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)
5th Overall: Erik Karlsson, Toronto Maple Leafs (15)
6th Overall: John Carlson, Columbus Blue Jackets (27)
7th Overall: Jacob Markstrom, Nashville Predators (31)
8th Overall: Braden Holtby, Phoenix Coyotes (93)
9th Overall: Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders (22)
10th Overall: Jared Spurgeon, Vancouver Canucks (156)
11th Overall: Cam Atkinson, Chicago Blackhawks (157)
12th Overall: T.J. Brodie, Buffalo Sabres (114)
13th Overall: Josh Bailey, Los Angeles Kings (9)
14th Overall: Adam Henrique, Carolina Hurricanes (82)
15th Overall: Tyler Myers, Ottawa Senators (12)
16th Overall: Gustav Nyquist, Boston Bruins (121)
17th Overall: Derek Stepan, Anaheim Ducks (51)
18th Overall: Jake Allen, Nashville Predators (34)
19th Overall: Jake Gardiner, Philadelphia Flyers (17)
Sliding two spots from the real 2008 NHL draft is defenseman Jake Gardiner. Originally the 17th overall selection by the Anaheim Ducks, Gardiner now goes 19th overall, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers, who had selected defenseman Luca Sbisa with that choice back in 2008.
Interestingly, between Gardiner and Sbisa, only one of them even played games with the team that drafted him, Sbisa getting into 39 games for the Flyers the year after being drafted. Both players were used to help their respective teams make an immediate upgrade on the blueline. The Flyers used Sbisa to help them acquire Chris Pronger from the Ducks, and a few years later the Ducks would use Gardiner to help them acquire Francois Beauchemin from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Regardless of which player they chose, or whether they would have elected to keep him around, the Flyers would get good value out of the pick with Sbisa or Gardiner. Sbisa wound up having a lengthy career as a stable, physical shutdown defenseman while Gardiner has had a lengthy career as a tremendous puck-mover on the back-end. Gardiner’s career might seem a bit more enticing given his strong point totals in his prime, but he has dealt with multiple injuries that have forced him to miss most of 2020-21, all of 2021-22, and thus far, all of 2022-23. All of that considered, finding an everyday NHL defenseman at 19th overall is something many executives and scouts around the league would be rather happy with.
Now, we move on to the 20th overall pick, which belonged to the New York Rangers. In 2008, the Rangers used that pick to take Michael Del Zotto, a slick two-way defenseman from the Oshawa Generals. After taking Del Zotto, the Rangers sent him back for one more season in the OHL, which he split between Oshawa and the London Knights. Del Zotto would debut for New York in 2009-10, immediately jumping into a full-time role on their blueline, making a splash his rookie season with 37 points. However, he took a step back in his sophomore season, playing in just 47 games while spending some time in the AHL too.
The defenseman would rebound for 2011-12, scoring 10 goals to go with 31 assists in 77 games and it seemed as if the Rangers had a star on their hands. However, Del Zotto wasn’t able to replicate that production and was eventually dealt to the Nashville Predators part-way through 2013-14 for fellow defenseman Kevin Klein. That offseason, Del Zotto signed with the Philadelphia Flyers where again his production would jump up, putting up 32 points in 64 games, but once again, he couldn’t maintain.
Del Zotto then became something of a journeyman after his three-year stint with Philadelphia, spending time with Vancouver, Anaheim, St. Luis, Columbus, and most recently, Ottawa in 2021-22, where he had his first AHL time since that trip back in 2010-11. Prior to this season, the Florida Panthers signed Del Zotto to a one-year, two-way contract; to date, he’s played two games with the Charlotte Checkers, Florida’s AHL affiliate.
Much like Sbisa and Gardiner above, Del Zotto has had a lengthy career complete with several very strong seasons, but has never hit the elite level the Rangers might have envisioned when they selected him. Now with the benefit of hindsight, who should the Rangers select 20th overall in our redraft? There are plenty of solid defensemen available, including Del Zotto as well as the likes of Travis Hamonic, Marco Scandella, and Zach Bogosian, offense-first forwards like Mikkel Boedker and Tyler Ennis, or some good-old-fashioned grit with Matt Martin and Matt Calvert, and many more to choose from.
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