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 eleven 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)
9th Overall: Erik Johnson (Minnesota Wild)
10th Overall: Derick Brassard (Florida Panthers)
11th Overall: Bryan Little (Los Angeles Kings)
The Kings kick off the second third of the draft by picking perpetually underrated forward Bryan Little from the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Little was coming off an 109-point season with the Colts at that point and was ranked seventh among North American skaters. Little actually went just one spot lower in the real draft, picked by the Atlanta Thrashers after they’d struggled to find much success in the previous two drafts. The savvy forward would make an impact before long with the Thrashers, scoring 31 goals in his first full NHL season. Unfortunately, that would be the highest total of his career to this point.
Still, given the fact that the Kings would see Jonathan Quick jump over their original pick in Jonathan Bernier before long, adding Little would be an impressive improvement for the club. Now with 200 goals and 475 points in 754 games, Little is a prototypical secondary scoring threat for the Winnipeg Jets who can be moved up and down the lineup and play all three forward positions. That versatility and consistency—he’s scored at least 16 goals and 40 points in seven straight non-lockout shortened seasons—earned him a new six-year, $31.75MM contract from the Jets last summer and would be a huge asset for the Kings as they continue to struggle to score goals. His talents could have helped during the Kings Stanley Cup runs, and may have even put them in contention in other years.
Now we’ll move on to the twelfth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, which was originally held by the Atlanta Thrashers.
Little was the pick 12 years ago, and he’s now the longest-tenured member of a franchise that eventually moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011. There’s little to complain about with the original pick, but they won’t be so lucky this time around with him already off the board. Instead, the team may have to look at a different position altogether to gain the most value.
Interestingly, the position that the Kings passed on to take Little may be the direction the Thrashers should have looked. Kari Lehtonen had been the second overall pick in 2002 by the Thrashers, and was heralded as one of the very best goaltending prospects in the world. By the summer of 2005 though, the Thrashers already had enough doubt in their net that they would take Ondrej Pavelec in the second round. During the 2005-06 campaign, Lehtonen would get his first real test as a starter in the NHL and didn’t set the world on fire with a .906 save percentage and 20-15 record. It would be just a few more mediocre seasons in Atlanta before Lehtonen found himself on a Dallas Stars roster, and Pavelec in the starting role for the Thrashers. His tenure would be longer, but Atlanta and then Winnipeg would struggle for years to find above average goaltending, something they may have been able to secure in the 2006 draft.
It’s not easy to invest another high pick in a goaltender with that kind of draft capital already sitting in the organization, so perhaps Atlanta would go another way. Plenty of forward talent is still available, including former 30-goal talents like Nick Foligno and Michael Grabner. What is the right pick for the Thrashers this time around? With the twelfth pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, who should the Atlanta Thrashers select? Cast your vote below!
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