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Your team could have drafted Nikita Kucherov

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Everyone passed up on one of the best players in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals - Game Three Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Every year, a few gems fall in the draft for various reasons. Maybe it’s size. Maybe it’s concerns about skating. Maybe it’s because of outdated worriesa bout drafting players of certain nationalities. Maybe the player was just a late developer. Nikita Kucherov has become one of the best players in the NHL and (almost) every team in the NHL passed up on him, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, before the Lightning took him with the 58th overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

No player from the 2011 draft has more goals, assists, or points than Kucherov. 11 players have played in more games. 14 players also lead him in penalty minutes. He is unquestionably the best player in this draft. So let’s see what every other team got instead of picking Kucherov.

All information taken from EliteProspects.com, HockeyDB.com, and ProSportsTransactions.com. Stats are as of 2/19/2019. Draft picks will be abbreviated as Round-Overall, so 1-1 would be 1st pick, 1st overall, 2-58 would be 2nd round, 58th overall. For trades to be counted, they need to have happened at the draft and deprived the team of an opportunity to pick him. If they traded up, then that doesn’t count since they could have picked Kucherov unless they traded two (or more) picks that could have been used on Kucherov.

Edmonton Oilers - 3 Picks

  • 1-1 - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • 1-19 - Oscar Klefbom
  • 1-31 - David Musil

Nugent-Hopkins is a pretty decent center with 366 points in 515 games. Klefbom has turned into a solid top-four defenseman with 111 points in 292 games. Musil has played in four games in the NHL.

Colorado Avalanche - 2 Picks

  • 1-2 - Gabriel Landeskog
  • 1-11 - Duncan Siemens

Landeskog is one of the other top players in this draft with 173 goals and 400 points putting him second to Kucherov in both stats in the 2011 draft and fourth in assists. Siemens has played 20 games in the NHL.

Florida Panthers - 2 Picks, 1 Trade

  • 1-3 - Jonathan Huberdeau
  • 2-33 - Rocco Grimaldi
  • 2-47 - Traded down to 59th pick for a 2012 third round pick.

The Panthers are probably happy with Huberdeau who is one of the top five or ten players in the draft. Grimaldi has 18 points in 76 NHL games. They also traded down in the second round and ended up picking Rasmus Bengtsson who hasn’t appeared in the NHL with the next pick after Kucherov. This one probably also hurts; that 2012 third round pick was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Kris Versteeg and ended up being used on Shayne Gostisbehere.

New Jersey Devils - 1 Pick

  • 1-4 - Adam Larsson

The Devils ended up with Taylor Hall. The trade is one for one.

New York Islanders - 3 Picks

  • 1-5 - Ryan Strome
  • 2-34 - Scott Mayfield
  • 2-50 - Johan Sundstrom

Ryan Strome has bounced around between the Islanders, Oilers, and Rangers. He’s a decent player, but that’s it. Mayfield has 139 games and Sundstrom has 11 games in the NHL.

Ottawa Senators - 3 Picks, 1 Trade

  • 1-6 - Mika Zibanejad
  • 1-21 - Stefan Noesen
  • 1-24 - Matt Puempel
  • 2-35/2-48 - Traded both picks for 1-24

Zibanejad is a top six center and has 293 points in 467 putting him as one of the better players from the 2011 draft. Noesen has 44 points in 145 games and Puempel has 15 points in 79 games.

Winnipeg Jets - 1 Pick

  • 1-7 - Mark Scheifele

The Jets might be the one team that can be ok with not having picked Kucherov. Scheifele and Kucherov have the same number of games played and Scheifele is still one of the top five or so players from the draft.

Philadelphia Flyers - 1 Pick

  • 1-8 - Sean Couturier

Couturier has come into his own in the last couple of seasons and is climbing his way up towards the top of the 2011 draft class and now has 321 points in 555 games played.

Boston Bruins - 2 Picks

  • 1-9 - Dougie Hamilton
  • 2-40 Alexander Khokhlachev

Hamilton is a top four, offensive defenseman with 243 points in 482 games. Khokhlachev has played in nine games in the NHL.

Minnesota Wild - 2 Picks

  • 1-10 - Jonas Brodin
  • 1-28 - Zack Phillips

Defenseman Brodin has 113 points in 463 games. Phillips never appeared in the NHL and is in his third season playing in Europe.

Carolina Hurricanes - 2 Picks

  • 1-12 - Ryan Murphy
  • 2-42 - Victor Rask

Murphy has played in 175 games on the blue line. Rask is a middle six forward with 165 points in 349 games.

Calgary Flames - 3 Picks

  • 1-13 - Sven Bartschi
  • 1-45 - Markus Granlund
  • 1-57 - Tyler Wotherspoon

Bartschi has 135 points in 281 games. Granlund has 93 points in 282 games. Wotherspoon has played just 30 NHL games. The one thing that the Flames have going for them is that they picked Johnny Gaudreau in the fourth round and he is probably the second best player in the draft. But the big bite here is that they picked Wotherspoon the pick before Kucherov and could have had both players.

Dallas Stars - 2 Picks

  • 1-14 - Jamie Oleksiak
  • 2-44 - Brett Richie.

Oleksiak is a third pair defenseman and Ritchie is a fourth line forward.

New York Rangers - 1 Pick

  • 1-15 - J.T. Miller

We know all about Miller and he’s a good top six forward, but he’s not near the level of Kucherov.

Buffalo Sabres - 1 Pick

  • 1-16 - Joel Armia

Armia has bounced around the league going from the Sabres to the Jets to the Canadiens and is a bottom line forward.

Montreal Canadiens - 1 Pick

  • 1-17 - Nathan Beaulieu

A right handed defenseman, Beaulieu has 76 points in 311 games and is serviceable on the third pair.

Chicago Blackhawks - 4 Picks

  • 1-18 - Mark McNeill
  • 1-26 - Phillip Danaualt
  • 2-36 - Adam Clendening
  • 1-43 - Brandon Saad

Saad is the only good pick here from the Blackhawks with 303 points in 508 games. Danault has 246 games in the NHL, but Clendening has 90 games and McNeill just two games.

Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes - 3 Picks

  • 1-20 - Connor Murphy
  • 2-51 - Alexander Ruuttu
  • 2-56 - Lucas Lessio

Murphy is a third-pair defenseman with 71 points in 364 games. Lessio has played in 41 NHL games and Ruuttu has remained in Europe and has yet to play in North America, much less the NHL.

Toronto Maple Leafs - 2 Picks, 1 Trade

  • 1-22 - Tyler Biggs
  • 1-25 - Stuart Percy
  • 1-30/2-39 - Traded for 1-22

Biggs has not made it to the NHL. Percy has made it into 12 NHL games. What may hurt the Maple Leafs more in this is that the two picks they used to trade up for Biggs were used to select Rickard Rakell and John Gibson.

Pittsburgh Penguins - 2 Picks

  • 1-23 - Joe Morrow
  • 2-54 - Scott Harrington

Neither Morrow nor Harrington, both defenseman, have done much in the NHL with Morrow having 160 games and Harrington 131 games.

Vancouver Canucks - 1 Pick

  • 1-29 - Nicklas Jensen

Jensen has a grand total of six points and 31 games in the NHL.

Anaheim Ducks - 3 Picks

  • 1-30 - Rickard Rakell
  • 2-39 - John Gibson
  • 2-53 - William Karlsson

This is one of those ones where you don’t feel too bad, even though Kucherov is better than Rakell and Karlsson. Karlsson took going to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft to realize his full potential. But Rakell is still a solid top six forward and Gibson is a Vezina quality goaltender. They also got an extra opportunity by acquiring 1-30 and 2-39 for their 1-22 pick.

St. Louis Blues - 3 Picks

  • 2-32 - Ty Rattie
  • 2-41 - Dmitrij Jaskin
  • 2-46 - Joel Edmundson

The Blues had three opportunities in the 2nd round to take Kucherov and passed him on all three. Jaskin has played 302 games as a fourth line forward and Edmundson has 256 games as a bottom pairing defenseman. Rattie never really came through and has just 29 points in 85 games.

Detroit Red Wings - 3 Picks

  • 2-35 - Tomas Jurco
  • 2-48 - Xavier Ouellet
  • 2-55 - Ryan Sproul

Not much here for the Red Wings. Jurco has 50 points in 201 games. Ouellet, a defenseman, has 26 points in 160 games. Sproul has appeared in 44 games. The Red Wings also traded out of the 1-24 pick to get 2-35 and 2-48.

Columbus Blue Jackets - 1 Pick

  • 2-37 - Boone Jenner

Jenner is a good enough middle six forward with 187 points in 396 games.

Nashville Predators - 2 Picks

  • 2-38 - Magnus Hellberg
  • 2-52 - Miikka Salomaki

Hellberg, a goaltender, has four games in the NHL. Salomaki has 26 points in 162 games.

San Jose Sharks - 1 Pick, 1 Trade

  • 2-47 - Matt Nieto
  • 1-28 - Traded away

The Sharks actually traded up from the 59th pick, one pick after Kucherov, to be able to pick Nieto who has 127 points in 394 games.

The first round pick though, I don’t think the Sharks are going to complain about having traded that one and missed an opportunity there to take Kucherov. Why? On draft day, the Sharks acquired Brent Burns and a 2012 second round pick for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and 1-28.

Los Angeles Kings - 1 Pick

  • 2-49 - Christopher Gibson

The Kings got the worse of the two Gibson goaltenders selected in the second round by Southern California teams. He’s played in 13 games in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning - 1 Pick

  • 1-27 - Vladislav Namestnikov

There have been reports that the Lightning were considering both Kucherov and Namestnikov with this pick. They ended up going with Namestnikov and lucked out that Kucherov was still available when they picked again in the second round.

Washington Capitals - 1 Trade

  • 1-26 - Traded

The Capitals had an opportunity here, but instead acquired Troy Brouwer from the Chicago Blackhawks for their first round pick on the first day of the draft. However, they’re the only team to not make a pick before Kucherov was drafted.

Conclusions

Everyone (except Vegas) had a chance! The Capitals are technically the only team to not pass up on Kucherov, but they did trade their first round pick on draft day. Even the Lightning took a pass on Kucherov once. Nine teams made at least three draft selections before Kucherov was taken and Chicago had the most with four draft picks made.

The draft is always a bit of a crap shoot and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. There are so many variables that go into drafting and developing players. Kucherov’s development easily could have gone sideways if he was not managed properly. Maybe if he didn’t get the opportunity when he did with the Triplets in 2014-15, his career would have gone differently. The Lightning are fortunate that they made a good pick and then did what was required to put Kucherov on the path to being one of the best players in the NHL.