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
With the entry draft on the horizon, and the Capitals coming off what might be their best draft ever, I thought I would take a look back at what is considered the Caps’ worst draft of the 1990s. In 1996, Washington had twelve picks – including seven of the top 100. Not only that, but there was an NHL-calibre player on the board every time their turn came up. Now, just four years later, they have only one player to show for it.
This season the Capitals dealt former first round picks Alexandre Volchkov to Edmonton and Jaroslav Svejkovsky to Tampa Bay. That left the Capitals with young centre Jan Bulis as the only player under contract from their entire 1996 draft.
Washington held all of their picks 1 through 9 except the 4th rounder (98th) that they traded to Colorado for Anson Carter. They had acquired four extra selections through trades: L.A.’s 1st (4th overall ) and Dallas’ 4th (85th) from the Kings in exchange for Byron Dafoe and Dimitri Khristich; Dallas’ 3rd (58th) from Colorado for John Slaney; and Chicago’s 4th (74th) for Igor Ulanov.
Let’s take a look at the selections that David Poile and the Washington Capitals made in 1996, and try to determine what they were thinking on draft day and where they went wrong.
RW Alexandre Volchkov 6’1″ 194 – Barrie Colts (OHL)
(1st round, 4th overall – originally Los Angeles’ pick)
C.S.B. Ranking: 2nd, North American skaters
Actually drafted: 3rd N.A. skater taken
The Sarnia Sting had modestly high hopes for the 1999-2000 OHL season. They had lost quite a bit after the 1998-99 season as they lost 2-time league scoring champion Peter Sarno as well as 40-goal scorer Ivan Novoseltsev.
Things were looking good for the Sting early in the year as they sat 3rd in the 5-team West Division behind the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds and the Windsor Spitfires. The Sting remained consistent throughout the season and finished the season 3rd in the West Division and 4th in the Western Conference.
Going into the playoffs the Sting felt that they had a shot at going a fairly long way in the playoffs. Sting overager Mike Van Ryn told me before the playoffs, “I think we have the makings of going a fairly long way in the playoffs.” With the team that they had I can’t say that I disagree with him considering what they had lost coming into the season.
In goal the Sting boasted two strong goaltenders in overager Greg Hewitt and rookie Andrew Sim. Both were consistently good throughout the season. Sim posted the best Goals against average of any rookie goaltender with a 2.93 GAA.
On defense the Sting boasted the likes of overagers Dan Watson, a former league All-Star, former Canadian World Junior Team captain Mike Van Ryn and veteran Ryan VanBuskirk. All three of them provided the Sting with veteran experience on a fairly young team.
Past failures, and recent pressure indicate that the Canadiens will be looking to Europe for their early draft picks this year. The Montreal media have been quite vocal concerning the Habs’ past failures at the draft table. Serge Savard’s legacy still lives on in this regard. The past 10 years have seen too many players drafted for size rather than talent. Look for the Habs’ to be calling names like Nordqvist, Krykov, and Jonsson rather than names like Boyes, Taffe, and Dipietro.
Dave King’s presence in Europe during the past season is a huge indication of the team’s latest direction change. King has spent most of his time scouting players and working his contacts. Leading up to a draft there is usually 1 or 2 opinions that carry more weight than all the others. GM’s and scouting directors listen more attentively to these voices than to all the others combined. Look for Houle and Dorion to be paying especially close attention to the voice of one Dave King.
Another indication of the Canadiens’ draft plans is the recent agreement reached between the Habs and the Djurgarden Ice Hockey Club in Sweden. This agreement will allow both hockey clubs to send some of their top prospects to participate annually in the other teams’ rookie camp. The teams will also share information on player evaluation methods. Thereby allowing the Habs access to Djurgarden’s personal scouting reports.