In the 6th round of this year’s entry draft, the AIK defender Jan Sandström was picked by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. If 21-year-old Sandström makes it to the NHL, he will also be the 6th player from a small town in northern Sweden called Piteå to join the league.
Piteå is a small town located in northern Sweden. The city with it’s suburbs has about 25 000 inhabitants and the whole county about 40 000. There is no logical explanation to why this particular town should be such a good place for hockey players to develop, but apparently, it is. The city only has two indoor rinks. Pitea’s arena only has room for 1920 spectators and is ready to be torn down. Piteå Hockey has also suffered a lot because of their economy in the past years, but despite of all this, the town seems to develop talented hockey players in a very rare and interesting way.
The first Piteå player to play in the NHL was the Islander defenseman Stefan Persson. During his NHL career (1977-86), he was fortunate to win three Stanley Cups with the Islanders. Persson played 622 NHL regular season games, and scored 369 points and 574 PIM. In a recent voting among journalists he was nominated to be the 6th best Swedish defenseman ever to play the game of hockey.
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I know it seems a bit early to be looking ahead to the 1999-2000 OHL season, but the way I see it, it’s never too early to look ahead to next season. The 1998-99 season was a very exciting one for the OHL. The Ottawa 67’s won the Memorial Cup and put together a 14-game winning streak, while the Barrie Colts went undefeated in 31 straight home games.
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When Nashville Predators conditioning camp opens this week, all eyes will be on one particular player. David Legwand. Legwand is expected to make a splash in training camp and make the big jump to the next level from the OHL.
Legwand’s numbers signifcantly dropped in 98-99 after an MVP rookie season with the Plymouth Whalers. Some nights he was totally invisible on the ice. He looked more Sergei Fedorov or Alexander Mogilny skating the ice and not knowing what to do with the great skills he possesses unlike the Mike Modano he is usually compared to. Many point to his work on two way play to improve defensively as a reason his numbers dropped. His numbers were still solid, but for Legwand, a major disappointment. Others point to a case of mono he contracted during Predators training camp as a reason for the drop off and he was struggling to recover from the illness. His performance at the World Championship competitions also caused the critics to stand up and rise. He did not stir anything up for Team USA causing some to believe if he is the real deal.
When Legwand’s Whalers got bounced from the OHL playoffs, the Preds immediately signed him, in order to get Legwand into an NHL game. Legwand’s dream had come true. In the final game of the season against New Jersey, he made his first appearance at the Nashville Arena. The Preds were happy with his performance. He didnt make any serious mistakes and took it easy but General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz knew immediately something was missing from Legwand’s game. Size.
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A funny thing happened on the Ontario Hockey League coaching carousel
this year. While teams in trouble often look at younger coaches, this
season’s selections include coaches with previous Ontario Hockey League
experience. Even Bill Stewart – recently hired by the Barrie Colts after
being let go by the New York Islanders – enjoyed success previously with
Oshawa, taking the Generals to the Memorial Cup in 1997.
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Eye of the Hurricane a Hurricane’s Draft Review
As the Hurricanes look to relocate for the third time in what seems as many years, they bring along two future players that could end up making a mark for themselves in Greensboro. The Canes have been seeking a good powerplay quaterback and offensive defencmen for quite sometime now. They got a good one in David Tanabe.
Tannabe played for Wisconsin this past season, and made a name for himself by sticking with the US World Junior team. Although his numbers weren’t that great, they must have been overlooked due to his age and speed. Tannabe could perhaps be the fastest defencmen in the draft. He’s alot like Bret Hedican but with more offensive potential. He makes great passes and posses a very good shot. He’s a bit below the average size for a defencmen at 6 foot 1, but he’s still growing. Canes fans will have to wait for him. He’s in the College program and it doesn’t look like he’ll opt out to get a chance to play in the NHL. That’s not a bad thing though. Most likely the Canes will wait for him, he’s got such a good package of speed and skill that the wait won’t be long. After the Canes experiment with Paul Coffey faltered it appears as though they have found an offensive defencmen that they have craved.
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Since the draft on Saturday, I have seen and heard reactions from various people, their comments covering the entire spectrum. Some have said that the Lightning had the worst draft of all the teams and others have said that they had one of the best. Let me give you my views on why I think that they had one of the better drafts on Saturday.
Let’s start with the focal point of the entire controversy, the first round trades. Everybody who says that Tampa blew it, says so because they traded away the chance to draft Pavel Brendl. In fact is, if the trades had not come along, they would have drafted Brendl even if they had kept the first overall pick. They would not have taken a chance on Stefan, and the only other possibility would have been a move to acquire both Sedins. Brendl was on top of their list by far. When they heard that Vancouver had already made moves to get the twins, and they already knew that Atlanta wanted Stefan, they saw the opportunity to move down and still get their man. They made the trade to move down to fourth and got two third round picks for that. Then, the Rangers called, and they knew the Rangers really wanted Brendl. They ended up getting two players, Sundstrom and Cloutier, along with two picks next year, a first round and a third round for their #4 overall. So if you break down the trades it works out to essentially this….
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With the 17th pick in the 1999 NHL entry draft the St. Louis Blues are proud to select… Barret Jackman.
The Blues have built an impressive stable of forward prospects in a short period of time, but depth on the blue line was obviously a concern at the draft on Saturday. Barret Jackman, the first of six defenseman selected, stands only 6’0-1/2″ tall, but could grow an inch or so by the time he’s ready for the NHL. One of the most physical players in the draft, Barret throws his 200 Ibs. around very well, and is a strong skater with excellent hockey sense. He reads the play well at both ends of the ice. He won’t put up big offensive numbers, but don’t be fooled by his 259 penalty minutes. He had 8 goals and 36 assists good for 44 points; an improvement from last years 13 points as a rookie. With his hard accurate slapshot and willingness to join the rush, Barret could develop into a 30 to 45 point defenseman in the NHL.
Peter Smrek, another defenseman, was discovered by European scout Peter Stastny. Smrek’s play at the World Junior Championships had his draft stock rising, and even at 20 years old the Blues took a chance on him in the third round.
Chad Starling, the fourth round pick by the Blues, is a hulking defenseman that uses his reach to his advantage but needs to get stronger and more physical. At 6-6 207lbs. he already has the size, he just needs to improve his puck skills and skating. Starling is definitely a project and will need plenty of time to develop.
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BOSTON: The Flyers brass came to Boston, armed with great intentions and a solid plan. But a step out of character by the hometown Bruins threw a monkeywrench into Bobby Clarke’s plans when they selected Nick Boynton of the Ottawa 67′s with the 22nd pick in Saturday’s draft. Unfortunately for Flyers fans, their fall back plan certainly left something to be desired. The Flyers selected Maxime Ouellet, a big, talented goalie from Quebec, who now gives the Flyers three “goalies of the future” in their system.
Clarke had his heart set on taking Boynton, who had re-entered the draft, after failing to come to terms with both the Capitals and the Hawks over the past two years since being drafted ninth by Washington in 1997. Boynton is coming off of a great season with the Memorial Cup champs and was named MVP of the final tournament. Being twenty years old, Boynton could have pushed for an NHL job or could have been sent across the parking lot to the Phantoms for some pro seasoning. The guy has the size and speed to go along with a nice offensive game. And Clarke was hoping that the potential contract battles with Boynton and his agent Anton Thun would have kept the poorer NHL teams from selecting Boynton.
He almost made it.
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With the first step to financial recovery finally behind them, the Penguins began a new era with the draft on Saturday. None of their draft picks this season are expected to save the franchise like player-turned-owner Mario Lemieux did, but nonetheless, there could be a couple of impact players in this draft for the Penguins.
The Penguins seemed to make an attempt to fill some needs, such as their lack of depth on the left side and lack of size on the blueline. They drafted one goaltender, three defensemen, and seven forwards (six left wings, one right wing). Three picks came from Europe, two from the OHL, two from the ECAC, and one from each of the QMJHL, WHL, WCHA, and USHL.
Here’s a look at their draft picks this year:
1: Konstantin Kolstov, LW(1st Round, 18th overall)
Vitals: 6’0″ 187lbs 18 years old
Stats: Cherepovec (Russia) 33 Games, 3G-0A-3PTS 8PIM.
Belarus (WJC) 6 Games, 4G-3A-7PTS 30PIM.
Belarus (U-18) 5 Games, 5G-2A-7PTS.
A wild card who was unknown until the World Junior Championships, Kolstov is touted as the best skater in the draft with good speed and acceleration, some even go as far to say that he is faster than Pavel Bure. He is a good puckhandler and has shown his offensive skills in international tournaments, despite his low numbers in the Russian Elite League. He’s probably at least two years away and will spend at least all of next season in Russia.
2: Matt Murley, LW – (2nd Round, 51st overall)
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The 1999 draft is over and the first round was as European as expected. From a Finnish point of view this draft went surprisingly well – 18 Finns got drafted. It’s a quite high number when you compare it to previous years.
There’s this interesting trend going on in Finland: 1990s has been the decade of hockey in Finland. Hockey is no longer sports, it’s entertainment business and a legitimate career option to young boys. The number of young hockey players is going up all the time and with Jari’s, Teemu’s and Jere’s example every kid wants to make it in the NHL one day.
Ten years ago there were no hockey agents in Finland, now there are plenty of them. Our junior national teams, (especially our U18 team), have been very succesful in last 5 years. Still only 2 goalies (Ahonen, Jokela), 2 D-men (Harikkala, Kesä) and 2 forwards (Salmelainen, Hyytiä) got drafted from this year’s U18 gold medal team. Coach Jouko Lukkarila said ”we don’t play for the scouts, we play to win.”
A new trend is that players who really haven’t been noticed by national team coaches get drafted now (Sainomaa, Ruutu, Rajamäki). It indicates that NHL team scout more and more European players and they have now full time scouts following the European junior leagues and not just elite players at international tournaments as they used to do.
Here are the Finnish players who got drafted: Read more »