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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Revisiting the Last Ten Years of Penguins' Draft Choices


Hindsight is 20/20 and every sports fan loves to imagine "What If...?"

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had some luck with their first round draft choices over the past ten years. Their unfortunate fall to the bottom the league standings allowed them several high round picks. Current Penguin stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney were all first round choices of the Penguins.

But there is always that "What if..." scenario.

After almost every draft there is second guessing. Certain people always feel the team should have chosen so-and-so over whomever it was they actually chose.

Sometimes a sleeper pick is made in a late round and sometimes a team passes over a better player in order to fill a need. Recently, Ray Shero has made a habit of always choosing the player he feels is best player available, regardless of position. Unfortunately, sometimes a player looks good, but fails to live up to their potential.

Today we are going to look at the Penguins first round draft choices over the last ten years with special attention on notable players who were taken after the Penguins made their selection.

First of all, we are not suggesting that the Penguins chose the wrong player in any of these drafts. We are simply highlighting some of the notable players who the Penguins passed over to make their choice.

It will be a matter of personal opinion if the Penguins made the right choice.

For the purposes of this list we are not considering players chosen in the very late rounds who turned out to be sleeper picks. Since those players were chosen so late, it's obvious that at the time the picks were made no one would have considered taking them in the first round.

1998 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Milan Kraft (23rd overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Scott Gomez (27th)
Jonathan Cheechoo (29th)

1999 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Konstantin Koltsov (18th overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Martin Havlat (26th)
Alex Auld (40th)
Mike Commodore (42nd)

2000 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Brooks Orpik (18th overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Brad Boyes (24th)
Steve Ott (25th)
Justin Williams (28th)
Niklas Kronwall (29th)

2001 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Colby Armstrong (21st overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Derek Roy (32nd)
Mike Zigomanis (46th)

2002 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Ryan Whitney (5th overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Scottie Upshall (6th)
Joffrey Lupul (7th)
Alexander Semin (13th)
Alexander Steen (24th)
Cam Ward (25th)

2003 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Eric Staal (2nd)
Nathan Horton (3rd)
Nikolai Zherdev (4th)
Thomas Vanek (5th)
Milan Michalek (6th)
Dion Phaneuf (9th)
Jeff Carter (11th)
Ryan Getzlaf (19th)
Mike Richards (24th)
Patrice Bergeron (45th)

2004 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
We're not discussing this one...

2005 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Sidney Crosby (1st overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
We're not discussing this one either...

2006 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Jordan Staal (2nd overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
Jonathan Toews (3rd)
Nicklas Bäckström (4th)
Phil Kessel (5th)

2007 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: Angelo Esposito (20th overall)
Some notable players chosen later:
I believe it's too early to judge any of the players taken later in the draft at this point.

2008 Draft
Penguins First Round Choice: None
Some notable players chosen later:
N/A


Looking at the lists, it's obvious that the 2003 draft is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. It also represents one of the more controversial Penguins picks. While Marc-Andre Fleury has definitely become a great goaltender and a huge part of the Penguins, it's hard not to think about what a player like Eric Staal, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf or Mike Richards would look like in a Penguins uniform. However, there were simply too many great choices that year. It would have been almost impossible to choose wrong.

But 2003 isn't the most revisited draft year for the Penguins. No, that honour goes to the 2006 draft. The Penguins chose Jordan Staal that year with the second overall pick. This draft is still being second-guessed today.

Many Penguins fans dream about having a player like Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Bäckström or Phil Kessel in the line-up. The fact that Kessel is a winger - a position the Penguins desperately need depth in - makes fans wonder what could have been.

I think Jordan Staal still has the potential to develop into a great player, but watching Kessel challenge for the goal scoring lead this season does stir up thoughts.

What do you think? Did the Penguins make the wrong choice in any recent draft? Let us know in the comments.

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