Ilya Kovalchuk‘s ability as a hockey player was well known when the Atlanta Thrashers had their final scouting meetings ahead of the 2001 NHL Draft.
But the Thrashers wanted to know what kind of person Kovalchuk was, so Dan Marr, their director of scouting at the time, arranged for him to visit the staff in Atlanta.
After answering a few questions, Marr remembers Kovalchuk wanted to know something.
“Ilya said, ‘Who’s car is parked in front?'” Marr said when general manager Don Waddell said the Corvette in question was his. “Ilya says, ‘Can I take it for a drive?’
“There’s that confidence in a player you like to see. Wasn’t intimidated by the situation, didn’t feel the pressure. So Don said yeah, when we go for dinner I’ll let you drive it to the restaurant.”
The Thrashers chose Kovalchuk at No. 1, and the forward went on to become a star in the NHL. But not every player picked at the 2001 draft reached that lofty status. So with 20 years of hindsight, how would that draft go if the same players were made available today?
Note: Players listed with teams that drafted them; original draft position in parenthesis.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atlanta Thrashers (1)
Kovalchuk was one of the most explosive offensive players of his generation. He scored at least 40 goals six straight seasons between 2003-04 and 2009-10, including 52 in 2005-06 and 2007-08, and at least 30 in nine of his first 10 NHL seasons. In 2011-12, he tied three players (Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers) for the NHL lead with eight goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the New Jersey Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final. He returned to his native Russia after the 2012-13 season but returned to the NHL in 2018-19 to play two more seasons before going back to the Kontinental Hockey League. He leads players from the 2001 draft class in goals (443) and points per game (0.95) and is second in points (876) in 926 games.
2. Patrick Sharp, LW, Philadelphia Flyers (95)
Sharp’s career took off when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 5, 2005. He became a vital part of Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and scored at least 30 goals four times and at least 20 eight times in 15 NHL seasons. He’s in the top six among players in his draft class in goals (287, fifth) and points (620, sixth).
3. Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa Senators (2)
Spezza leads players in the 2001 draft in assists (619), points (970) and games played (1,177), and his 351 goals are second to Kovalchuk. His best season was 2006-07, when he scored 87 points (34 goals, 53 assists) in 67 regular-season games and tied for the Senators lead in the 2007 playoffs with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 20 games to help them reach the Cup Final. At 38 years old, Spezza is the last active skater from the 2001 draft class. He scored 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 54 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
4. Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo Sabres (55)
Pominville was part of a core group that helped the Sabres reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 and 2007. He scored at least 30 goals three times in 15 NHL seasons for the Sabres and Minnesota Wild, topped by 34 goals for Buffalo in 2006-07. He was third in voting for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player voted to best combine sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability, in 2007-08 when he scored an NHL-best 80 points (27 goals, 53 assists) in 82 games and had 20 penalty minutes. Pominville played in 2012 NHL All-Star Game and his 727 points (293 goals, 434 assists) are third among players selected in 2001.
5. Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota Wild (6)
Koivu played all but seven of his 1,035 NHL games for the Wild and is their leader in games (1,028), assists (504) and points (709). He was named the first full-time captain of the Wild in 2009-10 after Minnesota alternated players in the role for its first nine seasons and held the position for 12 seasons. He’s one of five skaters drafted in 2001 to play at least 1,000 games (1,035), and his 711 points (206 goals, 505 assists) are fourth among players in his draft class. He also captained Finland to a win at the 2011 IIHF World Championship, the country’s first since 1995.
6. Michael Cammalleri, LW, Los Angeles Kings (49)
Cammalleri’s 294 goals are third among any player drafted in 2001. His best season was 2008-09 with the Calgary Flames when he tied for ninth in the NHL with 39, the most goals scored in one season by a 2001 draft pick not named Kovalchuk. He scored at least 26 goals six times in 15 NHL seasons for the Kings, Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Devils and Edmonton Oilers. His 13 goals in 19 playoff games in 2010 are the third-most by a Montreal player in one postseason, after Yvan Cournoyer in 1973 (15) and Frank Mahovlich in 1971 (14). Cammalleri is also the first NHL player to score a goal in a regular-season game in Europe, with the Kings against the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL Premiere at O2 Arena in London on Sept. 29, 2007.
7. Mike Smith, G, Dallas Stars (161)
Smith, who turned 39 on March 22, had a resurgent season with the Oilers, his 15th in the NHL. He was 21-6-2 in 32 games (30 starts), his 2.31 goals-against average was the third-best of his NHL career, and his .923 save percentage was the second-best. His 642 games and 283 wins are second among goalies selected in 2001, and his 42 shutouts are tied with Craig Anderson for first. Smith also became the seventh NHL goalie to score a goal by shooting the puck into the opponent’s net when he did so for the Phoenix Coyotes against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 19, 2013. He made the NHL All-Rookie Team with the Stars in 2006-07, had a .944 save parentage and three shutouts in 16 postseason games to help the Coyotes reach the 2012 Western Conference Final, and skated in the NHL All-Star Game in 2017 and 2018.
8. Ales Hemsky, RW, Edmonton Oilers (13)
Hemsky was a very good playmaker during his 15 NHL seasons with the Oilers, Senators, Stars and Canadiens. He had four straight seasons with at least 40 assists for Edmonton from 2005-09 and scored at least 20 goals twice. He scored 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 24 games to help the Oilers reach the 2006 Stanley Cup Final as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Hemsky scored the series-clinching goal in Game 6 of the first round against the Red Wings and the game-winner against the Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. His 398 assists are fifth among players selected in 2001 and his 572 points are eighth.
9. Craig Anderson, G, Chicago Blackhawks (73)
Anderson’s 291 wins and 652 games played are the most of any goalie drafted in 2001. His breakout season was with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10, when he went 38-25-7 with a 2.63 GAA, .917 save percentage and seven shutouts in 71 games. The next season he was traded to the Senators and in 10 seasons became Ottawa’s leader in wins (202) and games (435). In 2012-13, he led the NHL with a 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage, and in 2016-17 was voted winner of the Masterton Trophy given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. During that season he had 25 wins, a .926 save percentage and five shutouts while missing time to care for his wife, Nicholle, who was fighting a form of throat cancer.
10. Marek Zidlicky, D, New York Rangers (176)
A sixth-round pick by the Rangers, Zidlicky was traded to the Nashville Predators for goalie Mike Dunham on Dec. 12, 2002, and as a 26-year-old rookie in 2003-04 tied for fourth among NHL defensemen with 53 points (14 goals, 39 assists). That was one of four times he scored at least 12 goals during his 12-season NHL career. He played 84 games in 2014-15 because of an in-season trade from the Red Wings to the Devils. Zidlicky leads all defensemen selected in 2001 in goals (89), assists (328) and points (417).
11. Tomas Plekanec, C, Montreal Canadiens (71)
Plekanec was considered a strong defensive forward who could chip in with offense during a 15-season NHL career primarily playing for the Canadiens. He scored at least 20 goals seven times, with a high of 29 in 2007-08, and scored 70 points (25 goals, 45 assists) in 82 games in 2009-10. Plekanec is fifth in games (1,001), sixth in goals (233) and assists (375), and seventh in points (608) among players drafted in 2001.
12. Derek Roy, C, Buffalo Sabres (32)
Roy had four straight seasons with at least 20 goals and 63 points for the Sabres from 2006-10. He helped Buffalo reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 and 2007, and his 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 18 games during the 2006 playoffs were third on the Sabres. His 189 goals are ninth among players picked in the 2001 draft.
13. Christian Ehrhoff, D, San Jose Sharks (106)
After five seasons with the Sharks, Ehrhoff became a major piece for the Vancouver Canucks when he was traded there Aug. 28, 2009. He scored 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) and was tied for fifth in the NHL at plus-36 in 80 games that season, and in 2010-11 scored an NHL-best 50 points (14 goals, 36 assists) in 79 games and led Canucks defensemen with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 23 games to help Vancouver reach the Cup Final. Ehrhoff’s 74 goals are second among defensemen chosen in 2001 and his 339 points are third.
14. Dan Hamhuis, D, Nashville Predators (12)
Hamhuis played 1,148 games in 16 NHL seasons, second-most among players drafted in 2001. Best known for his defensive play, he was plus-72, best among players in his draft class. But Hamhuis scored at least 25 points five times, including 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) in 82 games for the Predators in 2005-06. He helped the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, scoring six points (one goal, five assists), blocking 38 shots and averaging 24:50 of ice time in 19 games. Hamhuis’ 356 points are second among defensemen drafted in 2001.
15. Dennis Seidenberg, D, Philadelphia Flyers (172)
Seidenberg played 859 NHL games, third-most among defensemen drafted in 2001. He played for six teams, but his best seasons came with the Boston Bruins from 2009-16. In 2010-11 he scored an NHL career-best 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) and averaged 23:33 of ice time in 81 games on Boston’s top pair with Zdeno Chara, and averaged 27:38 of ice time in 25 playoff games to help Boston win the Cup. Seidenberg’s 1,549 blocked shots are the most among players in the 2001 draft class and his 1,670 hits are second.
16. Ray Emery, G, Ottawa Senators (99)
Emery emerged in 2006-07 with 33 wins, a .918 save percentage and five shutouts in 58 regular-season games to help the Senators reach the Stanley Cup Final. He was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in his right hip in 2010 but returned from that career-threatening injury to help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013. He became the first NHL goalie in 2012-13 to start a season 12-0-0, and he and Corey Crawford shared the William Jennings Trophy as the goalies who allowed the fewest goals in a season (97 in 48 games).
17. Kevin Bieksa, D, Vancouver Canucks (151)
Bieksa was best known as a physical force during his 13 NHL seasons with the Canucks and Ducks but scored 12 goals in 2006-07 and 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) in 2008-09. During the 2011 playoffs, he averaged 25:41 of ice time, scored 10 points (five goals, five assists), was plus-6 and led the postseason with 88 hits in 25 games to help Vancouver reach the Cup Final. Among players selected in 2001, Bieksa is one of five with at least 1,000 hits (1,408) and 1,000 blocked shots (1,022).
18. PA Parenteau, RW, Anaheim Ducks (264)
A ninth-round pick, Parenteau didn’t establish himself in the NHL until 2009-10, when he was a 26-year-old with the Rangers, his third NHL organization. He signed with the New York Islanders in 2010-11 and had the first of his two 20-goal seasons, and in 2011-12 scored an NHL career-best 67 points (18 goals, 49 assists) in 80 games. He also scored 20 goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015-16. Parenteau is 19th among 2001 draft picks with 296 points (114 goals, 182 assists), but his average of 0.60 points per game is 11th (minimum 400 games).
19. Fedor Tyutin, D, New York Rangers (40)
Tyutin was a solid defensive defenseman for the Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Avalanche during 13 NHL seasons. His 872 games are second among defensemen drafted in 2001, and his 264 points (55 goals, 209 assists) are fifth. He’s fourth among all players in his draft class in blocked shots (1,160) and sixth in hits (1,338).
20. R.J. Umberger, LW, Vancouver Canucks (16)
Umberger played three seasons at Ohio State, signed with the Flyers as a free agent and scored 20 goals as a rookie in 2005-06. He scored eight goals in five games for the Flyers against the Canadiens in the second round of the 2008 playoffs, matching Gordie Howe of the Red Wings in 1949 for most goals in one playoff series against Montreal. He was traded to the Blue Jackets on June 20, 2008 and scored at least 20 goals four times in six seasons. His 180 goals are 10th among players picked in 2001.
21. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Dallas Stars (192)
Jokinen is ninth among players selected in 2001 with 563 points (191 goals, 372 assists) in 951 games, including personal NHL-bests of 30 goals and 65 points for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009-10. He’s best remembered for his success in the shootout. His 10 goals (in 13 attempts) as a rookie with the Stars in 2005-06 is tied for the second-most in one season behind Kovalchuk’s 11 in 2011-12, and his 38.5 percent success rate on shootouts is 11th in NHL history (minimum 75 attempts).
22. Cristobal Huet, G, Los Angeles Kings (214)
Huet was 25 years old when the Kings drafted him in the seventh round. He led the NHL with a .929 save percentage in 36 games for the Canadiens in 2005-06 and played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2007. Huet signed with the Blackhawks in 2008, and in 2010 became the first France-born player to win the Stanley Cup. He spent part of his day with the Cup at the Eiffel Tower. His 272 games and 129 wins each are fifth among goalies drafted in 2001, and his 24 shutouts are third.
23. Johnny Oduya, D, Washington Capitals (221)
Oduya’s 850 NHL games are fourth among defensemen drafted in 2001, and he won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. In 2013, he had an assist on Dave Bolland’s Cup-clinching goal against the Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Oduya’s plus-63 rating and 1,425 blocked shots are second among defensemen in his draft class.
24. Stephen Weiss, C, Florida Panthers (4)
Weiss scored at least 20 goals four times in 13 NHL seasons, topped by 28 for the Panthers in 2009-10. His 423 points (156 goals, 267 assists) are 11th among players picked in 2001.
25. Tuomo Ruutu, RW, Chicago Blackhawks (9)
Ruutu scored 23 goals as a rookie with the Blackhawks in 2003-04 but injuries hampered him for most of his NHL career. He played 735 games, but his 1,709 hits are the most among players drafted in 2001.
26. Ryane Clowe, LW, San Jose Sharks (175)
Clowe scored 20 goals twice and had three seasons with at least 50 points, with a high of 62 (24 goals, 38 assists) in 75 games for the Sharks in 2010-11. Though Clowe played 491 games, his average of 0.63 points per game is ninth among players selected in 2001 (minimum 400 games).
27. Brooks Laich, C, Ottawa Senators (193)
Laich was a top-six center for the Capitals in the prime of his NHL career and had three straight seasons with at least 21 goals from 2007-10. His 332 points (134 goals, 198 assists) are 17th in his draft class.
28. Marek Svatos, LW, Colorado Avalanche (227)
Svatos was third among NHL rookies with 32 goals in 2005-06, behind Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals (52) and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (39) and finished fifth in voting for the Calder Trophy awarded to the NHL rookie of the year. He scored 26 goals in 2007-08 for the Avalanche but 25 in the next three seasons combined, his last in the NHL.
29. Peter Budaj, G, Colorado Avalanche (63)
Budaj was a solid backup for most of his 13 NHL seasons, but won 31 games for the Avalanche in 2006-07 and 30 in 2016-17 for the Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. His 368 games and 158 wins are third among goalies in the 2001 draft class.
30. Chuck Kobasew, RW, Calgary Flames (14)
Kobasew scored 20 goals three times in 11 seasons, including back-to-back seasons of 22 and 21 from 2007-09 with the Bruins. He helped the Flames reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.
Missing first-round picks: Alexander Svitov, C, Lightning (3); Stanislav Chistov, RW, Ducks (5); Mike Komisarek, D, Canadiens (7); Pascal Leclaire, G, Blue Jackets (8); Dan Blackburn, G, Rangers (10); Fredrik Sjostrom, LW, Coyotes (11); Igor Knyazev, D, Hurricanes (15); Carlo Colaiacovo, D, Maple Leafs (17); Jens Karlsson, RW, Kings (18); Shaone Morrisonn, D, Bruins (19); Marcel Goc, C, Sharks (20); Colby Armstrong, RW, Penguins (21); Jori Novotny, C, Sabres (22); Tim Gleason, D, Senators (23); Lukas Krajicek, D, Florida Panthers (24); Alexander Perezhogin, RW, Canadiens (25); Jason Bacashihua, G, Stars (26); Jeff Woywitka, D, Flyers (27); Adrian Foster, LW, Devils (28); Adam Munro, G, Blackhawks (29); David Steckel, C, Kings (30)
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