There was only one defenseman selected first overall in the NHL draft from 1997 through 2013, and it was Erik Johnson by St. Louis in 2006. And he’s proven to be a foundational blueliner, even if he’s spent most of his career in Colorado after being traded by the Blues in 2011.
Here’s a look at the original top 10 draft picks in 2006, followed by a redo of the top 10 with the benefit of hockey hindsight.
2006 NHL draft: The original top 10
1. Erik Johnson, St. Louis
2. Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh
3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
4. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington
5. Phil Kessel, Boston
6. Derick Brassard, Columbus
7. Kyle Okposo, NY Islanders
8. Peter Mueller, Phoenix
9. James Sheppard, Minnesota
10. Michael Frolik, Florida
2006 NHL draft: The top 10 do-over (with original draft position in parentheses)
1. Jonathan Toews (3rd, Chicago)
2. Claude Giroux (22nd, Philadelphia)
3. Brad Marchand (71st, Boston)
4. Nicklas Backstrom (4th, Washington)
5. Jordan Staal (2nd, Pittsburgh)
6. Phil Kessel (5th, Boston)
7. Erik Johnson (1st, St. Louis)
8. Semyon Varlamov (23rd, Washington)
9. Milan Lucic (50th, Boston)
10. Nick Foligno (28th, Ottawa)
Honorable mentions: Michael Frolik (10th, Florida); Bryan Little (12th, Atlanta); Jeff Petry (45th, Edmonton); Derick Brassard (6th, Columbus); Kyle Okposo (7th, NY Islanders).
- The Chicago way: Toews is synonymous with clutch leadership and elite two-way play, and he’s got three Stanley Cup rings to prove it. The Blackhawks captain deserves the No. 1 slot in the 2006 NHL draft do-over.
- All about offense: High-end forwards take the top six spots in the redone draft. Giroux, the only one of the six without a Cup ring, nevertheless slides into the No. 2 position, followed by Marchand, Backstrom, Jordan Staal and Kessel. Toews, Giroux and Staal all serve as the captain of their respective teams.
- For the defense: Johnson falls from first overall to No. 7, but that’s still a solid showing for a defensive defenseman. He was the lone blueliner drafted in the original top 10, and he’s the only one in the draft do-over. Petry was the only other D-man to rate consideration.
- Crease watch: Four goalies were drafted in the first round in 2006 — Jonathan Bernier (11th), Riku Helenius (15th), Varlamov (23rd) and Leland Irving (24th). Helenius (one game) and Irving (13 games) never got more than a cup of coffee in the NHL, Bernier’s a backup, while Varlamov became the best of the bunch as a full-fledged starter. Other notable netminders from the 2006 draft: Michal Neuvirth (34th) and Steve Mason (69th).
- Good things Bruin: Boston drafted Kessel in the first round, Lucic in the second and Marchand in the third. The three wingers have combined for almost 900 goals and more than 2,000 points in nearly 2,800 NHL games.
- Best of the rest: Foligno, another team captain, rounds out the top 10, with Frolik, Little, Brassard and Okposo also in the conversation.