“A rugged defenseman.” That is how D.J. Smith was described by Windsor Director of media relations, Steve Horne. “When he played for us at the major junior level he filled a lot of roles, including a lot of special teams action, but first and foremost he was a ‘rugged’ defenseman.”
Amazingly, D.J. is the last remaining player still on the Leafs, following the controversial Toronto-New York Islanders trade on March 13, 1996 which brought Wendel Clark and Matheiu Schneider to the team as well.
He scored 14 goals and 45 assists in 64 games in 1995-96 for Windsor. He became the team’s captain in 96-97 and increased his offensive productivity to 15 goals and 52 assists in 63 games. “He developed into a good powerplay quarterback for us in those final two seasons”, says Horne. Many scouts felt that he was one of the most improved players in the OHL in 96-97. He was named a second team OHL all-star in 1997 as a result of his good work.
Late in that 96-97 season, D.J. received his first taste of NHL life. He played 8 games with the Leafs late in that season. He was credited with an assist in his first NHL game against San Jose and won his first fight in his 3rd game against Colorado. He did not look out of place on the Leafs’ blueline, despite being beaten in a 1-on-1 rush by Detroit’s Slava Kozlov.
After making the trades on draft day, the Lightning’s first pick in the 1999 draft was in the second round, the 47th overall pick. With that pick they selected Sheldon Keefe, RW from the Barrie Colts. Although he came with tremendous statistical numbers, 51 goals, 65 asst., 116 pts. in 66 games, he also came with some baggage. Namely Mr. Frost. The agent/representative was rumored to have been advising Sheldon. Whether or not he actually was, is not clear. It is now, and was at the time of the draft, clear that if there was any connection between the two it had been terminated.
Tampa Bay had confidence that the information they got, about there being no ties between the two, was good. They also had heard that some of the other criticism about his attitude and size were mainly sour grapes brought on by the rumors about Mr. Frost. At pick #47, if their information was correct, they had a steal.
After this game you could say that the team that was more active, won. That’s the simple fact. Kärpät was much faster, and played with great intensity. Luleå players no matter which way they were skating, always had a player in a white suit checking them. That forced Luleå into many mistakes in their own end. After the first three minutes each one of 3011 spectators knew that Kärpät was going to win. By how many points was the only mystery.
Luleå had their chances too. Most of these chance came from mistakes made by Jaako Niskavaara, who made some terrible passes in his own end. Luckily for him though, Markus Korhonen was goaltending perfectly. Luleå had a few break-away’s but still couldn’t manage to score. They had one shot that bounced of the post in 3rd period, when the score was 4-0, but that was when Kärpät wasnt skating full speed anymore. There was a lot of penalties blown by the referee, which turned into two power-play goals and one shorthanded for Kärpät.
At time 2.42 Johan Hedström of Luleå took a penalty for high-sticking, and soon after that Martin Bergeron passed the puck from behind the net to team’s captain Jari Laukkanen, who was standing alone in front of the net, and he shot the puck in the top shelf. 1-0.
Kärpät checked hard throughout the first period, and the result was another goal. Niklas Hagman got the pcuk from Kristian Taubert, and passed it to the centre to Juha Joenväärä. He made a brilliant pass back to Hagman who shot the puck in.
Next year will be an interesting one for the Sharks’ primary affiliate, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. Much of the core of Kentucky will be, or is already gone from last year’s team, which was just one game shy of playing in the Calder Cup Finals.
Names that are already gone include Andrei Zyuzin, Shawn Burr, and co-leading scorer Steve Guolla-all traded in the deal that brought Nik Sundstrom to San Jose. The team’s other leading scorer, Herbert Vasiljevs (Florida prospect) was also traded, to Atlanta, for Trevor Kidd. With their two main offensive threats gone, they then found themselves without one of their starting goalies, as Sean Gauthier will not return, as he is an Unrestricted Free Agent, and is looking for playing time somewhere else. To cap it off, Dan Boyle will likely find himself playing in Florida next year. He was one of the main guys on defense last year. Other names who may not be back include: Jarrett Deuling (possible), Mike Craig (possible), Steve Lingren (gone), Peter Allen (gone).
Part 7: Euro Draft Statistical Breakdown
Times have certainly changed in the NHL over the last quarter century. It is now truly a global league. Locker rooms commonly feature players from seven different countries and there are a smattering of players from several other lands. European talent scouting has become more crucial than ever as the league has continued to expand and more and more European-born players have come to be selected in the early phases of the NHL draft. Today, many European fans follow the NHL with equal or greater passion than they do the leagues in their own country. NHL hockey has become a global entity. So have the Philadelphia Flyers, sometimes blazing trails at the forefront, sometimes being dragged kicking and screaming.
Appendix: European Flyers by the numbers
Through 1998-99, there have been 28 European-born players who have worn a Flyers uniform, not including players who dressed only in pre-season games, such as Toni Porkka and Vladislav Boulin. Here is a county-by country breakdown:
Czech Repubic [or Czech portion of former Czechoslovakia] (8)
Russia (7) Read more»