Maple Leafs 2000 draft evaluation

By Peter Levi

With GM Pat Quinn at the helm, the Toronto Maple Leafs made nine selections in the 2000 draft. Of those picks the Canadian major junior leagues were the source for five, while the remaining four were from Europe. Five players are still considered NHL prospects, but only three of those five remain Leafs property. Of those drafted, three have played a total of 33 NHL games (for a draft class average of 4 games per pick), but only one suited up for the Leafs.

Brad Boyes, C – 1st round, 24th overall (Erie Otters, OHL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

After making the AHL All-Star and All-Rookie team in 2003, Brad Boyes was traded to San Jose with Alyn McCauley for Owen Nolan. The one NHL game he played in so far was with San Jose. Boyes arrived in Boston in a three-way trade that brought Jeff Jillson to the Sharks and sent Andy Delmore to the Sabres. Boyes has been a model of consistency, averaging nearly a point a game each year in the AHL. This season he was second in scoring with 75 points in 80 games for Providence. He is blessed with incredible hands and an uncanny hockey sense. Had there been no lockout, he would have played for Boston.

Kris Vernarsky, C – 2nd round (from Oilers), 51st overall (Plymouth Whalers, OHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 17

Vernarsky is a big, strong center selected for his defensive poise and usefulness as a shutdown man. He has, however, thus far been an NHL bust. The Leafs traded him to Boston for Richard Jackman (now a Penguin) in 2002. In the two seasons prior to the lockout, Vernarsky had brief call-ups to Boston, doing nothing to distinguish himself (one goal in 17 games). If there had been no NHL lockout, Vernarsky may have found a full-time spot with Providence rather than with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL, but it’s unlikely he will ever be an NHL player.

Mikael Tellqvist, G – 3rd round (from Lightning), 70th overall (Djurgardens, SEL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 15

Tellqvist was envisioned as the goaltender of the future for the Leafs. While still a viable NHL goalie, it now seems unlikely the Swedish goalkeeper will be anything more than a backup. He has trouble in traffic and a tendency to give up goals on long shots. He was the goaltender of choice for Sweden in the 2004 World Cup, but performed very poorly (4.03 average and .875 save percentage). Tellqvist has spent four years at the AHL, his performance flat lining the past two seasons (averages of 2.64 last season and 2.65 this year), and were the Leafs stronger in the crease he would have no guarantee of being Ed Belfour’s backup next season.

Jean-Francois Racine, G – 3rd round, 90th overall (Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMHJL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The second goaltender selected by the Leafs in the draft, Racine remains a viable prospect. A big goaltender who covers a lot of the net, he likes to challenge shooters and his lateral movement is good for a big man. He still needs work, particularly on his rebounding and stick handling, but is likely to get that time next season. This past season he split the year between St. John’s and the CHL, being sent down due to the signing of veteran Jean-Sebastien Aubin. He put up improved numbers over the previous season in the AHL, with a 2.76 average and .921 save percentage.

Miguel Delisle, RW – 4th round (from Lightning), 100th overall (Ottawa 67’s, OHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Leafs picked Miguel Delisle for his speed, shot, and solid on-ice vision. He was seen has having leadership skill and being a good clutch player, developed by hockey legend Brian Kilrea. After three years in the OHL, Delisle moved on to the WCHL San Diego Gulls, which became the ECHL San Diego Gulls. In 2003-04, he bounced around between four ECHL teams. Delisle now plays in CIS. While there remains the possibility he will return to professional hockey, it’s unlikely he will ever surface in the NHL.

Vadim Sozinov, C – 6th round (from Mighty Ducks), 179th overall (Crystall Saratov, Vysshaya Liga)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Leafs consulted Nic Antropov before selecting his former Kazakhstan teammate Vadim Sozinov. Considered an offensive player, Sozinov managed one unremarkable year in the OHL (57 games, 39 points) before returning to Russia. He has spent his career bouncing between tier-2 and tier-3 Russian teams, doing nothing to distinguish himself. While the Leafs still own his rights, Sozinov simply doesn’t have the talent to make the NHL.

Lubos Velebny, D – 7th round, 223rd overall (HKM Zvolen, Extraliga)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The big Slovakian defender was picked from the HKM Elite League. Possessing a booming shot and good skating ability, Velebny never did develop enough for the Leafs. He spent a year in the OHL (53 games, 36 points) and one in the UHL (47 games, 5 points) before returning to Slovakia. Unable to score and guilty of turnovers in his own end, Velebny has proven a bust. The Leafs still hold his rights, but unless Velebny makes a startling improvement in his game he’s unlikely to return to North America.

Alexander Shinkar, RW – 8th round, 254th overall, (St. Petersburg, RHL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

A late round Russian League selection, Shinkar was a moderately built forward considered to have limited abilities. The knock against him was that his aggressive instincts often got him into trouble with undisciplined penalties. It was also thought his offensive and defensive game needed work. Until this past season, Shinkar did little to distinguish himself. Playing in a Russian League filled with NHLers, Shinkar suddenly found his game and enjoyed a breakout campaign (30 points in 57 games). Leading his team in goals and second in points, he also was among the top scorers in the league. Given his performance, the odds seem good that the Leafs may make the soon to be 24-year-old an offer for this coming season.

Jean-Philippe Cote, D – 9th round (from Lightning), 265th overall (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Leafs final pick of the draft was stay-at-home defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote. Playing a safe and physical game, and noted for his strong work ethic, his limited offensive upside allowed him to slip away as a free agent to the Montreal Canadiens. This past season Cote enjoyed a strong year with Hamilton, leading the team in plus/minus, and he looks to be a mainstay at the AHL level. Whether Cote can develop enough offensive skills to make the NHL remains to be seen.

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