Now I'm not going to go back too far in the history pages but there have been some surprising selections in recent years at the NHL Entry Draft - some have worked out and some have not.
A person could go to Hockeydb.com and check out the past drafts and look up 1980 and see that Denis Savard went 3rd that year behind Doug Wickenheiser. Montreal's choice was clearly a bad one; had they picked the French kid 1st over all, the '80's could have been much different indeed.
Today's list is going to be much more recent. I'm only going back 5 years and I'm picking out the 5 players who were, at the time, considered reaches. When the team announced the name, it caught a lot of onlookers by surprise.
5. Carey Price - 5th overall in 2005
While it was a surprise, I don't know that I would label the selection of Carey Price at 5th overall by Montreal as a "shocker". It raised a few eyebrows because the Habs still had José Theodore in net and
weren't really rumored to be goalie shopping. Price was the top ranked goalie though by ISS but I don't think anyone believed that he'd go quite that early. The next goalie selected was Tuukka Rask who went 21st overall to Toronto. The ISS mock draft that year predicted Price would end up with Phoenix who were picking 15th.
Price has played two years in the NHL - one was outstanding while the other has some fans wondering what year #3 is going to be like. Price's resumé reads like a best seller though so there is every reason to think he can bounce back.
4. Alex Plante - 15th overall in 2007
Outside the top 10, the 2007 draft rankings were really all over the place. Still, most didn't project Alex Plante to be in the top 20 so when Edmonton grabbed the big blueliner from the Calgary Hitmen, it turned some heads. ISS had Plante slotted 28th overall but Central Scouting had him well back of that mark.
It sure didn't look promising for Edmonton when Plante spent most of the 2007-08 year on the sidelines with various injuries but the 6'5 defender bounced back with a strong season and even better playoff for the Hitmen. Signed and ready for the step up to the AHL, Plante looks like a gamble that could still pay off for the Oilers.
3. Devin Setoguchi - 8th overall in 2005
The Saskatoon Blade (a later Prince George Cougar) was considered a 1st round talent but was projected to be selected in the latter third of the opening round. Instead, the San Jose Sharks did something they are often fond of doing - traded up to get their man. The Sharks dealt their 12th overall pick along with the 49th and 207th picks in the 2005 Draft to the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth overall pick and stepped up to grab Setoguchi. The trade up was a surprise in of itself but then to take a player most pundits had ranked well outside the top 10... that was a shocker.
It's worked out rather well though for GM Doug Wilson and Tim Burke, the head honcho of a strong scouting staff. Setoguchi is now a budding star in his own right after his 31-goals and 65 points this past season in the NHL.
2. Thomas Hickey - 4th overall in 2007
It's not to say that Hickey wasn't expected to be taken in the 1st round but according to ISS he was the fourth best defenceman available in 2007 but was chosen ahead of all of them by the Kings. Karl Alzner, Keaton Ellerby and Nick Petrecki were ranked higher by the independent scouting agency but that didn't slow down LA. Was it a mistake? Too early to say one way or the other with any certaintly since it's only two years later, but, Hickey just finished his WHL career with Seattle and capped it off with 7 points in 7 games with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs.
Fair to say it was a surprise but it's not looking one bit like a mistake.
1. Blake Wheeler - 5th overall in 2004
The Phoenix Coyotes stunned everyone when they drafted the big high school kid with the 5th overall pick because in predictions leading up to the 2004 draft, Wheeler was projected to go sometime in round two or three. TSN's Bob McKenzie didn't have him ranked in his top 30 and that when someone as dialed in as he is can still be surprised, you know the pick came out of no where.
Wheeler has gone on to prove that the Coyotes were well within their rights to grab him that high. The first round of 2004 has produced almost as many misses as hits and the fact that Wheeler had 45 points this past year as a rookie has him on the positive side of the ledger. The bummer for Phoenix is that this NHL success is happening for Wheeler as a member of the Boston Bruins.