With the NHL Entry Draft set to return to Vancouver for the first time since 2006, DUBNetwork thought it would be fun to look back at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and how the WHL class has fared since then. The WHL class consisted of 24 players, including four first-round picks which we will look at today and was led by Everett Silvertips forward Peter Mueller. 16 different WHL teams had at least one player selected in the draft with the Silvertips having a total of four players selected.
However, the most notable Western Canadian player from this draft class, Jonathan Toews, did not play in the WHL. Despite being selected by the Tri-City Americans first overall in the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft, Toews decided to take the NCAA route at the University of North Dakota, a decision that worked out for him in the long run as he has had a successful NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Of the 24 WHL players selected, 10 went on to play at least one game in the NHL (41%). Drafted from the Vancouver Giants, Milan Lucic leads the way in both games (890) and points (501). Of the 10 players who played at least one game in the NHL, four recorded at least 100 points in the NHL.
Peter Mueller (Everett Silvertips)
NHL Central Scouting Ranking – 6th overall (North American Skaters)
With the eighth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes selected forward Peter Mueller from the Everett Silvertips. Originally drafted by the Silvertips in the second round of the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft, Mueller did not join the Silvertips until his NHL draft year from the U.S. National U-18 team where he had played the previous two seasons. In 52 games in his rookie season, he put up 26 goals and 32 assists finishing fourth in team scoring and earning him WHL Rookie of the Year honours for the 2005-06 WHL season.
The Coyotes opted to return him to the Silvertips for the following season. He played 51 games and improved his rookie totals by 20 points, finishing with 21 goals and 57 assists and was named to the CHL Second All-Star Team. Mueller also was part of the American team that won bronze at the 2007 World Junior Championship in Vancouver.
Mueller turned pro in the 2007-08 season with the Coyotes and played all but one game in his rookie season scoring 22 goals and 32 assists. He played a total of 207 games with the Coyotes before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche along with forward Kevin Porter in exchange for forward Wojtek Wolski.
He left the NHL after the 2012-13 season, finishing with 63 goals and 97 assists in 297 games with the Coyotes, Avalanche and Florida Panthers. He has played in various European pro leagues since then, including a stint with the AHL’s Providence Bruins in the 2016-17 season. Last season he played with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic and had 24 goals and 21 assists in 43 games.
Michael Grabner (Spokane Chiefs)
NHL Central Scouting Ranking – 23rd Overall (NA Skaters)
We move down to the 14th overall pick. The host Vancouver Canucks selected Michael Grabner from the Spokane Chiefs. Grabner was an import draft selection by the Spokane Chiefs in the first round of the 2004 CHL Import Draft. He immediately came to North America for the 2004-05 season, playing 58 games for Spokane with 13 goals and 11 assists in the NHL lockout season. He represented Austria in the 2005 World Junior Division 1A tournament, winning a bronze medal.
Returning to the Chiefs for his NHL draft eligible season, Grabner played on a Chiefs team that won just 25 games, finishing last in the U.S. Division for the second straight year. He led the team in goals in with 36 and finished tied for second with linemate Adam Hobson for second in points with 50.
After being selected in the NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks sent Grabner back to the Chiefs for the 2006-07 WHL season. He had an up and down season with the Chiefs finishing with 39 goals and 16 assists and lead the Chiefs to the playoffs for the first time in his three seasons, but he also experienced multiple scoring droughts and was called out and benched by head coach Bill Peters for his “lack of competitiveness.”
After two seasons in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, Grabner made his debut with the Canucks in the 2009-10 season, playing nine games with the Canucks before being returned to the Moose. He re-joined the Canucks in March and played another 11 games. He finished the season having played 20 games and recording five goals and six assists. At the end of the 2009-10 season, Grabner was shipped with forward Steve Bernier and a 2010 first round pick (which became Quinton Howden) to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Victor Oreskovich. He was claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders before suiting up for a game with the Panthers.
Grabner has played a total of 594 games in the NHL with the Canucks, Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes. Next season will be his 11th in the NHL
Ty Wishart (Prince George Cougars)
NHL Central Scouting Ranking – 21st overall
The San Jose Sharks moved up from the 20th overall pick (which became David Fischer) in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens which also saw them give up the 53rd overall (which became Mathieu Carle) to select the next member of our WHL Draft class, defenseman Ty Wishart from the Prince George Cougars.
Drafted in the second round of the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft by the Cougars, Wishart joined the Cougars for the 2004-05 WHL season. In his rookie campaign, Wishart saw action in 58 games recording a goal and seven assists with 41 penalty minutes.
In the 2005-06 WHL season, Wishart made the full-time jump to the WHL and was one of the Cougars top defenders seeing action against some of the B.C. Division’s top forwards. He scored five goals and added 32 assists and was in the sin bin for 68 minutes as the Cougars returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season. He captained Canada at the World U-18 tournament but was held pointless with 14 penalty minutes in seven games.
Returning to the Cougars and the WHL in the 2006-07 season, Wishart faced some injury problems which limited him to 62 games. In those 62 games, Wishart had 11 goals and 38 assists as the Cougars made a run to the WHL’s Western Conference Final where they lost to the Memorial Cup Champion Vancouver Giants.
After failing to make the Sharks in the 2007-08 season, Wishart returned to the WHL again in the 2007-08 season. In 40 games with the Cougars, Wishart had 12 goals and had 28 assists and 34 penalty minutes before being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors at the 2008 WHL Trade Deadline along with forward Evan Fuller and a 2008 3rd round WHL Bantam Draft selection for forward Justin Maylan, forward Brad Riege and a 2008 1st round WHL Bantam Draft selection. In 32 games with Moose Jaw, he had four goals and 23 assists. His season totals led the WHL in points among defenseman (67) and earned him a spot on the 2008 WHL Eastern Conference Second All-Star team.
After playing with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worchester during the 2008 AHL Playoffs, Wishart was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with defenseman Matt Carle, a first round pick in 2009 (which became Kyle Palmieri) and a 2010 fourth round pick (which became James Mullin) for defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich.
Wishart has spent the majority of his pro career in the minors and in Europe but has played 26 NHL games with the Lightning and New York Islanders and has a goal and five assists. Last season he split time between HC Dynamo Pardubice in the Czech Republic and Fehérvár AV19 in Hungary and played in 43 games recording six goals and five assists.
Leland Irving (Everett Silvertips)
NHL Central Scouting – 2nd (NA Goalies)
Rounding out the first round of the NHL Entry Draft is our first goaltender from the WHL, Leland Irving, who was selected 26th overall by the Calgary Flames from the Everett Silvertips. He was selected by the Silvertips in the fifth round of the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft. Making his debut in the 2004-05 season, Irving saw action in 23 games, recording nine wins and posting a 1.86 GAA and .928 Save% serving as the Silvertips back-up.
In the 2005-06 season, Irving took over the net as the Silvertips number one goalie playing in 67 of the Silvertips 72 games and posting almost identical stats to his rookie season with a 1.91 GAA and a .925 Save Percentage in almost three times as many games and adding 37 wins. He led the Silvertips to an appearance in the WHL’s Western Conference Final but missed the first two games of the series due to injury. The Silvertips ended up dropping the series to the Vancouver Giants. Internationally, Irving suited up for Canada at the U-18 World Championship, winning gold at the tournament.
Irving returned to the Silvertips for the 2006-07 season and only saw action in 46 WHL games, mostly because of time spent away with Hockey Canada at the 2007 World Juniors. However, in those 46 games, he posted his best WHL record to date with 34 wins and just 12 losses. He posted a 1.86 GAA and a .929 save percentage to lead the WHL in that category. With Canada at the World Juniors, he was able to take home his second international gold medal.
The Silvertips struggled in Irving’s final season in the WHL, as he posted a 27-24-3 record and saw his GAA rise above two to 2.45 and his save percentage drop below .920 to .919 for the first time in his WHL career.
Irving turned pro in the 2008-09 season and played the majority of the next three seasons in the AHL before seeing his first NHL action with the Flames in the 2011-12 season as he got into seven games and posted a 3.19 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He would play six games with the Flames the following season, posting a 3.33 GAA and .883 save percentage before heading to Europe for the 2013-14 season. He has spent the majority of his time since then in Europe, but has had stints in the AHL with the Iowa Wild and San Diego Gulls. Last season with HC Bolzano in Italy, he played 45 games and posted a 2.50 GAA and .922 save percentage.
That concludes our look at the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. We’ll return tomorrow with a look at rounds 2-7.