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Nash, Keith highlight 2002 draft class

by Corey Masisak / Chicago Blackhawks

Note: will take a look back at the NHL drafts from five, 10 and 15 years ago this week leading up to the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. How would a redux of those drafts look today?

The 2002 NHL Draft produced a Conn Smythe Trophy winner (Cam Ward in 2006), and another who was probably the unofficial runner-up (Duncan Keith in 2010). It also produced at player at each position -- Alexander Semin at forward, Jay Bouwmeester on defense and Kari Lehtonen in goal -- that are the subject of widely divisive opinions.

Some of the guys who started strong have faded and could be nearing the end of their careers, while others took longer to reach the NHL and the next few years could be their best. Given where the other top picks rank on this list, Rick Nash was certainly the right choice at No. 1 by Columbus, though his days with the Blue Jackets are reportedly drawing to a close.

This draft is a good snapshot of how much better scouting of European players has gotten. There were several European-based first-round choices that failed to make much of an impact in the NHL, while the Detroit Red Wings -- notorious for their strong work in Europe -- snagged a trio of guys in later rounds who can still be key players in the next 10 years.

Seventeen of the 30 first-round picks from 2002 did not make this list though a few (Daniel Paille, Anton Babchuk, Scottie Upshall) are in the No. 31-35 range. Here's what the 2002 NHL Draft could look like if it was re-cast today, with most of these players at about the midpoint in their careers:

Rank Player Drafted Skinny
1 Rick Nash 1 A great two-way forward who needs a fresh start
2 Duncan Keith 54 Norris Trophy, gold medal, No. 1 D-man on Cup winner
3 Cam Ward 25 Young Conn Smythe winner, legitimate franchise goalie
4 Alexander Semin 13 Maddening yet sublime talent, second-most goals/points
5 Joni Pitkanen 4 Underrated, plays huge minutes in all situations
6 Jay Bouwmeester
3 Overrated, plays huge minutes in all situations
7 Joffrey Lupul 7 Great start, rallied in '11-12 after career nearly derailed
8 Jarret Stoll 36 Great No. 3/good No. 2 center; won Cup after just missing in '06
9 Kari Lehtonen 2 Premier talent in net, long struggle with injuries until recently
10 Pierre-Marc Bouchard 8 Great setup man, missed essentially two years with concussions
11 Trevor Daley 43 Solid, second-pair guy; second-most games on D behind Bouwmeester
12 Alexander Steen 24 Second-line scorer adds elite defensive ability
13 Dennis Wideman 241 Lots of points, suspect defense, about to join fifth team in seven years
14 James Wisniewski 156 Late bloomer will seek redemption after injury/suspension plagued year
15 Tomas Fleischmann 63 Breakout year after finding top-line opportunity, beating blood clot scare
16 Chris Higgins 14 Fourth in this class in goals, nice bounce back after three sub-par seasons
17 Valtteri Filppula 95 Not much in '12, but strong postseason performer in previous years
18 Jiri Hudler 58 Missed a year in KHL, needed a year to get back up to speed
19 Ian White 191 Looked pretty good next to Nicklas Lidstrom; won't have that luxury anymore
20 Frans Nielsen 87 Good on defense, deadly in shootouts; offense has improved each of five NHL seasons
21 Matt Stajan 57 Third in games played, but production fell off a cliff past three years
22 Max Talbot 234 Game 7 hero in Final for Penguins, strong first season for Flyers
23 Tom Gilbert 129 Not an offensive star (like '07-08), but solid second-pair guy
24 Sean Bergenheim 22 Playoff hero in '11 for Tampa Bay, strong again in '12 for Florida
25 Keith Ballard 11 Career has gone sideways in two years with Vancouver
26 Matt Greene 44 Stay at home guy, No. 5 d-man, PK stud on Cup-winning team
27 Gregory Campbell 67 Solid No. 4 center on Cup winner, could move up on lesser team
28 Ryan Whitney 5 Would be much higher, but injuries have derailed him
29 Josh Harding 38 Longtime starter-in-waiting, might not ever get that chance after re-signing with Wild
30 Jonathan Ericsson 291 Last guy picked, will be better than several above him moving forward
Missing first-round picks: Scottie Upshall (6), Petr Taticek (9), Eric Nystrom (10), Steve Eminger (12), Jesse Niinimaki (15), Jakub Klepis (16), Boyd Gordon (17), Denis Grebeshkov (18), Jakub Kories (19), Daniel Paille (20), Anton Babchuk (21), Ben Eager (23), Martin Vagner (26), Mike Morris (27), Jonas Johansson (28), Hannu Toivonen (29), Jim Slater (30).
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