The Rangers’ defensive depth can not be overlooked. Although the Rangers’ defense was horrible last season (they gave up the most goals against in the NHL), the future blue line does look bright on Broadway. I fully expect at least one rookie defenseman to stick with the team this year for the entire season. Glen Sather added veteran defenseman Igor Ulanov and Dave Karpa to the club, therefore taking away the opportunity for more youngsters to make the team on defense. Last year’s rookie defensemen, Tomas Kloucek and Dale Purinton, were bright spots on a bad team, while others such as Mike Mottau and Peter Smrek impressed in a few games towards the end of the season. Tomas Kloucek will be out until around December, as he is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in a game late last season against the Atlanta Thrashers when his leg slammed awkwardly into the boards, but, it will take him longer than that to get back to the level where he was last season.
Unless a trade is made, there is a log jam at defense for the Rangers. Brian Leetch, a fully recovered Vladimir Malakhov, Kim Johnsson, Igor Ulanov and Dale Purinton appear to have spots locked up to start the season, while Dave Karpa will likely stay on as a 7th defenseman. Kloucek will still be recovering, as will Sylvain Lefebvre who had shoulder surgery this off-season. The 6th spot is up for grabs during training camp, and whoever plays the best will likely wind up being the one who stays with the big club. Mike Mottau and Peter Smrek s Read more »
For much of the early part of Philadelphia Flyers history, goaltending was a major strength of the organization. From Bernie Parent to the young Pete Peeters to Pelle Lindbergh to the young Ron Hextall, the Flyers rarely had reason for concern between the pipes. For much of the last decade plus, however, the Flyers have been suspect in goal, with draftees such as Dominic Roussel and Tommy Söderström failing to take the starting job and run with it and veterans such Hextall, Sean Burke, and John Vanbiesbrouck suffering letdowns at crucial moments.
In recent years, the organization has re-stocked its goaltending depth through the draft; nabbing 1999-2000 rookie sensation Brian Boucher in the first round of the 1995 draft; Jean-Marc Pelletier (now with the Carolina organization) in the second round of the 1997 draft; 1999-2000 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the year Antero Niittymäki in the sixth round of the 1998 draft; and Maxime Ouellet, who is considered a franchise-goalie caliber prospect in the first round of the 1999 draft.
Last season, the Flyers used a mid-round draft pick to take veteran Czech star Roman Cechmanek, hoping that Cechmanek could step in as Boucher’s backup. Instead, as Boucher struggled, Cechmanek (after a brief stint in the AHL early in the season) not only claimed the starting job, he ended up as the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy and 4th in the Hart Trophy balloting. The big netminder, who will turn 31 by the end of the 2001-02 season, enters the upcoming season firmly entrenched as the Flyers star Read more »
When Petr Schastlivy was drafted 101st overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1998 draft, word got around that the Sens selected a steal. The young left winger was known as an exceptionally talented goal-scoring sniper with great puck-control ability. Drafted out of Torpedo-Yaroslavl, Petr was drawing raves from the Ottawa scouts, who were convinced that they had the potential to develop into a future NHL star.
After another year of development in Russia, Schastlivy moved on to North America and got his first taste of the game in the foreign continent. Starting off in the prospects camp at Hull, Schastlivy was easily one of the best players there. Despite certain defensive deficiencies, Petr stood out with his excellent 1 on 1 ability. Soon enough, he got the call to try out for the Senators at the team’s training camp.
When it came to first impressions, it is safe to say that Petr did not disappoint. In fact, in the seven games of camp, he tied the team lead in points with 6 in 7 games, Marian Hossa being the other to draw even. However, despite his performance, the 20-year old was cut, mainly because of the team’s depth of speed and skill. As a result, Schastlivy spent most of the year in the IHL, playing for the Grand Rapids Griffiths.
The training camp was not the only highlight of his career to that point. In fact, Schastlivy was the member of the 1999 Russian U-18 gold medal winning team in Winnipeg. There, he performed admirably with the likes of Maxim Balmochnykh, Maxim Afinogenov and Vitaly Vishnevksy.
A sol Read more »
On Beyond Cujo
As with the last three years, Curtis Joseph will be the main man between the pipes for the Maple Leafs but after that, the picture gets a bit fuzzy. Granted, with a new contract in his pocket, SEL All-Star Mikael Tellqvist is the odds on favourite to be the back-up, and barring a serious injury or a horrendous camp will probably get the job. However, how will the rest of the organization’s goaltending shake out? With Jimmy Waite now in Europe it looks like Mike Minard is pencilled in as the starter with an outside chance of swapping places with Tellqvist on the big team. But behind him, there are a few different choices.
, an undrafted backstop signed with Toronto a couple of years ago after impressing them in rookie camp. While he has made steady progress playing for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL, at this stage in his career he is still more of a suspect than a prospect having yet to post a save percentage above .900.
, 21 and three years removed from his selection in the third round by the Buds has had a difficult junior career. After a promising start he ran into major knee problems and really hasn’t been the same since. At this point it’s not so much a medical concern as it is a psychological one. Hodson’s confidence fell so low last season that he ended up splitting time with Robert McVicar and Geoff McIntosh.
, came, saw, and conquered in rookie camp after Toronto took a flyer on him in the eighth round of the 1999 Entry Draft, and th Read more »
When Lightning “designated hitter” Ryan Johnson was traded to the Florida Panthers last week, it opened a spot on the roster for a defensive forward. Take out your pencils and write in the name Jimmie Olvestad.
With the off-season additions of Juha Ylonen and Tim Taylor, RJ’s spot as the team’s primary face-off man, penalty killer and checking forward was lost. RJ played some wing last season and could have simply moved over to a checking wing, but it never got a chance to happen. His trade value was as high as his talent ceiling is low, so he was dealt for Vaclav Prospal to fill a hole on a scoring line. Acquiring a capable scoring liner is considerably more difficult than finding a capable checker, so the small hole RJ left can be filled by moving current Bolts up or over.
Or how about up AND over?
On July 16th, Lightning GM Rick Dudley announced the official signing of Swedish prospect Jimmie Olvestad to a three-year rookie contract. A speedy, gritty winger, Olvestad is being brought up from the prospect ranks and over the big frozen pond to North America.
“I think he’s coming over to make the team,” Dudley said. “I don’t believe he would’ve signed a contract unless he thinks he’s got a legitimate chance to play for us.” A few days later, in an interview on WDAE radio in Tampa, Dudley would mention the possibility of a fast checking line consisting of Ylonen, Taylor and Olvestad. Good-bye, RJ; hello, Ollie.
What Johnson took with him to Florida, Olvestad can bring to Tampa Bay. Their games are very similar at thi Read more »
On July 16th, 2001 the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim agreed to terms with goaltender Ilja Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov is one of the top goaltending prospects in the world. He joins a team that has excellent depth in goal.
J.S Giguere is Anaheims goaltender of the future and current back-up. Steve Shields is the #1 goaltender till Giguere is ready, and Greg Naumenko is the farm hand. The only spot that I think Bryzgalov can take is being the #1 goaltender in Cincy, which is/was Naumenko’s job. Naumenko was signed by the Ducks in 1999 for depth puposes but he impressed a lot of people in the Ducks organization, which is why he stuck around.
We are now in 2001 and a lot of things have changed. The Ducks have excellent depth in goal and Naumenko seems to be the odd man out. If Bryzgalov’s numbers
have anything in common with his talent we should see a rather big trade involving Giguere or Shields
or a small trade involving Naumenko, either way the Ducks need to trade one of their goaltenders, and
sorry Mr Naumenko, “You are the Weakest Link, Goodbye”.
After sitting out of the first round in six consecutive drafts (1990-95), the Blues have had a first round pick in four of the last six. This season, however, the Blues’ first-rounder was taken by Jersey, as part of the settlement for the previous Blues’ management having allegedly tampered with Scott Stevens in 1996. What’s more, last year’s first-rounder, Jeff Taffe, was dealt by GM Larry Pleau at the trade deadline as part of a package to bring power forward Keith Tkachuk to the Mound City. Adding to the equation are the off-season trade of 1996 first-round choice Marty Reasoner (for Doug Weight), and the consistent refusal of 1998 first-rounder Christian Backman to try his hand at the North American game.
With the Blues’ record of dealing, or simply not having, first-round picks, Ted Hampson and his staff have had to be aces at finding diamonds in the rough with mid-to-late-round picks. To their credit, they have consistently done so, and this year was no exception.
With the 57th pick overall in the second round, the Blues managed to latch onto Jay McClement. McClement, a 6-01, 193-pound left-shooting center for the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, fired 30 goals in his second season of major junior competition last year. More than his offense, however, McClement is known for his leadership qualities, his attention to defensive responsibilities and his physical, two-way style of play.
McClement was ranked 28th in North America by Central Scouting, who called him “a good skater with speed and strength,” and “a good goal scorer who ca Read more »
Already it is clear that there will be no shortage of young talent in the NHL next year, which could make for a spectacular Calder race. Although it is somewhat early, it is elementary to note that the race will be wide open, with prospects participating from all over the world, all with the potential of taking the trophy home.
However, the big picture is not the winner of the trophy itself, but rather the impressions left by the competing first-year players. Although winning the Calder is a spectacular way to start off a career, many would agree that oftentimes the winner is not always the best player in the long run. Although Calder winners were predicted by a handful of experts for years, lately the results have been somewhat surprising. Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Evgeni Nabokov in the eyes of many, unexpectedly crept into the mix and ultimately won the Calder. This year could be no exception. That is why I’ve decided to comprise a list of 15 prospects who I think will make the most noise next year.
With the highly touted names such as Brendl, Heatley, Kovalchuk, Klesla and Noronen, it wasn’t at all complicated to compile the names, however, it was the most difficult to leave a few off. Hence, in no particular order:
1. Dany Heatley. LW. Birth: 1981-01-21; 6’1, 206. Atlanta Thrashers. Read more »
For the first time since I have been Capitals Editor, I had a relatively easy time deciding who the number one prospect should be. After that, it gets a little more difficult and a lot more complicated comparing players who fill different roles and who are at different stages in their development. As I’m sure you’ll see, I’ve taken a relatively conservative approach to ranking most of the new players. After camp, I’ll probably change the rankings again since I will be able to better tell how the prospects stack up against eachother. Thanks again to Caitlin LoCascio for her rankings of Portland’s players to help in my work.
1. Brian Sutherby (C) – A player who is considered by many to be a better prospect than any of the three prospects included in the Jagr trade, Brian in my opinion is an easy choice to be ranked the Caps’ top prospect this time around. He had a great camp and proceeded to make major strides last year, and may be ready to challenge for a roster spot with the big club this fall. His defensive abilities and work ethic could help him stay in Washington, similar to the way that Trent Whitfield last year and Jeff Halpern two years ago were able to stay with the team. He does have another year of junior eligibility, and in the past the Caps have been very conservative with playing prospects in Washington – so if there is any question as to his readiness, he will likely be in juniors another year.
Read more »
MEANWHILE, DOWN ON THE FARM
Two new Baby Buds mean changes up front
As most Leaf fans know, the clubs AHL affiliate will be sporting a couple of new veterans in Bob Wren and Doug Doull come opening night at Mile One Stadium. Wren who has been in the Anaheim Mighty Ducks system for the past four seasons comes with the reputation as a nifty distributor fully intact having averaged 46 helpers a year in his stint with Disney. Doull, on the other hand, is almost his polar opposite. Not the most skilled player on the team puck-wise, the ex-St. John’s Flame is a never-say-die grinder who willingly drops the gloves when the occasion presents itself. By bringing in these two players there is more than one message being sent. With Wren in the line-up the top three pivots look to be the ex-Duck, Donald MacLean and Luca Cereda. This will allow the latter to develop in a stress free environment while still presenting a challenge as far as climbing up the rotation is concerned. It also heralds the conversion to wing of more than one Leaf prospect, the two coming readily to mind being Jeff Farkas and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Farkas, without question, is no surprise here. The Leafs have been grooming him for a spot on the wing for a year or so now. However, last year at times due to necessity, he lined up in the middle. Ponikarovsky, while playing outside in his limited stints with the big club, spent the bulk of his time in the middle when with St. John’s. As Toronto is thick with pivots and lacking in scoring wingers at the lower levels, look for the Ukrania Read more »