Following is an early-season look at the Top 50 players available for the
1998 NHL Draft. The draft is scheduled for Saturday, June 27, 1998 at
Buffalo’s Marine Midland Arena.
1. Vincent Lecavalier-C-Rimouski-6-3/177–With a blend of speed, quickness,
great puck skills and excellent on-ice vision, Lecavalier is a dynamic
offensive force. While earlier comparisons to Mario Lemieux may be
unwarranted, Lecavalier could be a superstar. He needs to get stronger,
improve his playa way from the puck and raise his intensity level.
2. Manny Malhotra-C-Guelph-6-2/205–A strong two-way pivot who knows how to
create offense. Malhotra is strong on his skates and a fine playmaker who is
willing to battle along the boards. He is also a team leader who thrives
3. Brad Stuart-D-Regina-6-1/200–A solid, steady blueliner, Stuart is a
prototypical defenseman. He has good size and strength, moves the puck out
of danger effectively, and is a smart one-on-one defender. He also has an
excellent shot and recovery speed.
4. Rico Fata-C-London-5-11/200–One of the most talented players in the
draft, Fata remains a bit of a mystery. With all his talent, why hasn’t he
put it all together yet? The physical tools are there, but it’s the
intangibles that has teams concerned. His status as a high-end pick could be Read more »
Despite the Capitals’ mediocre record of 2-6-2 through the past ten games, the rookies have been putting on a show, particularly Richard Zednik. After a few years of being shuttled back and forth between Washington and Portland of the AHL, the young Slovak has earned a regular spot with the Caps alongside fellow rookie Jan Bulis. A sparkplug catalyst, Zednik provides the Caps with a jump start when they’re behind and his refreshing enthusiasm reinstates the meaning of the word ‘game’.
The Capitals are know as a gritty club that is strong defensively and high in character. All signs point to Richard Zednik being a prototypical Cap. The left winger reminds some of a bigger(though not much at 5-10, 176) Theo Fleury in the feisty way he scraps and instigates his fair share of penalties. Zednik is small by NHL standards but strong as an ox and extremely well-conditioned. He spends much of his time digging for the puck in the corners and trenches, as well as setting up a screen for loose rebounds in the slot. Richard seems to be made of rubber in that every time he’s checked, he bounces right back up. He also has no qualms in taking on the biggest, baddest boys in the NHL, throwing his smallish frame around much the way Sabres’ Mike Peca does.
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Jeff Zehr, who was selected in the second round with the Islanders third choice 31st overall in the 1997 Entry Draft, is currently in hockey limbo. Zehr’s junior team, Windsor (OHL) has decided to punish him for missing curfew. This punishment has been so severe that Zehr was told he will no longer play for Windsor. In fact, if a trade can not be made between Windsor and another junior team, Zehr will be forced to sit out the entire season. His only other foreseeable option would be a callup by the New York Islanders. Every game that Zehr misses in his stay at junior jockey only hinders his development. It is a situation that should be resolved.
Zehr improved at the midpoint of last season just enough for Central Scouting to rank him to go in the middle of the first round. By fortune for the Islanders, this future power forward, who has been compared to Brenden Shanahan, was available early in the second round. Last season he played 57 games, 27 goals, 32 assists, totaling 59 points and 196 penalty minutes. He is a big guy at 6’3″, 195 lbs. Some observers have justified the Islanders decision to select a goaltender and a defenceman because of the selection of such a highly touted power forward. Most scouts feel that he has the talent to play on top lines, but he has to harness his talent. If he is unable to complete that feat, he might only be a third line checking forward.
Why has it taken the Sabres so long to attempt to build a winner thru player development. Buffalo always seemed to have this win now attitude, the problem was they never did ‘win now’. From 1983 to 1993 Buffalo advanced past the first round of the playoff once. Yet year after year Sabres brass committed the same mistakes, trading young talent for seasoned veterans. Much of that young talent ended up developing nicely for other clubs.
From 1980 to 1994, Buffalo drafted an amazing 27 defensemen who seriously contributed at the NHL level. However in 1995, only one, yes one, was actually playing for the then blue and gold, Richard Smehlik. The rest had all been given away: John Carney, Kevin Haller, Phil Housley, Calle Johnansson, Joe Reekie, Bill Houlder, the list goes on an on. Now, none of those names are superstars but please, that would have made a nice NHL blue line.
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Several reports from around the NHL say that the New York Islanders have been
shopping former first round selection of the 1996 NHL ENTRY DRAFT (3rd
overall) as trade bait. The 19 year old forward of Val d’ Or in the QMJHL is
playing only so-so after his first 12 games with 18 points. His junior team
has experimented with him by using him as a center due to a lack of centers on
their roster. His stats suggest that he has not made the transition very
well. An interesting side note, Dumont is the only top ten pick from the 1996
draft whom is still unsigned. If not signed by June, he will reenter the 1998
draft. He is asking for similar money to that of what 1996 3rd round
selection Zdeno Chara is receiving. Rumors that are currently circulating
involve Dumont going to the Hurricanes in a package deal for Geoff Sandersson,
whom some hockey writer feel is the best LW in the game. It will certainly be
interesting to see how this thing unfolds. Other hot trade rumors concern the
Vancouver Canucks. “One site out of Vancouver claimed that an area sports
radio station had Canucks GM Pat Quinn on as a guest, and that he confirmed
that he was indeed talking trade with Islanders GM Mike Milbury. When asked to
divulge who was involved, obviously Quinn
declined, but did offer this response “It’s a big deal”. If there’s one team
that is the ultimate match (as trading partners) with the Isles, it’s the Read more »
With the future of the Oilers staying in Edmonton in doubt, the once bright future is looking pretty gloomy. Oiler fans are faced with the thought that the talent pool of fresh, young prospects that they watched mature might come into their own in front of hockey ignorant Houstonians. But they do have at least three more years to watch their beloved Oilers and the incoming Bulldog grads during those years should give fans something to look forward to.
The Oilers continued to sport a roster with more young guns than any other team in the NHL, this year suiting up a 4 pack of rookies: Boyd Devereaux, Steve Kelly, Joe Hulbig and Dennis Bonvie. While some might question Sather’s rationale, not to mention sanity when you consider that the team also has quite a few sophomores, they’re earning their jobs after excellent training camps and look to be here to stay.
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When the 1997-98 Montreal Canadiens training camp opened in September, there was a debate to see which young defense prospect would make the jump from the American League’s Fredericton Canadiens to the big club in Montreal. Brad Brown was the early favourite, mainly due to his toughness, Miroslav Guren and Francois Groleau were also high on the list. Stage right: Enter Brett Clark, who played in the NCAA for the Maine Blackbears and Canada’s National Team. Clark was drafted by the Habs in the 1996 entry draft 154th overall (Only Andreas Dackell and Dainius Zubrus played in the NHL last season from the 1996 draft). Throughout camp Clark continued to impress the Canadiens new coaching tandem of Alain Vigneault and Dave King, and eventully earned himself a spot in an NHL preseason game. Not too bad for a guy who was just there to fill a practise jersey and considering it took Pierre Mondou the Canadiens chief scout, to beg management to sign Clark just three days before training camp opened. After his first exhibition game, he earned the right to play in another and then another and then..well you get the story. By this time Brad Brown and company had already been dispatched to Fredericton. Yes, Brett Clark had walked into Montreal and literally stole a full time position on the Canadiens blueline. Now tweleve games into the season Clark, has been one of the Canadiens most consistent defensemen. At 6’1 200lbs Clark had decent size, a great hockey sense and creates physical contact. His passes are always tape to tape, and a shot which is deadly accurate. As a rookie what is Read more »
(Written by Donna Sarasin and David Ward)
The Kings have had plenty of time to ponder their strategy for the new season. Realizing at the end of the prior season, after missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, changes needed to be made to turn the tide. No time was wasted as within two weeks after the regular season ended, Kings General Manager Sam McMaster, was fired and replaced by Assistant General Manager Dave Taylor on 22 April 1997. Taylor promised Kings fans that he would be the one to bring success to the Kings franchise by developing prospects, pursuing quality free agents plus utilizing the entry draft picks to create a franchise of the future.
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Previous to this season, Mathieu was not thought of as a big scorer by many, but he is
out to prove those people wrong. With the injury of Alex Tanguay, Mathieu has stepped
up to pick up the scoring void left by him. Mathieu is in the middle of a nine game
scoring streak and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. He now shares the team scoring lead
with Tanguay at 19 points. Mathieu is more of a finesse-style player, quick and agile. He
has good breakaway speed and though he is a natural center can play both wings as well. If
he had not had a drop off in scoring after mid-season (he scored 28 of his 34 points last year
in the first half), he might have gone higher in the draft. But at 97th, the Penguins took what
could turn out to be a steal. At his current scoring pace he will surpass last years point total
in another 12 games. I’d look for Mathieu next year at the Penguins training camp as he could
develop into the scoring center the Penguins will need when Ron Francis leaves.
Alexandre Mathieu, Halifax Mooseheads
C, 6'2", 180 lbs.
4th round, 97th overall, 1997 Entry Draft.
97-98 Stats: 14 Games, 8 Goals, 11 Assists, 19 Points, 6 PIM, -1.
96-97 Stats: 70 Games, 12 Goals, 22 Assists, 34 Points, 16 PIM.
It’s several weeks into the regular season, and last year’s worst team
has been a pleasant surprise. Yep, with their 12 new faces/rookies, they’re
among the best teams in the NHL, record-wise! With their current 8 game
road trip, they are now 5-2 after winning 4 straight. Not to mention, they
already have 3 shutouts — 2 by last season’s sieve Jim Carey, and 1 by
Lord Byron Dafoe. Let’s give a round of applause to coach Pat Burns,
Now, how about those rookies… Per-Johan Axelsson. That’s all I have to
say. Forget Samsonov, Thornton, Mann, and all those other over-hyped Calder
candidates. It’s the PJ Axelsson show! He’s got excellent speed, agility,
moves, plays with intensity, and is good defensively. Who is PJ Axelsson,
you ask? Well, he’s not that much of a surprise, but he just didn’t receive
all that hype I mentioned. Truth is, he had a great season with his Swedish
Elite team, Frolunda, where he scored 19G, 15A, 34P, 34PIM in 50 games. As
is usually the case with Swedish players, their numbers often don’t look as
good as they should because of the Florida Panthers/NJ Devils like trap
system that’s so popular in the Elitserien.
Currently, Axelsson is playing LW on Boston’s “top” line (as if you can
really call a line with C Tim Taylor and RW Rob Dimaio a top line). At
least Pat Burns calls Tim Taylor his top center — he still can’t believe Read more »