. It certainly would have been an experience for Petry to play for the Avalanche considering he grew up a Red Wings fan during their rivalry years.
19. Anaheim Ducks: Mathieu Perreault | C | ##
Original Pick: Mark Mitera | D
A late bloomer, Mathieu Perreault really thrived once he got to the Ducks (having former coach Bruce Boudreau directing again was a large part of that). Nonetheless, Perreault is the next best player in this draft and would have fit well with younger Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, and other Ducks.
20. Montreal Canadiens: Matt Beleskey | LW | #112
Original Pick: David Fischer | D
Matt Beleskey is turned into a solid second line winger with the Ducks before signing with Anaheim. Playing on a line with Tomas Plekanec would have benefitted Beleskey in Montreal.
21. New York Rangers: Michael Frolik | C | #10
Original Pick: Bobby Sanguinetti | D
At the time of the draft, it looked like Bobby Sanguinetti had a lot of potential and would be a solid defenseman in the NHL. Things didn’t pan out for him, but they did for Michael Frolik. Though not much of an offensive threat as thought in 2006, Frolik’s two-way game would have helped the Rangers once he reached the NHL.
22. Philadelphia Flyers: Chris Stewart | RW | #18
Original Pick: Claude Giroux | C
A bit of a downgrade, eh? Flyers scouted well back then. But with hindsight, everyone scouts well.
23. Washington Capitals: Michal Neuvirth | G | #34
Original Pick: Semyon Varlamov
Varlamov is a great goalie, but the Capitals got next to nothing for him. The draft picks the Capitals got from Colorado for Varlamov turned into Filip Forsberg and Mike Winther. The latter never made “the show”, but the former became great—for Nashville. In exchange for Forsberg, the Capitals received Martin Erat and Michael Latta—or in other words, just Michael Latta.
24. Buffalo Sabres: Leo Komarov | LW | #180
Original Pick: Dennis Persson | D
Yikes. Leo Komarov, the 180th pick overall, would have been a better pick here at #24. Dennis Persson never made it to the NHL and split time between the top two Swedish leagues this season.
25. St. Louis Blues: Jiri Tlusty | RW | #13
Original Pick: Patrik Berglund | C
Can’t knock the Blues for scouting well here. Would you rather have had Erik Johnson and Patrik Berglund or Jonathan Toews and…Toews. Definitely Toews. And Jiri Tlusty as well.
26. Calgary Flames: Nikolay Kulemin | LW | #44
Original Pick: Leland Irving | G
Leland Irving, the goalie of the future. Right? Wrong. While Nikolay Kulemin has not been a star in the NHL, he has certainly had a bigger impact than Irving.
27. Dallas Stars: James Reimer | G | #99
Original Pick: Ivan Vishnevskiy | D
Another miss! Having James Reimer as an understudy to Marty Turco would have been a great situation for both Reimer and the Stars.
28. Ottawa Senators: Peter Mueller | C | #8
Original Pick: Nick Foligno | LW
The Senators could have gotten a few serviceable years out of Mueller and—who knows—maybe he could have avoided a few concussions in Ottawa and still be playing. Mueller scored a career-high 54 points his rookie season and is now playing in Sweden.
29. Arizona (Phoenix) Coyotes: Andrew MacDonald | D | #160
Original Pick: Chris Summers | D
Leaving out his large contract, Andrew MacDonald is certainly an NHL defenseman. And apart from Johnson and Petry, he’s the best defenseman available.
30. New Jersey Devils: Michael Grabner | LW | #14
Original Pick: Matt Corrente | D
If he was drafted by the Devils, Michael Grabner’s two-way game would have fit perfectly with the Devils’ system.
Biggest Winners: St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins.
Biggest Losers: Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals.