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:
The Coyotes’ original 2008 eighth-overall selection, Mikkel Boedker, had a long career in Phoenix, but squarely belongs in the “disappointing” category of top-ten picks. Not a bust by any means, having played over 700 NHL games, he had just 327 points in those 709 games. Those numbers aren’t great, but they are good enough for 15th in scoring among the class, which was weak for forwards overall. It also means that Boedker’s offense would have been an easily replaceable asset in free agency, so it’s reasonable to wonder if taking Holtby and his Stanley Cup-winning pedigree would’ve made a difference in the Coyotes’ fortunes.
While the organization never had elite scoring talent and failed to build consistent year-to-year performances, goaltending was usually the least of their worries. Immediately after the draft, Phoenix got the three best seasons of Ilya Bryzgalov’s career, including a Vezina Trophy nomination in 2009-10. After his departure in 2011, Mike Smith immediately broke out, guiding them to the Western Conference Final in 2012. Over 310 starts in the desert, Smith served the Coyotes well with a .916 save percentage. While you’ll hear little argument that Holtby was the better goaltender between those three, the upgrade is marginal enough that it likely wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the team’s fortunes.
The New York Islanders stepped up to the plate for the ninth-overall selection, trading four spots down on draft day in total from the fifth overall pick. It was a move that worked out extremely well for them in hindsight. Their selection at ninth overall was Josh Bailey, who remains third in scoring among forwards from the class on this day. When comparing Bailey’s career with that of the fifth overall selection (Luke Schenn) and seventh overall selection (Colin Wilson) that they dealt away that day, it was an even smarter move from then-general manager Garth Snow. Bailey, who’s remained a career Islander ever since draft day and is currently an alternate captain, has 555 career points and will play his 1,000th game as an Islander this season.
Bailey made his NHL debut in November of 2008, just five months after he was drafted, and played nearly a full NHL season as a 19-year-old. He had 25 points in 68 games during his rookie season, good enough for ninth in scoring on an atrocious Islanders team that finished with just 61 points. From that point forward, Bailey was a surefire threat for anywhere between 30 and 50 points in a full season. He set a career-high of 71 points in 76 games in 2017-18, 15 more points than his next-best season total.
Despite the impressive career as an Islander, there may have been better selections available yet on the board at ninth overall for New York. There’s Jordan Eberle, who did end up an Islander anyway after a few seasons in Edmonton, who’s the only forward that ranks ahead of Bailey in terms of career points from the class not named Steven Stamkos. There’s also current Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon, who perenially remains one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL.
So we ask you, who should have the New York Islanders selected with the ninth overall pick in 2008? Make your voice heard in the poll below.
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