The 2011 Entry Draft begins Friday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN), 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 if they’ve had a successful couple of days in Minnesota.
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. The premise is simple -- if there was a re-draft, 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 mostly will be based on who had the best career, but for 2001 and especially 2006, there remains some projection involved.
This exercise began Wednesday with a re-do of the 2006 Entry Draft (Link), and Chicago's Jonathon Toews landed at the top spot. Here, we take a look back at the 2001 Entry Draft, which had some star power at the top and plenty of late-round gems.
There were plenty of depth players to be found in 2001, but no franchise goaltenders and probably not as many top players as a typical draft would yield -- and certainly far fewer than the League-changing draft that would come two years later.
Ten of our top 30 players from the 2001 Entry Draft were drafted in the fifth round or later. There will be 211 names called this weekend at the 2011 Entry Draft, but three of the top 30 players 10 years ago came from picks No. 220 and higher.
NHL general managers got the first two picks right in 2001, and then there is a lot of movement after that. Here's a look back at the hits (and misses) of the 2001 Entry Draft (and check back for a look at 1996).
1. Ilya Kovalchuk (Drafted No. 1)
He's been prolific and durable, playing 145 more NHL games than anyone else in his draft class -- an easy choice here.
2. Jason Spezza (2)
Spezza has not been the superstar many expected him to be and his contract has caused headaches recently for Senators fans, but he's scored more than a point per game in his career.
3. Mike Cammalleri (49)
Hasn't had the same regular-season production in his two seasons with Montreal, but he's compensated by being dynamite in the postseason.
4. Patrick Sharp (94)
A bit of a late bloomer, but Sharp has been fantastic the past four seasons for Chicago.
5. Christian Ehrhoff (106)
One of two Vancouver defensemen who are going to make a lot of money this summer, he's another player who has blossomed of late with an average of more than 45 points in his past three seasons.
6. Dan Hamhuis (12)
He's third in this class in games played and made the Canucks look smart for giving him a lavish contract last summer with a strong season as a top-pairing defenseman for the Western Conference champs.
7. Mikko Koivu (6)
Didn't become a regular until 2005-06, but he's a great two-way center -- whether he produces enough offense to justify his big contract remains to be seen.
8. Ales Hemsky (13)
An immense talent and third in this class in points, but he should have a season with more than 23 goals and/or 71 points by now, right?
9. Tomas Plekanec (71)
He spent three full seasons in the AHL, which depresses his career numbers. He should be in line for a big season in 2011-12, since his past four point totals are 69, 39, 70 and 57.
10. Derek Roy (32)
Had four straight seasons with at least 63 points, but an injury derailed him last season. He's a really good player who plays like a great one -- sometimes.
11. Marek Zidlicky (176)
A gifted offensive defenseman who has scored at least 42 points in five of his seven NHL seasons.
12. Jason Pominville (55)
A solid top-six forward, but his point total has dropped in each of the past three seasons after topping out at 80 in 2007-08.
13. Stephen Weiss (4)
Weiss has been a good, but not quite great, player on a bad team his entire career.
14. Tim Gleason (23)
Has the fewest career goals of any skater on this list, but he's an often-underrated defensive defenseman who's been excellent for the Hurricanes since they acquired him in 2006.
15. Ryane Clowe (175)
Clowe has played far fewer games than most of the players on this list, but he's evolved into a rugged but talented second-line forward for the Sharks.
16. Dennis Seidenberg (172)
A recent high-riser from this group, the once underrated German took a star turn for the Stanley Cup champions. He's a tank on skates and has offensive ability, as well.
17. Kevin Bieksa (151)
Has been up and down, but picked a good year (i.e., the one before becoming a free agent) to be up. Bieksa even was mentioned as a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate as one of the few Canucks who played well in the Cup Final.
18. Fedor Tyutin (40)
Fourth in this class in games played and points among defensemen -- a player who could use some help on the blue line in Columbus.
19. R.J. Umberger (16)
He's been a versatile, valuable player, with at least 23 goals in each of his three seasons with Columbus.
20. Brooks Laich (193)
Incredibly versatile and considered a great leader in Washington, he can be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and could cash in with a weak market at forward this summer.
21. Tuomo Ruutu (9)
He had a big rookie season before falling out of favor in Chicago, but has found a home as a rugged but skilled forward in Carolina.
22. Jussi Jokinen (192)
Broke onto the NHL scene as a shootout star in Dallas; had a huge season for Carolina in 2009-10 before one more in line with previous outputs this past season.
23. Mike Komisarek (7)
Was an All-Star Game starter on defense in Montreal, but hasn't been the same in Toronto since signing a big-bucks, long-term deal.
24. Colby Armstrong (21)
He's had a couple 40-point seasons, and has settled in as a solid third-line player.
25. Chuck Kobasew (14)
Had three 20-goal seasons, but the move to Minnesota hasn't helped his offense a whole lot.
26. Craig Anderson (73)
Maybe not the best goalie of a weak class to this point (that honor might go to Cristobal Huet
or Martin Gerber
), but Anderson seems the most likely to keep adding to his numbers as the No. 1 goaltender in Ottawa.
27. Johnny Oduya (221)
This is a bit of a cheat because Oduya was drafted by Washington and didn't sign -- he eventually signed as a free agent with New Jersey in 2006 -- but he's been a solid defenseman for the Devils and in Atlanta after being part of the package traded there for Kovalchuk.
28. David Moss (220)
Scored at a 24-goal pace during a 2010-11 season cut a little short by injury. Moss might be the latest of late bloomers on this list.
29. Marek Svatos (227)
Looked like he could be the next great Colorado scorer in 2005-06, but the sniper has fallen off dramatically.
30. Kyle Wellwood (134)
A classic tweener (skilled, but not consistent enough to play in the top six and not physical enough to play in the bottom six) -- he beat out several other so-so options for the final spot.
Notable first-round misses: Alexander Svitov
(3), Stanislav Chistov
(5), Dan Blackburn
(10), Igor Knyasev (15), Jens Karlsson
(18), Jiri Novotny
(22), Alexander Perezhogin
(25), Jason Bacashihua
(26), Adrian Foster
(28), Adam Munro