After studying hard for 2 years, GM Larry Pleau came to a conclusion concerning the draft class of 1998. The crop of young talent that everyone gets excited about on draft day, just never materialized. Christian Backman has not improved like the Blues had envisioned, Maxim Linnik is a bust in every sense of the word, Brad Voth?, what was that? The jury is still out on Andrei Trochinsky, however, the Blues still own his rights. Brad Twordik didn’t show enough to warrant a pro contract so he is gone as well. The best player may be, John Pohl, who was the last player drafted with the 255th pick. He will be in his junior year at the University of Minnesota next season.
Out of the eight players chosen, the Blues signed one. Defenseman Matt Walker, who attended training camp last fall, showed enough improvement this season to draw some attention his way. At 6-2, 222 pounds, Walker has good size. Playing for Kootenay in the WHL, Matt has made great strides this year both defensively and offensively. After training camp, he will return to Kootenay for his last season of junior hockey.
Christian Backman may turn into a serviceable player someday, but that day will not be this year. Backman, who’s name has been mentioned in numerous trades, may not get his chance with the Bluenote or even Worcester. The Blues want him to sign a contract and play in North America next season, however, he has shown little interest in doing so. If Backman comes to camp this season it will be a miracle.
With the horrific season known as 1999-2000 over the Rangers ship had to be righted, not in order to sail in New York for OpSail 2000 but to save the club from prolonging the embarrassment that they had now become.
Glen Sather the builder of champions in Edmonton has landed in Manhattan and it could not have come at a better time. Sather the designer of the Oilers` dynasty in the 80`s that featured his drafting and nurturing of Wayne, Mark, Kevin, Charlie, Jarri, Paul, Glen and Grant among others (no last names needed)… has an even more daunting task. That being to rebuild the Ranger ship in as short as time as possible with the ever opinionated media on his back, the ownership that wishes to run the club “hands on” and the pressure from Gary Bettman and the NHL to build a new winner in New York…and not New Jersey or the Island. The Rangers have become the flagship team on the American Side of the National Hockey League.
For the Rangers kids, Sather`s entrenchment could not have come at a better time. Neil Smith restocked a few shelves with prospects… Mike York, Kim Johnsson, Radek Dvorak and Jan Hlavac at the NHL level… Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark at the development level and a couple Euro Prospects in Johan Holmqvist and again Rudolf Vercik, in addition with the Baby Rangers in Hartford (AHL) with Tomas Kloucek and Johan Witehall and then there is Manny Malhotra… perhaps Sather is his savior.
Of the hundred European players expected to be drafted this year, approximately 20 of them will be Czech players. The most highly rated Czech player is Vaclav Nedorost followed closely by Jan Bohac. But there are many more talented players who were not observed in such detail by scouts but who still can make it to the NHL. By the CSB ranking on 66th and 73rd position there are 2 Czech defenders who together play in the junior team of Sparta Praha. Their abilities show they are the best defending pair in Sparta and therefore are high in the draft.
His play during the whole year earned him an invitation to the U18 year Championship in Switzerland. The team did not have an exceptional performance. The team did not work as a team which nowadays is the most common reason for non-success. Hanzlik, however, was 2nd among defensemen in the plus/minus statistics.
His size is not ideal for defense in the NHL but he possesses excellent puck technique, ability to read the game as well as a good hockey sense. This year he was strong support for his team (junior team of Sparta Praha) and for the national team as well. And he is really happy with his performance now. He is not in a hurry to go to the NHL even though he does want to go there one day. He is not prepared to leave the security of home for the insecurity of North America. Read more»
More than six Elitserien veterans could be drafted this year, and there are two major factors that have created this demand. First, the expansion of the NHL obviously creates a need for more players. Second, some players are simply late bloomers, and there are diamonds in the rough in every league.
From the Elitserien, defensive defensemen seem to be the most attractive players. Brynäs´ Niclas Wallin and Malmö´s Andreas Lilja are solid stay-at-home types who can get involved physically. Lilja has expressed a desire to play in North America, but the wishes of Niclas Wallin still remain a secret.
Swedish champions Djurgården have been losing key players right and left it seems, and the situation could get worse. Espen Knutsen has already signed on to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and two more players could be on the verge of crossing the Atlantic to play. Unsung hero defenseman Mikael Magnusson had a very solid showing at the World Championships and in the Elitserien this season, and there is some buzz that he might be drafted this year. The 27-year-old defender scored 5 goals and 6 assists in 49 games and also racked up a solid 73 penalty minute total. The other player rumoured to be heading for the NHL is a bigger surprise, not so much around the name as the timing. Defensive center Niclas Falk, who had a poor season by his standards, has not been drafted after good seasons in the past when he was a key player in both Djurgården and for Team Sweden at the World Championships.
As the date of the NHL draft comes closer, people look forward to this big day in the life of these 18-20 year old prospects. Slovak fans are no exception to this rule.
Many scouts and GM’s could take a lesson from past drafts in order to avoid missing out on some good Slovak prospects. I can draw your attention to the fact that many scouts think Slovakia is just Bratislava (Slovak capital located in western part of the country) and maybe 50 miles from there. They have omitted and still omit the kids from central and eastern Slovakia where some teams e.g. Martin, Poprad, Banska Bystrica, Kosice, Zvolen, are grooming very talented prospects – Svehla, Bondra, Suchy, Bartecko, Handzus, Zednik, Orszagh, Petrovicky, Nagy, Vaic etc. All these players grew up neither in Bratislava nor in western Slovakia. Dear scouts, do not forget to travel across Slovakia to see other rinks, not just Bratislava, Nitra and Trencin.
However, I do not want to write about new prospects (it will be in my next article). My target is to review the players who have already been drafted.
I will start in 1988 because the other players drafted before this year retired except for two 40-year-old veterans – Igor Liba (37 games on L.A. and N.Y.R.) and Miroslav Ihnacak (56 games on Toronto).
Name, year of birth, NHL team and No. of pick, position, team in draft year, mother team, last season team