What if you could rewind back to previous drafts and re-select the picks? In every draft there are steals late in the draft that turn out to be first-round value. In 2002, there were a good handful of players taken past the top 30 (not as many as other years, but still a fair amount). Here’s how I think the 2002 draft should have played out eight years later…
1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Rick Nash, LW Career stats: 517 GP, 227 G, 195 A, 422 Pts, -54 Original selection: Rick Nash Nash has been the face of the Blue Jackets franchise since being selected number one in 2002. Although he has the skills to be a 50-goal-scorer, Nash has never had the luxury of a true top-line center to play alongside.
2. Atlanta Thrashers – Cam Ward, G Career stats: 272 GP, 138-100-23, 2.79 GAA, .905 SV% Original selection: Kari Lehtonen Instead of taking Lehtonen, I bet Thrashers GM Don Waddell wishes he had taken the next goaltender selected – Cam Ward. Ward already has a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe to his credit, and all he has done in two playoff stints is win big games. Lehtonen had a hard time staying on the ice with Atlanta… and even then, he wasn’t all that special.
3. Florida Panthers – Duncan Keith, D Career stats: 404 GP, 45 G, 152 A, 197 Pts, +73 Original selection: Jay Bouwmeester Unlike Bouwmeester, Keith has won a Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy. Keith, a second-rounder back in 2002, bloomed later than Bouwmeester, but is arguably the best all-around defenseman in the game today.
4. Philadelphia Flyers – Jay Bouwmeester, D Career stats: 553 GP, 56 G, 176 A, 232 Pts, -31 Original selection: Joni Pitkanen It has been a long time since Philly has drafted and developed a stud defenseman. Pitkanen was thought to be that guy, but his stint with the team was short-lived after one bad season (2006/07). I have a feeling Bouwmeester – a solid two-way presence – could have been that blueliner the Flyers have been trying to find via the draft.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins – Alexander Semin, LW Career stats: 327 GP, 148 G, 152 A, 300 Pts, +34 Original selection: Ryan Whitney When you look at Semin’s stats, you wonder why he’d go this low. But he doesn’t play well in his own zone, is known to loaf at times, and has failed to take his game to the next level in the postseason. With that being said, I bet the Pens would have rather picked Semin over Whitney.
6. Nashville Predators – Joni Pitkanen, D Career stats: 411 GP, 46 G, 175 A, 221 Pts, +7 Original selection: Scottie Upshall Upshall had a rather disappointing stint in Nashville, even though he didn’t last long before getting dealt in the Peter Forsberg deal. Pitkanen would be a nice defenseman for the Predators, offensively… but isn’t the best fit in Barry Trotz’s system.
7. Anaheim Mighty Ducks – Ryan Whitney, D Career stats: 354 GP, 41 G, 158 A, 199 Pts, -13 Original selection: Joffrey Lupul Whitney has already gotten his chance with Anaheim, splitting 82 games between the last two seasons, being traded to and from at back-to-back deadlines. However, it may have been a different story if Whitney came up through the Ducks’ system. He may have worked out better than Lupul…
8. Minnesota Wild – Keith Ballard, D Career stats: 397 GP, 33 G, 116 A, 149 Pts, -11 Original selection: Pierre-Marc Bouchard Ever since coming into the league with Phoenix after the lockout, Ballard has been a steady, durable defenseman. Minnesota has had some defenseman fail to live up to expectations… but would Ballard have bucked the trend? Possibly.
9. Florida Panthers – Joffrey Lupul, RW Career stats: 395 GP, 112 G, 113 A, 225 Pts, -42 Original selection: Petr Taticek The fact that Lupul ‘should have’ been the 9th overall pick in 2002 tells you all you need to know about this draft class. At the same time, though, Lupul has played in 392 more NHL games than Taticek, who is currently playing in Switzerland.
10. Calgary Flames – Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C Career stats: 426 GP, 77 G, 190 A, 267 Pts, +16 Original selection: Eric Nystrom Bouchard played in just one game in 2009/10, but has three seasons of 50 points or more under his belt. When on the ice, Bouchard can be a nice playmaking center – something the Flames could have used for the last few seasons.
11. Buffalo Sabres – Tom Gilbert, D Original selection: Keith Ballard 12. Washington Capitals – Matt Stajan, C Original selection: Steve Eminger 13. Washington Capitals – Kari Lehtonen, G Original selection: Alexander Semin 14. Montreal Canadiens – Matthew Lombardi, C Original selection: Chris Higgins 15. Edmonton Oilers – Valterri Filppula, C Original selection: Jesse Niinimaki 16. Ottawa Senators – Alex Steen, C Original selection: Jakub Klepis 17. Washington Capitals – Tomas Fleischmann, C Original selection: Boyd Gordon 18. Los Angeles Kings – Matt Greene, D Original selection: Denis Grebeshkov 19. Phoenix Coyotes – Jiri Hudler, C Original selection: Jakub Koreis 20. Buffalo Sabres – Jarret Stoll, C Original selection: Daniel Paille 21. Chicago Blackhawks – Scottie Upshall, RW Original selection: Anton Babchuk 22. New York Islanders – Denis Grebeshkov, D Original selection: Sean Bergenheim 23. Phoenix Coyotes – Chris Higgins, C Original selection: Ben Eager 24. Toronto Maple Leafs – Josh Harding, G Original selection: Alex Steen 25. Carolina Hurricanes – Trevor Daley, D Original selection: Cam Ward 26. Dallas Stars – Petr Prucha, RW Original selection: Martin Vagnar 27. San Jose Sharks – James Wisniewski, D Original selection: Mike Morris 28. Colorado Avalanche – Dennis Wideman, D Original selection: Jonas Johansson 29. Boston Bruins – Johnny Boychuk, D Original selection: Hannu Toivonen 30. Atlanta Thrashers – Max Talbot, C Original selection: Jim Slater
Check back tomorrow for a look-back at what the 2003 draft may have looked like if it was re-selected!
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