I know it seems a bit early to be looking ahead to the 1999-2000 OHL season, but the way I see it, it’s never too early to look ahead to next season. The 1998-99 season was a very exciting one for the OHL. The Ottawa 67’s won the Memorial Cup and put together a 14-game winning streak, while the Barrie Colts went undefeated in 31 straight home games.
When Nashville Predators conditioning camp opens this week, all eyes will be on one particular player. David Legwand. Legwand is expected to make a splash in training camp and make the big jump to the next level from the OHL.
Legwand’s numbers signifcantly dropped in 98-99 after an MVP rookie season with the Plymouth Whalers. Some nights he was totally invisible on the ice. He looked more Sergei Fedorov or Alexander Mogilny skating the ice and not knowing what to do with the great skills he possesses unlike the Mike Modano he is usually compared to. Many point to his work on two way play to improve defensively as a reason his numbers dropped. His numbers were still solid, but for Legwand, a major disappointment. Others point to a case of mono he contracted during Predators training camp as a reason for the drop off and he was struggling to recover from the illness. His performance at the World Championship competitions also caused the critics to stand up and rise. He did not stir anything up for Team USA causing some to believe if he is the real deal.
When Legwand’s Whalers got bounced from the OHL playoffs, the Preds immediately signed him, in order to get Legwand into an NHL game. Legwand’s dream had come true. In the final game of the season against New Jersey, he made his first appearance at the Nashville Arena. The Preds were happy with his performance. He didnt make any serious mistakes and took it easy but General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz knew immediately something was missing from Legwand’s game. Size.
A funny thing happened on the Ontario Hockey League coaching carousel
this year. While teams in trouble often look at younger coaches, this
season’s selections include coaches with previous Ontario Hockey League
experience. Even Bill Stewart – recently hired by the Barrie Colts after
being let go by the New York Islanders – enjoyed success previously with
Oshawa, taking the Generals to the Memorial Cup in 1997.
With the 17th pick in the 1999 NHL entry draft the St. Louis Blues are proud to select… Barret Jackman.
The Blues have built an impressive stable of forward prospects in a short period of time, but depth on the blue line was obviously a concern at the draft on Saturday. Barret Jackman, the first of six defenseman selected, stands only 6’0-1/2″ tall, but could grow an inch or so by the time he’s ready for the NHL. One of the most physical players in the draft, Barret throws his 200 Ibs. around very well, and is a strong skater with excellent hockey sense. He reads the play well at both ends of the ice. He won’t put up big offensive numbers, but don’t be fooled by his 259 penalty minutes. He had 8 goals and 36 assists good for 44 points; an improvement from last years 13 points as a rookie. With his hard accurate slapshot and willingness to join the rush, Barret could develop into a 30 to 45 point defenseman in the NHL.
Peter Smrek, another defenseman, was discovered by European scout Peter Stastny. Smrek’s play at the World Junior Championships had his draft stock rising, and even at 20 years old the Blues took a chance on him in the third round.
Chad Starling, the fourth round pick by the Blues, is a hulking defenseman that uses his reach to his advantage but needs to get stronger and more physical. At 6-6 207lbs. he already has the size, he just needs to improve his puck skills and skating. Starling is definitely a project and will need plenty of time to develop.
Since the draft on Saturday, I have seen and heard reactions from various people, their comments covering the entire spectrum. Some have said that the Lightning had the worst draft of all the teams and others have said that they had one of the best. Let me give you my views on why I think that they had one of the better drafts on Saturday.
Let’s start with the focal point of the entire controversy, the first round trades. Everybody who says that Tampa blew it, says so because they traded away the chance to draft Pavel Brendl. In fact is, if the trades had not come along, they would have drafted Brendl even if they had kept the first overall pick. They would not have taken a chance on Stefan, and the only other possibility would have been a move to acquire both Sedins. Brendl was on top of their list by far. When they heard that Vancouver had already made moves to get the twins, and they already knew that Atlanta wanted Stefan, they saw the opportunity to move down and still get their man. They made the trade to move down to fourth and got two third round picks for that. Then, the Rangers called, and they knew the Rangers really wanted Brendl. They ended up getting two players, Sundstrom and Cloutier, along with two picks next year, a first round and a third round for their #4 overall. So if you break down the trades it works out to essentially this….