Drafting Defensemen: The Lessons of 2008

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft boasted one of the strongest groups of high-end defensemen that we’ve seen in a long time. After Steven Stamkos went first overall, the next four picks were defensemen. After that group was picked, there were still defensemen like Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner and John Carlson available in the first round.

The following list shows the top-20 defensemen drafted in 2008. The first number shows where they were picked, overall; the second number is their ranking in THN’s Draft Preview, followed by a select quote.

NHL Player THN Quote Today
2 Drew Doughty 2 "He can play it any way you want to play it." #1 defenseman, NHL
3 Zach Bogosian 3 "This guy is a home run waiting to happen." Top-four defenseman, NHL
4 Alex Pietrangelo 5 "He’s a 6’3" guy who can skate well and handle the puck." #1 defenseman, NHL
5 Luke Schenn 6 "[T]he second coming of Adam Foote…" Top-six defenseman, NHL
12 Tyler Myers 11 "This is going to be a high-risk, high-return guy…" Top-four defenseman, NHL
13 Colten Teubert 13 "He’s not as polished… as Schenn, but he’s meaner than Schenn." Call-up
15 Erik Karlsson 71 No quote – outside THN’s top-60 #1 defenseman, NHL
17 Jake Gardiner 39 "He’s a great skater… a bit of a riverboat gambler." Top-four defenseman, NHL
19 Luca Sbisa 17 "He’s a great skater and moves the puck very well." Top-six defenseman, NHL
20 Michael Del Zotto 15 "I don’t think he’s that far off from Doughty." Top-four defenseman, NHL
23 Tyler Cuma 28 "He’s a good, all-round, two-way guy. He does a bit of everything well." In the system
27 John Carlsson 30 "He’s a tough one to call because of the perception the USHL… isn’t that good." Top-four defenseman, NHL
32 Slava Voynov 76 No quote – outside THN’s top-60 Top-six defenseman, NHL
37 Cody Goloubef 42 "[A] solid defense prospect who has no discernible weaknesses." In the system
38 Roman Josi 49 "He’s a great skater and he moves the puck really well." Top-six defenseman, NHL
40 Aaron Ness 43 "He’s really good, but he’s tiny and you can’t change that." Call-up
41 Yann Sauve 23 "He’s 6’4", he has skill, and he’s not afraid." Call-up
42 Patrick Wiercioch NR No quote – outside THN’s top-60 Call-up
43 Justin Schultz NR No quote – outside THN’s top-60 Highly-touted prospect
46 Colby Robak 18 "If he ever learns to glue it all together, he’ll be a very good player." Call-up

Some Thoughts…

When 2011-12 comes to an end, that will mark four full seasons since this draft was conducted. In other words, the comparable season to this year for players picked in the 2012 Entry Draft is 2015-16.

The top five picks in 2008 all yielded useful NHL defensemen, and that figure may rise if Colten Teubert is able to carve out a career for himself on the Oilers’ blue line.

Drew Doughty had a phenomenal rookie season, but these days his point production has dipped noticeably. I’d still take him in a heartbeat, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. In fact, every player on this list has either had a (relatively) slow start to their careers or has had some ups and downs along the way in the NHL. If the Oilers take a guy like Ryan Murray or Matt Dumba, it may be years before we really know who they are as NHL’ers.  Many of the best performers immediately after their draft year have since been eclipsed; there are undoubtedly people now who see Karlsson (minus-30 last season) or Pietrangelo (twice returned to junior after <10-game tryouts) as the best players in this group.

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  • A-Mc

    I think it’s relatively safe to say that the only REAL way for us to improve the lineup next year is for Tambo to make some trades at the draft and/or pick up some guys over the summer on the FA market.

    Drafting is all good, but realistically we wont see our draft pick for atleast a year.

  • Metal&Oil

    If there was a redo for the 2008 draft which of these players would be the first D to go?

    Doughty would be enticing but for me it would be Pietrangelo. In four short years he finds himself anchoring the top blueline in the NHL. If the Oilers can find something similar in this draft then I would happily pass on the top 2 forwards, even if we have to wait 4 years for them to reach their potential.

  • Bryzarro World

    Whether or not this quality draft pick we get goes right into the NHL or not should not be a consideration. We need a stud on the blue line…until Murray or Reinhart or whoever we draft (and I’m on the “draft a D” bandwagon) matures into the NHL player that can anchor that blue line, we can always build our blue line around depth. I’m not convinced the Canucks have that top dman that teams covet, but they sure do have depth…our prospects will provide that to a degree, but so will the next Cam Barker (I’m really hoping the next one ISN’T Cam Barker, but that seems apparent based on the number of games he’s played recently). So yeah, if we draft Murray it could be a year or 2 until he is a regular NHL’er, and another year or 2 until he is that top guy we need. Petry is just turning out for us, and he may turn out to be our #1 guy…what’s his record and the team record since…say February’ish when he turned his game up a notch? Whitney may be feeling a bit better in September too…with very little tweaking this summer, we may already have the team we need to get into the playoffs…Dubnyk is playing great, Petry has emerged this year, same with Smid, Eberle & Hall took their game to another level, Nuge is in the running for the best rookie of the year…our previous drafting is still picking up the pace…I don’t want to see another year of non-playoff hockey, as I’m sure the rest of you don’t either…but picking the BPA is my thought, and I don’t think you discount that player because he’s a dman (if he’s Russian on the other hand…maybe)…

  • Stocc

    I look at the D-men on this list and most of the best ones did not play in the NHL right away. I know that Murray is NHL-ready but if we pick him (or any Dman really) then I would prefer to see them returned to junior. Schenn is the prime example of that to me. And even Doughty as mentioned in the article has regressed since his first few seasons.

    • Bryzarro World

      What i really don’t like right now is the fact that they have to return someone like Murray to Junior instead of the AHL because of age. I think its a load of crap. Thats also why I thought playing the Nuge in the NHL was the only option because I didn’t think he would progress at all playing another year in juniors. It would have been a different story if he was allowed to play in the AHL as that probably would have been where he ended up. My thinking is if players aren’t allowed to play in the AHL why are they even draft eligible… How many players from junior are even ready for the NHL…..So if you really don’t have any control over their development and such after drafting them then what the hell is the point. You might as well make the draft age 20.

      • Cant. Legally they have the right to play in the NHL at 18 because of Linseman’s law suit.

        The CHL’s agreement with the AHL is another story. I dont like that it’s all or nothing either, but you cant take away the 18 yr old’s right to earn a living in the NHL.

  • Ah, but the consensus top picks made some impact pretty quickly though, eh? I think it’s important to see that Edmonton is picking in the Bogosian/Petrangelo/Doughty range, not Schenn/Myers/Teubert range. And to be honest, I am not that concerned about a defencemen taking longer… I still want my team to be winning in ten years.

    • Keep in mind, 08 was considered among the best drafts for D in quite some time (1st sentence in this post). So to expect the top 3D to turn into Doughty/Bogosian/Pietrangelo may be shooting just a tad high.

      • Fair enough, but how about Fowler, Hedman and Larsson? Generally when a player is good enough to be considered in the conversation for first overall, regardless of whether the scouts decide to turn on the player at the last minute, they’re generally pretty good, and pretty good quickly.

        I think Murray in particular is a good bet, and may be on a slightly faster track than some other defencemen.

        • Clyde Frog

          This is a fun game!

          What about Thomas Hickey? Erik Johnson? Jack Johnson? Cam Barker? All top D picks in their years…

          Drafting defensemen high is like picking a favoured horse at the track to win. Sure some of the kids got legs and win, but honestly you just won a game of chance.

          I’ll trust the scouting staff but passing on forwards who are higher rated is silly.

          Team need changes every free agency period, draft and trade deadline. Losing out on the best player because today we think Defensemen are shiny is the quickest way to become the Islanders….

          You don’t trade down and pick up a less talented kid and magic beans, when you can pick up the most talented kid. Why? You don’t win!

          You are betting your scouting staff is smarter than every other scouting staff between your old pick and new… Not a good bet on the best of days.

          Now who wants to play the game where we look at what playoff teams currently have their top 4 filled by players they drafted?

  • Bryzarro World

    @Dman09 – I don’t buy the fact that the best development would be done @ the AHL. Look at Pietrangelo’s development. He went back to the junior for two years before becoming an NHL regular.

    @Metal&Oil – I wonder if you redrafted Pieterangelo second but threw him to the fire would he still be the Dman he is today. Also, if Bogosian and/or Schenn had a more cautious development plan would they be better players today. Neither should have played in the NHL after they were drafted.

  • I might throw something else out there – Jeff Petry.
    Drafted in the 2nd round of a certain year, he was not even on the radar as an NHL player until this year.
    Nowadays, many pros look at him and say, “Future #2 Dman”. That’s the kind of player that should go in the top 5, not in the 2nd round.

    Not an exact science at all.
    If we end up drafting #2(we wont) then I’d be scared to use that high pick on a dman that isnt a sure bet like Doughty or Pietrangelo.
    However, if we are drafting 4-7 (we will), then it might be worth taking a Murray or Dumba or Reinhart there.

  • Why does everyone here work under the assumption that our next first round pick has to be ready to immediately play in the NHL next season? That is the exception, not the rule. Besides, if making the playoffs is the goal for next year, then this team has greater needs (like grit up front and consistent goaltending) which won’t be filled by whoever we draft anyway.

    The only way this team gets a quality #1 d-man is to draft and develop one. I don’t see LA trading Doughty or Buffalo trading Myers anytime soon, nor do I see guys like Suter or Weber going out of their way to sign here.

    So perhaps the Oilers should try something that the more competently managed teams across the league have repeatedly done, and start using top-10 picks on defencemen and provide them with quality coaching and training over a multi-year stretch. That’s rocket science for the current regime, I know, but there are only so many undersized finesse players that you can fit on the roster, even if they are the “best player available” (they usually aren’t).

    • Clyde Frog

      Only 1 problem, defensemen chosen 4-10 haven’t been stellar even when given time….

      Also the number of defensive rosters built via Dmen drafted in the first round BY the team they play for is A LOT lower than you may think.

      Don’t take my word for it, feel free to gaze at rosters that are not Nashville.

  • stevezie

    Drafting for need is impossible. The Oilers’ biggest need right now is a top 4 D-man, no matter who we draft they won’t be that guy next year, and probably not the season after that either.

    If you look at the organizational depth chart we are actually stronger on promising D outside the NHL than forwards. Just take BPA- if that’s a D terrific- anything else seems confused to me.

  • Clyde Frog

    Basically all the best D listed there are of good size, skate well and can handle the puck. Mystery solved as to what makes a really good NHL D.

    Many or not most of the really good NHL D get points from knowing how to put the puck to the right place and keeping themselves in the play as opposed to initiating offense.

    How often does Lidstrom rush the puck?