All professional sports drafts are difficult, but hockey has to be one of the toughest. Players are drafted at age 18, and many times don't sign their first pro contract for four-to-five years down the road.
Given the obvious difficulties in projecting the ability of a player that far out, there's going to be significant change in opinion on many players who were selected. ESPN Insider Corey Pronman took a look back at the 2008 NHL Draft Tuesday, and had some favorable comments about a few former Badgers who have seen their stock rise since draft day.
Derek Stepan, Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz all saw their names higher up in the redraft than when they were originally selected back in 2008. It's a testament to the work they've put in, obviously, but also to the coaching they've received at Wisconsin and at the pro level.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, C, Derek Stepan, Shattuck St. Mary's (U.S. HS)
All Stepan has ever done is produce. He ranked No. 2 in 2009-10 in NCAA scoring, led the 2010 World Junior Championships in scoring, was a top player at the 2011 World Championships and this year he emerged as a top-tier NHL center. He faced tough opponents, played in every situation this year for the Rangers and excelled. He possesses significant playmaking ability with the puck.
Toronto's original pick: D Luke Schenn
Where Stepan was picked: 51st overall (2nd round, NY Rangers)
14. Carolina Hurricanes, D, Justin Schultz, Westside (BCHL)
If you were to do this re-draft again in a couple of years, Schultz could be notably higher depending how he develops. He has top-pairing skills with high-end offensive potential, as he's a great puck possession player with the instincts to make all sorts of plays with the puck. In his first pro season he was challenged in the defensive aspects of the game, and that is the key thing to watch with him as he gains more experience.
Carolina's original pick: W Zack Boychuk
Where Schultz was picked: 43rd overall (2nd round, Anaheim)
15. Ottawa Senators, D, Jake Gardiner, Minnetonka (U.S. HS)
Gardiner's a really interesting player. He didn't get much NHL time this season, but when he did he looked good. He's a tremendous skater with a lot of offensive potential. There's still a lack of NHL sample size with him, and questions about his defensive game, but the upside is there.
Ottawa's original pick: D Erik Karlsson
Where Gardiner was selected: 17th overall (Anaheim, 1st round)
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