With the Blackhawks and Blues set to face-off for the first time this season and our first look at 2006 1st overall pick Erik Johnson in almost two years thanks to a golf-carting mishap, there’s no better time than now to take a look back at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In just three seasons, the draft has already produced more quality players than many other drafts can boast. Other than the 2003 Draft, this may go down as the most loaded draft of the decade.
With all this being said, allow us to re-write history and present to you the first ever “Fifth Feather Mock Draft” of what the 2006 draft would look like if it were to take place tomorrow. Because we’re still only three years removed from the draft, a lot of the later round picks have yet to develop (We’re waiting on you, Igor Makarov and Simon Danis-Pepin). Therefore, there’s only enough to fill out the first 15 spots. Come back in another two years and maybe we’ll have the first three rounds filled out.
Please note that these are just our opinions. This is not the Gospel According to John and Bob. In fact, in two weeks, this whole mock draft may be completely turned upside down by Jonathan Bernier going on a 9-game winning streak for the L.A. Kings. Feel free to air your disagreements.
And the first overall pick is…..
1. Jonathan Toews (Original 2006 Draft Spot- 3rd Pick, 1st Round, CHI)–There have been players out of this draft who have scored more points than Jonathan Toews so far, but none have the total game Toews can boast about. He’s a captain of an Original Six franchise, he’s an elite two-way player at 21 years old, he’s become one of the best face-off men in the league. You know the rest.
2. Nicklas Backstrom (4th Pick, 1st Round, WSH)–Sure, it helps to play with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, but there’s no denying the play-making abilities of Backstrom. In his first two seasons, he’s racked up 55 and 66 assists, respectively. This year, he’s well on his way to passing those numbers with already 27 assists in 33 games. Backstrom was just one big piece of Washington’s puzzle from this draft that has helped turn them into a true Cup contender (Foreshadowing alert!!!)
3. Semyon Varlamov (23rd pick, 1st Round, WSH)–When Washington signed Jose Theodore to a two-year deal two summers ago, it was done with the idea that Varlamov would be ready to handle the reins when his deal expired. Consider him early. After arriving in time for the playoffs last year, Varlamov helped the Capitals get past an upstart Rangers squad and took the eventual champion Penguins to Game 7 before laying an egg. Varlamov has come back this year as an early Vezina candidate by winning 12 of his first 16 starts with a 92% save percentage.
4. Erik Johnson (1st pick, 1st Round, STL)–Ace defensemen don’t grow on trees and that’s why even though he missed all of last year with a freak knee injury, Erik Johnson would still be a top-5 pick in this draft class. Johnson has responded with four goals and seventeen assists in 30 games so far this year. The lone defenseman in our mock draft has more than enough time to justify his first overall selection. There’s a very good chance that when we take a look back after all these players are retired that Johnson may be the best player from this class.
5. Phil Kessel (5th pick, 1st Round, BOS)–The fifth overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft would still be the fifth overall pick of our mock draft. After a well-documented contract squabble with the Boston Bruins this summer, Kessel is playing the best hockey of his career. So far, he’s a point-per-game player with 12 goals in just 21 games. This all coming off a season when he potted over 30 goals for the first time in his career with 36 for Boston.
6. Steve Mason (69th pick, 3rd Round, CLB)–Last year’s Calder Trophy winner is a perfect example of why teams should never waste a top-10 pick on a goalie in a “real” draft. Taken in the third round, Mason had all the looks of being a franchise goalie for Columbus last year when he led the league in shutouts with 10. This year is another story, but you’d be hard pressed to see a team wait three rounds to draft him again.
7. Jordan Staal (2nd pick, 1st Round, PIT)–It’s scary to think the Penguins could be trotting out a lineup with three centers of Crosby, Malkin, and Toews. Instead, they chose Jordan Staal with the second pick, who has fit in nicely as their third line checking center. In four seasons, Staal has already scored 20 goals twice and is on pace to cross the threshold again. Unfortunately, the aforementioned six players are simply more skilled than Staal to justify making him a top-5 pick again.
8. Kyle Okposo (7th pick, 1st Round, NYI)–Okposo was one of the lone bright spots on a dreadful Islanders team last year. In 65 games, he scored 18 goals and had 21 assists. Playing on a much more talented squad this year, Okposo is playing some of the best hockey of his young career. He’s scored 5 goals this year to go along with 17 assists in 32 games played. At this point of the season, he’s got a really strong chance to represent Team USA in February.
9. Bryan Little (12th pick, 1st Round, ATL)–Last year, Bryan Little had the most fortunate opportunity of centering a line for Ilya Kovalchuk. What resulted was 31 goals in his first full season. This year, Little isn’t playing the pivot on Kovalchuck’s line so his numbers have taken a bit of a dive; he has 3 goals and 9 assists thus far. Nevertheless, centers who can pot 30 goals don’t grow on trees and Little is definitely worthy of being a top-10 pick in our mock draft.
10. Michael Frolik (10th pick, 1st Round, FLA)–Frolik burst on the scene last year by scoring 21 goals with 24 assists. He’s followed up his rookie campaign by giving the Panthers some solid play on the wing this year with 9 goals and 9 assists in 34 games. At just 21 years old, Frolik’s stock may continue to rise in this class as the years pass on.
11. Derick Brassard (6th pick, 1st Round, CLB)–This pick is made more out of potential than perhaps any other pick in this mock draft. Brassard was well on his way to winning the Calder last year when he decided to partake in a fight, which resulted in him seperating his shoulder and ending his season. Brassard isn’t scoring at the same pace as he was last year, but he’s still such an intriguing talent that it’d be really hard to pass up on him at this point.
12. Chris Stewart (18th pick, 1st Round, COL)–With teammates Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly, and Matt Duchene occupying most of the opposition’s attention, Stewart has been able to be a key contributor for the upstart Avalanche this year. He’s already set a career-high in points with 21 and is on pace to crack the 20 goal mark in his first full NHL campaign.
13. Claude Giroux (22nd pick, 1st Round, PHI)–Giroux received the call-up to the Flyers last year after being a point-per-game player for their AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. After having some mild success in the regular season, Giroux proved he belonged when put together a solid post-season by scoring 2 goals with 3 assists in his team’s 6 games. This year, he’s been logging top-6 minutes for the Flyers and is part of a young nucleus that should make them an intriguing team for years to come.
14. Milan Lucic (50th pick, 2nd Round, BOS)–Lucic is a perfect example of the hybrid hockey player the 21st century calls for: he can score, he can hit, he can drop the mitts, and he’s skilled enough to play on special teams. Unfortunately, Lucic’s rough and tumble style doesn’t lend itself to longevity. In his three seasons, he’s yet to play in 80 games.
15. Peter Mueller (8th pick, 1st Round, PHX)–After a rookie season where he scored 22 goals and 32 assists, Mueller looked like he was going to be the Coyotes’ number one center for years to come. Not to mention, he looked like he was going to be Team USA’s next Mike Modano. What followed was a disappointing second season and now, a horrific third season where he’s scored just one goal in 28 games. Maybe if Mueller ever gets out of Phoenix, we’ll get a better understanding of what kind of player he is. For now, he’s still intriguing enough to be the last pick of our mock draft, but consider this his final notice.
*On the Farm*
–Kyle Beach scored his 24th goal of the year and had an assist in Spokane’s 3-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds.
–Though by all accounts, they had solid tryouts, Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen were both cut from Team Canada’s World Juniors squad on Wednesday morning. It was an uphill battle for them to make it with three returning defensemen off last year’s gold medal squad.