2004 NHL Entry Draft Top 5 – Where Are They Now?
As a bit of fun, let’s catch up with how the most talented 17/18 year olds – at least as described by scouts – from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft are doing now. Some turned out as planned. Cam Barker? Well, safe to say he didn’t.
1st Overall – Alex Ovechkin (WSH)
- Career NHL numbers: 693GP – 428G – 400A – 828P
- Hardware: Hart Memorial Trophy (2008, 2009, 2013), Lester Pearson/Ted Lindsay Award (2008, 2009, 2010), Art Ross Trophy (2008), Rocket Richard Trophy (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014), Calder Trophy (2006)
- What The Scouts Said: outstanding skating, shooting and puck handling; strength, size and determination; willing defender; potential World-class player.
- How He’s Turned Out: without a doubt a World-class scorer, one of the most effective the NHL has seen in modern times. The description of his skills remains spot-on, with the obvious exception of the “willing defender” part. Yes, scouts did indeed mention his defensive awareness. For my money, I believe Ovechkin’s ability to drive play in the right direction far outweighs any negatives in his d-zone player, and even though he may not be the completely dominant player he was in his first 5-6 years in the league, he’s still one of the most unique and dangerous talents in the league. Worth every penny of the 1st overall selection.
- 2014/15 So Far: 6 goals and 14 points in 14 games
2nd Overall – Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
- Career NHL numbers: 531GP – 246G – 403A – 649P
- Hardware: Stanley Cup (2009), Art Ross Trophy (2009, 2012), Calder Trophy (2007), Conn Smythe Trophy (2009), Hart Trophy (2012), Ted Lindsay Award (2012)
- What The Scouts Said: great size, skating and skill; goes hard to the net; top vision and creativity with outstanding passing skills; top-line potential.
- How He’s Turned Out: unbelievably the scouts may have actually underrated how Malkin would turn out. Many would argue, logically, that he is a more effective player than Ovechkin – he certainly rivals him in the hardware department. He has struggled with injuries for much of his career, and seems to be at his best when superstar team-mate Sidney Crosby is not in the lineup, but there’s no doubt that he’s one of the finest centers on the planet today, impacting the game at a truly elite level.
- 2014/15 So Far: 6 goals and 17 points in 13 games
3rd Overall – Cam Barker (CHI)
- Career NHL numbers: 310GP – 21G – 75A – 96P
- Hardware: None.
- What The Scouts Said: top ranked North American skater; powerful shot with outstanding offensive tools and vision; projected as top-level powerplay quarterback, with a raw but improving defensive game; lacked explosive speed but had decent mobility overall.
- How He’s Turned Out: in short – a huge bust. He had one good, percentage-fuelled season with Chicago, but in every other season simply couldn’t make NHL-level plays at either end of the ice. His mobility was well-below average, his defensive game dire at best. He did look OK on the powerplay, but outside of that one season the results were rarely there.
- 2014/15 So Far: after spending 26 games in the KHL last season, Barker doesn’t appear to be playing pro hockey this year.
4th Overall – Andrew Ladd (CAR)
- Career NHL numbers: 625GP – 167G – 201A – 368P
- Hardware: Stanley Cup (2006, 2010)
- What The Scouts Said: strong skating, puck skills and physical game; competes hard and drives the net; plays a power game with good two-way ability; projected as a first line winger and “a guy that wins championships”.
- How He’s Turned Out: while perhaps not the first line winger he was projected to be, and even though it took a few years, Ladd has turned into a fine top-6 forward with grit and versatility. If his two Stanley Cups are any indication, he is indeed a guy that wins championships. Now captain of the very mediocre Winnipeg Jets, there can be few complaints about Ladd’s play, particularly since it’s since joining the franchise that his individual play really took off.
- 2014/15 So Far: 6 goals and 10 points in 15 games.
5th Overall – Blake Wheeler (PHX)
- Career NHL numbers: 469GP – 126G – 185A – 311P
- Hardware: None.
- What The Scouts Said: Massive winger with good skills and skating; natural goal scorer; tremendous athlete; projected as good top-6 winger with excellent upside.
- How He’s Turned Out: It took him a while, but Wheeler has turned into a very capable top-6 forward. It’s arguable how he’d be utilised on a good team, but for the Jets at least he’s had two 60+ point seasons and was on pace for 70 in the lockout-shortened season as their indisputable top right winger. You can’t argue with that type of production. Not elite, but I’d say he’s matched the draft bet – and it was a risky bet placed by the Coyotes 10 years ago, given he was slotted in the second round by many scouting services.
- 2014/15 So Far: 5 goals and 10 points in 15 games
Who Might Go Top 5 Now?
This wasn’t a great draft year, let’s be honest. After two almost-generational talents in Ovechkin and Malkin, the drop-off is pretty steep. Ladd and Wheeler are very good NHL players, but not elite. Barker didn’t pan out at all. Who might take their places in a redraft? It’s not as obvious as you might think, with the overall level of talent being fairly weak compared to some other draft years. Nonetheless, here are some players who might gain consideration:
- David Krejci (drafted 63rd, BOS) – currently the third leading scorer from this draft with 388 points in 514 games, Krejci is not an elite level talent but is certainly a high-level one, forming a considerable 1-2 punch with fellow Boston center Patrice Bergeron as the more offensive-minded of the two.
- Alex Edler (drafted 91st, VAN) – one of Vancouver’s much vaunted defensive corps, Edler has become a very effective two-way defender with a decent physical game and some offensive ability. Has proven to be very effective at driving the play.
- Mike Green (drafted 29th, WSH) – you may laugh now, but there was a time when Mike Green was considered to be what Erik Karlsson is now, i.e. an elite offensive defender. Injuries have rendered him ineffective for much of the last 4 seasons, but he appears to be healthy this year and with 10 points in 13 games is looking good.
- Pekka Rinne (drafted 258th, NSH) – now this is what you call a draft steal. Taken as an overager by Nashville, Rinne has developed into one of the league’s top goalies, twice being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and also earning several Hart Trophy votes in 2011. After two year’s spent struggling with injuries, Rinne looks to be back on form with a sparkling .935 SV% and 9 wins through 12 games thus far.
- Corey Schneider (drafted 26th, VAN) – after spending several years backing up star goalies like Roberto Luongo and an aging Martin Brodeur, Schneider’s era has finally arrived. He’s struggling a bit so far this season, but his career numbers (a .923 SV% over 158 games) suggests he’ll turn it around.