luca sbisa

Hindsight is an amazing thing, and allows us to look back and wonder “what could have been.”  Though perfection is attempted, scouting and draft selection is far from an exact science, and sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way teams – or players – intended. For every Patrick Kanethere is a Patrik Stefan.

We’re looking back at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and asking how it would shake out knowing what we do now.  Will the first round remain the same, or will some late-round picks jump up to the top of the board?

The results of our redraft so far are as follows with their original draft position in parentheses:

1st Overall: Steven StamkosTampa Bay Lightning (1)
2nd Overall: Drew DoughtyLos Angeles Kings (2)
3rd Overall: Roman JosiAtlanta Thrashers (38)
4th Overall: Alex PietrangeloSt. Louis Blues (4)
5th Overall: Erik KarlssonToronto Maple Leafs (15)
6th Overall: John CarlsonColumbus Blue Jackets (27)
7th Overall: Jacob MarkstromNashville Predators (31)
8th Overall: Braden HoltbyPhoenix Coyotes (93)
9th Overall: Jordan EberleNew York Islanders (22)
10th Overall: Jared SpurgeonVancouver Canucks (156)
11th Overall: Cam AtkinsonChicago Blackhawks (157)
12th Overall: T.J. BrodieBuffalo Sabres (114)
13th Overall: Josh BaileyLos Angeles Kings (9)
14th Overall: Adam HenriqueCarolina Hurricanes (82)
15th Overall: Tyler MyersOttawa Senators (12)
16th Overall: Gustav NyquistBoston Bruins (121)
17th Overall: Derek StepanAnaheim Ducks (51)
18th Overall: Jake AllenNashville Predators (34)

Right now, Pekka Rinne’s number hangs in the rafters of Bridgestone Arena, just above where another star netminder, Juuse Sarosplays his games. No doubt, Nashville is happy with its goaltending over the past 15 seasons or so. But, in our redraft, it’s hard not to think about what could have been if the Predators had selected both Jacob Markstrom and Jake Allen seventh and eighteenth overall, respectively. Instead in 2008, Nashville selected forward Colin Wilson in the seven spot and goaltender Chet Pickard eighteenth.

Ultimately, Pickard never played in the NHL after a hot start in junior and the AHL. The goaltender would bounce between the AHL and ECHL before heading over to Europe, where he’s now a reliable netminder in Germany’s DEL. Even with Rinne and Saros, it’s likely the Predators would’ve preferred to take Allen over Pickard given Allen’s track record of NHL success.

Originally selected 34th overall by the St. Louis Blues, Allen slides nearly halfway up the draft board in our redraft. Allen was a standout goaltender in the QMJHL when he was selected by St. Louis, returning for the 2008-09 season. He would turn pro for 2009-10, playing goal for the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL and began to establish himself as one of the league’s best. He’d make his NHL debut during the shortened 2012-13 season, suiting up for 15 games with the Blues, returning to the AHL for 2013-14, where he put up a sensational 2.03 goals-against average and .928 save-percentage. That AHL performance would be his last, earning him the promotion to the NHL full-time.

Allen gradually took over the starer’s job in St. Louis, peaking from 2015 through 2018. Eventually, with the emergence of Jordan Binnington and Allen’s own performance slipping a bit, he lost the starting job. Prior to the 2020-21 season, St. Louis dealt Allen to the Montreal Canadiens, where he was expected to backup the legendary Carey Price. Now, with Price’s long-term injury, Allen has emerged as the starter for Montreal, recently signing a two-year extension that runs through 2024-25.

From the eighteenth-overall selection, we move on to the nineteenth, which belonged to the Philadelphia Flyers, who selected defenseman Luca Sbisa. The Italian-born Sbisa appears to have represented fair value for the nineteenth-overall pick. Far from flashy, the stay-at-home defenseman made a career as a steady, reliable, and at times physical presence. Sbisa made his NHL debut immediately after being drafted, getting into 39 NHL games for the Flyers before being sent back to the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. That offseason, he was sent to the Anaheim Ducks in the trade that ultimately brought Chris Pronger to Philadelphia.

Sbisa spent parts of five seasons in Anaheim, taking on a regular role on the Ducks’ blueline. In the summer of 2014, Sbisa was again moved as part of the package to bring in a star, this time heading to the Vancouver Canucks, with Ryan Kesler headed the other way. There, he continued to play the role of a quiet, yet effective blueliner, signing a three-year, $10.8MM extension prior to 2015-16. However, he’d spend just two more seasons in Vancouver before the Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 expansion draft.

The veteran appeared in just 30 games in the inaugural Vegas season, hitting the open market in 2018. There, he signed with the New York Islanders, getting into just nine games. That offseason, once again a free agent, he returned to Anaheim only briefly, selected off waivers by the Winnipeg Jets before he could suit up for an official game with the Ducks. Sbisa played 41 games for the Jets in 2019-20 and appeared set to join them once again for 2020-21, but was claimed on waivers once again, just prior to the start of the season. He’d work his way into the lineup for just one game with Nashville, which appears to be the last of his career. Though no formal retirement announcement appears to hve been made, Sbisa spent the 2021-22 season working with the Ducks and was recently hired by the San Jose Sharks in a player development role.

With names like John Carlson, Jordan Eberle, Jared Spurgeonand Markstrom, just to name a few, still on the board, the Flyers likely would’ve opted to change their pick with hindsight. Still, taking Sbisa at nineteenth, given his long career wasn’t a bad bet, especially considering he helped them acquire Pronger, a tremendous asset at the time. With hindsight, would the Flyers opt to take Sbisa again with the names still remaining in our redraft? Or could they go for another option, such as Jake Gardiner, Travis Hamonicor Tyler Ennis?

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