The dog days of the NHL off-season drag on, with little noteworthy hockey news to comment on. So it’s a good opportunity to look back ten years ago at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and see how some of the notable picks turned out. 

Like most drafts, the first round produced a couple of genuine superstars, some second-tier talent and some prospects who failed to pan out.

Alexander Ovechkin was the first overall pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Alexander Ovechkin was the first overall pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The top two overall picks were Alexander Ovechkin, who was selected first overall by the Washington Capitals, and Evgeni Malkin, taken second overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. As predicted by many experts, Ovechkin and Malkin quickly became NHL superstars, winning many individual awards between them. A decade later, they remain among the league’s elite players.

Andrew Ladd (fourth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes), Blake Wheeler (fifth overall by the then-Phoenix Coyotes), Travis Zajac (20th overall by the New Jersey Devils) Cory Schneider (26th overall by the Vancouver Canucks) and Mike Green (29th overall by the Capitals) went on to become stars in their own right, though not on the level of Ovechkin and Malkin.

Ladd played on Stanley Cup winners with Carolina and Chicago. In the summer of 2010 he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers as part of a cost-cutting deal by the Blackhawks. He moved with the Thrashers to Winnipeg and is now captain of the Jets.

Wheeler never played a game with the Coyotes. He became an unrestricted free agent, spent nearly 3 seasons with the Boston Bruins, joined Ladd with the then-Atlanta Thrashers late in the 2010-11 season and moved with the club to Winnipeg in June 2011. He and Ladd are among the Jets top forwards.

Schneider toiled as Roberto Luongo’s backup in Vancouver for several seasons until dealt last summer to the New Jersey Devils, taking over from Martin Brodeur as their starting goalie. He could be poised for greater things. Schneider teammate, Zajac, remains with the team that drafted him ten years ago, becoming an effective two-way center.

Mike Green (29th overall) also remains with the club that picked him (Capitals). Once a high-scoring defenseman (two 70-plus point seasons) who was a key part of the run-and-gun Capitals from 2007-08 to 2009-10, Green was a finalist for the Norris Trophy in 2009 and 2010. Sadly, injuries have limited his effectiveness in recent years.

Several first-round picks in the ’04 draft had promising NHL beginnings before flaming out. Defenseman Cam Barker (third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks) had a 40-point season in 2008-09 but failed to reach those offensive heights again. Between 2009-10 to 2012-13 he bounced from the Blackhawks to the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks. He spent last season with the KHL’s Astana Barys.

Left wing Rostislav Olesz (seventh overall by the Florida Panthers) tallied 21 points in 59 games in his rookie season (2005-06) but injuries soon hampered his development. After six seasons with the Panthers, he went on to play a total of 16 NHL games split with the Blackhawks and Devils, moving on to Switzerland midway though 2013-14.

Winger Wojtek Wolski (21st overall by the Colorado Avalanche) had a promising NHL debut, tallying 22 goals and 50 points 76 games in 2006-07. His career-best came in 2009-10, scoring 23 goals and 65 points split between the Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes. However, between 2010-11 and 2012-13 his offensive touch declined as he bounced from the Coyotes to the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals between. He spent last season playing for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo of the KHL.

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros (23rd overall) had three 35-plus point seasons from 2005-06 to 2007-08 with the Ottawa Senators. Since then he’s played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, and this summer signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

Right wingAlexander Radulov (15th overall) was a promising young forward with the Nashville Predators when he jumped to the KHL in 2008 over a contract dispute. Apart from an ill-fated short return to the Predators late in the 2011-12 season, Radulov’s spent most of his pro career in Russia.

As with every NHL draft, quality talent was also found beyond the first round.

David Krejci (63rd overall) became a reliable scoring center for the Bruins, while Johan Franzen (97th overall) has become a regular scoring winger since 2007-08 for the Detroit Red Wings. Defenseman Alexander Edler (91s overall) enjoyed four 30-plus seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.

Forwards Brandon Dubinsky (60th overall) and Ryan Callahan (127th overall) enjoyed varying degrees of success with the New York Rangers. Dubinsky’s gone on to become a valuable two-way forward with the rising Columbus Blue Jackets, while Callahan was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning at last season’s trade deadline. Both re-signed with their respective clubs this summer.

Pekka Rinne proved to be a late-round gem for the Nashville Predators.

Pekka Rinne proved to be a late-round gem for the Nashville Predators.

Undoubtedly the best pick of the later rounds was goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was selected in the eighth round (258th overall) by the Nashville Predators. Since 2008-09 Rinne’s been the Predators starting goaltender and was a finalist  for the Vezina Trophy in 2011 and 2012.

The best pick from the ninth and final round that year was defenseman Mark Streit. Selected 262nd by the Montreal Canadiens, Streit’s gone on to play the fourth-most NHL games (573) of the class of 2004. Only Ovechkin, Ladd and Meszaros played more.

Other notables in this draft class include Buffalo Sabres winger Drew Stafford (13th overall), Calgary Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid (ninth overall by the Anaheim Ducks), Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Andrej Sekera (71st overall with the Sabres), Chicago Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell (41st overall), Florida Panthers center Dave Bolland (32nd overall by the Chicago Blackhawks), Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin (84th overall), NY Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski (selected 150th overall by the Canadiens), Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (56th overall by the Dallas Stars),Toronto Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik (265th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes) and Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer (214th overall by the Blackhawks).

It’s also worth noting those selected in the first round who either barely saw NHL action or never made it at all. Alexandre Picard (8th overall, Columbus), Boris Valabik (10th overall, Atlanta), Lauri Tukonen (11th, Los Angeles), A.J. Thelen (12th, Minnesota), Marek Schwarz (17th, St. Louis), Lukas Kaspar (22nd, San Jose), Kris Chucko (24th, Calgary) and Andy Rogers (30th, Tampa Bay) prove being a first-round pick is no guarantee of a long NHL career.

Of those failed first-rounders, perhaps none was more disappointing than center Robbie Schremp, selected 25th overall by the Edmonton Oilers. Schremp’s dazzling offensive skills make him a junior star with the OHL’s London Knights but he could never translate those abilities into NHL stardom.

After 114 games split between the Oilers, New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers from 2006-07 to 2010-11, Schremp headed to Europe, where he’s had no better luck, bouncing from the Swedish Elite League, KHL, Belarussian Elite League, and the Swiss National Leagues.

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