1997-98 Rookie Watch #5

By pbadmin

The 1997 First Round Picks

The 1997 NHL entry draft was supposed to be a gem draft. A draft filled with
franchise players, many of whom are supposed to be ready for the NHL right
away. Well, it has been a tough year for the 1997 first round picks.

1. Joe Thornton

Thornton was the prize of the draft. A no-brain first round pick. A guy
who had
everything. Great size. Good speed. Tough. Aggressive. Good offensive
with a scoring touch. Everyone thought he was ready for the NHL and
the lack of proven talent in the Bruins lineup he was certain to make the
team and
get lots of ice time.

What happened? Was it over confidence? Did Thornton expect everything to
as naturally in the NHL as it has the rest of his career? Who knows the exact
reason but he just hasn’t done it in the NHL so far. He has just 1 goal in 25
games and is struggling along on the 4th line. The thing I am confused about
is why the Bruins keep him around. He should have been sent to the Canadian
junior team to allow him to regain his confidence against the best young
in the world and then bring him back if he does well. It does Thornton no
sitting on the bench or playing on the 4th line. That is no way to treat your
future franchise player if you expect him to develop into a franchise player.

2. Patrick Marleau

Marleau is much like Thornton. He has all the skills to be a superstar in the
NHL. Marleau might have better offensive skills but isn’t quite as big or as
agressive. If Thornton is compared to a Lindros, Marleau might be better
to a Sakic. Like Thornton, Marleau had a very good shot at making the Sharks
team to start the season.

Just like Thornton, Marleau struggled a bit to start the season. Unlike
Marleau has slowly been adapting to the NHL and is starting to play better.
were thoughts that the Sharks would send Marleau to the Canadian junior
team but
then he started playing better and now he has earned a spot on the top 2
lines. He
is now in the top 10 in rookie scoring with 7 goals and 13 points.
Marleau, being
the second pick and playing behind guys like Friesen and Nolan, has had
less pressure
on him than Thornton and maybe that is the reason he is developing and
isn’t. Look for a better second half of the year for Marleau.

3. Olli Jokinen

Olli is a potential impact player as well. He has great playmaking skills
and can
make the players around him better. Everyone thought he had a chance to
make the
NHL on a weak LA team.

Olli started the season with the Kings. He had a pretty good training camp
started the season on the first 2 lines in LA. It slowly became apparent
to the
Kings that he might not be quite ready for the NHL. In 8 games he had no
and was a -5. The Kings did the right thing and sent him back to Finland to
further refine his skills. Olli now has an idea of what the NHL is like
and we
can all look forward him to in the NHL next year. As an added bonus,
Jokinen helped
lead the Finnish team to the World Junior Championship, an experience that can
only help Olli’s career.

4. Roberto Luongo

Roberto was the highest drafted goalie ever but was not expected to make
the NHL
this season. Like most goalies coming out of the QMJHL his role model is
Roy. He is going to be a great one but not for another year or two. He
played backup to Mathieu Garon at the World Junior championships. In the
games he played he did show well. The starting role should be his next
year if he
isn’t in the NHL.

5. Eric Brewer

Like Luongo, Brewer wasn’t expected to make it in the NHL this year.
Brewer is a
good offensive defenseman with good size. Brewer is a team leader and will
be a
solid 2-way NHL defenseman. Brewer was one of the few bright spots on the
dissapointing Canadian Junior team. When Jesse Wallin, the team captain, was
injured he stepped up his game and was the teams best defenseman.

8. Sergei Samsonov

Samsonov, the Bruins second pick in the draft, played in the IHL and so
thought he was closer to the NHL than most 18 year olds. Samsonov has all the
offensive skills that anyone would need to play in the NHL but at 5’8″ no one
knew if the size of NHL players would intimidate him. The Bruins were
on giving him the chance to play in the NHL right away.

Samsonov took advantage of that chance. He had a good training camp and
a spot on the team. Since then he has done nothing to show that he can’t play
at the NHL level. He leads all 1997 draft picks with 14 points. He isn’t
up the league but he is developing nicely and has proven that his size isn’t
going to hold him back.

12. Marion Hossa

Hossa is a natural goal scorer, has a good shot with good speed. Hossa,
like most
#12 picks, wasn’t expected to make the Senators this year. He was invited to
training camp and did everything he could to make the team. He played
well in camp and earned a spot on the team but like Olli Jokinen he wasn’t
ready for every day life in the NHL and the Senators made a smart move and
him back to junior after getting 1 point in 7 games.

13. Daniel Cleary

A year before the 1997 draft Cleary was projected to be a top 5 pick, maybe
the top pick. He just didn’t develop in the 1996-97 season and many players
moved past him. No one questioned his talent but people began to question his
Many still thought he would be a top 10 pick but he slipped all the way to
13 to
the Black Hawks delight. The Hawks believed that he might be able to make the
team. Despite a mediocre training camp he was kept. He played a few games
then got injured. After the injury healed Chicago decided to send him to the
Canadian junior team. Unfortunately for Cleary he didn’t make the team and
sent back to the OHL. Cleary seems to be heading in the wrong direction
and will
have to turn his career around soon. After a super rookie OHL season he
had dropped
off each year since. His future is still to be determined. In his 6 NHL
this year he failed to register a point.

16. Robert Dome

Dome was a logical draft pick for the Penguins. Some had thought that
since he
had played in the IHL he was more ready for the NHL than most his age. He
has good
size and good skating skills. The Penguins also thought that having Dome play
with his fellow countryman and idol Jaromir Jagr would help him make the
NHL right
away. The Penguins had hoped he could become this years Dainus Zubrus. A
round pick that makes the NHL. Dome started off well with a good trainign
camp. He
made the team at the start of the season and played 13 games. He played
well but
isn’t quite ready for the NHL yet but looks to have a good future. He had
2 goals and
3 points in the 23 games.

In other news…


Vaclav Prospal seems to be out of the Rookie of the Year race after a good
to the season. He was bumped down to the 3rd and 4th lines and now is
injured and
might be out for the season. After a great start this has been a dismal
for Vaclav.

The Rookie of the year race seems to be down to 4 or 5 players. Those
being the top
rookie point getter Mike Johnson with 27 points, the top rookie goal
scorer, Patrik
Elias, with 13 goals, Mattias Ohlund, the Canucks best defenseman, Marco
Sturm, the
Sharks rookie center with 20 points and Calgary’s Derek Morris, tied with
Ohlund in
scoring by rookie defensemen. It will be an interesting second half
watching the
Rookie of the Year race between these 5.

Watch out for Steve Washburn. He might soon add his name to the list of 5
He has scored 9 goals and has 15 points in just 32 games for the
Florida Panthers. He has slowly been moving up the rookie scoring list