It’s been about 2 weeks since the Avalanche lost to the Stars in a dramatic 7 game series. But altogether, this season has been anything but a disappointment. It’s been somewhat of a surprise, to say the least. In fact, the biggest surprise comes from rookie scoring leader, Milan Hejduk. Before the season began, this kid was an unknown. I recall looking at the Avalanche Top 20 prospect lists here at Hockey’s Future, and at other websites, and nowhere was Milan Hejduk to be seen. I remember watching training camp in Colorado Springs, and asking myself, “Who is that guy?” Hejduk is an emigma no longer. In fact, he was a key playoff component on Colorado’s first line with Fleury and Sakic. As soon as he was injured, the production of that line flopped. We can always play the ‘What If’ game, but we can all bet that the Avs chances of winning the Cup would have been significantly greater had Hejduk not been injured. We all knew what to expect from Chris Drury, and he broke those expectation too. He deserves the Calder. One of the unsung heroes of the season is Dan Smith, who was called up early in the season to fill in for Colorado’s shambled and injury plagued defense. He did a better job than a call-up should have to do, and that will earn him some good points in training camp next season.
Well, the emptiness that accompanied the abrupt end to a dream season for the Leafs is finally fading and it is just under 3 months from training camp. Hopefully, the Leafs will have had some time to heal, to work on their conditioning and their skills headed into the 99-00 season. Expectations will be much higher for this final four team coming into next season, so they had better be ready. The Leafs will not “sneak up” on anyone in 99-00 as they attempt to take the next step.
The playoff experience had to be invaluable for the young Leafs. Mats Sundin himself said that he learned more about hockey in the 17 playoff games than he did in his previous 8 years in the league.
The expansion draft comes up next Friday and the NHL entry draft is on Saturday. Pat Quinn has stated that the Leafs need to add some physical play to the forward positions without sacrificing skill. Mike Smith, who is still in limbo as to his status, stated that the Leafs probably wouldn’t be too active in the free agent sweepstakes this off-season (which begins July 1st) because the Leafs do not want to take away too much icetime from young, promising players such as Adam Mair and Tomas Kaberle. I don’t believe that they have come this far to part with much, if any, of the young core of the Leafs’ players. Young players who should continue to get better as the next few seasons wear on. President and current Leafs’ GM, Ken Dryden has stated the goal for the Toronto team is to consistently be among the top 5 teams in the NHL.
The main needs: Read more»
The New Jersey Devils have had a great draft history over the past few years, putting the most players in the National Hockey League of any organization in the league. Almost 40 in the last 4 seasons. This kind of success must continue in order for the Devils to be competitive. Although the Devils first round pick is not until the 27th overall. The Devils have even with late picks, had tremendous success. I am sure that GM Lou Lamoriello will make this one no exception.
If there is one team in the NHL that is a testament to good drafting and player development, that team is the Buffalo Sabres. In addition to the Sabres’ appearance in this year’s Stanley Cup finals, their farm club the Rochester Americans made the 1999 Calder Cup finals in the AHL. The roster of both of these teams is dotted with Sabre draft picks, as well as young players acquired from other organizations.
The foundation for the current organizational success was built during the John Muckler era. Prior to Muckler’s stint as GM, the Sabres lacked a cohesive drafting philosophy, instead jumping from one drafting trend to another. The result of this haphazard approach to the draft was several lean years for the Sabre organization.
Once John Muckler assumed the GMs duties, however, the Sabre organization moved from chaos to cohesion, at least with respect to their drafting philosophy. The emphasis moved from the grab-bag approach of years past, to one that emphasized the drafting of bigger and feistier players (mostly Canadian) that possessed good skating ability. This approach landed current Sabres Curtis Brown, Wayne Primeau, Erik Rasmussen and Jay McKee. Darcy Regier has since taken over the duties as Sabres’ GM, and he appears to have taken the “If-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” approach. Regier has taken only a slightly different tack in that the Sabres are drafting more Europeans than they had previously, but the emphasis on size, speed and character still remains.
Luck be a lady, a tune that head scout Barry Fraser and General Manager Glen Sather will most likely be singing in the 1999 entry draft. The Oilers organization as a whole seems to treat the draft as a crapshoot, they try to hit the homerun with their picks. A few gems have eeked their way through in the 90′s (Ryan Smyth, Jason Arnott, Martin Rucinsky), but the number of gems pales to the number of players who ‘did not work out’. There’s first round embarrassments such as Tyler Wright, Scott Allison, Joe Hulbig, Nick Stadjuhar, Jason Bonsignore, and Steve Kelly. The recent picks of the Oilers (excluding Boyd Devereaux) were all attempts to hit homeruns (Bonsignore, Riesen and Henrich in particular), statistically Riesen and Henrich look like duds, but they are still young and both possess a great deal of talent. The crap shoot they call the NHL entry draft has not been kind to the Oilers in quite some time, however that trend may be changing. The Oilers have had two strong entry drafts in a row, in 1997 the Oilers chose 7 players who may play in the NHL (Riesen, Yerkovich, Eloffson, Chimera, Sarno, Hinz, and Fomitchev), the 1998 draft looks just as promising with Henrich, Henry, Horcoff, and Spiridonov. So, we move onto the 1999 draft, the Oilers pick 13th overall in the 1st round, 41st overall in the second round (pending compensatory picks) and will receive a mid to late second round pick due to the singing of Curtis Joseph. What will they do with these picks?
Immediate Needs Read more»