Re-Imagining the 1995 NHL Entry Draft

With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft finally taking place this week, it is time for my annual retro fantasy redraft. This time, we’re traveling back 25 years to 1995 — the year that the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup and “The Macarena” ruled the airwaves.

The 1995 NHL Entry Draft was the second draft in a row where the top two players selected were defensemen. In fact, the top three picks in 1995 were d-men. Meanwhile, a future 600-goal scorer was taken 11th overall, while a future Vezina Trophy winner wouldn’t be selected until the 5th round!

Knowing what we know today, what would the first round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft look like? Who would go first overall? Fifth overall? Twenty-fifth-overall? Let’s find out! 

“And with the first-overall pick, the Ottawa Senators select…”

1 – Ottawa Senators

Who They Picked: Bryan Berard (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Jarome Iginla (RW), originally selected 11th overall by Dallas. 

Custom card by Sal Barry

Why? Looking back 25 years later, and considering his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jarome Iginla was easily the best player selected in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He is first among his draft class in goals (625), assists (675), points (1,300) and games played (1,554) during the regular season. He won the Art Ross Trophy once, the Rocket Richard Trophy twice and was the Calgary Flames team captain for nine seasons. Knowing what we all know now, Ottawa would have drafted Iggy first overall and had been better for it. 

2 – New York Islanders

Who They Picked: Wade Redden (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Shane Doan (RW), originally selected 7th overall by Winnipeg. 

Why? Shane Doan’s 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 points during the regular season are second among all players drafted in 1995. While these marks may seem distant when compared to Iginla’s they are still amazing. Doan also played the second-most regular season games (1,540) of his draft class and was the team captain of the Phoenix (later Arizona) Coyotes for 13 seasons. Although Wade Redden was the best defenseman in the draft, any team would take a 400-goal scorer over a solid d-man any day. 

3 – Los Angeles Kings

Who They Picked: Aki Berg (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Wade Redden (D), originally selected 2nd overall by the New York Islanders. 

Why? As mentioned above, Wade Redden was the best defenseman from the 1995 Draft. He was first among defensemen drafted in 1995 with 457 regular season points and 1,023 regular season games played. He also has the best plus/minus rating of anyone drafted in 1995 at +160. With Iginla and Doan off the table, the choice to draft Redden is easy. 

4 – Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Who They Picked: Chad Kilger (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Petr Sykora (RW), originally selected 18th overall by New Jersey. 

Why? Peter Sykora moves up 14 spots in this fantasy redraft, now being selected fourth overall by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Among players drafted in 1995, he is third in goals (323) and points (721) during the regular season. He also played in over 1,000 NHL regular season games and was a big part of the New Jersey Devils’ Stanley Cup Championship in 2000. 

5 – Tampa Bay Lightning

Who They Picked: Daymond Langkow (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Miikka Kiprusoff (G), originally selected 116th overall by San Jose. 

Why? Miikka Kiprusoff was the best goalie drafted in 1995, so he moves up 111 spots to fifth overall. He is first among all goalies drafted in 1995 with 623 games played and 319 wins during the regular season, first in goals-against average with 2.49, and second in save percentage with 0.912. “Kipper” won the Vezina and Jennings Trophy in 2006, was an absolute workhorse for the Calgary Flames — playing 70 or more games in seven consecutive seasons — and is 30th all-time in regular season wins. A goalie of Kiprusoff’s caliber is a more-enticing selection than anyone else on this list. 

6 – Edmonton Oilers

Who They Picked: Steve Kelly (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Marc Savard (C), originally selected 91st overall by the New York Rangers. 

Why? Marc Savard is another player who moves up a significant amount in this redraft. He is third in assists (499) and fourth in points (706) during the regular season among his peers drafted in 1995. Of course, had Savard not sustained two concussions at the end of his career, his numbers would have been higher. Regardless, it is hard to believe that a guy with those numbers was actually drafted in the 4th round, 91st overall. 

7 – Winnipeg Jets

Who They Picked: Shane Doan (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Daymond Langkow (C), originally selected 5th overall by Tampa Bay. 

Why? Daymond Langkow only drops two spots from his original position of 5th overall in this draft re-do. He was fourth among the 1995 draft class in goals (270) and assists (402) during the regular season, and 5th overall in points (672). He also has the 3rd-best plus-minus (+81) among his draft class. With Doan now going second overall, the Jets would have grabbed Langkow. 

8 – Montreal Canadiens

Who They Picked: Terry Ryan (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Radek Dvorak (RW), originally selected 10th overall by Florida. 

Why? Radek Dvorak moves up two spots in our revised draft. Among his ’95 draft peers, Dvorak is 5th in goals (227), 6th in assists (363) and 5th in points (590) during the regular season. He played for eight different teams over 18 seasons, appearing in 1,260 regular season games, which is 5th-most among his peers.

9 – Boston Bruins

Who They Picked: Kyle McLaren (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Stephane Robidas (D), originally selected 164th overall by Montreal. 

Why? Kyle McLaren is still a first-round pick, but he goes just a little later in this fantasy redraft. Instead, the Bruins would take Stephane Robidas , who is second in regular season games played (937) and fourth in points (258) among defensemen drafted in 1995. 

10 – Florida Panthers

Who They Picked: Radek Dvorak (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Michal Handzus (C), originally selected 101st overall by St. Louis. 

Why? With Dvorak moving up two spots, the Panthers would have to draft a different player. Michael Handzus is 7th overall in regular season points (483) and games (1,009) among 1995 draftees. 

11 – Dallas Stars

Who They Picked: Jarome Iginla (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Bryan Berard (D), originally selected 1st overall by Ottawa. 

Why? With Jarome Iginla being the first-overall pick in this imaginary draft, the Stars would have used the 11th-overall pick to take defenseman Bryan Berard, who was actually drafted first-overall in 1995. Coincidentally, the two players just swap spots to better reflect how their careers went. Berard won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 1997. His 323 points during the regular season is third among all defensemen drafted in 1995, and 12th overall among everyone drafted that year. Even more amazing is that Berard accomplished this in only 619 games. In fact, his 0.52 points-per-game average is first among d-men from his draft class. Had Berard not suffered a horrific eye injury in 2000 and then two back injuries later on, he could have easily played 1,000 games and scored 600 points. Heck, he might have ended up in the Hall of Fame, too. But even his career as it was makes Berard worthy of being drafted in the upper-half of the first round. 

12 – San Jose Sharks

Who They Picked: Teemu Riihijarvi (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Filip Kuba (D), originally selected 192nd overall by Florida. 

Why? Teemu Riihijarvi is the only first-round pick in the 1995 NHL Draft to not play in a single NHL game, yet he has two different rookie cards for some reason. Go figure. The Sharks would have been better off drafting defenseman Filip Kuba. He played the third-most regular season games (836) and had the second-most regular season points (333) among defensemen drafted that year. Of course, it took Kuba 219 more games to score just 10 more career points than Berard, which is why Berard goes 10th and Kuba 11th. 

13 – Hartford Whalers

Who They Picked: J.S. Giguere (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Actually, the Whalers would still pick J.S. Giguere with the 13th pick. 

Why? At this point, do you want the 8th-best forward, the 5th-best defenseman or the 2nd-best goalie from the 1995 NHL draft? Maybe if the Whalers knew how J.S. Giguere’s career would play out, they would still pick him 13th overall — and keep him this time. Giguere only played eight games with the Whalers. When the team relocated to become the Carolina Hurricanes, Giguere was traded and went on to have a very good career. Among his 1995 fellow draftees, he logged the second-most games played (597) and wins (262) in the regular season. His 2.53 GAA was also second-best, while his save percentage of 0.913 is tops among all 1995 goalies. Giguere was a key piece in the Anaheim Ducks’ Stanley Cup Championship in 2007. He also led the Ducks to the 2003 Finals and was named the playoff MVP even though the Ducks lost. Would Giguere have been the difference for the Hurricanes in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings — a series Detroit won in five games? Probably not, because the Red Wings were really good that year. Still, “Jiggy” could have been the franchise goalie that the Hurricanes so sorely needed in the 2000s. Who knows, maybe the ‘Canes would have had a few Stanley Cup victories that decade, and not just their only one in 2006. 

14 – Buffalo Sabres

Who They Picked: Jay McKee (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Jochen Hecht (LW/C), originally selected 49th overall by St. Louis. 

Why? Jochen Hecht is the best available forward at this point. He is second among all players drafted in 1995 with a plus/minus rating of +100. He is tied for 7th-overall in goals (189) and 8th-overall in points among ’95 draftees.  Coincidentally, Hecht spent 10 of his 14-year career in Buffalo, playing with the Blues and the Oilers before becoming a mainstay with the Sabres for a decade. Drafting Hecht now just makes too much sense for the Sabres. 

15 – Toronto Maple Leafs

Who They Picked: Jeff Ware (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Sami Kapanen (RW), originally selected 87th overall by Hartford. 

Why? Sami Kapanen is tied with Jochen Hecht for the 7th-most goals among 1995 draftees with 189. He is also 9th in points (458) and 10th in assists (269). 

16 – Buffalo Sabres

Who They Picked: Martin Biron (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Jay McKee (D), originally selected 14th overall by the Sabres. 

Why? Jay McKee drops two spots in the fantasy redraft, but still goes to the Sabres since they had two picks in the first round that year. McKee is fourth among defensemen drafted in 1995 with 802 regular-season games played, and 8th among d-men with 125 points. McKee was drafted by the Sabres in 1995 “for real” and spent nine seasons in Buffalo, so the Sabres drafting McKee in this fantasy redraft is the logical thing to do.  

17 – Washington Capitals

Who They Picked: Brad Church (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Kyle McLaren (D), originally selected 9th overall by Boston. 

Why? Kyle McLaren drops from 9th to 17th overall in this fantasy do-over, and is right as a late first-round pick. He played 12 seasons in the NHL. Among other defensemen drafted in 1995, McLaren is 5th overall in games played (719) and 6th in points scored (207) during the regular season. 

18 – New Jersey Devils

Who They Picked: Petr Sykora (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Jan Hrdina (C), originally selected 128th overall by Pittsburgh. 

Why? With Petr Sykora being drafted fourth overall by the Ducks, the Devils lose one of their best players from the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this point, Jan Hrdina is the best-available forward in this draft. He is 13th overall in points (297), 14th in goals (101) and 14th in assists (196) during the regular season. Those marks are high enough to justify moving Hrdina up 110 spots. Coincidentally, he played 18 games towards the end of his career with the Devils. 

19 – Chicago Blackhawks

Who They Picked: Dmitri Nabokov (C/LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Brent Sopel (D), originally selected 144th overall by Vancouver. 

Why? For a guy who only had 10 seasons in the NHL with 50 or more games and usually wasn’t in the top defensive pairing, Brent Sopel had a surprisingly good career. Heck, he’s tied with center Chad Kilger for 20th overall in scoring among all players drafted in 1995 — and Sopel did that in 55 less games. Among d-men drafted that year, Sopel is 5th overall in points (218) and 6th in games (659) during the regular season. Back in 1995, the Blackhawks were pretty stacked on defense, but by the time Sopel matured into an NHL player in 2000, the ‘Hawks really could have used him in the lineup. Coincidentally, Sopel spent three years in Chicago later in his career. 

20 – Calgary Flames

Who They Picked: Denis Gauthier (D) 

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Aki Berg (D), originally selected 3rd overall by Los Angeles. 

Why? Denis Gauiter had a fine NHL career, but Aki Berg played 52 more games. Berg is 8th among defensemen with 606 regular season games. The Flames would be picking a slightly better defenseman by drafting Berg. 

21 – Boston Bruins

Who They Picked: Sean Brown (D) 

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
P.J. Axelsson (LW), originally selected 177th overall by Boston. 

Why? P.J. Axelsson was a “lifer” with the Bruins, spending all 11-years of his NHL career with that team. The Bruins actually ended up drafting Axelsson in 1995 in the 7th round, but knowing what we know now, he is worthy of being a first-round pick. Axelsson is 13th in goals (103) and 14th in points (287) among players drafted in 1995. The Bruins would be remiss to pass on drafting “Potatoes” and letting him go to a different team. 

22 – Philadelphia Flyers

Who They Picked: Brian Boucher (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Martin Biron (G), originally selected 16th overall by Buffalo. 

Why? The Flyers would be getting an upgrade in net by drafting Martin Biron. He was the 3rd-best goalie in the 1995 draft, ranking 3rd in games played (508), wins (230) and GAA (2.61) during the regular season among his fellow goalies drafted that year. 

23 – Washington Capitals

Who They Picked: Miika Elomo (LW) 

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Chad Kilger (C), originally selected 4th overall by Anaheim. 

Why? Chad Kilger was 11th in goals (107), 16th in games played (714) and 20th in points (218) during the regular season among his draft class. The guy was a journeyman, but he stuck around for 12 seasons, and put up better offensive numbers than most other players picked in 1995. 

24 – Pittsburgh Penguins

Who They Picked: Aleksey Morozov (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Peter Schaefer (LW), originally selected 66th overall by Vancouver. 

Why? Aleksey Morozov had a fine 7-year NHL career, but hightailed it to Russia during the 2004-05 lockout and never came back. There’s no reason to believe that he would come back to Pittsburgh in this alternate timeline, either. Thus, the Pens would take Peter Schaefer, whose 261 career regular-season points ranks him 15th among players picked in 1995. Plus, he arguably has the best rookie card of his draft class.

Yes, this is really Peter Schaefer’s rookie card.

25 – Colorado Avalanche

Who They Picked: Marc Denis (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Georges Laraque, originally selected 31st overall by Edmonton. 

Why? Once the Avalanche acquired Patrick Roy midway through the 1995-96 season, using a first-round pick on a netminder seemed frivolous. But what the Avs could really have used during the mid-1990s and early 2000s was some extra muscle, especially in their epic Detroit-vs.-Colorado playoff battles. Georges Laraque, who moves up six spots and into the first round, would fit that role nicely for Colorado. Laraque got into around 150 fights in an NHL career that lasted 13 seasons. He wasn’t just an enforcer; he was an enforcer extraordinaire to last in the NHL for that long. 

26 – Detroit Red Wings

Who They Picked: Maxim Kuznetsov (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Danil “Danny” Markov, originally selected 223rd overall by Toronto. 

Why? Like fellow Russian Aleksey Morozov, Maxim Kuznetsov also left North America during the 2004-05 NHL lockout and never came back. Maybe the Red Wings, still wanting a defenseman, would take Danny Markov instead. He is 7th in points (147) and 10th in games (538) during the regular season among defensemen drafted in 1995. Plus, he would fit in with the whole “Russian Five” thing that the Red Wings were doing at the time. And if Markov had been a member of the Red Wings for their Stanley Cup Championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002, he might have decided to play in the NHL longer than nine seasons and had even better numbers. 

***
It seems that the scouts “got it right” about half the time during the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. According to my fantasy redraft, 13 out of the 26 players taken in the first round were still worthy of being first-rounders, just in a different order (except for  J.S. Giguere, who remains at the “lucky” 13th spot). This shows us how prospects are still developing long after the draft; a guy who was tabbed a mid-or-late first rounder ends up being the best, while “can’t miss” prospects sometimes do. There are so many intangibles that factor in to how a player progresses. Even if we knew then what we know now, there’s no guarantee the same player would develop the same or thrive under different circumstances. 

Looking back 25 years later, Jarome Iginla is the consensus number one pick, though had Bryan Berard remained healthy throughout his career, he might have ended up being the best player drafted in 1995, as scouts predicted back then. 

So, what do you think of this year’s fantasy redraft? Iggy is the top pick, but who would you take second? Third? Thirteenth? Which player do you wish ended up on your team?  

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

3 thoughts on “Re-Imagining the 1995 NHL Entry Draft”

  1. Doan wouldn’t make my top ten, let alone going second. I’d take the two goalies (Kiprusoff and Giguere) over him, plus a bunch of other forwards. Doan was a 20-25 goal forward with first-line ice time and a nice-guy reputation.

  2. No issue with your redraft. Interesting to me is that Washington had two 1st round picks and a second inside the top 50, not to mention 7 other picks, and they blew every single pick. How often could a team take an entry draft off and have no impact? I am sure it happens all the time, but I just found them striking from 1995. They got 165 total games out of 10 picks. 8 goals and 15 assists. The first rounders got them 4 games and 1 assist. Bizarrely, their 3 top picks played 2 games each for the Caps gaining 1 total assist. Hindsight/RE-draft for Washington, they should have traded every pick they had for a HUGE package. There is no way they do worse on that trade.

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