Ah, choices. The prior article in this series faced a similar dilemma: it came down to two players in the third round contest, both of whom were deserving of our praise. Only one could take the "crown", so to speak, and that's as it should be. Moving along...
Rhett Warrener was taken with the 27th overall pick, or first selection of the second round for you purists, in 1994 (interestingly, he was also the second consecutive blueliner taken by the Cats, as Ed Jovanovski went #1 in round one). The 6-ft 209-lb Shaunavon, Saskatchewan native remained with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades in 1994-95, netting 39 points in 66 games before joining Florida's ranks the following season.
While his point total in three-plus seasons with the Panthers (4G-23A in 217GP) was underwhelming - though completely expected of a classic but young stay-at-home defenseman - his game and career blossomed following a March, 1999 deal sending him to the Buffalo Sabres. A few months later that same bunch lost in Game Six of the Stanley Cup final, but Warrener's defensive acumen earned several contract extensions in the coming years, solidifying his presence as a mainstay of Buffalo's top four on the back end.
Some 266 regular season games later he signed with the Calgary Flames, which happened to closely precede that club's own run to the Final in Spring of 2004. Tampa Bay took the series in 7, but Warrener remained a rock on the Flames' blue line until retiring in 2008.
All that is rainbows and unicorns, but why him over, say, Kristian Huselius, a fellow second-rounder - and a forward, which is always sexier - who scored 451 points in 662 regular season contests?
We love offense as much as the next fan, but there is something to be said for that unsung "defensive defenseman" who logs 815 games in the NHL jousting with the opposition's most frightening scoring threats. Further, 101 of those matches were of the playoff variety, with three (!) trips to the Stanley Cup Final. Oh, and a plus-73 lifetime in the regular season (indeed, that includes his time with the Cats). Guys like this aren't easy to target for their particular role at such an early age, but they are the ones who make or break a team. That's a solid career by any measure, and precisely why Rhett Warrener is the best second round draft pick of the Florida Panthers.