Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Drew Doughty of L.A. all look like prophetic top three picks, but the debate gets fuzzy after the trio. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
With guys like Kris Versteeg, Bobby Ryan, Steve Mason and Patrik Berglund enjoying successful freshman years, a lot of people have been asking about the top pick in 2008. “Hey, have you seen Stamkos?”
The question has been raised whether Tampa erred in picking Stamkos, the undisputed No. 1 prospect in 2008, instead of Drew Doughty, the Los Angeles defenseman who has played like a veteran at the toughest position for a youngster.
Of course, declaring the slick Stamkos No. 2 (or worse) so staunchly and so soon is foolish. Because of the abundance of young, emerging stars across the league, the expectations placed on Stamkos this year were unfair from the get go.
He may not end up as the best player in the draft, but Stammer has posted 13 points in his past 30 games - and six in his past 10 – on a team that refuses to give a stud prospect the minutes he needs to adapt. And don’t forget, Hart Trophy-winning Joe Thornton started his career with a rotten seven points in 55 games, but it didn’t take him long to establish himself.
The No. 3 pick, Zach Bogosian, missed time with a broken leg, but has been impressive in the 19 games he has played and his plus-1 is second on the Thrashers. What sets Bogosian and Doughty apart from the No. 4 and 5 picks are how much more polished their two-way games are right now.
None of the top-three picks from ’08 have done anything to warrant a drop in their ranking eight months after the fact, nor has anyone jumped up to challenge their spots, yet.
But what about after that? None of the top-10 picks have done anything to deserve a drop, but a few have played well enough to raise the question: Who would you select at No. 4 now?
Is it Alex Pietrangelo? The 6-foot-3 power play slingshot and standing No. 4 pick has room to expand on an already daunting hockey frame. He’s the only one of the listed not in the NHL – though he did play the first eight games of the season with St. Louis – but Pietrangelo has been on a point-per-game pace in junior and is learning the fundamentals of defensive zone coverage.
Not to mention the gold medal he won in Ottawa at the WJC, which won’t hurt his development.
What about No. 5 Luke Schenn? Toronto’s 19-year-old blueline bull was actually above Pietrangelo on some NHL team draft lists in June, but with two different skill sets the pick could have gone in either order.
Schenn has stuck it out in a disastrous situation and is the only 2008 draftee other than Doughty to average more than 20 minutes of ice. Schenn’s composed, aggressive shutdown style has him resembling a potential future leader.
Then there’s No. 6 Nikita Filatov. The six-foot Russian has a deep desire to stay and star in North America. He has played all over during the last calendar year, including Columbus in the NHL, Syracuse in the American League, for his country at the world juniors and for the CSKA senior and junior teams in Russia.
No matter what ice surface he takes, what sweater he wears or what age group he plays with, Filatov has shows flashes of offensive brilliance. After all, goals win hockey games, so he certainly belongs in the conversation.
Or would you get crazy and select Josh Bailey? The Islanders pick (No. 9) received high praise from Stamkos and has 15 points in 38 games.
Perhaps you’d pick the Great Dane, Mikkel Boedker, whose 23 points leads the most recent draft class. Boedker, the No. 8 pick, has seen time on Phoenix’s top line and his coach, Wayne Gretzky, the best forward to ever play the game, is already a fan.
In a few years and maybe even as early as next year, these will be the guys getting all-star nods and award considerations – to say nothing of Colin Wilson, the No. 7 pick, who isn’t in the NHL yet.
It’s possible all of the above mentioned will achieve star status. So while Stamkos hasn’t been the star Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin were in their first years, it’s unfair to bump him out of the elite top three at this juncture.
If you had to do the draft again today, I think the real tough question is: Who would you pick after Stamkos, Doughty and Bogosian?
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