1997 Draft: 4 Years Later

By Brandon LeBourveau

Four years after the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, we are able to look at the players who were drafted and determine how good they will be in the NHL. If teams only knew what they know now back in 1997, then the order of selection would have been much different.

Below is an in-depth look of the players selected in the 1st Round four years ago. Included are the team that made the selection, the player drafted, the team he was drafted from, and his career stats thus far in the NHL.

1. Boston – Joe Thornton, C, Sault-Ste.-Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
289 GP, 79 G, 100 A, 179 P, 277 PIM

The Bruins struck gold by selecting Thornton with the 1st overall pick. He has played in each of the last four seasons for Boston since being drafted, and he hasn’t disappointed them thus far. With 79 goals, 100 assists, 179 points and 277 penalty minutes in 289 career games, the emergence of Thornton as a future superstar and a 1st line center has allowed the Bruins to discuss the possibility of dealing away current all-star center Jason Allison, who is currently in a contract dispute with the Bruins. It is clear that Thornton is the future for Boston, and they will look for him to improve on his breakout season this past year in which he had 37 goals, 34 assists, 71 points and 107 penalty minutes in 72 games. Thornton was definitely worth taking with the 1st overall selection.

2. San Jose – Patrick Marleau, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
317 GP, 76 G, 93 A, 169 P, 96 PIM

The Sharks opted to take Marleau, a slick offensive center from Seattle of the WHL, with the 2nd overall pick. Leading up to the draft at the time, there where whispers about that some people felt Marleau could have been the first player selected. However, Boston opted for Thornton, and San Jose went for Marleau. The Sharks have been very pleased with Marleau so far in his 4 seasons, as he has racked up 76 goals, 93 assists, 169 points and 96 penalty minutes in 317 games. He had his best year this past season, totaling 25 goals and 27 assists for 52 points in 81 games. It’s no coincidence that when the Sharks are in trade talks to acquire a big name player, Marleau’s name is always one of the first brought up by the other team as part of the return. Marleau is going to be an all-star caliber 1st line center in a few years, but it is uncertain if it will be with San Jose. The Sharks are on the verge of becoming a contender for the Stanley Cup, and if the right player is available, such as Bobby Holik or Jason Allison, the Sharks might just give up Marleau for a shot at Lord Stanley’s trophy. Nonetheless, Marleau was a good selection and if he keeps steadily improving as he has done the past four seasons, he will be a top flight center in a few years.

3. Los Angeles – Olli Jokinen, C, HIFK Helsinki (Finland)
234 GP, 26 G, 32 A, 58 P, 236 PIM

Being drafted 3rd overall by the Kings has been one of the only highlights of Jokinen’s young career thus far. He has been a disappointment in the NHL, as he has not produced offensively as many people believed he would. Two teams have already given up on him, and a third one almost did not re-sign him this summer. After one full season with Los Angeles in 1998-99, the Kings traded him to the New York Islanders in June of 1999 as part of the package for all-star Zigmund Palffy. After a season with the Islanders in 1999-00, Olli was trade again, this time from the Islanders to the Florida Panthers in the infamous Roberto Luongo trade at the 2000 NHL Draft. In return for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen, the Islanders received what many felt was not much in winger Mark Parrish and center Oleg Kvasha. In 2000-01 with the Panthers, Jokinen posted 6 goals and 10 assists in 78 games – his worst offensive output for a season thus far. On the other hand, Jokinen has been effective defensively as a 3rd line checking center and a penalty killer. Unless he drastically improves his offensive game, that is the likely role he will remain in for the duration of his NHL career. Defensive forwards are good to have, but not at the expense of a 3rd overall pick. The Kings blew this pick, considering the potential superstars that were taken after Jokinen later in the draft.

4. New York Islanders – Roberto Luongo, G, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
71 GP, 19 W, 38 L, 8 T, 2.85 GAA, .912 SPCT

Courtesy of a previous trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders held the 4th overall selection. When the pick was made, Roberto Luongo was the highest drafted goaltender in an Entry Draft in the post-expansion era at 4th overall. The Islanders saw a lot of potential in Roberto, and made the butterfly goaltender who idolized Patrick Roy their 1st selection of the 1997 Draft. The Islanders made a great pick, as Luongo has the potential to be a franchise goaltender in the NHL one day, however, they blew it last year by dealing him away to the Florida Panthers in return for more scoring help up front in Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. With the 1st overall pick in the 2000 Draft, the Islanders selected goaltender Rick DiPietro, making him the highest drafted goaltender ever, and also making him the team’s new number one netminder of the future. Was it a smart move? Many say no. Although Ricky DiPietro is talented, he is no way near the level that Roberto Luongo is on. Luongo played in 47 games this past season for the Panthers, and was consistently outstanding, although his record doesn’t show it. Luongo was the victim of a horrible Panthers’ offense, who rarely provided him with more than 2 goals a game. In those 47 games, Luongo had 5 shutouts, and posted a very respectable 2.44 GAA and an excellent .920 SPCT. He was only 12-24-7, but again it was because Florida was not providing goal support for Luongo, who kept the team in the game night in and night out. Expect Luongo’s record to be a lot better this season, as the Panthers have improved their offense by adding Pavel Bure’s younger brother Valeri, and also the likely emergence of Swedish star Kristian Huselius. Selecting Luongo at 4th was a great selection by the Islanders, however they will not have the pleasure of seeing him become an all-star and a future Vezina winner while wearing their orange, blue and white jersey.

5. New York Islanders – Eric Brewer, D, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
166 GP, 12 G, 22 A, 34 P, 105 PIM

With the 5th pick overall, and their 2nd top 5 pick of the Draft, the Islanders used it to select a solid, two-way defenseman in Eric Brewer from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. In his first season in the NHL in 1998-99, Brewer appeared in 63 games, scoring 5 goals while adding 6 assists and 32 penalty minutes. He played surprisingly well for a rookie, but the excellent play did not last long. The next season, Brewer seemed to lose his confidence, and he started to play horrible at both ends of the ice. He was frequently caught out of position defensively, and the Islanders lost faith in the young blue-liner. At the 2000 Draft, Islanders GM Mike Milbury dealt Brewer away to the Edmonton Oilers as part of the package to get all-star defenseman Roman Hamrlik. This year with the Oilers, Brewer had a great season. He had 7 goals and 14 assists, including 53 penalty minutes, in 77 games. In the playoffs, Brewer was easily the Oilers best defender. In 6 games against the Dallas Stars in the first round, young Eric played like a poised veteran. He had 1 goal and 5 assists in the 6 games, while also getting 2 minutes in penalties. Because of Brewer’s great performance this past season, he was given an invitation by Team Canada to perform at their 4 day orientation camp on September 4-7, in hopes of making the team for the Olympics in 2002. With Canada’s depth on defense, Brewer likely will not make the team, but the fact that a team as deep as Canada is giving the young defenseman a look is certainly an indication of Brewer’s talents. If Brewer continues his play from last season, he should have no problem developing into a top 2 defenseman in the future.

6. Calgary – Daniel Tkaczuk, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
19 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 P, 14 PIM

The Calgary Flames selected center Daniel Tkaczuk from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League with the 6th pick overall. A high-scoring, playmaking center in junior hockey, the Flames hoped Tkaczuk could develop into that top flight center the team didn’t have since Joe Nieuwendyk. The Flames let Tkaczuk develop in junior hockey and the minors before testing him in the NHL. Dan played the 97-98 and 98-99 seasons with the Colts, completing his four year junior career. In 99-00, Tkaczuk played with the Saint-John Flames of the AHL, totaling 25 goals and 41 assists in 80 games, while also tacking on 56 penalty minutes. In 2000-01, Tkaczuk suited up for 50 games with the Saint Joan Flames, scoring 15 goals, 21 assists, and adding 48 minutes in penalties. The young center also saw 19 games of NHL action with Calgary, scoring 4 goals and adding 7 assists. He also registered 14 penalty minutes. Despite playing well in his brief stint in Calgary, the Flames gave up on him this summer, dealing him to the St. Louis Blues at the 2001 Draft. Danny should find himself in the NHL next season with the Blues for the majority of the year, unless another young player beats him out for a roster spot. Tkaczuk showed he can produce at the NHL level, but it will still be a few years before we can say if he’ll be a decent player, or an all-star.

7. Tampa Bay – Paul Mara, D, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
117 GP, 14 G, 26 A, 40 P, 127 PIM

Paul Mara is a gritty, two-way defenseman who the Lightning selected 7th overall in ’97. The two seasons following the selectiong, Tampa Bay let Mara develop in juniors, where he had 103 points in 102 games with the Sudbury Wolves and Plymouth Whalers. Mara appeared in 1 game with the Lightning in 1998-99, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist. The next year he spent 54 games with the Lightning, scoring 7 goals and 18 points, along with 73 penalty minutes. It appeared the Lightning were very high on Paul, and he would be an important piece to their defense in the future. But after 46 games with the team in 2000-01, Mara was traded to Phoenix in the package that brought Nikolai Khabibulin to Tampa Bay. Mara had 4 assists in 16 games with Phoenix, and should see a lot of ice time this season, as the Coyotes have traded away Keith Carney and Jyrki Lumme in attempts to get younger. Expect Mara to score around 25-30 points this year, his 3rd full season in the NHL.

8. Boston – Sergei Samsonov, LW, Detroit Vipers (IHL)
319 GP, 95 G, 123 A, 218 P, 48 PIM

Courtesy of a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Boston Bruins had a 2nd top 10 pick. They used it to select small – but quick – Russian Sergei Samsonov, who had 64 points in 73 games with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL as an 18-year-old. The Bruins hoped the offensive output would continue into the NHL, and it did just that. Samsonov stepped into the Bruins lineup the following season after being drafted and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. Sergei scored 22 goals and added 25 assists in 81 games to secure the trophy. He had career highs in games played, goals, assists and points this past season when he had 29 goals, 46 assists and 75 points in 82 games. Expect Samsonov’s numbers to take a little drop this season, as the Bruins will likely deal Jason Allison before the seasons start. Samsonov has unlimited potential, and someday he could be a 40 goal, 85 point player. The Boston Bruins definitely were the big winners in this draft.

9. Washington – Nick Boynton, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM

The Washing Capitals selected slick offensive defenseman Nick Boynton with the 9th pick overall. The Capitals felt it was better for Boynton to return to junior hockey to develop his game. However, the Capitals failed to signed Boynton in the time frame of two years which teams get to sign players drafted from major junior. The only thing the Capitals got in return for Boynton was a 2nd rounder in the 1999 Draft as compensation for failing to sign Boynton. With the 2nd rounder, the Caps selected defenseman Nolan Yonkman. In the same draft, the Bruins scooped up Boynton 21st overall in the 1st round. Nick has spent the past two seasons in the minors with the Bruins, appearing in 6 NHL games, registering no goals or points. Boynton will likely spend another season in the minors this year, but should see about 10 games in the NHL. He should be in the NHL full-time by 2002-03, but it is clear how much of an impact Boynton will have on the league. Some feel he turn out to be a bust, but it will be a few more years before we can make that assumption.

10. Vancouver – Brad Ference, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
27 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P, 60 PIM

A physical stay-at-home defenseman with a lot of raw skill, the Vancouver Canucks proudly selected Brad Ference from the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Ference was one of the toughest defenseman in the WHL during the 1996-97 season, and although they won’t admit it, the Canucks loved the fact Ference had 324 penalty minutes. Labeled as a few years away, Vancouver let Ference finish out the two remaining years of his junior hockey eligibility. But, mid-way through the 1998-99 season, the Canucks dealt Ference to the Florida Panthers in the blockbuster Pavel Bure trade. In 2 years with the Panthers organization, Brad has split time between the AHL and the NHL. Currently entering his 3rd season of professional hockey, Ference has 27 games of NHL experience under his belt. He is going to be fighting for a spot on the Panthers defense this season in the NHL, but with a few new defenseman being signed, Ference may have to wait another year before he plays a full season in the show. Brad’s potential is a 4th or 5th physical, stay-at-home defenseman.

11. Montreal – Jason Ward, Right Wing, Erie Otters (OHL)
44 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, 22 PIM

Described as a future power forward who would score 30 goals a year consistently in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens thought they were getting a steal when they select Jason Ward, a Right Winger from the Erie Otters, 11th overall. Now, injuries have slowed down the development of Ward, and his once sky high NHL potential seems to have vanished. In 42 games with the Canadiens over the past two seasons, Jason has scored 2 goals, added an assist, and also tacked on 22 penalty minutes. In his first NHL game, against the New York Rangers, Ward scored on his first NHL shot, which also happened to be on his first NHL shift. That goal lit up the eyes of most Habs fans, for a moment thinking Montreal struck gold. But since then, everything has been going downhill. In the next 41 games, Ward only scored 1 more goal. He has seen a lot of time in the AHL over the last two seasons, and will probably spend some time there this season as well. Ward still has the potential to be an NHLer, but realistically his potential now is only of a 3rd liner who could pot 10 goals and 15-20 assists a year, while providing solid physical and defensive play.

12. Ottawa – Marian Hossa, Left Wing, Dukla Trencin (Slovakia)
226 GP, 76 G, 86 A, 162 P, 113 PIM

The Ottawa Senators drafted a player, who at that time, was not considered to be one of the top available players in the draft. However, Marian Hossa proved everyone wrong. Selected 12th overall by the Senators from Dukla Trencin of the Slovak Elite League, little did Ottawa know that they were drafting a future superstar. Hossa came over to North America that summer, and in the beginning of the 1997-98 season, young Marian appeared in 7 games, registering only 1 assist. Realizing he wasn’t ready for the NHL at 18 year old, the Senators sent Hossa to the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL. In 53 games, Hossa accumulated 45 goals, 40 assists, 85 points and 50 games. During the playoffs, Hossa stepped up the play, scoring 13 goals and 6 assists in 16 playoff games, leading Portland to the Memorial Cup tournament. However, Hossa suffered a devastating knee injury during the tournament, and missed half a season recovering. He played in 60 games with the Senators in 1998-99, scoring 15 goals and 15 assists, playing moslty on the checking line. Hossa finished 2nd in the Calder Trophy voting for NHL Rookie of the Year, only behind Chris Drury of the Colorado Avalanche. Marian continued his excellent play during his rookie season, scoring 29 goals and 56 points in 78 games the following season. Described as a future superstar by scouts, Hossa did not disappoint this past year, scoring 32 goals and 43 assists for 75 points in 81 games. At only 22 years old, Hossa has 162 points in 226 career games, improving his stats about 20 points each year. Entering the 2001-02 season, the Senators are looking for big things from the young left winger, as the team recently dealt away all-star center Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders. There might be something in holding back Hossa from posting career numbers this year, and that is a contract hold out. Hossa is in a contract dispute with Ottawa, but hopefully for the youngster a deal can be reached before training camp. If Hossa stays healthy for the full season and clicks again with Radek Bonk, there’s no reason Hossa can’t come close to reaching 85-90 points this year. In the future we’ll see him turn into a consistent 40 goal, 100 point player. An excellent selection by the Senators, and one of the steals people will be talking about for years.

13. Chicago – Daniel Cleary, Left Wing, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
139 GP, 21 G, 28 A, 49 P, 69 PIM

The Chicago Blackhawks selected Daniel Cleary, a high scoring left winger from the Belleville Bulls, with lucky selection number 13. After two years spent between juniors and the AHL, the Hawks dealt Cleary to the Edmonton Oilers in the package that got them defenseman Boris Mironov. Cleary enjoyed a solid season this past year in 2000-01, scoring 14 goals and adding 21 assists in 81 games. Over parts of 3 seasons, Cleary has 21 goals, 28 assists and 69 penalty minutes in 139 NHL games. Projected as a 2nd line winger who will provide solid all around play as well as around 20 goals and 45-50 points consistently, Edmonton has high hopes for this young man in the future.

14. Edmonton – Michel Reisen, Right Wing, Davos (Switzerland)
12 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 4 PIM

The Edmonton Oilers had high hopes that Michel Riesen would turn into a solid NHL goal scorer in the future, thus they selected him with the 14th overall pick. Although Riesen was able to put up good numbers in 3 seasons in the AHL, he flunked a 12 game test with the Oilers this year. The Oilers felt he was too soft for the NHL, and needed to work on his physical play in the minors. However, this off-season the Oilers got rid of Riesen and his lackluster play, shipping him off to the St. Louis Blues along with all-star center Doug Weight for a package of three young players in Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner and Jan Horacek. Riesen now becomes the Blues enigma, although the team will give him an oppurtunity to make the team in camp, provided he shows enough skill to handle the NHL. There’s still some hope Riesen could turn it around and the change of scenery could be just the thing, but there has been some whispers going around that if Riesen fails with the Blues a few times, he could head back home to Switzerland where he will continue playing hockey.

15. Los Angeles – Matt Zultek, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
No NHL Experience

The Los Angeles Kings hoped that Matt Zultek would develop into a high-scoring NHL power forward, so they used the 15th overall pick to select him. Now, Zultek is heading for an appearance on “Where are they now?” The Kings never signed him, and Zultek re-entered the 1999 Draft. The Boston Bruins took a chance on the power forward, selecting him in the 2nd round, 56th overall. But after being very unimpressed with Zultek and realizing he had little NHL potential among other things, they dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 9th round pick this past year. Zultek appeared in 16 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL this season, scoring 1 goal, adding 4 assists and tacking on 6 penalty minutes. Zultek will continue to develop in the minors, and if he ever makes it to the NHL, it will be a small role on the 3rd or 4th line. This selection capped off a horrible 1st round for the LA Kings.

16. Chicago – Ty Jones, Right Wing, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
8 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 12 PIM

The Chicago Blackhawks, on the clock for the 2nd time in the 1st round, selected a future power forward in Ty Jones from the Spokane Chiefs, or so they thought. Jones has been a big disappointment to the Hawks, as his offensive game has not developed the way they envisioned. Jones suited up for 8 games with the Blackhawks during 1998-99, scoring no goals or points while registering 12 minutes in penalties. In 1999-00, Jones spent the majority of the season with the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), scoring 11 goals and 37 points in 48 games. This past year, Ty spent the whole season with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, scoring 11 goals and 28 points in 64 games, along with 114 penalty minutes. Chicago is very disappointed that Jones has not developed into the scoring power-forward so many people believed he woudl be, but they are still hoping he could be a 3rd or 4th liner in the NHL some day, providing a physical presence on the ice. A wasted pick by the Hawks, if Jones continues to struggle in the minors and in the NHL, he may see himself with another organization before the year is over.

17. Pittsburgh – Robert Dome, Right Wing, Las-Vegas Thunder (IHL)
52 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 P, 12 PIM

After spending two seasons in the IHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins believed Robert Dome (pronounced Dem-ay) had the makings of a pure NHL goal-scorer. Shortly after they selected him 17th overall, he disappointed the organization with his lazy play. He showed no passion for the game, and had no motivation. After a few years of splitting time between the NHL and AHL, in which he scored 7 goals and 7 assists in 52 games, Dome went back to his native Czech Republic, where he spent a few games playing for Trinec, and the rest for Kladno. After Dome had 21 points in 29 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed him to a one year deal this summer, giving him one last chance to make his mark in the NHL. If he can’t make the Penguins out of camp, instead of being assigned to the minors, he will likely head back to the Czech Republic for the rest of the season. Don’t expect Dome to do much if he makes the NHL this season, as the fire inside of him is rarely lit.

18. Anaheim – Mikael Holmqvist, Center, Djurgardens (Sweden)
No NHL Experience

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had high hopes for Mikael Holmqvist after selecting the playmaking center with the 18th pick overall. 4 years later, the Ducks are still waiting for Holmqvist to come over to North America. He has spent the past two seasons playing in Finland with TPS Turku, where he has struggled offensively, only scoring 24 points in 100 games. It is unclear if Holmqvist ever plans to come over to North America, but if he does, it is very unlikely he’ll develop into that 1st line center teams saw in him during his draft year. He has not improved his game much, and many believe he has lost a lot of confidence in his abilities.

19. New York Rangers – Stefan Cherneski, Right Wing, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
No NHL Experience (Retired)

The Rangers organization, as well as most fans, including me, were completely stoked to get Stefan Cherneski with the 19th pick overall. Projected to be an Adam Graves type winger on the 2nd line, Cherneski’s NHL career came to a sudden end this past year as he was forced to retire due to a very serious knee injury. It all started 3 years ago during training camp in 1998. Cherneski came to camp and was one of the hardest working guys on the team, and really impressed the coaching staff. However, he was the last cut, as he was beat out by veteran Brent Fedyk. Cherneski figured no big deal, he’ll go down to the minors, play some excellent games, and then be back in the NHL later in year. But after just starting to settle in with the Wolf Pack, Cherneski suffered a serious knee injury in his 11th game, shattering his knee cap when he slammed it awkwardly into the boards. He missed the rest of the 1998-99 season, as well as the 1999-00 season, except for 1 game he suited up for with the Wolf Pack. This past year, Cherneski played the first 28 games with the Wolf Pack, scoring 1 goal and adding 7 assists and 43 penalty minutes. But, you could tell by the way he skated and played that the knee still bothered him. When asked if it hurt, he told everyone it didn’t, as he wanted to show that he could play through pain. But the pain got the best of him. Cherneski had a 2 million insurance policy that if he had retire before he played in 30 games with the Wolf Pack, he would receive the full 2 million. But if he played more than 30 games, he wouldn’t get any insurance money if he had to retire because of his knee. Realizing he could cripple himself permanently if he hurt the knee again, Cherneski wisely took the 2 million and walked away from the game. This truly was a hard pill to swallow for the Rangers and their fans. Cherneski would have been an NHLer no matter if he could score in the pro’s or not. He had too much heart, too much character and too much passion not to. He works very hard to get where he is and to get better. His work ethic and commitment to the game of hockey was second to none. If the injury never happened, he’d be mentioned in the same breath as Mike Ricci when talking about warriors in the NHL. It was an absolute excellent pick by the Rangers however, a fluke accident got in the way of a sparkling career for this young Winnipeg native.

20. Florida – Mike Brown, Left Wing, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 5 PIM

The Florida Panthers selected a gritty, physical left winger in Mike Brown 20th overall. After spending two seasons with the Kamloops Blazers, the Panthers dealt Brown to the Vancouver Canucks in the Pavel Bure deal. Brown played the 1999-00 season with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, which was at the time the top minor league affiliate for the Canucks. Brown adjusted to the AHL pretty well, scoring 13 goals and totaling 31 points, along with 284 penalty minutes in 71 games. This past season, Mike played in 78 games with the Kansas City Blades of the now defunct IHL, scoring 14 goals and 27 points, along with 214 penalty minutes. He appeared in 1 game with the Canucks this year, scoring no points but he did get into a fight. The Canucks will continue to let Brown develop in the AHL, and although he will not be that 2nd line power forward, a decent 3rd or 4th liner should be a good role for Brown when he makes the NHL.

21. Buffalo – Mika Noronen, G, Tappara Tampere (Finland)
2 GP, 2 W, 0 L, 0 T, 2.78 GAA, .872 SPCT

Buffalo selected little known goaltender Mika Noronen from Finland with the 21st pick overall. 4 years later, the Buffalo Sabres are looking like they got an absolute steal. Noronen came over to North America before the 1999-00 season, and took the AHL by storm, leading the Rochester Americans deep into the playoffs with a 33-13-4 record, along with a 2.18 GAA and a .920 SPCT, including 6 shutouts, in 54 games. Mika was named the top rookie in the AHL. This past season, Noronen started off the year as the back-up to Dominik Hasek in Buffalo as Martin Biron was in the middle of a hold-out over a contract dispute. Hasek got injured early in the season, and with Mika Noronen as one of the only goalies left in the system, he was forced into emergency duty, appearing in 2 games, and winning them both, despite posting a .872 save percentage. When Hasek came back from his injury and Biron was signed to a new deal, Noronen was sent back to the AHL to get some quality playing time. Mika again posted excellent numbers, as he had a 2.18 GAA, .913 SPCT, and a 26-15-4 record in 47 games, including 4 shutouts. With Dominik Hasek shipped off to Detroit this summer, it appeared Noronen would battle it out with Martin Biron for ice time this season with Buffalo, but unexpectedly the Sabres signed veteran goalie Bob Essensa, thus Noronen will likely spend another season in the minors. A potential superstar goaltender, Noronen is considered the top goaltending prospect currently drafted by many.

22. Carolina – Nikos Tselios, D, Belleville Bulls (OHL
No NHL Experience

The Carolina Hurricanes selected two-way defenseman Nikos Tselios, a relative of NHL star defenseman Chris Chelios, with the 22nd overall pick. The Hurricanes have been letting Tselios develop slowly, as he spent 2 years in junior hockey and two years in the AHL since being drafted. With Carolina’s lack of depth on defense, he might have a shot at making the team at some point this season. The Hurricanes will continue to let him develop, and they are hopeful that he can be a solid defenseman in the NHL.

23. San Jose – Scott Hannan, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
110 GP, 4 G, 18 A, 22 P, 67 PIM

The San Jose Sharks selected stay-at-home defenseman Scott Hannan from the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL with the 23rd overall pick. Hannan played two seasons in the WHL after being drafted, although he suited up in 5 games for the Sharks in 1998-99, registering 2 assists and 6 penalty minutes. Scott played most of the 1999-00 season in the AHL with the Kentucky Thoroughblades, although he appeared in 30 games for the Sharks, scoring 1 goal, 2 assists and 10 penalty minutes. This past year was Scott’s 1st full NHL season, and he made great strides in his development, scoring 3 goals, 14 assists and tacking on 51 penalty minutes in 75 games. The Sharks have been very pleased with Hannan’s development, and one day when he reaches his full potential he could be an excellent number 4 defenseman on the Sharks. With young defenseman Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan already in San Jose, and Jeff Jillson and Tero Maatta on the way, the Sharks will have one of the top blue lines in the NHL in the future.

24. New Jersey – JF Damphousse, G, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
No NHL Experience

The New Jersey Devils added some goaltending depth to their organization by selecting JF Damphousse from the Moncton Wildcats. Damphousse has been developing in the minors for the Devils the last few seasons, and has a good chance of being the backup on the Devils this season, since John Vanbiesbrouck retired this summer. JF had a 24-23-3 record along with a 2.86 GAA and a .914 SPCT in 55 games for a poor River Rats team this past season. Damphousse likely will not be a starter with the Devils any time in the future, as Finnish goaltender Ari Ahonen appears he will be the heir apparent to Brodeur in New Jersey when he leaves, but expect either Damphousse to be the backup for the Devils or possibly a starter if he gets traded to another organization.

25. Dallas – Brenden Morrow, LW, Portland Winter Hawks (WHL)
146 GP, 34 G, 43 A, 77 P, 209 PIM

The Stars made a very controversial selection when they took winger Brenden Morrow 25th overall. Labeled as a very poor conditioned player who had a horrible work-ethic as well as being a overweight, Dallas saw enough in Morrow that they liked to make him their 1st round pick. Now 4 years later, Morrow was definitely one of the steals of the 1st round. He is developing into a solid power forward who is contributing at both ends of the ice while also playing on the top 2 lines. Morrow has the potential to be a 30 goal scorer in the future, and with some new offensive weapons in Dallas this season, such as Pierre Turgeon and Donald Audette, Morrow could find himself putting a lot of pucks in the net this year. An excellent pick by the Stars.

26. Colorado – Kevin Grimes, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
No NHL Experience

Although the Avalanche have been praised time and time again for their excellent scouting and ability to unearth talented NHL players in the drafts, this was a selection that they blew. They drafted stay-at-home defenseman Kevin Grimes from Kingston of the OHL. He was not signed by the Avs, and has completely fallen off the radar screen. The Senators signed him to a contract in 1999, but he has been playign in the ECHL for the majority of the past two seasons. He has had 5 points and 342 penalty minutes in 93 ECHL games, while he’s had 0 points and 17 penalty minutes in 9 IHL games. A career minor leaguer, Kevin Grimes is a bust.

Some Quick Notes on the 1997 Draft

1st Rounders With At Least 1 NHL Game Played: 20 out of 26

1st Rounders With Likely NHL Careers: 20 out of 26 (My Opinion – Everyone except Riesen, Zultek, Dome, Holmqvist, Brown, Grimes. Cherneski would have made it)

1st Rounders with All-Star Potential: 8 out of 26 (My Opinion – Thornton, Marleau, Luongo, Brewer, Samsonov, Hossa, Noronen, Morrow)

1st Round Busts: 8 out of 26 – (My Opinion: Jokinen, Riesen, Zultek, Jones, Dome, Holmqvist, Brown, Grimes – Did not include Cherneski as he would have been an NHLer)

Late Round Draftees with All-Star potential: My Opinion – Kristian Huselius, Maxim Afinogenov, Ivan Novoseltsev, Ladislav Nagy

Best Player by Round:
1 – Joe Thornton
2 – Kristian Huselius
3 – Maxim Afinogenov
4 – Shane Willis
5 – Magnus Arvedson
6 – Mike York
7 – Ladislav Nagy
8 – Andrew Ference
9 – Karel Rachunek