It is sometimes forgotten now, but the consensus back in 2004 was that the Edmonton Oilers were taking a real risk in selecting Devan Dubnyk 14th overall.
It wasn’t just the ‘it’s a bad idea to take goalies in the first round’ sort of reach pick either. In drafting Devan Dubnyk, the Oilers were passing on the consensus top goaltender left in the draft, a Czech goaltender named Marek Schwarz. Schwarz was very highly regarded – there were occasional whispers of the name ‘Hasek’ in comparisons – and the club was ridiculed in some corners for making the choice.
The Hockey News has some archived coverage from the 2004 Draft; their comments on those two goalies are well worth reading.
The Oilers reach in taking Dubnyk ahead of Czech netminder Marek Schwarz, but stick to their preference for WHL talent in the process. With another selection later on in Round 1, Edmonton may have been better off taking a forward at No. 14–then add Dubnyk. If Dubnyk becomes a better NHLer than Schwarz, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe will have the last laugh. Don’t bet on it.
A no-brainer pick here. Despite adding Jason Bacashihua the day before the draft, the Blues win a lottery of sorts with the selection of Schwarz. He’s arguably the best goalie available and was almost a certainty to be a top 10 pick. Don’t be surprised if Schwarz moves to North America quicker than anticipated and becomes the Blues’ franchise goaltender for a long, long time.
While those comments look funny in hindsight, they did represent consensus wisdom at the time. The 2004 Draft had a strong goalie class, with Al Montoya and Marek Schwarz regarded as potential franchise goalies, and Devan Dubnyk, Cory Schneider, Justin Peters and David Shantz all recognized as good prospects. All six were gone by the 40th overall pick. Four more were gone by the 100th overall selection – including future World Junior stars Justin Pogge and Jeff Glass and current Shark Thomas Greiss. Meanwhile, the best of the group today was drafted with the last pick of the eighth round – that’s where Nashville selected Pekka Rinne.
But keying in those first few picks – where are they today?
|Al Montoya||6th overall||In the NHL after years in the wilderness; posted a 0.893 SV% in 31 games with NYI|
|Devan Dubnyk||14th overall||Has split time for two seasons with Khabibulin; 0.914 SV% in 47 NHL games in ’11-12|
|Marek Schwarz||17th overall||Flushed by St. Louis; played 35 games in Finland last year with a 0.894 SV%|
|Cory Schneider||26th overall||High-end goalie is the heir apparent in Vancouver; posted a 0.937 SV% this year|
|David Shantz||37th overall||Doesn’t seem to have played this season, was 2-time ECHL goalie of the week in ’10-11|
|Justin Peters||38th overall||Not toast yet but has been relegated to AHL, where he managed a 0.908 SV% in ’11-12|
The Oilers could have done a little better than Dubnyk, if they had been willing to gamble on Schneider – a brilliant high school goalie – but they did get the main thing right: they avoided Schwarz, a small goalie who never lived up to his elite billing.
Lots of times, teams get burned when they try to outsmart everyone else – one only needs to look back to the miserable Niinimaki selection in 2002 to confirm this. But in 2004, the Oilers bet on their view being better than the consensus, and they’ve been rewarded for it.
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