In every sport, there is one day that is both filled with anticipation and dread – Draft Day. This is the day that players hope that the major league teams will feel that they are good enough to join their organization.
For the NHL, the 1999 Entry Draft was held in the FleetCenter, home of the Boston Bruins. Otters Tim Connolly, Sean Dixon, Ryan Lee, Jason Baird and J.F. Perras were hoping that their names would be called at the Draft. There was no question that Connolly would be drafted, as he was slated to go high in the First Round. After that though, it was anybody’s guess when and where in the Draft the other Otters would go.
From Waterloo, Ontario, Sean Dixon is a second year defenseman for the Otters. While not an offensive defenseman, he has been a steady player on the blueline. In the two years with Erie, Sean has only scored 2 goals and 20 assists in 113 games. In spite of his lack of scoring, Sean’s play has been noticed. Twice he has played for the Ontario Under-17 Team at the 1997 and 1998 International Hockey Championships, held during the Christmas holidays in Kitchener, Ontario, where Team Ontario won gold medals. Dixon has also excelled off the ice, winning the 1997-98 Otters Scholastic Player of the Year, sharing it with fellow draftee, Tim Connolly.
Draft Day was a pretty exciting day for Sean, as it did live up to expectations. “Just to sit in the stands and stare down at all the NHL logos and personnel, and to know that you are a part of it, is a pretty amazing feeling in itself,” stated Dixon.
Detroit’s scouting staff waited more than five hours at their draft table watching as other teams selected their future players. Having traded their previous picks throughout the 1998-1999 season , Detroit broke ( in fact smashed ) an NHL draft record by not making a selection until the 120th overall pick. Rumors had the Wings attempting to get back into the first round but nothing ever came of those. Clubs knew the talent level in this draft was high and with the salary structure way out off kilter, other teams were not listening to many offers.
In the end the Red Wings stated that they wanted to find one NHL player in this draft if possible. Judging by earlier drafts, this was an imposing task to say the least. Looking back at drafts as early as 1983, players taken 120th overall or later had less than 10% chance of ever playing in the NHL as a regular. In fact, only about 8 players a year on average ever make it more than a year or two if taken after the 120th pick. For Detroit to find one of these “diamonds in the ruff “, the scouting staff had better done their homework.
Traditionally, the Detroit Red Wings draft what they consider to be safer players. They look for skaters that have great character and maybe less upside. The 1999 draft was a bit different however. Jim Nill, Detroit’s head scout said, “We went for the home run…. we were looking for the next Pavol Demitra.”
The Rangers are a team known more for using their “big bucks” rather then their “brain trust”, but times seemed to have changed at the 1999 NHL draft as the Rangers decided they were going to try and swing for the fences. After acquiring Pavel Brendl with the fourth selection many people thought the Rangers were done, but they were just warming up. After completing the deal with Calgary GM AL Coates the night before, the Rangers nabbed a kid whom they had been watching since early November, Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jamie Lundmark. Though the price was heavy the Rangers might just be able to look back and say they got the steal of the draft for the second year in a row.
Imagine yourself back on that little league field with your new team. Or on the ice for the first time with your midget team. The coach’s are watching, instructing, teaching. Your heart has been pounding from the moment you woke up that morning, anticipating the excitement, the competition that awaits you. The unknown: Will you make the grade?
Now imagine yourself going halfway around the world possibly to a country where you speak precious little of their native language. You are accustomed to being a “big fish” and you are now thrust into the “big pond” with other big fish. It is your first touch with an NHL franchise, YOUR NHL franchise, and you are wondering: Will I make the grade?
The Toronto Maple Leafs entrust a big part of their future to a very capable man, Chris MacDonald. “My role is a little difficult to define”, says the very personable man, who is also Queens University’ hockey coach. “I can best explain it as coordinating the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects’ adjustment to the NHL. Not only on the hockey level, but acclimating them to the city, to the organization, to each other.” He works hand-in-hand with Leafs’ assistant GM Anders Hedberg, creating a “comfort zone” to players who largely represent the future of the franchise.
The Soo Greyhounds 1998-99 season was a very successful one. They won 10 straight games and improved their point total from 1997-98 by 23 points. The 1999-2000 season looks to be a good one as the Greyhounds have 16 returning players. At the draft the Greyhounds also added 19-year-old left-winger Brent Theobald. He was acquired in a trade with the Missisauga IceDogs at the draft.
The Greyhounds are in a good position because most of the teams in the division are losing a lot of players. The Plymouth Whalers for example are possibly losing the likes of Harold Druken, Adam Colagiacomo, Paul Mara and Robert Holsinger.
In goal the Greyhounds are in very good shape because Jake McCracken is definitely coming back and Jason Flick may be back as one of the Greyhounds three overages. McCracken will be looking to bounce back from an off-year where he didn’t play his best hockey. Flick, if he does come back will be looking to repeat his tremendous performance from last season. Remember though, it’s not a guarantee that he is coming back.
The defensemen on last season’s club were pretty good. The problem is two of last year’s defensemen (Dan Passero and Rob Mulick) are candidates for the three overage spots on this year’s team. However, they did have five other strong defensemen.