You are ranked the 25th top North American skater by the Central Scouting Bureau in your NHL draft-eligible year. You are ranked the 40th top prospect by The Hockey News that same year, which would project you somewhere in the top two rounds of the NHL draft. Some scouts have even projected you into the late first round of the draft. You wait and you wait and you wait, until finally your name is called in the 3rd round, the 57th overall pick of the 1997 NHL entry draft. No one doubts your skills, but some doubt your size and your instincts. You just might have a chip on your shoulder. You might just have some real motivation to prove the “experts” wrong. Jeff Farkas, a Boston College junior and a Toronto Maple Leafs draftee in that 1997 NHL draft, has taken some big steps to “prove them wrong”.
As a college freshman, Jeff Farkas was 6-0, 162 lbs. and the oldest player in that 1997 draft. “Has great skills, great speed, but is simply not big enough or strong enough to be an effective one-on-one player in the NHL. He is fast, but too fast, as he doesn’t use his speed effectively within the flow of team play. His speed is faster than his mind can work,” said those scouts in 1997. “He’s a project at best”, said others. There is a good chance that the Toronto Maple Leafs will someday soon be happy with that project they took on.
As a freshman at BC in 1996-97, Jeff scored 13 goals and 23 assists for 36 pts. in 35 games and was twice named the Hockey East freshman of the week. He led his team to a 1st round victory over Northeastern in the famed Beanpot tournament that year with a goal and an assist. His play in that tourney began a nice tendency for playing very big in the biggest games. He finished the year third on his team in scoring and first among freshmen. The young man from Williamsville, New York appeared for Team USA in the World Juniors championships. Hockeysfuture 2000 saw enough out of him to name him the “sleeper” player of that 1997 draft.
“He must get bigger and stronger and must round out his game,” said the experts. Jeff did just that. He gained 10 lbs. of muscle in the summer and returned a bigger, stronger player. As a sophomore, he continued his offensive production while playing on BC’s second line with 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 pts. in 40 games. His work in the season’s biggest games really stood out. First, he earned All-Hockey East Tournament honors for his two goals, five assists performance in 4 games. Secondly, he added key goals in in the NCAA tournament to lead his team to two big wins over Colorado College and Ohio State. Thirdly, he led Team USA and tied LA Kings prospect, Olli Jokinen in the World Juniors championship scoring honors with 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 pts. in 7 games of that 1998 tournament.
Where does he go at this point? He takes his game to a higher level. His junior year at BC sees Jeff second in division I of the NCAA in goals scored. At the time of this article, with his team just having eliminated UMass-Amherst in the first round of the Hockey East tournament, Jeff has scored 29 goals in 38 games. He has the game-winning goal in each of his team’s last 3 victories. “He has some of the same knack as a Brett Hull in finding the openings on the ice to get off his shot and he has a real nose for the net,” says Boston College hockey media director, Simon Gray. “He wants the puck in the big game and in the tight situations with the game on the line”, Gray adds.
Farkas has world-class speed, an excellent wrist shot and the hand skills to handle the puck at high tempo and also to finish the scoring play in front of the net in traffic. “He has worked hard on adding some size and strength and it has allowed him to make the plays needed along the boards as well,” says Gray. “He has the grit to stick his nose in there as well to make things happen”, he adds.
Jeff has worked both at the center position and the wings this year on BC’s top two lines and he has “sniper” written all over him. He has the natural skills and skating ability to make it to the NHL. He has played in a top-flight collegiate program known for developing hockey talent under head coach, Jerry York. Jeff has put in the time and effort to round out his game, refine his skills and add the size and strength needed to make an impact in this game. Add to those items the feisty play and the desire to prove the experts wrong who doubt whether he can make it to the NHL and you just might have a budding NHL forward, maybe even a first-line winger. Some scouts now feel that Jeff might just be a bit more advanced than young Leafs’ right-winger, 20-goal scorer Mike Johnson, was as a junior in NCAA hockey at Bowling Green.
Reportedly, the Leafs have been happy with Farkas’ development at Boston College and it is certainly quite likely that Jeff will finish out his four years there by playing for BC in the 99-00 season. He certainly might then be ready for the big jump, much like Mike Johnson made in 96-97. Unlike Johnson, though, Farkas might be making the jump to one of the NHL’s best teams. Following that draft in 1997, ESPN projected that Farkas might project as a 40-60 pt. scorer in the NHL if he puts the work in to develop his game and improve his weaknesses. They just might be right after all and the Leafs would then be very happy with their “project”. Steve Thomas, who at the age of 35, has fit in beautifully on the #1 Leafs line as a winger for center Mats Sundin on the current edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thomas will be 37 at the start of the 00-01 season and might then be at the end of the road. How might Jeff Farkas look on Mats Sundin’s right wing, then? Possibly, quite nicely indeed.
Sources: ESPN 1997 NHL Draft Review
The Hockey News 1997 Draft Preview, Vol. 50, No. 36
Boston College Athletics Ice Hockey Website