You could forgive OHL Commissioner David Branch for going a little retro tonight and partying like it’s 1999. After all, the 2008 NHL entry draft saw the most OHLers drafted into the NHL ranks since that pre-millenial season – and, for the first time in NHL draft history, the first four selections came from the same league.
For the first time since the 1995 and 1996 drafts, the top pick came from the OHL in two consecutive years. Last year, Pat Kane of the London Knights; this season – to no one’s surprise – Steven Stamkos took the top honors when Tampa Bay called his name from the podium. In total, 11 OHL players were selected in the first round – an almost four-fold increase from last season when three (Kane, teammate Sam Gagner, and Logan Couture) OHLers strode to the podium in the first round.
OHLers were interspersed throughout the draft, although the 11 taken in round one represented the biggest haul. The league was also well represented in the sixth round as 10 players were taken.
For the first time in NHL entry draft history, the top four selections came from same league: Stamkos (TB), Drew Doughty (LA), Zach Bogosian (ATL), and Alex Pietrangelo (STL) will have their names linked in NHL lore as the record-breaking quartet. Following Stamkos, the trio of highly coveted blueliners drew strong interest – and accolades – throughout the league. While there’s no agreement as to who is the best now and who will be the best long-term, there was no doubt that these three represented the elite of the draft.
Picks eight through 10 also went to OHLers, with the offensively gifted Mikkel Boedker being called to the podium by the Phoenix Coyotes, with Joshua Bailey and Cody Hodgson following to the New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks, respectively. Hodgson’s prodigious talent and imposing size outweighed character concerns, allowing him to remain a top-10 selection.
The 2008 draft may go down as the year of the defenseman and the OHL continued to support that notion with the selection of Michael Del Zotto and Tyler Cuma with the 20th and 23rd selections respectively. While not currently in the same class as the "Big Three" blueline prospects, Del Zotto represents the promise of instant offense from the blueline, while Cuma is a more traditional, two-way defenseman – both of whom will benefit from a couple more seasons in the junior and minor-league ranks.
The Calgary Flames peddled away proven forward Alex Tanguay in part in return for the Canadiens’ first-round selection. After a trade like that it only makes sense to make a big splash – and big they went by selecting Greg Nemisz. At 6’3, he`s an imposing presence down the middle. And he`s still growing – he`s put on 40 pounds this season alone and is expected to get even bigger.
Appropriately, after breaking the ice with the first selection over, the OHL also closed the door on the first day with the Detroit Red Wings` selection of netminder Thomas McCollum. McCollum was the top-rated goaltender coming out of the league and was the second puckstopper selected after the WHL‘s Chet Pickard.
The second round saw five more OHLers drafted, the first of whom was a bit of a surprise. In a homecoming of sorts, Philip McRae was selected with the 33rd overall selection (third pick in the second round, which was obtained in the Keith Tkachuk/Glen Metropolit trade with Atlanta in 2007) by one of the teams for whom his father, Basil, played – St. Louis.
The Anaheim Ducks got first-round value with their 39th-overall selection of Eric O`Dell using a selection they obtained from the Phoenix Coyotes. Ten picks later, those same Coyotes mined some pretty deep bloodlines with the selection of the fourth Staal brother, Jared — the other three brothers all of whom are currently in the NHL.
The Avalanche went off the map a little bit on the next selection by selecting blueliner Cameron Gaunce ahead of some other higher-rated blueliners. The Dallas stars used the 59th selection to take the second OHL netminder when they called Tyler Beskorowansky`s name.
A few highly rated OHL prospects fell to the third round of the draft: defensemen Shawn Lalonde (68, Chicago) and Adam Comrie (80, Florida), and forwards James Livingston (70, St. Louis) and Adam Henrique (82, New Jersey). Sandwiched between those selections were winger Josh Brittain (71, Anaheim), Andrew Campbell (74, L.A.), and the third netminder of a fairly weak pool – Michael Hutchinson (77, Boston).
A pair of players who were expected to go much higher found themselves dropping into the fourth round — center Jamie Arniel (97, Boston) and the 100th pick overall A.J. Jenks who was selected by Florida. Appropriately for basketball country, the Carolina Hurricanes picked up the "e" challenged blueliner Michal Jordan. At 114th overall, the Flames obtained the rights to T.J. Brodie, while the Habs made a big splash – a 6’8 big splash – in selecting Peterborough backup netminder Jason Missiaen. The OHL served up its sixth prospect in the round when Pittsburgh selected Nathan Moon with the second-last selection of the fourth round.
The flow of prospects slowed to a trickle in the fifth round as only four players were from the OHL heard their names called in Ottawa: center Kory Nagy (142, New Jersey), defenseman Julien Demers (146, San Jose from Montreal), and wingers Kyle DeCoste (147, Tampa Bay from San Jose) and Matthew Martin (148, New York Islanders from Philadelphia).
The floodgates reopened in the sixth round of the NHL entry draft when a total of 10 OHL players were selected in this round. The second through fourth picks in the round went to OHLers Justin Azevedo (153, L.A.), Chris Carrozzi (154, Atlanta), and Anthony Nigro (155, St. Louis.) The remainder of the players obtained in this round were a pair of blueliners, a pair of goaltenders, and a pair of centers. The Red Wings ended the sixth round by selecting Stephen Johnson with the 181st overall selection.
As the draft drew to a close, so too did the valued pool of OHL prospects. Appropriately for the year of the defensemen, a pair of blueliners were among the three final round selections: Tim Billingsley (189, Phoenix) and Harry Young (202, New Jersey). And with a pick obtained from Minnesota, the New Jersey Devils closed out the OHL experience in the 2008 NHL entry draft with the selection of Stefan Della Rovere.
1. (1st overall) – Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (HF OHL Rank #1, Mock Draft Rank #1)
2. (2nd overall) – Drew Doughty, D, L.A. Kings (HF OHL Rank #3, Mock Draft Rank #5)
3. (3rd overall) – Zach Bogosian, D, Atlanta Thrashers (HF OHL Rank #2, Mock Draft Rank #3)
4. (4th overall) – Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues (HF OHL Rank #4, Mock Draft Rank #2)
5. (8th overall) – Mikkel Boedker, LW, Phoenix Coyotes (HF OHL Rank #5, Mock Draft Rank #8)
6. (9th overall) – Joshua Bailey, C, N.Y. Islanders (from Florida) (HF OHL Rank #7, Mock Draft #15)
7. (10th overall) – Cody Hodgson, C, Vancouver (HF OHL Rank #6, Mock Draft #9)
8. (20th overall) – Michael Del Zotto, D, New York Rangers (HF OHL Rank #9, Mock Draft #18)
9. (23rd overall) – Tyler Cuma, D, Minnesota Wild (HF OHL Rank #10, Mock Draft #22)
10. (25th overall) – Greg Nemisz, C, Calgary Flames (from Montreal) (HF OHL Rank #11)
11. (30th overall) – Thomas McCollum, G, Detroit Red Wings (HF OHL Rank #8)
12. (33rd overall) – Philip McRae, C, St. Louis Blues (from Atlanta) (HF OHL Rank #20)
13. (39th overall) – Eric O’Dell, C, Anaheim Ducks (from Phoenix) (HF OHL Rank #19)
14. (49th overall) – Jared Staal, RW, Phoenix Coyotes (Ottawa) (HF OHL rank #13)
15. (50th overall) – Cameron Gaunce, D, Colorado Avalanche
16. (59th overall) – Tyler Beskorowany, G, Dallas Stars
17. (68th overall) – Shawn Lalonde, D, Chicago Black Hawks (from Toronto) (HF OHL Rank #17)
18. (70th overall) – James Livingston, RW, St. Louis (from Florida) (HF OHL Rank #14)
19. (71st overall) – Josh Brittain, LW, Anaheim Ducks (from Vancouver)
20. (74th overall) – Andrew Campbell, D, L.A. Kings (from Buffalo)
21. (77th overall) – Michael Hutchinson, G, Boston Bruins
22. (80th overall) – Adam Comrie, D, Florida (from Colorado) (HF OHL Rank #16)
23. (82nd overall) – Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils (HF OHL Rank #18)
24. (97th overall) – Jamie Arniel, C, Boston Bruins (from Columbus) (HF OHL Rank #12)
25. (100th overall) – A.J. Jenks, LW, Florida Panthers (HF OHL Rank #15)
26. (105th overall) – Michal Jordan, D, Carolina Hurricanes
27. (114th overall) – T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary Flames (from Washington)
28. (116th overall) – Jason Missiaen, G, Montreal Canadiens
29. (120th overall) – Nathan Moon, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
30. (142nd overall) – Kory Nagy, C, New Jersey Devils
31. (146th overall) – Julien Demers, D, San Jose Sharks (from Montreal)
32. (147th overall) – Kyle DeCoste, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning (from San Jose)
33. (148th overall) – Matthew Martin, LW, New York Islanders (from Philadelphia)
34. (153rd overall) – Justin Azevedo, C, L.A. Kings
35. (154th overall) – Chris Carrozzi, G, Atlanta Thrashers
36. (155th overall) – Anthony Nigro, C, St. Louis
37. (164th overall) – Nick Crawford, D, Buffalo Sabres
38. (165th overall) – Mike Murphy, G, Carolina Hurricanes
39. (171st overall) – Mitch Gaulton, D, New York Rangers
40. (175th overall) – Justin DiBenedetto, C, New York Islanders (from Minnesota)
41. (178th overall) – Zac Rinaldo, C, Philadelphia Flyers
42. (180th overall) – Patrick Killeen, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
43. (181st overall) – Stephen Johnson, LW, Detroit Red Wings
44. (189th overall) – Tim Billingsley, D, Phoenix Coyotes
45. (202nd overall) – Harry Young, D, New Jersey Devils
46. (204th overall) – Stefan Della Rovere, LW, New Jersey Devils (from Minnesota)