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.
Part III: Ilkka and the Pelles
By the time Miro Dvorak joined the Flyers from Czechoslovakia, the Flyers had already begun to reap their first dividends of European scouting, landing their first players from Scandinavia and Finland. (In hockey terms, “Scandinavian” scouting really means scouting in Sweden because Norway and Denmark (and Iceland) are minor hockey countries. Although often classified as such, Finland is not a Scandinavian country). The early history of Flyers efforts in Finland and Sweden Finland will be recounted separately.
The whole of Flyers history in regard to drafting and/or signing Finnish players remains rather limited even to this day. In the two decades since Swedes and Finns started to be selected regularly in the NHL draft, the Flyers have made only six total entry draft selections from Finland. Moreover, to date, only two Finns have ever worn a Flyers uniform in a regular season or playoff game. For over a decade, the entire history of Finnish Flyers could literally have been summed up in one name: Ilkka Sinisalo.
Sergei Berezin was drafted 256th overall in the 1994 NHL entry draft. Daniil Markov went to the Leafs 223rd overall in the 1995 draft. Tomas Kaberle was drafted 204th overall in the ’96 draft. The Maple Leafs have exhibited a tendency to find, develop and give an opportunity to talented players, no matter what round they are drafted. All 3 of the aforementioned players are part of the core of young players on the team as the Leafs enter the millenium season. Assistant GM and head of the NHL entry draft for the Leafs, Anders Hedberg, has become known for discovering the “diamonds in the rough” in these late rounds.
Morgan Warren, a right-winger out of the Moncton Wildcats franchise in the QMJHL, was drafted by the Leafs in the 5th round, 126th overall in the 1998 NHL entry draft. “Morgan has just not had many breaks go his way for us in his first two years”, states Frantz Bergevin-Jean, Moncton’s director of communications and assistant coach. “He has a high skill level, but you simply wouldn’t know it from the stats sheet,” he adds.
The 6-2, 190 lb. winger, born in Summerside, I.P.E., has the size, skills and skating ability to be an impact offensive forward. “We feel he could be a 40-goal scorer in our league in 99-00″, says Bergevin-Jean “as he has that type of ability. He reminds us of a young Mike Modano with his speed, creativity with the puck and his sniping ability, but every time he would get things going the last two years, something (usually injuries) would seem to slow him down”, he adds.
The 1998-99 hockey season was filled with ups and downs for Peter Ferraro. From being signed as a free agent by the Boston Bruins during the offseason, to making the starting line-up with the Bruins, to fighting through a string of injuries over a four month period, to being reassigned to Providence in the American Hockey League in early March, to leading Providence to the Calder Cup Championship and winning the Jack Butterfield Trophy as Playoff Most Valuable Player. Peter showed drive and determination to overcome the hard times and he ended the season on a very positive note.
Ferraro signed on with the Boston Bruins as a free agent on July 21, 1998. After spending the better part of three seasons (1995-96 through 1997-98) shuffling between the NHL and AHL, that road taking him from the New York Rangers to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and back to the Rangers organization, the stage was set for Peter to prove that he belonged in the ‘big show’.
The Blues gave some insight as to who they think are the top prospects in the organization. Fifteen players were selected to attend a camp designed to raise fitness awareness and inform the youngsters of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Those in attendance included Daniel Corso, Brent Johnson, Jan Horacek, Reed Low, Maxim Linnik, Jame Pollock, Tyler Rennette, Didier Tremblay, Brad Twordik, Cody Rudkowsky, Matt Smith, Jamie Thompson, and Jason Widmer.
Players present from this years draft class were Barret Jackman and Chad Starling. The three day mini-camp focused on weight training, speed development, dietary programs, media relations orientation, and drug and alcohol awareness. This off-ice program is something the Blues believe is a good investment. So many players are drafted and then are expected to develop into professional athletes without any direction or support from the organizations that own their rights. Larry Pleau implemented this plan a year ago and only good things have resulted. Top players not in camp were Christian Backman, Ladislav Nagy, and Andrei Podkonicky