The Los Angeles Kings thought they had their center of the future in Olli Jokinen as recently as last Spring. He was exactly what the Kings had longed for- a big, physical centerman with playmaking ability. Whenever teams called for trades, they were told that Jokinen was off limits. Now he is gone as part of the Palffy trade, and the Kings have quickly become thin at a key position- center ice.
While they did get the enigmatic Bryan Smolinski as part of the trade, the loss of Jokinen, Ferraro (free agency) and Perrault (trade last season) have left the Kings with an opening for one of their young center prospects. Much like defense, the Kings drafts and trades of the past will have to produce a player this season, furthering the need for Dave Taylor to face the music. The success or failures of some of these young forwards may well determine Taylor’s future as General Manager of the Kings.
The Kings are set with three centermen, Josef Stumpel on the first line, Smolinski on the second and crowd favorite Ian Lapperiere as the center on the checking line. That would likely leave two center positions available, one third line center and one reserve. The Kings signed journeyman center Len Barrie who has played in Europe the last two seasons and is 30 years old. He would appear to be the safety net in case the young players cannot handle the rigors of the NHL. These are the rest of the centers with shots at the roster:
With no less than 10 NHL drafted players and a few other interesting names, such as 2000 entry draft top prospect Lasse Kukkonen on the ice, this is one of the first and most important games to report from this season. Reason being that in preseason games such as this one, young promising players often get a chance to show what they are made of. Luleå gave two players from their U20 team a chance, although they weren’t played very much. Defenseman Anders Sundvall hardly played all. Winger Daniel Lundholm only played the first half, in which he was close to scoring for the first time in senior hockey. Kärpät is a team that has an amazing number of good prospects, and many of them really showed why they are prospects in this game. A sad thing, however, was that the Toronto 1997 draft pick Jonathan Hedström wasn’t able to play due to an injury he suffered earlier this week in a charity soccer game. This was supposed to be his first game in the Luleå jersey, but that has been put on the back burner as he recovers. Below is a report from this game. The players whose names are written in bold text are those mentioned in the ”Player comments” section.
Luleå started the game with an early goal at the expense of hot 2000 prospect, Lasse Kukkonen. Read more»
It was a subtle, but straight-forward statement made by then Leafs’ GM and current president, Ken Dryden. “If you look at the best teams in the NHL, like Dallas, they have a corps of defensemen who excel at moving the puck out of their own zone.” The transition game. Puck movement. Getting the puck out of the defensive zone from the defensemen to the forwards, who can then attack in waves.
NHL hockey in the 1990′s may have become known as the “era of the neutral zone trap”, but the transition game, largely fueled by defensemen who can move the puck, may be the strategy which reverses the “swing of the pendulum” as the league looks to add scoring back to its game. As Dryden astutely observed, the Dallas Stars did “do it right” as their transition game helped to lead them to a Stanley Cup victory. During the 1998-99 season, an improved transition game helped the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the league in scoring with 268 goals.
Three, young, NHL players, Bryan Berard, Daniil Markov and Tomas Kaberle provide the core of the Toronto Maple Leafs defense as the team heads into the new millenium. Three young “guns” upon which much is expected over the next 10 years in “blue and white”.
Part IV: The First Clarke Administration
Although Sinisalo, Lindbergh, and Eklund blossomed during Bob Clarke’s first tenure as the Flyers general manager, they were initially drafted and/or signed to the organization while Keith Allen was still the general manager and Clarke was an active player. This was also the case for the vast majority of key North American players from the Keenan/Clarke era Flyers; including draftees Ron Hextall, Brian Propp, Rick Tocchet, Ron Sutter, Peter Zezel, Derek Smith, Lindsay Carson, and enforcer Dave Brown; undrafted rookies such as Tim Kerr and Dave Poulin (signed after playing with the Division One Rögle club in Sweden); and key trade acquisitions such as Mark Howe, Brad McCrimmon, and Brad Marsh. Thus, it was actually Keith Allen, rather than Clarke, who was the primary architect of the Flyers success in the mid-1980s. Clarke’s main contributions to the strong teams of the mid-1980s were the hiring of Keenan and the trades that brought Murray Craven and Kjell Samuelsson to Philly. Read more»
The Calgary Flames have developed a habit in the past three seasons. This habit, of turning young, previously unheralded, inexperienced players into NHL regulars, is set to continue as the young club continues to mature its talent. Last season it was Clarke Wilm who surprised observers by sticking with the club for the entire season. Who will be this seasons’ Clarke Wilm?
In 1996/97 this trend started with defenceman Todd Simpson and winger Jarome Iginla both making the Flames, and playing in the entire 82 game schedule. Simpson was more of a surprise than Jarome Iginla. Iginla had already grabbed headlines twice during the previous season. First he was the compensation for Joe Nieuwendyk in a deal with the Dallas Stars. Secondly, he scored a goal in his first NHL game, in game 3 of that seasons unsuccessful playoff series against Chicago.
In 1997/98, Steve Begin and Derek Morris, both recent draft picks, started the season in Calgary, with only Morris managing to both survive and thrive in the NHL in his first attempt.
In 1998/99, Clake Wilm won his roster spot over players like Sergei Varlamov and Travis Brigley. Rico Fata and Martin St. Louis began the journey but both returned to junior and the minors respectively, leaving Wilm to carry the torch of the rookies forward. Wilm played consistently well all season long, showing an occasional offensive touch, but developing as a strong third line defensive forward, often playing in key situations and against the opponents best players.