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.
We’re looking back at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and asking how it would shake out knowing what we do now. Will the first round remain the same, or will some late-round picks jump up to the top of the board?
The results of our redraft so far are as follows with their original draft position in parentheses:
1st Overall: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (1)
2nd Overall: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (2)
3rd Overall: Roman Josi, Atlanta Thrashers (38)
4th Overall: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (4)
After some other defensemen received more votes than him in our first three polls, Alex Pietrangelo shot up the chart for fourth overall, presumably because of how well he worked out for the Blues in particular. While other teams may have decided to go with someone like John Carlson or Erik Karlsson, St. Louis likely isn’t complaining about their 2008 pick. Pietrangelo became team captain and led them to a Stanley Cup – basically exactly what you want when picking near the top of the draft.
To round out the top five, we move on to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their highest pick in nearly 30 years.
Stuck in the middle of what would be a long playoff drought and without a franchise icon to build around (long-time captain Mats Sundin was leaving town) the Maple Leafs decided to trade up in 2008 in search of their next superstar. It cost them two additional draft picks to move up two spots and at the time, general manager Cliff Fletcher noted that “the top four defensemen” were “special” and the team needed to get one of them.
While there were several special defensemen available – including a number that will be in the Hall of Fame one day – the Maple Leafs didn’t pick one of them.
Instead, they took Luke Schenn, the monstrous blueliner from the Kelowna Rockets. The uber-physical WHL defender was the kind of player that relied on his size and defensive ability at the junior level, stapling opponents against the boards whenever possible. It made for an impressive highlight reel but Schenn’s upside was limited even then, because of his lack of offensive ability.
In his draft year for Kelowna, he had just 28 points in 57 games, ranking well behind the younger Tyson Barrie, who would go in the third round a year later. The thought was that Schenn would be able to star as a pure shutdown defender, logging huge minutes on Toronto’s blueline for years to come.
It did seem to start out well, with Schenn heading right to the NHL a few months after being drafted and playing nearly 22 minutes a night with the rebuilding Maple Leafs. Some, in the years since, have suggested that thrusting him into a role like that may have limited his development but it’s not like Schenn was a true bust.
No, in fact, while he may never have lived up to that “special” billing that Fletcher put upon him, Schenn has still carved out an impressive career of 863 regular season games. At 32, he sits sixth among the 2008 class in games played, and he recently won the Stanley Cup two years in a row with the Tampa Bay Lightning, albeit in a limited role.
So while he may not have been the correct choice in hindsight, there is something to be said about how well Schenn has continued to find his place in an NHL that almost immediately following his draft went away from his type of defenseman. He probably didn’t deserve to go fifth, but there may still be 1,000 NHL games next to his name when it’s all said and done.
Who should take his place, in our hindsight draft? With the fifth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, who will the Toronto Maple Leafs select? Cast your vote below.
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