Continuing a tradition we began last year, we're going back five years to see how different the first round of the NHL draft would play out if GMs had the benefit of 100 percent accurate foresight as to how draft prospects would pan out. We've tasked former NHL assistant GM Frank Provenzano (a veteran of 17 NHL drafts) and our prospect analyst Corey Pronman with going through a re-draft of the 2009 first round.
The 2009 NHL draft produced two stars -- John Tavares and Matt Duchene -- but they were highly rated heading into the event, so their production in the time since hasn't been hugely surprising. However, the 2009 class also had its share of highly drafted players that didn't pan out (including Scott Glennie, No. 8 overall) as well as players taken later who have become NHL regulars (including No. 149 overall selection Marcus Kruger and No. 161 overall selection Darcy Kuemper).
For the purposes of this re-draft, we accounted primarily for future value, using past production only as an indicator of what that future value will be. This draft order represents our selection of the best available player in each slot, with notes in certain cases regarding fit into the long-term organizational plans.
After a coin toss, Frank won the right to select first overall, and we alternated picks thereafter (Corey on the evens, Frank on the odds). We're using the original draft order, prior to any trades made that day.
1. New York Islanders: John Tavares, C, London Knights (OHL)
Five years after having his name called to start the draft party in Montreal, Tavares remains the first overall pick today. The 23-year-old center has averaged just under a point per game (0.90) in the 350 NHL games he has played thus far in his young career, and he has done so without the strongest of supporting casts, to put it mildly. Tavares is not only the Islanders' captain but is also the face of a franchise that should be on the verge of loftier heights.
Tavares' actual draft slot: No. 1, Islanders
Islanders' actual pick: Tavares
2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Matt Duchene, C, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
I'd agree with Frank that Tavares is the best player from 2009, but it's not insane to consider Duchene for that designation as well. His dynamic skating and skill level make him a consistent offensive threat. He has already produced his first 70-point season as he enters his physical prime, so we could be just getting a glimpse of things to come, particularly once Colorado's other young forwards, such as Nathan MacKinnon, blossom and give him strong partners with which to work.
Duchene's actual draft slot: No. 3, Avalanche
Lightning's actual pick: Victor Hedman
3. Colorado Avalanche: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Leksand (Allsvenskan)
The Coyotes were ecstatic to find Ekman-Larsson still on the draft board when their turn at the microphone came up in 2009, and for good reason. The smooth-skating Swedish rearguard already anchors the Phoenix blue line, and he finished fifth overall in the NHL in goals by a defenseman (15) and sixth in average ice time (25:53) this past season. Add numbers like this into Colorado’s current mix of players, and the Avs might be playing hockey into June.
Ekman-Larsson's actual draft slot: No. 6, Coyotes
Avalanche's actual pick: Duchene
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Ryan O'Reilly, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
O'Reilly is a high-end, two-way player who logs the tough minutes and works very hard, yet seemingly was incapable of taking minor penalties this season (he finished with a mere two penalty minutes for the 2013-14 season).