Welcome to a brand new series here at The Hockey Writers called “Road to the Draft.” In this series, our draft contributors will count down from 32nd overall all the way to 1st overall and revisit each player taken with that pick between 2010 and 2020.
The goal of this series is to reflect on some of the biggest steals and some of the biggest busts taken in the first round over the past ten years, as well as to shine a light on some players who could potentially see themselves taken with the corresponding pick at the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
After taking a deep dive into the history of the 32nd, 31st, 30th, and 29th overall picks through the last decade, the series continues today with the fifth piece in the series and a look at the history of the 28th overall pick.
Much like the 29th pick, the 28th pick has been mostly dominated by forwards over the last decade. Between 2010 and 2020, seven forwards have been selected with the 28th overall pick, and three defensemen have been selected with the pick. While some of the players have carved out successful NHL careers, others didn’t really leave much of an NHL resume.
2010 – Charlie Coyle (C, San Jose Sharks)
Coyle caught Sharks scouts’ eyes ahead of the 2010 draft after a successful campaign with the South Shore Kings of the now-disbanded Eastern Junior Hockey League, notching 63 points in 42 games. Having committed to Boston University for the 2010-11 season, Coyle impressed in his freshman season, finishing with 26 points in 37 games. He also made his first appearance at the World Juniors, putting up six points in six games.
Ultimately, Coyle’s early post-draft success would kick his value up a notch, and the Sharks traded him along with forward Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild in a blockbuster almost exactly a year later in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick.
The Massachusetts native made his NHL debut in 2012-13 and spend seven seasons with the Wild before getting traded to the Boston Bruins in February of 2019. He just finished his second full season with the Bruins, putting up 16 points in 51 games in 2020-21. His career-best season came in 2016-17 when he registered 56 points in 82 games.
2011 – Zack Phillips (C, Minnesota Wild)
Phillips was a standout forward with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs in 2010-11, putting up 95 points in 67 games along with a 24-point run through 17 playoff games. The Wild drafted him, and he would return to the QMJHL for one final season with Saint John, finishing with 80 points in 60 games.
Despite a couple of decent AHL seasons with the Houston Aeros and then the Iowa Wild, Phillips never got it going in the Wild organization and was promptly traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for 2010 second rounder Jared Knight. However, Phillips would see the same old song and dance and saw a demotion to the ECHL midway through the 2015-16 season. He ended up getting traded to the St. Louis Blues shortly after and headed overseas at the end of the season.
Despite never carving out an NHL career, Phillips’ story is more interesting than most players that didn’t end up making it. He’s played in many different European countries, including stops in Sweden, England, Hungary, and Slovakia. His latest venture saw him playing in Poland for JKH GKS Jastrzebie, where he finished with 42 points in 35 games. He remains in Poland to this day, under contract with Unia Oswiecim for the 2021-22 season.
2012 – Brady Skjei (D, New York Rangers)
Skjei was drafted in 2012 with a scouting report that deemed him a solid two-way defenseman who could do a little bit of everything. Despite only having a combined 35 points in 84 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP), his defensive play and overall stability were enough to earn him a first-round pick by the Rangers.
After spending three seasons with the University of Maine, Skjei turned pro in 2015-16, spending most of the season with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, where he put up 28 points in 68 games. He also saw seven games of NHL action. His AHL play was good enough to earn him a roster spot with the Rangers in 2016-17, and he had an electric rookie season, finishing with 39 points in 80 games.
After two more full seasons with the Rangers, Skjei was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in February of 2020 for a first-round pick. He remains with the Hurricanes to this day, having put up 10 points in 52 games in 2020-21.
2013 – Morgan Klimchuk (LW, Calgary Flames)
Once a fifth overall pick in the WHL Draft, the Regina Pats gave Klimchuk the moment every kid who plays hockey dreams of. Playing for your hometown team. The Regina native finished the 2012-13 season with 36 goals and 76 points in 72 games, good enough to warrant a 28th overall selection at the hands of the Calgary Flames.
Klimchuk improved in 2013-14 but seemingly took a bit of a step back in 2014-15. With 30 points in 27 games, he was traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he seemed to find his game again, putting up 50 points in 33 games for the team. After a weak AHL debut that saw him muster only nine points in 55 games, he stepped it up over the next two seasons with 43 and 40 points, respectively.
But it was never meant to be in Calgary, as he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2018 for prospect defenseman Andrew Nielsen. After only 13 games for the Toronto Marlies, he was traded yet again to the Ottawa Senators, this time for forward Gabriel Gagne. Klimchuk played out one season with the AHL’s Belleville Senators and is currently an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
2014 – Josh Ho-Sang (LW, New York Islanders)
Ho-Sang turned heads in his draft year after putting up 85 points in 67 games for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. The Islanders used their second first-round pick on him after drafting fellow OHL standout Michael Dal Colle fifth overall. After splitting the 2014-15 season between the Spitfires and the Niagara IceDogs, he was expected to challenge for a roster spot with the New York Islanders. However, he showed up late on the first day of training camp and was promptly sent back to juniors.
Despite his junior performance and some seemingly impressive stints in the NHL with the Islanders, he never really found his footing with the team. He put up 10 points in 21 games for them in 2016-17 and then 12 points in 22 games the following season. The Islanders never really gave him a shot to solidify a full-time roster spot, and in 2019, he requested a trade.
While he’s yet to be traded, he spent the 2020-21 season in Sweden, playing ten games combined between Orebro HK and Linkoping HC, finishing with three points. Ho-Sang’s 2021-22 season plans are unknown at this point, but it seems as though a fresh start is desperately needed for the Thornhill native.
2015 – Anthony Beauvillier (LW, New York Islanders)
The 2015 draft was incredibly deep, and the selection of Beauvillier at 28th overall is proof in the pudding. Usually, a 94 point campaign in 67 QMJHL games would be enough to warrant you a pick in the top 15, maybe even top-10, but the Islanders were ecstatic when he was available at 28th. Especially when they had just drafted Mathew Barzal, 13 picks earlier.
Beauvillier went back to play for the Shawinigan Cataractes for one more season and kept his status as a top prospect high, finishing with 40 goals and 74 points in 47 games. From there, he immediately made the jump to the NHL and suited up for the Islanders for the first time in 2016-17, notching 24 points in 66 games.
The Sorel, Quebec native just finished his fifth season in the NHL, and he really started to blossom into a bonafide top-six fowrard for the Isles in 2020-21. He finished the season with 28 points in 47 games and has been a crucial part of the Islanders’ playoff run, where he currently has 12 points in 17 games.
2016 – Lucas Johansen (D, Washington Capitals)
Six years after his older brother Ryan was drafted fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lucas Johansen had his turn hearing his name called when the Capitals selected him near the end of the first round. He was coming off a breakout season with the Kelowna Rockets, where he had 49 points in 69 games.
He took a little bit of a step back in his draft-plus-one season, finishing with 41 points in 68 games. He turned pro with the AHL’s Hershey Bears and played two seasons back-to-back, finishing with a combined 41 points in 119 games. His last two seasons have been injury-riddled and forgettable, playing only nine games in 2019-20 and only five games in 2020-21.
Only 23 years old, there’s still time for Johansen to put together a solid NHL career, but given his developmental setbacks, it may be with a team other than the Capitals.
2017 – Shane Bowers (C, Ottawa Senators)
After being drafted twice to two different QMJHL teams in the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and turning them both down, Bowers decided to live out his hockey career in the United States. He was drafted 38th overall by the Waterloo Black Hawks in the 2015 USHL Futures Draft.
Bowers was drafted by the Senators after putting up 51 points in 60 games for the Black Hawks, but his time in Ottawa was very short-lived as his rights were traded to the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster three-way trade that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa. He immediately made an impact with Boston University, putting up 32 points in 40 games in his freshman season.
After two seasons in college, he turned pro with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles and just finished his second season with the team. The Halifax native took a bit of a step back after an impressive rookie season, but there’s still lots of time for him to bounce back and join an already exciting Avalanche team.
2018 – Nils Lundkvist (D, New York Rangers)
Lundkvist split the 2017-18 season between Sweden’s top pro league and their top junior league, playing for Lulea HF. After five points in 28 games in the SHL, where he was likely being sheltered, the Rangers took a flier on him with the 28th pick.
After two seasons with Lulea, where he never really got enough ice time to paint a picture of where his development was at, he broke out in 2019-20 with 31 points in 45 games. His production dipped ever so slightly in 2020-21, with 32 points in 52 games, but for a 20-year-old, these are still impressive totals. The 5’10 defenseman just signed an entry-level contract on June 3rd, so it’s fair to say you can expect him to challenge for a roster spot with the Rangers heading into the 2021-22 season.
2019 – Ryan Suzuki (C, Carolina Hurricanes)
After going first overall in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Suzuki spent the better part of his junior career with the Barrie Colts. The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki, Ryan, was drafted late in the first round in 2019 after a sophomore season that saw him register 75 points in 65 games.
After finishing his final junior season with 58 points in 44 games split between the Colts and the Saginaw Spirit, Suzuki got his feet wet in the pros. He spent last season on loan with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, putting up 10 points in 26 games. He also represented Canada at the 2021 World Juniors, finishing the tournament with four points in seven games.
2020 – Ridly Greig (LW, Ottawa Senators)
The Ottawa Senators made out like gangbusters in the 2020 draft, selecting German phenom Tim Stutzle third overall and defenseman Jake Sanderson fifth overall. When the time came for them to select at 28th overall, they opted to go with Greig. The Lethbridge native finished his draft year with 60 points in 56 games.
Dawning the alternate captaincy in 2020-21, Greig finished the 2020-21 season with 32 points in 21 games and also earned himself a small stint in the AHL with the Belleville Senators, putting up three points in seven games. While he may not be the most skilled player, he plays a very gritty game and will make your life miserable in all three areas of the ice.
Players Who Could Be Drafted 28th Overall in 2021
ALL TIME PLAYERS TAKEN 28TH OVERALL
1969 – Willie Brossart (LW, Philadelphia Flyers)
1970 – Michel Archambault (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
1971 – Curt Ridley (G, Boston Bruins)
1972 – Stan Weir (C, California Golden Seals)
1973 – Jean Landry (D, Buffalo Sabres)
1974 – Guy Chouinard (C, Atlanta Flames)
1975 – Brad Gassoff (LW, Vancouver Canucks)
1976 – Bobby Simpson (LW, Atlanta Flames)
1977 – Don Laurence (C, Atlanta Flames)
1978 – Glenn Hicks (LW, Detroit Red Wings)
1979 – Tim Trimper (LW, Chicago Blackhawks)
1980 – Steve Ludzik (C, Chicago Blackhawks)
1981 – Steve Gatzos (RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1982 – Rene Badeau (D, Chicago Blackhawks)
1983 – Jeff Jackson (LW, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1984 – Doug Houda (D, Detroit Red Wings)
1985 – Mike Richter (G, New York Rangers)
1986 – Kent Hawley (C, Philadelphia Flyers)
1987 – Daniel Marois (RW, Toronto Maple Leafs)
1988 – Paul Holden (D, Los Angeles Kings)
1989 – Mike Craig (RW, Minnesota North Stars)
1990 – Brandy Semchuk (RW, Los Angeles Kings)
1991 – Jim Campbell (RW, Montreal Canadiens)
1992 – Paul Brosseau (RW, Quebec Nordiques)
1993 – Shean Donovan (RW, San Jose Sharks)
1994 – Johan Davidsson (C, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)
1995 – Jan Hlavac (LW, New York Islanders)
1996 – Pavel Skrbek (D, Pittsburgh Penguins)
1997 – Brad DeFauw (LW, Carolina Hurricanes)
1998 – Ramzi Abid (LW, Colorado Avalanche)
1999 – Kristian Kudroc (D, New York Islanders)
2000 – Justin Williams (RW, Philadelphia Flyers)
2001 – Adrian Foster (C, New Jersey Devils)
2002 – Jonas Johansson (RW, Colorado Avalanche)
2003 – Corey Perry (RW, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)
2004 – Mark Fistric (D, Dallas Stars)
2005 – Matt Niskanen (D, Dallas Stars)
2006 – Nick Foligno (LW, Ottawa Senators)
2007 – Nick Petrecki (D, San Jose Sharks)
2008 – Viktor Tikhonov (RW, Phoenix Coyotes)
2009 – Dylan Olsen (D, Chicago Blackhawks)
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.