In part three of our week-long series, we look at what the 1998 draft could have looked like if hindsight was 20/20 (here were the 2002 and 2003 features). 1998 lacked big-time star power past the first couple picks in this re-draft, but it did have depth when it came to value. Here’s how I think the draft would have played out 12 years later…
1. Tampa Bay Lightning – Pavel Datsyuk, C Career stats: 606 GP, 198 G, 394 A, 592 Pts, +176 Original selection: Vincent Lecavalier Pavel Datsyuk – an 8th round pick by Detroit – is the complete package… and while Lecavalier is a nice player with size and skill, no one in this draft class can compare to what Datsyuk has done in his first decade in the league. He’s won two Stanley Cups, puts up points at almost a per-game-rate, and has an infinite amount of hardware (mostly Selkes and Lady Byngs) on his shelf at home.
2. Nashville Predators – Vincent Lecavalier, C Career stats: 869 GP, 326 G, 413 A, 739 Pts, -105 Original selection: David Legwand Since they were drafted next to each other, Lecavalier is the player most Predator fans always compare Legwand to – and it always leaves Pred Nation disappointed. Lecavalier is the kind of center that the Predators have been seeking for some time.
3. San Jose Sharks – Brad Richards, C Career stats: 700 GP, 192 G, 447 A, 639 Pts, -73 Original selection: Brad Stuart Between the Lightning and Stars, Richards has been a really solid point-producing pivot. He has never scored 30 goals in a season, but has recorded 50-plus assists four times. Richards tied his career-high in points (91) in 2009/10, and still has a handful of quality seasons left in him. He also has a Conn Smythe to his credit…
4. Vancouver Canucks – Andrei Markov, D Career stats: 616 GP, 80 G, 283 A, 363 Pts, +29 Original selection: Bryan Allen The Russian blueliner has really blossomed since the lockout, especially when Sheldon Souray left town. Markov has developed into one of the better (and underrated) two-way defensemen in the NHL. He is someone Vancouver could have used in the past and in the present.
5. Anaheim Mighty Ducks – Simon Gagne, LW Career stats: 664 GP, 259 G, 265 A, 524 Pts, +143 Original selection: Vitali Vishnevsky In Philly, Simon Gagne was loved and his on-ice play certainly backed it up. Even though he has run into injury problems lately, Gagne has always been clutch. He scored a career-high 47 goals in 2005/06, and has scored some of the more memorable playoff goals for the Flyers in recent memory.
6. Calgary Flames – Scott Gomez, C Career stats: 784 GP, 160 G, 477 A, 637 Pts, +61 Original selection: Rico Fata Is Gomez a $7 million a year player? No. But has he been a quality playmaking center over the years? Absolutely. The Alaskan native won a pair of Cups in New Jersey, but has struggled to continue that same success with the Rangers and Habs. With that being said, Gomez was a valuable center in his better years (and still is).
7. New York Rangers – Alex Tanguay, LW Career stats: 739 GP, 203 G, 414 A, 617 Pts, +155 Original selection: Manny Malhotra Tanguay is in the same boat as Gomez here. His production has dipped, but was a quality forward when on top of his game. From 2000/01 to 2006/07, Tanguay was one of the better wingers in the league, playing a strong two-way game.
8. Chicago Blackhawks – Brian Gionta, RW Career stats: 534 GP, 180 G, 178 A, 358 Pts, +65 Original selection: Mark Bell Gionta very well may be the product of a one-year fluke (89 points in 2005/06). But he seemed to tap into that potential in Montreal this year, netting 28 goals in 61 games – which translates to 37 in a full season. Gionta is also a great leader off the ice, which makes him a solid pick for any team.
9. New York Islanders – Robyn Regehr, D Career stats: 747 GP, 27 G, 119 A, 146 Pts, +28 Original selection: Michael Rupp Calgary has had a gem in Regehr for the last number of years. He doesn’t stand out on the stat sheet, and you probably don’t notice him much when watching the Flames (unless he’s laying a hit); but that’s a good thing. Regehr is as solid as they come when you’re talking about stay-at-home defensemen.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs – Mike Ribeiro, C Career stats: 581 GP, 136 G, 290 A, 426 Pts, +4 Original selection: Nikolai Antropov The ex-Canadiens and current Stars center rounds out the top ten, and was a second-rounder in 1998. Ribeiro has recorded two 50-plus assist seasons, but can be streaky. In the end, Ribeiro is a solid second-line center that can produce.
11. Carolina Hurricanes – Jonathan Cheechoo, RW Original selection: Jeff Heerema 12. Colorado Avalanche – Mike Fisher, C Original selection: Alex Tanguay 13. Edmonton Oilers – Brad Stuart, D Original selection: Michael Henrich 14. Phoenix Coyotes – Nikolai Antropov, C Original selection: Patrick DesRochers 15. Ottawa Senators – Erik Cole, LW Original selection: Mathieu Chouinard 16. Montreal Canadiens – Shawn Horcoff, C Original selection: Eric Chouinard 17. Colorado Avalanche – Jaroslav Spacek, D Original selection: Martin Skoula 18. Buffalo Sabres – Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW Original selection: Dmitri Kalinin 19. Colorado Avalanche – Mikael Samuelsson, RW Original selection: Robyn Regehr 20. Colorado Avalanche – David Legwand, C Original selection: Scott Parker 21. Los Angeles Kings – Francois Beauchemin, D Original selection: Mathieu Biron 22. Philadelphia Flyers – Michael Ryder, RW Original selection: Simon Gagne 23. Pittsburgh Penguins – Chris Neil, RW Original selection: Milan Kraft 24. St. Louis Blues – Rob Scuderi, D Original selection: Christian Backman 25. Detroit Red Wings – Trent Hunter, RW Original selection: Jiri Fischer 26. New Jersey Devils – Jarkko Ruutu, LW Original selection: Mike Van Ryn 27. New Jersey Devils – Bryan Allen, D Original selection: Scott Gomez
Check back tomorrow as we check out what 1997 could have looked like!
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.