Flames 2000 draft evaluation

By Aaron Vickers

Very rarely do you see a National Hockey League General Manager remove himself from the draft table on draft day. This was the case, however, for then Calgary Flames General Manager Craig Button, joining the Cowtown club literally weeks before the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, coincidently, held in Calgary, Alberta.

Joining the Flames from the Dallas Stars organization, it was agreed by both parties that Button wouldn’t be able to participate in any of the nine selections made by Calgary chief scout Ian MacKenzie and his staff. This didn’t prevent Button, though, from participating in the draft weekend from a luxury suite atop the Saddledome.

“As part of the agreement between Dallas and Calgary, I was not permitted to participate in the draft selection for the Calgary Flames that year,” explained Button in a telephone interview with Hockey’s Future. “I could participate in everything else including draft trades, but I couldn’t participate in player selection. I do not to this day know what the Calgary Flames draft list was that particular year. That was an agreement coming into the organization.”

“I didn’t even sit at the Calgary table. I sat up in a suite and took phone calls at that point from the table or from other managers,” he recalled.

Although he had little time to evaluate the organization’s needs, there were several holes that Button hoped could be filled via the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. With the struggles and subsequent trade of top goaltending prospect Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Calgary Flames were in search of a new successor to then current starting goaltender Fred Brathwaite. With little goaltending depth in the system, the need for a blue chip goaltending prospect was great.

“There just didn’t seem to be any depth in the goaltending area,” said Button, who added that the goaltending position wasn’t the only area in which the Flames were lacking.

“At that particular time I think one of the most glaring needs, one of the biggest things that was necessary for the Flames was some size. Everything being equal you want a bigger player, though I’m certainly not saying don’t take the 5’10 player or the 6’ player.”

Addressing these needs was not a problem for the Flames, who made Brent Krahn the fourth highest goaltender ever drafted at the time, by selecting him ninth overall. Acquiring size was also an easy feat for the organization, who selected the likes of Kurtis Foster (6’5), Wade Davis (6’5), Travis Moen (6’2) and David Hajek (6’3).

It would be naïve of the organization, however, to expect that all these players would fulfill their potential and develop within the organization. In fact, only one player from the 2000 NHL Entry Draft still remains a hopeful for the organization, former Calgary Hitmen goaltender Brent Krahn.

The nine picks that the Calgary Flames made have played a combined 215 NHL games, for a per player average of 24 games.

Brent Krahn, G – 1st Round, 9th Overall (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Drafted from the WHL Calgary Hitmen after putting up a 33-6-0 record with a 2.38 goals against average and a .912 save percentage, goaltender Brent Krahn appeared to be the heir apparent to the Calgary Flames goaltending throne.

“I think that the scouting staff realized that they needed to get some young goaltenders in their group,” explained Button of the high selection of Krahn. “I had watched Brent Krahn play several times that year and he was a player that I thought had a lot of potential. When they did call out his name, it was one I was quite pleased to hear.”

Unfortunately for the Winnipeg, Manitoba native, his progress has been slow. Injuries struck the young goaltender for several seasons, highlighted by a knee injury that has kept Krahn’s career-high for games played in a season to 39, during the 1999-00 season. Although he’s yet to make an impact with the Calgary Flames, Button, now a professional scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs, assured there is nothing to worry about in regards to Krahn’s slow development, and likened him to an NHL All-Star.

“I thought he’s had a similar development path as Olaf Kolzig,” compared Button. “He was big, needed to get his body rounded out, and he needed to let that occur. I thought it would be a number of years for that to take place. I had seen what had happened to Olaf Kolzig and what he had become so I really felt that Brent was similar to Olaf Kolzig and there was no need to start expecting things from him from an NHL standpoint until he was 24 or 25.”

Krahn spent the 2004-05 season splitting the goaltending duties for the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters with former Red Deer Rebels goaltender Cam Ward, where he compiled a record of 20-11-2 with a 2.49 goals against average and a .923 save percentage, while collecting six shutouts. It appears as though Krahn will be the starting goaltender for the Flames new AHL franchise, the Omaha AkSarBen Knights, set to enter the league next season.

Kurtis Foster, D – 2nd Round, 40th Overall (Peterborough Petes, OHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 5

Former Peterborough Petes defenseman Kurtis Foster was Calgary’s first selection in the second round, with a draft pick acquired by Button at the request of the Calgary Flames scouting staff.

“The guys really wanted Kurtis Foster,” Button explained. “They never told me who the player was but they kept pushing me to try to get a higher pick because they had him rated very highly.”

With a sizable 6’5 frame, Kurtis Foster was an attractive prospect for an organization looking to add size. Foster didn’t only bring size to the table, though. With 24 points in 68 games in his draft year, Foster proved he could also provide an added offensive punch.

“Kurtis was a big, strong, lanky defenseman that seemed to be weighted more to the offensive side of the game and he had a big shot,” described Button.

Although it appeared at the time that Foster would become the Calgary Flames top defensive prospect, his stay with the organization was a brief one. After he and the Calgary Flames were unable to come to terms with a new contract, he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers as part of a deal that brought Petr Buzek to the Flames organization.

“I’ll be honest, it came right down to a point where the dollars he was asking for and where we thought he was capable of being weren’t in sync,” explained Button, at the helm of a financially-conservative Flames squad. “It wasn’t that we didn’t think that Kurtis wasn’t capable of playing in the NHL, but we didn’t feel those things were in sync.”

After spending two and a half seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers organization, Foster was dealt one year ago to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, in exchange for fellow defenseman Niclas Havelid. Foster spent all of last season with the Mighty Ducks affiliate in Cincinnati, where he had 42 points with 71 minutes in penalties in 78 games.

Jarrett Stoll, C – 2nd Round, 46th Overall (Kootenay Ice, WHL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 72

After scoring 75 points in 71 games in his draft season, the Calgary Flames made Kootenay Ice forward Jarrett Stoll their final pick on the first day of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Stoll, a native of Melville, Saskatchewan, appeared to have all the tools to make him a valuable prospect within the organization, including impressive defensive and leadership abilities. In a similar fashion to that of Foster, though, the cash-conscious Calgary club and Stoll weren’t able to come to terms on a contract.

“We liked Jarrett Stoll and Jarrett Stoll had the ability to be a great third line player,” said Button. “Certainly he has shown that. Straight ahead, we weren’t going to pay him what he was asking, period. That’s all it came down to. Those are decisions you have to make, we made it, but it certainly wasn’t that Jarrett didn’t have the ability. We had a number of players that were coming up that had been drafted in the second round and we didn’t want to set a precedent that we didn’t feel was mandatory at that point in time.”

After re-entering the NHL Entry Draft in 2002, Stoll was selected by the Edmonton Oilers. Two seasons later, Stoll was skating a regular shift with the Oilers, in a checking line capacity. He registered 21 points in 68 games that season. Stoll would’ve again found himself in the NHL this season, but due to the NHL lockout, was forced to spend the 2004-05 season with the Edmonton Roadrunners, where he recorded 38 points in 66 games. It is expected that Stoll will return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup at the conclusion of the NHL lockout.

Levente Szuper, G – 4th Round, 116th Overall (Ottawa 67’s, OHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After a solid, if not spectacular season with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League, Levente Szuper was selected in the fourth round, 116th overall by the Calgary Flames. With a 2.56 goals against average and a .918 save percentage, Szuper was a strong addition to the club, which lacked quality goaltending depth.

Although Button wasn’t allowed to contribute to the selection of players for Calgary, he was pleased with the selection of Szuper, who he had already seen with Dallas.

“We had had him in Dallas that year as a tryout,” remarked Button. “For me it was very comfortable and we were adding to our depth. You can never have enough depth, and that’s the bottom line.”

Unfortunately for the native of Budapest, Hungary, he eventually ran into circumstances out of his control, and was lost in the shuffle for the Calgary Flames, who shut down operations of the Saint John Flames, where Szuper was on the roster for the Calder Cup victory in 2001.

“The team shut down and there really was no place for Levente to go,” Button recalled. “Whether or not if there was a team and he would’ve stayed, I don’t know, I wasn’t with the team at that point, but he showed an ability at the AHL level and perhaps he needed some more time, but he couldn’t get it.”

Now part of the St. Louis Blues organization after signing as an unrestricted free agent, Szuper spent the 2004-05 lockout season with Dunaujvaros AC in his native Hungary.

Wade Davis, D – 5th Round, 141st Overall (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

In another attempt to add size to their rather small defense core, the Calgary Flames used their first fifth round selection on Calgary Hitmen blueliner Wade Davis. Davis, who stood at 6’5, did just that. Although he put up 18 points in his draft year, it was his play in the defensive end that had Flames scouts taking note.

“He was a big, strong, lanky defenseman,” said Button. “The scouting staff really liked him. He was a defensive-type defenseman. There was a feeling there was a lot of potential and upside.”

Davis continued to improve at both ends of the ice, showing strong development at both ends of the ice. More noticeably was the rounding out of his offensive game, which saw him register a career-high 55 points in 68 games in 2001-02. It was his rapid development after the draft that allowed him to be taken late, according to Button.

“I think if he had some of those physical capabilities at that time he would’ve been a higher pick, but those things just didn’t seem to come for him. That’s why he was able to be taken in the fifth round.”

Unfortunately for Davis, though, he was unable to put all his skills together, and after finishing his WHL career with the Kamloops Blazers, had a short and unsuccessful stint with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. Davis returned to Calgary in 2004-05 to play with the University of Calgary.

Travis Moen, LW – 5th Round, 155th Overall (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 82

With their second fifth round selection, the Calgary Flames opted for Kelowna Rocket forward Travis Moen. The left wing, who had been used sparingly by the Rockets in his draft year, had only 15 points in 66 games.

Moen, who has played the second most NHL games than anyone selected in the fifth round in 2000, was selected on the high recommendation of Ian MacKenzie, the chief scout for the Calgary Flames at the time.

“I think Ian deserves a ton of credit and most of the satisfaction will come from him,” said Button, in regards to the pleasure of finding an NHL player in the latter part of the draft.

Still, though, Moen carved his way to the NHL after the Calgary Flames opted not to sign the tough Western leaguer, a move Button revealed was not motivated based on their doubt in Moen’s abilities, but rather his health.

“He had some concussion issues and at that time hadn’t played a whole lot,” revealed Button. “From a health perspective we weren’t prepared to take that risk when it was time to sign him. It had very little to do with hockey and more with his health. At that point in time we weren’t prepared to take that risk.”

After being signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of his junior career with Kelowna, Moen joined the team as a regular player in 2003-04, playing in all 82 games for Chicago, amassing six points. He spent the 2004-05 season with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, where he collected 20 points in 79 games.

Jukka Hentunen, RW – 6th Round, 166th Overall (HPK Hameenlinna, FNL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 38

Overage winger Jukka Hentunen was selected by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round, 166th overall. Then 26, Hentunen was selected with the hopes of immediately filling a scoring need on the Flames, who lacked a strong offensive squad. It was thought that Hentunen could step in right away and provide some offense for the organization, much like he had with HPK Hameenlinna, where he registered 45 points in 53 games.

“Juuka was a good pick, and again he was a guy, an older European, that was a really good scorer,” explained Button. “I had the privilege of seeing him play quite a bit with one of my Dallas prospects, Niko Kapanen. The scouts felt he could add a little bit of scoring. He came in and gave us a boost.”

The boost was short-lived, though. Hentunen spent a mere 28 games with the Calgary Flames, before being dealt to the Nashville Predators for a conditional draft pick. Still, though, Button looks favorably on the selection.

“At that point in the draft, though, that type of player was an excellent pick,” he proclaimed.

After spending a total of 38 games in the National Hockey League, Hentunen returned to Europe, where he spent one season with Jokerit of the Finnish league. Hentunen, a native of Joroinen, Finland, has spent the last two seasons with Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss league.

David Hajek, D – 8th Round, 239th Overall (Chomutov, CZE Jr)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Although projected to be a longshot, the Calgary Flames made lanky defenseman David Hajek their eighth selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, 239th overall. Hajek, a native of Chomutov, Czech Republic, possessed an excellent stride and underrated vision on the ice. It also didn’t hurt that he was 6’3, 200lbs, either.

Still though, he was more than just another big body, as Button recalls.

“He came to one of our training camps one year and acquitted himself quite well,” he said. “That was more for him to get acquitted to the NHL club and for the NHL club to get acquitted with him.”

Now 25, Button believes that Hajek could return to North America to further his hockey career.

“I think you’re looking at David Hajek and he might find a way to come over,” explained Button. “I don’t know if he’ll be an NHL player, but he might be able to find his way into the minors and work his way from there.”

While the Calgary Flames still retain the rights to David Hajek, it appears as though he’s content staying in the Czech Republic. Hajek has spent the last six seasons playing in various Czech leagues, and spent the 2004-05 season with Chomutov.

Micki Dupont, D – 9th Round, 270th Overall (Kamloops Blazers, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 18

After an outstanding overage season with the Kamloops Blazers that saw him total 88 points in 70 games, the Calgary Flames selected a homegrown talent in Micki Dupont. With exceptional vision and offensive skills, it appeared that the only shortcoming for Dupont was his height. Standing at 5’9 and 180lbs, Dupont lacked the size that NHL organizations were in search of.

“The only thing he lacked was height,” remarked Button, who continued to rave about his offensive abilities, especially his aptitude at quarterbacking a power play.

Twenty years of age at the time of the draft, Dupont jumped right to the Saint John Flames the following season, making a smooth transition while aiding the Flames to a Calder Cup championship.

“He was a terrific player, a key part of the Calder Cup championship in Saint John in 2001,” reflected Button.

“(He) played some really good games for us in Calgary and gave us some really good power play production. At the end of the day we ended up trading him for Shean Donovan, so I think that speaks as much for Micki Dupont as it does for anybody.”

Added Button: “I can’t say enough good things about Micki Dupont. Other than lacking height, Micki Dupont is a real good player and a real terrific person.”

After being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Shean Donovan, Micki Dupont opted to leave North America and continue his career in Germany, playing for the Berlin Polar Bears for the 2003-04 season. Dupont returned to the Polar Bears for the locked out 2004-05 season.

Summary

In retrospect, it appears as though the draft didn’t adequately stock the organizational depth charts. According to Button, it is safe to say that the draft was a disappointment.

“I personally have a philosophy that says you need to get two players out of every draft that can contribute to your team in any way, shape or form,” explained Button. “It doesn’t mean they have to be an all-star, but you need two. If you get five out of every two, you’re doing a very, very good job. If you were to tell me that only one came out of the draft, I’d have to step back and say that that’s a disappointment.”

With only Brent Krahn remaining in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft cupboard, it appears that the scouting staff in Calgary didn’t have much luck in the way of developing talent for the Flames. In retrospect, though, they did draft two players, Travis Moen and Jarrett Stoll, who have gone on to play hockey on a full-time basis with other NHL organizations, possibly the most frustrating facet for the red and yellow.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.