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A look back at the 2006 Entry Draft

by Corey Masisak
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft starts Friday, and there will be plenty written about the winners and losers in the coming days -- even if teams won't know for years to come whether they 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 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.

Up first will be the 2006 Entry Draft, which took place in Vancouver. It was known in the lead up as "Erik Johnson and the centers," and that's how it played out. The next seven picks after Johnson to St. Louis were centers (Phil Kessel was one back then).

There is some star power at the top of this draft, and some late bloomers like Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand and James Reimer have a chance to make it even better. Three of the top five have been integral members of the past three Stanley Cup champions, and two of the top guys have been the key components in a blockbuster trade -- for each other.

NHL general managers did a pretty commendable job with this draft -- none of our top 22 was  taken outside the top three rounds and only the guys at 27, 28 and 29 were late-round picks. Also, realize that many of the guys who didn't make this list (or first-round selections labeled as "misses") could still work their way in and be on the look-back redraft for the 2016 Entry Draft.

So here's a look back at the hits (and misses) of the 2006 Entry Draft:

1. Jonathan Toews (Drafted No. 3)
A pretty easy choice to go No. 1 overall in our re-draft, the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner should be a superstar for years to come.

2. Nicklas Backstrom (4)
Backstrom slumped last season and had a terrible postseason, but could still be one of the top five centers in hockey for the next decade provided he -- and the rest of the Capitals' top players -- rebound.

3. Claude Giroux (22)

This might be a spot or three higher than some might expect, but Giroux is incredibly talented and might be the best player on a loaded Philadelphia roster sooner rather than later.

4. Jordan Staal (2)
Definitely one of the best defensive forwards in the League, Staal's offense has fluctuated and whether he will be a star or just a very good player remains to be seen.

5. Milan Lucic (50)
A top-line wing and leading goal-scorer for a Stanley Cup champion -- not a bad second-round pick.

6. Erik Johnson (1)
Johnson's progress has been slowed by injury, and he's yet to really show he can be a franchise defenseman on a consistent basis.

7. Chris Stewart (18)
Back-to-back 28-goal seasons (and he missed a lot of time this past season) show that Stewart could be one of the game's premier power forwards in the near future.

8. Phil Kessel (5)
He's got plenty of talent and quality production, but can he be the lead player on a contending team? Would any team owning one of the seven guys above him make a one-for-one trade?

9. Patrik Berglund (25)
Solid rookie season, sophomore slump, solid bounce-back campaign -- and he followed that with a huge showing at the World Championship.

10. Steve Mason (69)
Won the Calder Trophy and looked like the answer in net for the next 15 years for Columbus. He's struggled during the last two seasons, but the talent is there.

11. Kyle Okposo (7)
Missed the start of last season with injury, but has the skills and speed to be an excellent power forward for an up-and-coming Islanders squad.

12. Bryan Little (12)
Scored 31 as a rookie and 31 the last two years combined -- if he finds a consistent position and role in Winnipeg he could be closer to 31 than half of it next season.

13. Semyon Varlamov (23)
The Varlamov vs. Neuvirth debate/battle should continue in Washington. He still probably has the greater upside of the two, but also more concerns about consistently reaching it.

14. Brad Marchand (71)
Either Marchand or Dennis Seidenberg was the breakout star of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The third-rounder could become the League's most talented pest in short order.

15. Michael Grabner (14)
Huge goal total this season after finding a home on Long Island -- but can he do it consistently when teams pay him more attention?

16. Michal Neuvirth (34)
Might have been Washington's MVP in 2010-11, and probably the safest bet among the three young Caps to be a top-10 goalie in this League for the next decade.

17. Jonathan Bernier (11)
Hasn't been able to wrestle the job away from Jonathan Quick, but teams would line up in a hurry to grab this precocious talent if the Kings decide to put him on the trade block.

18. Nikolai Kulemin (44)
Breakout campaign for the Maple Leafs with 30 goals, but same questions about Grabner apply here as well.

19. Michael Frolik (10)
Had a down year after back-to-back 21-goal seasons to start his career. Still, it's quite possible Florida will regret trading him in a big way.

20. Derick Brassard (6)
Always seems to be on the cusp of making good on all that potential, but durability has been a big issue.

21. Peter Mueller (8)
Interesting case -- would be higher if it weren't for the concussion, but you could also make an argument for him to be lower because of it.

22. Jamie McBain (63)
Could put up great numbers (both in points and Simpsons references by media covering him) for years to come in Carolina.

23. James Reimer (99)
The latest savior in Toronto, Optimus Reim could be the guy who leads the Maple Leafs back to the playoffs … or he could be a one-hit wonder.

24. Nick Foligno (28)
A tough guy to place -- he's been in the NHL for a few years but hasn't really done anything outstanding.

25. Artem Anisimov (54)
Could be a late-blooming Russian dynamo for the Rangers -- but he could also just be a tweener at center who struggles to find a consistent role.

26. Cal Clutterbuck (72)
Hits everything that moves, and there is certainly some value in that.

27. Andrew McDonald (160)
Got a chance to play due to all the injuries on Long Island and had a breakout season. He could move up this list or fall back depending on his role once everyone's healthy.

28. Derek Dorsett (189)
Like Clutterbuck, but with more fights involved.

29. Viktor Stalberg (161)
Had a nice season as a depth forward for Chicago -- also the third most-famous guy in the League who played college hockey at Vermont (behind Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis).

30. Jiri Tlusty (13)
Hasn't done anything too spectacular to this point, and there were about eight other guys who could make a claim for this spot.

First-round misses: James Sheppard (9), Riku Helenius (15), Ty Wishart (16), Trevor Lewis (17), Mark Mitera (19), David Fischer (20), Bobby Sanguinetti (21), Dennis Persson (24), Leland Irving (26), Ivan Vishnevskiy (27), Chris Summers (29), Matthew Corrente (30)
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