The 2011 NHL Entry Draft starts Friday, and there will be plenty written about the winners and losers of the draft in the coming days, even if teams won't know for years to come if it was a successful couple of days in Minnesota or not.
With that in mind, we're going to take a look back at a few drafts -- from five, 10 and 15 years ago, to be precise -- and see who really did well or not. The premise is simple -- if there was a redraft, which players would be first-round picks (or go in the top 30, since there weren't 30 teams in 1996)?
It certainly makes for some interesting arguments. The 1996 Entry Draft will mostly be based on who had the best career, but for 2001 and especially 2006 there is still some projection involved.
This exercise began Wednesday with a re-do of the 2006 Entry Draft, and Chicago's Jonathan Toews
landed at the top spot. Ilya Kovalchuk
was the No. 1 pick 10 years ago and remains the top player from the 2001 Entry Draft.
The 1996 draft will not remembered as one of the better ones in NHL history. In fact, it would probably find its way onto a short list of the least fruitful. There were few stars produced from this draft (you could make the case there were just two), and the only area that was plentiful was defensive defensemen -- fitting since Chris Phillips
was the No. 1 pick by the Ottawa Senators
There were no star goaltenders -- only one went in the first round, Craig Hillier
to Pittsburgh, and he never made it to the NHL. None of them became an established No. 1 netminder. There were also few impact forwards.
Here's a look at how the 1996 Entry Draft shakes out 15 years later:
1. Zdeno Chara (56)
Has one Norris Trophy and one Stanley Cup and could add a couple more of both before he's done.
2. Danny Briere (24)
The only forward in this class that even approached star status, he has reached 30 goals four times
3. Tomas Kaberle (204)
Always put up plenty of offense (except with the Bruins) and had questions about his defense, but his name is going on the Stanley Cup this summer.
4. Pavel Kubina (179)
Won a Cup with the Lightning in '04, and Tampa Bay might have had a chance for a second if he didn't get injured in the second round of this postseason.
5. Chris Phillips (1)
Been a solid defensive defenseman for his entire career in Ottawa -- not exactly what teams want at No. 1, but tough to say he was a bad pick in this class.
6. Matt Cullen (35)
A consistent 40-49 point guy who had a nice postseason for the Cup-winning Hurricanes in 2006.
7. Marco Sturm (21)
Had six straight 20-goal seasons at one point, but has missed much of two of his past three years with injuries.
8. J-P Dumont (3)
Had a couple nice seasons with Buffalo and peaked in two years with Nashville after a slow start to his career.
9. Tom Poti (59)
Scored but didn't defend early in his career, then defended well but hasn't scored nearly as much in his later years.
10. Derek Morris
Similar to Poti, and was probably better than him earlier in his career but didn't age as well.
11. Dainius Zubrus (15)
Leads this class in games played -- could be one of five guys to hit 1,000 this season.
12. Sami Salo (239)
Another guy drafted by Ottawa (along with Phillips and Andreas Dackell
, the Senators are the only team to take three guys in this class who played at least 600 NHL games), has been a good two-way defenseman for the Canucks for eight years.
13. Willie Mitchell (199)
Better right now than several of the guys in front of him, but way down the list in games played.
14. Toni Lydman (89)
Always solid, never spectacular -- Buffalo and Anaheim have better on defense in practice than on paper with him in the lineup.
15. Michal Rozsival (105)
Was once a considered a quality offensive defenseman but hasn't produced nearly as much the past couple of seasons.
16. Ruslan Salei (9)
Has played more than 900 games and collected more than 1,000 penalty minutes.
17. Colin White (49)
Another solid defensive defenseman who took a while to develop so he's behind in games played.
18. Eric Belanger (96)
Has scored between 33 and 41 points in each of his past eight NHL seasons -- would be a good No. 3 center on a contender but has often been a No. 2 on teams that aren't.
19. Mark Parrish (79)
Had at least 23 goals for seven of eight seasons at one point -- has managed only 18 NHL games the past two years while riding a lot of buses in the AHL.
20. Samuel Pahlsson (176)
Stayed in Sweden for a long time after being drafted, but became a sought-after checking center.
21. Cory Sarich (27)
More than 800 games played and won the Cup with Tampa Bay -- was the first pick of the second round back when there were only 26 teams.
22. Mathieu Garon (44)
Talk about pressure -- he was a second-round pick by Montreal in the draft immediately following the Patrick Roy
23. Brett Clark (154)
The ultimate late-bloomer from this class, he didn't become a regular for good in the NHL until 2005-06 but he's turned himself into a capable second-pairing defenseman.
24. Marty Reasoner (14)
More than 700 games played and 250 points -- not the goal when selecting in the middle of the first round, but he makes the cut with room to spare in this class.
25. Aaron Asham (71)
Did score 15 goals for the Islanders once, but has made a career of being an energy guy and a grinder on good teams of late.
26. Andreas Dackell (136)
Went back to Sweden during the 2004-05 work stoppage and never came back -- still has the 15th most points (250) in this class.
27. Matt Bradley (102)
A career fourth-liner who has become a bit of a folk hero in Washington for his bloody fights (his blood, not the other guy).
28. Jan Bulis (43)
A 20-goal season and two 40-point campaigns gets him on this list.
29. Craig Adams (223)
The second-to-last pick in the history of the Hartford Whalers -- he's also one of only three Hartford draft choices still in the NHL along with Chris Pronger
and Jean-Sebastien Giguere
30. Oleg Kvasha (65)
Racked up 217 points in less than 500 NHL games before returning to Russia after the 2005-06 season.