Despite the flurry of trading activity in the Top 10, the Islanders managed to hold tight and select three players with their elite picks. As expected the four premier players were all gone when the Isles stepped up to the podium at the 5th position. Connelly is an ideal selection for them at this spot, he is a dynamic offensive talent with explosive one-on-one moves and great vision. Thankfully Milbury and the gang shyed away from the larger but less prolific Beech. The Isles have a glut of good young centers who seem to be capable number two men. Connelly has all the earmarks of a legitimate number one center, something the team has craved but not had in many years. He was on pace for 50 goals and 100 points before a broken leg ended his season. Had he stayed healthy and posted those numbers he would have been ranked at least fifth by everybody.
At the eighth pick the Isles once again made a solid pick with Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt has all the tools to succeed, blazing speed, tremendous size and strength, and great hands. The organization has been itching for a prime time power forward for many years and Pyatt seems to fit the bill. They also now have great depth at this position with Pyatt and the recent acquisitions of Josh Green and Brad Isbister.
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With the 11th overall pick in a very deep draft the Rangers are in position to walk away with a very solid player for their future. Below is a brief list of some of the players the Rangers have focused in on with the 11th pick.
Taylor Pyatt: LW,6’4 220 pounds: A power left winger in the making, Pyatt is first on the Rangers wish list. He has super size, a great shot and great speed. His speed is what seperates him from the rest of big power fowards available. Forget about him playing in the NHL for at least two years. However he is the type of kid who could turn around and be the ultimate power foward when he does. He is such a big kid he could be a huge hit or a miss. He has to feel totally comfortable with his body and use his size more often.
Jani Rita: RW,6’1, 205: This kid is a power foward just like Pyatt. While his size isn’t as good as Pyatt’s his skill level is world class. Questions have come up about his scoring, but when you look below the surface you see his lackluster linemates and you see him playing against guys who in some cases are 4 or 5 years his elder. He will score at the NHL level… and in my opinion will net 40 goals someday at this level. He is actually better then Pyatt and if I had to chose I’d take Rita.
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With less than a week before the Boston Bruins host the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins announced the free agent signing of Jeff Zehr. Drafted 31st overall by the Islanders in ’97, Zehr never came to terms with New York and now, at age 20, finds himself competing for a spot on the Boston Bruins roster. “I’m not going to Boston thinking that I’ll play a year in the minors,” Zehr told reporters of the Boston Globe following his signing. “I’m thinking I’ll make the club. I play a feisty game. I like to be involved out there, in all key situations.”
This future power forward, who has been compared to Brendan Shanahan, notched 24 goals in 57 games last year and knows what is expected of him. “The Bruins are keying on me, telling me I’ll get a chance – and now it’s up to me to make the most of it.” Voted by OHL coaches as the West Division’s most improved player for 1996-1997, Zehr should have no problems adjusting to the pro game assuming he can develop his game at the same pace.
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The 1999 Entry Draft will be an important one for the Florida Panthers. After years of bad draft picks, busts, trades, and the graduation of Parrish, Kvasha, Spacek and Worrell, the Florida Panthers now find themselves with a weak prospect pool and many holes to fill.
The biggest hole to fill is obviously goaltending. With Sean Burke’s contract set to expire in the year 2000, and UFA Kirk McLean likely gone, the Panthers do not have a young goalie ready to step in, not even as an NHL backup. The Panthers best goaltending prospect, Todd MacDonald is hardly good enough to land an AHL starting job. The Panthers are in desperate need of a young, apprenticing goaltender in the system.
The Panthers also lack skilled forwards, especially at center. With the exception of Novoseltsev, a high-end scoring forward, and Nilson, a checking forward, the Panthers don’t have much to write home about. Center is the Panthers 2nd most lacking position with only career-AHL types such as Herbert Vasiljevs and Ryan Johnson in their system. The Panthers would love to have a skilled playmaking center in the system, along with a developing 2-way checking center.
As for the defense corps, Panthers GM Bryan Murray has assembled a solid group of defense prospects, many of them hardly known in hockey circles. Boyle, Allen, and Ratchuk bring offensive games, while Jakopin, Ference, Kuba, Teterenko, and Rossiter play a solid defensively. Although the Panthers lack a true #1 defensemen, they have many solid defense prospects, many of which could be NHL bound. Read more »
After last season’s contract dispute with Juha Lind, the Stars have finally come to terms with the left-winger on a two year deal. This move provides much needed speed and skill to the Stars lineup, and at the same time injects youth into an aging group of forwards. The Stars openly admit that they made a mistake in letting Juha go back to Finland last year, and I agree. Further more, I still maintain that Benoit Houge would not have been needed if Lind were still around. Look for Juha to be penciled into the second line rotation, with a roster spot all but assured.
5-10 180lbs 1/2/74 92-DRAFT #178
’98-’99 team: Jokerit (Fin.)
’98-’99 statistics: gp-50 g-20 a-19 pts-39 pim-22 +16
BYE-BYE TUREK, WE’LL MISS YOU
In a move that was heavily scrutinized, the Dallas Stars quickly shipped Roman Turek to the St.Louis Blues for a third round pick in 1999. However, the Stars pointed out in the papers that they were trying to make a deal with Atlanta not to take Turek, but they didn’t receive a response in time. This left Dallas up against the deadline, and resulted in low-balling tactics by interested teams, thus fulfilling their worst nightmares. In turn, the Stars traded Roman for little in return rather than risk losing him for nothing on Friday. So now all Stars fans will get to see Roman work his magic with a conference rival, and at the same time will see the once great Grant Fuhr replaced as the #1 goalie. Hopefully this move won’t come back to haunt the Stars, but I’m afraid it will. Read more »
Just when you thought it was safe to put away your hockey sweater for the summer, I am back with a quick down-and-dirty on the latest developments in the Boston Bruins camp since the season ended over a month ago. With the draft quickly approaching, we will take one final look at the Bruins’ biggest needs and who they may select to fulfill those requirements. Many thanks to those who responded to my earlier HF Draft Preview with good feedback that has allowed for one final tweak before the main event in Boston on Saturday.
Jeff Zehr. The big news in Boston last week was the signing of 1997 Islanders 2nd- round draft pick Zehr, who comes to the Bruins after a solid OHL career. He has shown promise as a power forward and seems to have every inclination of earning a place on Boston’s roster this year. He’ll have his work cut out for him, but this is an excellent move by management after Zehr could not come to terms in New York.
Eric Van Acker. Van Acker is a big(6’5, 220 pound) blueliner out of Baie-Comeau of the Quebec League and was Boston’s 11th choice, 218th overall in 1997. He’s a meat-and-potatoes stay- at-home defender who does not generate much offense, but could develop into a solid pro with the right seasoning.
Jim Baxter. The Oshawa Generals’ defenseman had a great year, leading team defensemen in scoring and establishing himself as a real power play point-producer. Boston’s 9th choice(180) in 1997 couldn’t agree on a deal with Boston and re-enters the draft.
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It’s been about 2 weeks since the Avalanche lost to the Stars in a dramatic 7 game series. But altogether, this season has been anything but a disappointment. It’s been somewhat of a surprise, to say the least. In fact, the biggest surprise comes from rookie scoring leader, Milan Hejduk. Before the season began, this kid was an unknown. I recall looking at the Avalanche Top 20 prospect lists here at Hockey’s Future, and at other websites, and nowhere was Milan Hejduk to be seen. I remember watching training camp in Colorado Springs, and asking myself, “Who is that guy?” Hejduk is an emigma no longer. In fact, he was a key playoff component on Colorado’s first line with Fleury and Sakic. As soon as he was injured, the production of that line flopped. We can always play the ‘What If’ game, but we can all bet that the Avs chances of winning the Cup would have been significantly greater had Hejduk not been injured. We all knew what to expect from Chris Drury, and he broke those expectation too. He deserves the Calder. One of the unsung heroes of the season is Dan Smith, who was called up early in the season to fill in for Colorado’s shambled and injury plagued defense. He did a better job than a call-up should have to do, and that will earn him some good points in training camp next season.
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The Islanders fire sale has continued with the departure of their best player, Ziggy Palffy out west to the Kings. As upsetting as this move is the Isles did manage to land some quality young players, as well as a third top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. Olli Jokinen is one of the premier young talents in the league. He was eased into the Kings line up this season and was impressive despite his decieving stats. He was a superstar in the Finnish men’s league for two years as a 17 and 18 year old posting better than a point a game, and has also shined in international competition. His acquisition gives the Isles the 3rd (Jokinen), 4th (Luongo), and 5th (Brewer) overall picks from the talented 1997 draft.
Josh Green is a huge winger and was a dominant scorer at the junior level. He has put up solid numbers in the AHL and played 27 games with the Kings last season put only saw limited ice time. He has great size and potential and should be able to find his scoring touch in the NHL with some quality ice time. The Isles also acquired towering defenseman Matthieu Biron, the KIngs first round pick last year. Biron gets better every year and has shown signs of becoming an offensive presence to go along with his sound positional play and toughness. It would not be difficult to project a huge blueline for the Isladers with Kenny Jonsson (6-3 197), Eric Brewer, (6-4 201), Zdeno Chara (6-9 255), Biron (6-6 215), and Vladimir Chebaturkin (6-2 213).
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Well, the emptiness that accompanied the abrupt end to a dream season for the Leafs is finally fading and it is just under 3 months from training camp. Hopefully, the Leafs will have had some time to heal, to work on their conditioning and their skills headed into the 99-00 season. Expectations will be much higher for this final four team coming into next season, so they had better be ready. The Leafs will not “sneak up” on anyone in 99-00 as they attempt to take the next step.
The playoff experience had to be invaluable for the young Leafs. Mats Sundin himself said that he learned more about hockey in the 17 playoff games than he did in his previous 8 years in the league.
The expansion draft comes up next Friday and the NHL entry draft is on Saturday. Pat Quinn has stated that the Leafs need to add some physical play to the forward positions without sacrificing skill. Mike Smith, who is still in limbo as to his status, stated that the Leafs probably wouldn’t be too active in the free agent sweepstakes this off-season (which begins July 1st) because the Leafs do not want to take away too much icetime from young, promising players such as Adam Mair and Tomas Kaberle. I don’t believe that they have come this far to part with much, if any, of the young core of the Leafs’ players. Young players who should continue to get better as the next few seasons wear on. President and current Leafs’ GM, Ken Dryden has stated the goal for the Toronto team is to consistently be among the top 5 teams in the NHL.
The main needs: Read more »
The New Jersey Devils have had a great draft history over the past few years, putting the most players in the National Hockey League of any organization in the league. Almost 40 in the last 4 seasons. This kind of success must continue in order for the Devils to be competitive. Although the Devils first round pick is not until the 27th overall. The Devils have even with late picks, had tremendous success. I am sure that GM Lou Lamoriello will make this one no exception.
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