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A decade of NHL Draft debates

Apr 28, 2010, 4:30 PM EDT

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lehtonen.jpgDani Toth brought up an interesting “What if?” question today. She asked if the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted the right man when they chose Steven Stamkos instead of Drew Doughty. Depending on how you look at it, it’s a grizzly bear of a question: do you go with the electric goal scorer or the Norris-nominated defenseman? Ultimately, it’s like choosing between bacon and chocolate: do I want sweet delicious or salty delicious? (Wait, is it? Eh, let’s just call it good thing or other good thing …)

Anyway, it had me thinking: what are some of the great – recent – NHL Draft debates? This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but instead a look at some of the more interesting recent decisions from 2000-2009.

2009: Hedman, Tavares or Duchene?: Obviously, the jury’s still out on this one but Matt Duchene had the best rookie year. All three have a chance to be the best when it’s all said-and-done.

2006: Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Backstrom, Kessel, Toews: Wow, talk about a hindsight-heavy question. Should the St. Louis Blues have taken Nicklas Backstrom or Jonathan Toews instead? Is a Stanley Cup enough to justify the fact that the Penguins could have drafted a “bigger star” instead of Staal? This draft shows that some years can produce better talent at #5 than others do at #1.

2003: M-A Fleury, Eric Staal, Vanek, Parise, Carter, Getzlaf: Speaking of loaded drafts, 2003 was just ridiculous. Zach Parise went at #17 … it’s not impossible that he’d go around that spot if the entire league was re-drafted. Fleury’s had an up-and-down career, but a Cup makes it difficult to be overly critical. Still, with the likes of Eric Staal, Parise and Getzlaf in that entry draft, it’s natural to wonder “what if?” (Then again, this gets into the danger of “replacing” … something I’ll discuss in greater detail on a rainy day.)

2002: Nash, Lehtonen, Bouwmeester, Semin, Ward: This draft might top the List of Atlanta Thrashers Regrets. Instead of landing Cup-winning goalie Cam Ward or a productive player such as Jay Bouwmeester or Alex Semin, they ended up with the mercurial Kari Lehtonen. Ouchies.

2000: Dipietro, Heatley, Gaborik: Another indication that drafting a goalie too high can lead to regrets. Then again, Gaborik and Heatley aren’t with their first teams anyway, so maybe there would have been heartache for the Islanders anyway?

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