When a team drafts high, they always hope to select a player that will become a franchise cornerstone for years to come. That was definitely the case in 2004 when Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were the first two players taken in the NHL Entry Draft that took place in Raleigh, NC. The two superstars have combined to win four MVP awards and three scoring titles, while Malkin took home the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Of the 127 players from the 2004 Draft that have played at least one NHL game, Ovechkin and Malkin have combined to score 1,446 points – which translates to 14.4 percent of the 10,065 total career points scored. Their 662 combined goals are 17.3 percent of the draft’s 3,836, while the duo’s total of 784 assists amounts to 12.6 percent (6,229) of all drafted players.
Drafts don’t always guarantee success. Just ask the Minnesota Wild. With the 12th overall pick – one ahead of Buffalo – the Wild selected defenseman A.J. Thelen from Michigan State. Seven years and several concussions later, Thelen retired from professional hockey without ever playing in the NHL.
But Thelen wasn’t alone. A total of 291 players were drafted in 2004, and 164 (56.4%) never made it to the NHL. (In addition to the scheduled 270 selections, this draft also included 21 compensatory draft picks.)
|2004 NHL DRAFT SELECTIONS CAREER STATISTICS |
|GAMES PLAYED |
|GOALS ||ASSISTS ||POINTS ||# OF PLAYERS TO |
NEVER PLAY IN NHL
|1st ||8,632 ||1,732 ||2,646 ||4,378 ||2 |
|2nd ||3,472 ||550 ||1,006 ||1,556 ||16 |
|3rd ||3,325 ||413 ||714 ||1,127 ||15 |
|4th ||2,474 ||361 ||438 ||799 ||18 |
|5th ||1,646 ||256 ||377 ||633 ||23 |
|6th ||1,564 ||114 ||200 ||314 ||21 |
|7th ||1,426 ||168 ||288 ||456 ||22 |
|8th ||564 ||32 ||37 ||69 ||24 |
|9th ||1,773 ||210 ||523 ||733 ||23 |
|TOTAL ||24,876 ||3,836 ||6,229 ||10,065 ||164 |
Let’s take a look back at how Buffalo fared in 2004, which was also the last of the nine-round drafts.
1st round (13th overall) – Drew Stafford, RW (North Dakota, NCAA)
Despite being selected 13th overall, Drew Stafford entered the 2004 Draft ranked as the seventh-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Ten years later, it appears that Central Scouting may have been on to something. Among all 2004 first rounders, Stafford ranks fourth in goals (136), and seventh in both points (298) and games played (513).
The top five picks in 2004 – Ovechkin, Malkin, Cam Barker, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler – have combined to score 965 career goals. Following the selection of goaltender Al Montoya in the sixth spot, picks seven through Stafford were skaters. Those seven players have combined to score 205 goals – with Stafford’s 136 accounting for 66 percent of that total.
Of the 17 players drafted after Stafford in the first round, only two have played in more games: Travis Zajac (551) and Andrej Meszaros (585). Only Zajac (323) and Mike Green (315) have collected more points than Stafford.
2nd round (43rd overall) – Michael Funk, D (Portland, WHL)
Following a solid junior career that saw him score 47 (11+36) points with Portland in 2005-06, the 6-foot-4 Funk would collect just two assists in nine career NHL games with the Sabres from 2006-08. Funk accumulated 27 points in 151 career AHL games with Rochester/Portland(2006-09) and Manitoba (2009-10).
Notables taken after Funk: Brandon Dubinsky (60th – NY Rangers), Alex Goligoski (61st – Pittsburgh), David Krejci (63rd – Boston).
3rd round (71st overall) – Andrej Sekera, D (Trencin, Slovakia Jr.)
On March 10, 2003, the Sabres acquired little-known forward Daniel Briere and a 2004 third-round pick from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Chris Gratton and Buffalo’s 2004 fourth-round selection. While Briere’s career path needs no explanation, the third-round pick turned into defenseman Andrej Sekera. In 339 games with the Sabres from 2006-13, Sekera scored 17 goals and chipped in 75 assists.
Sekera was dealt to Carolina in a draft day deal last June 30 for defenseman Jamie McBain and Carolina’s second-round choice (35th overall) in the 2013 Entry Draft. That pick became J.T. Compher, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2013-14 after leading the Michigan Wolverines with 31 points (11+20) in 35 games.
Buffalo’s original 2004 third-round pick was at 79th overall, however that was sent to Nashville one year earlier in a trade for defenseman Andy Delmore. That pick was in turn dealt by the Predators to Minnesota, who selected Clayton Stoner.
4th round – No selection
Buffalo traded this pick to Phoenix in the aforementioned Briere/Gratton trade. It was subsequently acquired by the Edmonton Oilers in a deal that saw Jason Chimera and Edmonton’s third-round pick in 2004 (Billy Ryan) sent to the desert for Phoenix’s second (Geoff Paukovich) and fourth-round picks in 2004. So after all that, who did Edmonton take 112th overall in the fourth round? Liam Reddox, who would score 24 points in 100 career games with the Oilers in parts of four seasons from 2007-11.
5th round (145th overall) – Michal Valent, G (Martin, Slovakia Jr.)
If you’ve never heard of Valent, you aren’t alone. Ranked by Central Scouting as the third-best European goaltending prospect entering the draft, Valent never played a game in the NHL or AHL. According to HockeyDB.com, the Slovakian netminder’s only North American stop was a 14-game stint with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers in 2006-07. Valent recently completed his fifth season with BK Mlada Bolsevav in the Czech Republic.
6th round (176th overall) – Patrick Kaleta, RW (Peterborough, OHL)
With 306 NHL games to his credit, Buffalo-native Patrick Kaleta trails only Roman Polak of the St. Louis Blues (424 games; 180th overall) for games played by a 2004 sixth-round pick. In addition, Kaleta’s 51 (27+24) points are third behind Mike Santorelli (87; 178th overall) and Polak (79). Kaleta leads all sixth-rounders with 506 career penalty minutes, well ahead of Polak’s 319.
7th round (207th overall) – Mark Mancari, RW (Ottawa, OHL)
Despite scoring 212 goals in 607 career AHL games, Mark Mancari has only scored three times in 42 NHL games – with all three goals coming in a Sabres uniform. Mancari collected 13 points (3+10) in 36 games with Buffalo from 2006-11, and was held pointless in six games with Vancouver in 2011-12.
Notables drafted after Mancari: Troy Brouwer (214th – Washington); Matt Hunwick – (224th - Boston); Chris Campoli (227th – NY Islanders).
8th round (241st overall) – Mike Card, D (Kelowna, WHL)
In a professional career known more for injuries and inconsistency, Mike Card played in just four NHL games for the Sabres – all during the 2006-07 – season after making his NHL debut in Philadelphia on November 11, 2006. Card had 15 points (2+13) in 92 games during three AHL seasons with Rochester/Portland from 2006-09, and has spent the last five seasons playing in Europe with teams in Germany, Sweden and Italy.
9th round (273th overall) – Dylan Hunter, RW (London, OHL)
He had the bloodlines, but Dylan Hunter would never play a game in the NHL. The son of former NHL’er Dale Hunter, Dylan turned pro after posting a 117-point season with the OHL’s London Knights in 2005-06. Hunter totaled 100 points in 239 career AHL games, including 91 (31+60) in 182 games with Rochester/Portland from 2007-09. Hunter retired following the 2010-11 season, and is now back in London as an assistant coach with Knights.