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)
With the 14th overall selection of the 2008 redraft, readers voted to re-write history and have the Hurricanes choose Henrique instead of Zach Boychuk, who Carolina actually picked in this spot 14 years ago. Although Boychuk has been a solid pro at several levels still to this day, taking the fan-favorite Henrique at this spot would have represented far better value. Henrique doesn’t have the illustrious resume that some of his fellow 2008 selections do, but he’s put together a solid career worthy of a mid-first-round pick.
Originally drafted in the third-round, 82nd overall by the New Jersey Devils, Henrique took some time to develop, but burst onto the scene in 2011-12 with 51 points in 74 games. He’d add another 13 in 24 playoff games, including the goal he may be best remembered for: an iconic overtime winner that sent the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. Throughout his career, he’s hit the 50-point mark three separate times and the 20-goal mark six times, including a 30-goal performance in 2015-16.
Having established himself as a fan favorite in New Jersey, the forward was dealt early on in the 2017-18 season in a hockey trade that sent defenseman Sami Vatanen to New Jersey from the Anaheim Ducks. Out west, Henrique continued his solid play, albeit with a small step back in production. This season however, the 32-year-old appeared to find his scoring touch once again, registering 19 goals and 23 assists in just 58 games, nearly a 60-point pace. In the end, the Devils found great value by selecting Henrique in the third-round, but going even as high as 14th to the Hurricanes in a redraft appears to still lend great value.
Having addressed Henrique, we turn to the 15th overall pick. Now, first and foremost, there are some terrific hockey players with great resumes left to pick from, but none compare to the generational talent that is Erik Karlsson, who went 15th back in 2008. In the redraft, Karlsson bumped well up the draft board, going fifth overall. The defenseman’s case is an interesting one given the sensational seasons he had as a member of the Ottawa Senators, but also his recent injury history. Had we run this series five years ago, there’s a very good chance he would have been the first selection.
When Ottawa selected the slick, puck-moving defenseman out of the Frolunda organization, he had just come off a 37-point season in 38 games in the Swedish junior league which also included a seven-game stint with Frolunda in the then-Swedish Elite League. The Senators opted to have the defenseman spend another year in Europe, where he played a majority of the season with Frolunda, recording 10 points in 45 games. The following season, 2009-10, Karlsson came over and stepped right into the Ottawa lineup.
After establishing himself as an NHL regular, Karlsson broke out as a superstar during the 2011-12 campaign, where he scored 19 goals to go along with 59 assists. This breakout would start a run of seven years with Karlsson being among the best, if not the best defenseman in the NHL, regularly tallying at least 15 goals and 65 points per season, but hitting career-highs with 21 goals in 2014-15 and 82 points in 2015-16.
Entering the 2018-19 season, with the Senators in a full-scale rebuild and Karlsson’s contract set to expire after the season, the team was looking for suitors and found one in that of the San Jose Sharks. Though the deal, and the entire Senators rebuild for that matter, was met with criticism, the ultimate return would be arguably as franchise-altering as selecting Karlsson was in the first place. For Karlsson and forward Francis Perron, the Senators received forwards Joshua Norris, Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, as well as a conditional first-round draft pick and two conditional second-round draft picks. While one of the second round picks was dealt, the other picks would turn into Zack Ostapchuk and budding superstar Tim Stutzle, who they selected third overall in 2020.
San Jose was able to work out an extension with Karlsson just ahead of free agency, an eight-year, $92MM deal, one which was appropriate at the time, but has now seemingly gone sideways. Since the trade to San Jose, Karlsson has dealt with a bevy of injury issues that have cost him games played and appeared to hamper his game to a degree as he’s played through them. His production has dropped off to a degree, but has managed to maintain close to a 60-point pace per 82-games played, but whether or not that is worth an $11.5MM hit against the salary cap remains in question, and is arguably a driving force behind the Sharks current state as a presumed rebuilder.
Given recency bias, it would make sense that a defenseman once considered among the very best players in the league for several seasons in that of Karlsson would slide down to fifth overall in a 2008 redraft. However, there’s no doubt that his original selection – 15th overall – was a fantastic pick by Ottawa. But, running through the first round again, taking Karlsson here is no longer an option. Though not a possible Hall of Famer, Ottawa will still get a quality player this time around, but who will it be?
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