Hindsight is an amazing thing, and allows us to look back and wonder “what could have been.” Though perfection is attempted, scouting and draft selection is far from an exact science and sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way teams – or players – intended. For every Patrick Kane, there is a Patrik Stefan.
Our look back at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is now in full swing as we poll the PHR community to see who would have been selected in the first round and in what order knowing what we know now. Through the first eight picks, we’ve already seen potential Hall of Fame players switch teams, and multiple captains move up and down the draft board.
1st Overall: Jonathan Toews (St. Louis Blues)
2nd Overall: Claude Giroux (Pittsburgh Penguins)
3rd Overall: Nicklas Backstrom (Chicago Blackhawks)
4th Overall: Brad Marchand (Washington Capitals)
5th Overall: Phil Kessel (Boston Bruins)
6th Overall: Jordan Staal (Columbus Blue Jackets)
7th Overall: Milan Lucic (New York Islanders)
8th Overall: Kyle Okposo (Phoenix Coyotes)
Okposo drops just a single spot from his original draft position, and takes Peter Mueller’s role in the desert. One has to wonder whether the University of Minnesota product would have found as much success playing for the Coyotes given that he wouldn’t have had the chance to suit up alongside John Tavares, but his point totals certainly indicate his top-10 talent. Okposo is ninth in scoring from the 2006 draft despite playing in only 670 games to this point, fewer than many of the players still available in our poll.
Now we’ll move on to the ninth pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, which was originally held by the Minnesota Wild.
Looking back at this draft, the first seven teams were probably quite happy with their selections. That may have ended with the Coyotes selection of Mueller, but at least his career got off to a good start before injuries started to pile up. That can’t really be said about the Minnesota selection, who failed to ever score more than five goals in a single NHL season.
James Sheppard was a big strong center for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2006. He had just finished a season in which he scored 30 goals and 84 points, and had been invited to the CHL Top Prospects Game. He was ranked ninth by the NHL’s Central Scouting among North American skaters, ahead of players like Okposo and Michael Grabner. There was a lot to like about a potential shutdown center that brought some scoring upside to the plate. Unfortunately, that scoring upside never materialized for Sheppard and though he would reach his career high in points as a 20-year old with just 24 in 82 games. He was grossly outmatched in the faceoff circle at the highest level, and could drive play like he had in junior. There was work to be done on his game, but it wouldn’t happen in Minnesota.
The Wild would eventually trade Sheppard to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a third round pick, and he would struggle to find any offense there too. After another few games with the New York Rangers in 2015, he was off to Europe to play in Switzerland and Germany. Sheppard is still just 30 years old, scored 33 points in the DEL last season and has twice won the Spengler Cup with Team Canada. Still, this pick was a pretty substantial bust for Minnesota, given the long-time NHL players selected behind him.
Now they’ll get a chance to fix the mistake they made in 2006 and pick someone else. The first-overall selection Erik Johnson is still available, as are talented forwards like Derick Brassard, Bryan Little and Nick Foligno. With the ninth pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, who should the Minnesota Wild select? Cast your vote below!
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