Naming Kevin Lowe is a breath of fresh air to Edmonton, even though it came down to the last minute the best man for the job was ready and willing to take the franchise to the level of success they are accustomed to. Several attributes of the new General Manager will hopefully spill over onto the team. With his fiery temperament, competitiveness and unwillingness to say die he may mentally be the shot in the arm the players need to give them a gritty edge.
Winning six Stanley Cups, 5 from Edmonton and one in New York, and a couple years of coaching was enough of a criteria to the ownership group to name him the second General Manager in franchise history and it didn’t hurt that he was the pupil of Glen Sather for the better part of twenty years. Players were ecstatic and relieved when the announcement came in and ther was a resounding sigh in the locker room knowing that a big shakeup won’t happen. The Oilers respect and are confident in his abilities to guide the team.
Former teammate and CTV sports analyst Craig Simpson felt that this was the opportunity he has been waiting for and Kevin had his heart strings pulled by his ties to the city of Edmonton and the team. Since being the first draft pick in team history back in 1979, and being the player to score the first goal, Kevin has come full circle from prospect defenseman, to assistant coach, to head coach, and finally general manager.
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It is more or less official now. The John McMullen years are over for the Devils and new owners will be taking over shortly. However, the change in ownership does not mean there will be any changes at New Jersey’s draft table in Calgary on June 24.
Although still riding high after a second Stanley Cup victory in the last six seasons, you can be sure General Manager Lou Lamoriello will be more than ready for this year’s draft. With no assurance that the mysterious Lamoriello will return for next season, this could be his last hurrah.
Lamoriello and his staff, which includes unheralded chief scout David Conte, surely will be looking to continue the success of the past several years. There is no reason to expect the Devils will operate any differently from past years.
With a Stanley Cup winning team, there are usually not too many holes to fill. Therefore you can expect New Jersey will go after that proverbial best player available regardless of position. The Devils, with one of the NHL’s finest goaltenders in Martin Brodeur, still used first round picks to draft goalies in 1997 and 1999 (J.F. Damphousse and Ari Ahonen) despite the perception the club needed offensive players.
Lamoriello also will not be afraid to make a trade on draft day. The Devils had success moving down to draft Brodeur in 1990, as well as moving up to take Scott Gomez in 1998.
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Decisions, decisions, with only a few days left until the draft in Calgary the Flames have some BIG decisions to make. If the Flames opt to stay put at the ninth position, they must fill one of two of their long term needs, a goaltender or a strong impact forward capable of scoring 30+ goals. The players most likely to be around at the ninth pick are the three Russians, “C” Mikhail Yakubov, “RW” Pavel Vorobiev, “LW” Alexei Smirnov, a Czech “C” Vaclav Nedorost, and Canadian “G” Brett Krahn. With Calgary having 3 picks in the first two rounds they will be able to satisfy both needs whether they pick a goalie first or a scoring forward, there are a few solid players in the second round, “G” J.F Racine,”G” Peter Hamerlik, “LW” Max Birbraer,”C” Shane Endicott. And a host of other solid centermen.
However, the Flames may also want to trade up in the draft. 1st overall seems to be up for grabs according to Mike Milbury. With the draft here in Calgary, the Flames might want to make a little noise, giving up some youth and a pick for the Calgary man Dany Heatly. Giving up their ninth pick, possibly a second round pick, as well as Rico Fata, or Oleg Saprykin for the right to choose first overall. Fata would be the most likely to be traded, he is a right-winger and Calgary is very solid on that side of the ice.
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THE BAD NEWS:
As the Avs head into the 2000 draft, barring any surprise draft day trades, the Avs likely will not end up with a first round pick, any bluechip prospects, or anyone ready to fill holes immediately. The Avs have also lost a good chunk of their depth in the recent trades of Marc Denis and Robyn Reghyr. Other such notable prospects lost (or unsigned) in the last couple of seasons include Peter Ratchuk, Kevin Grimes, Mark Parrish, Martin Grenier, Ramzi Abid, Sami Pahlsson, and most notably, Marc Denis.
THE GOOD NEWS:
The prospect cabinet, though not as impressive as it used to be, is still pretty stocked, and the future is still looking pretty good, despite the loss of some key prospects. The Avs have had great luck finding diamonds in the rough, with such players as David Aebischer, Alex Ryazantsev, Dan Hinote, and Dan Smith. Such players may lack the hype of the players lost in trades or free agency, but they possess a combined work ethic that has made teams like Hershey the envy of the rest of the NHL.
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The 2000 NHL Entry Draft holds several options for the up start Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning hold 15 picks in this years draft, including two picks in the top ten. The Bolts pick at numbers five and eight in the first round. These picks have led to a lot of speculation as to what GM Rick Dudley has planned. Dudley has acknowledged that several teams have called in interest of the picks, and Dudley has made no secret that he is willing to trade the picks for immediate help on the team. If Dudley were to trade the picks look for a goaltender, veteran defenseman, and/or scoring winger to come back in return.
In the later rounds look for the Lightning to stock up on wingers and goaltenders, but don’t be surprised if a few more defensemen are added to the already talented corp.
As the draft draws near, the question most asked about the Lightning’s draft is not who they’ll take in the first round, but if they’ll be picking at all. With the 5th and 8th overall picks and the need for immediate help, General Manager Rick Dudley should probably stock up on extra cell phone batteries. All indications show that he has already fielded numerous calls about trading one or both of the picks. He has said publicly that he will trade them if it will improve the team. He looks at draft picks very much as he does players. They are assets. Although every team needs to have a strong system, one cannot dismiss the fact that from time to time immediate help for a team outweighs the need to bolster their youth.
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SCOOP up those Messiers. This was my thinking in the first year of this wave of expansion, but I quickly realized that if your salary starts out outrageous, you will sooner than later contend with an outrageous salary transferring over to guys on your roster who were ranked #16 on their original teams rosters. Follow me on this: The “star” comes and makes 4 mil. and plays first line wing for example. The guy you got playing second line gets lucky and scores 5 goals and 20 points less than your ‘star’, so when his contract is up, he goes to arbitration and has a strong case for a huge raise. this continues throughout your entire roster.
When there was the first wave of expansion from 6 to 12 teams, a guy could come in from an original six roster and establish himself as a let’s say, #1 or #2 defenseman, on an expansion team. An original club would see his improvement over the course of say three years, and might have a chance to trade for him. THEY would not because he would want the money level he was getting on the weaker club. (He IS worth it you say?) He may be…but when he arrives your #2-4 guys know he is as good as they are and getting paid more than he is worth compared to them. The term “it will throw off our salary base” has always been a major concern by NHL owners even when they were making a killing at the gate, and had players at next to nothing wages.
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With the Red Wings forward prospects cupboard bare, the chance of losing 2 promising young players in the expansion draft, an aging roster, and no #1 pick in 2001 it will be critical for the Wings to pick up 2 or 3 forwards with some skill in this years draft. With this in mind GM Ken Holland sent a large portion of his scouting staff to Europe at the end of the season, hoping to uncover a few talented forwards.
The Red Wings have only 3 or 4 forwards in their organization with a good chance of making an NHL roster, and none of them has 1st or 2nd line talent. They have not drafted a contributing NHL forward since Tomas Holmstrom in 1994, and have not drafted a 1st or 2nd line player since 1990 when they picked Keith Primeau and Slava Kozlov.
In the coming expansion draft (June 23rd) the Wings stand to lose 2 of the following young players(C-Stacy Roest, LW-Daryl Laplante, D-Maxim Kuznetsov, D-Yan Golubovsky, G-Manny Legace). The Wings decided it was more important to protect proven NHL veterans Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, so it looks like the future is still being mortgaged in hockeytown.
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The Los Angeles Kings face a critical couple of weeks as they will hope Minnesota and Columbus do not clean them out in the expansion draft and then hope a skilled forward lasts to their pick in the expansion draft.
The Kings expansion protected list was a couple players shy of what the Kings were hoping for. After potentially holding their cards too long the Kings had to protect two goalies and therefore could not protect Sean O’Donnell and Pavel Rosa. The loss of either or both of these players would hurt the Kings. Rosa is the most tradable forward in the Kings organization and after suffering through some horrible seasons, Sean O’Donnell has turned himself into a solid blueliner and an imposing fighter whose lack of penalty minutes speaks to his evolution. He is also one of the top scrappers on the team. Since O’Donnell knocked out Jeff Odgers a couple years ago, most enforcers have steered clear of Odie.
Rosa is still an attractive offensive forward that the Kings could package with a goalie after the draft and possibly get a major contributor. Rosa is also the best of a poor collection of forwards in the Kings system and his departure would leave the cupboard bare.
The 2000 entry draft is vital for the Kings future. They seem to be solid at goalie and defensemen, so drafting some forwards with size and skill who can contribute will be key.
When the 1999 NHL draft came and went everyone seemed excited with the idea that the Rangers had managed to reel in two blue chip prospects. One fact that was ignored however, was that the cost of adding these players was the loss of a first round pick in the 2000 draft. The Rangers would have drafted 8th overall and they may have ended up with a solid player, but the fact of the matter is the 1999 draft was far superior to the 2000 version in both depth and initial talent levels. A year later the Rangers have two kids who should fight for an NHL spot while it appears Tampa Bay will merely get a “good” player with a chance at the NHL. While nothing is for certain the Rangers should end up with the better end of the stick on this one. With a new GM in the fold the team attempts to pull off the feat of drafting a solid NHL prospect in the second round, something they have had very limited success with in the past 4 years.
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Finally the Oilers may discontinue their horrendous draft record from the years 1984 to 1992, where not one of their first round picks made the team, by having another solid day at picking and choosing the hope for the future. Under the Current salary restrictions of being a small market team Edmonton must build through the draft since it has very little chance of competing on the free agent market. Also, development of these players is even more crucial because of the recent resignation of Glen Sather who made one savvy deal after another to keep his team from falling into the basement of the league.
This years war room is headed by director of player personnel Kevin Pendergast who has been with the Oilers for nine years and is on the lookout for players who might eventually have to replace Doug Weight since he is a free agent in two seasons. A big scoring center is at the top of the list, and preferably one that could possibly come and play in a couple of seasons. This would be a luxury they have not had since Jason Arnott.
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