While other teams, mainly the Canucks, Islanders, and Rangers, were stealing the show with blockbuster deals, the Florida Panthers had an active day of their own, completing 2 trades and drafting a solid group of prospects.
Unlike past drafts, the Florida Panthers managed to draft a bit of everything, including 3 goaltenders. The only position that wasn’t cared for was the center position. The Panthers did take more skilled players than in previous drafts, and also picked up a few project players.
A recap of the Panthers draft picks and trades:
1: Denis Shvidki, RW/LW – (1st Round, 12th overall)
Vitals: 6’0″ 195lbs 18 years old.
Stats: Barrie (OHL) 61 Games, 35G-59A-94PTS 8PIM.
This kid out of the Ukraine was projected to be Top 8, but luckily dropped to #12 for the Panthers to grab. After playing 2 years in the Russian Junior League, Denis lit up the OHL, Racking up 94 points and a +57 rating in his rookie OHL season. Amazingly, some saw Shvidki’s season in the OHL as a dissapointment. They thought a young man like him, with his experiences, would do even more damage.
He could likely make the NHL right away, but with the Panthers getting their own AHL team next season, Shvidki could and should be developing one year in the AHL with super-sniper Ivan Novoseltsev.
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.
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.
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.
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»