A Look Back at the 1998 Draft

By Brandon LeBourveau
The 1998 NHL Entry Draft was one of the more interesting ones of the past few years. Many experts labeled the draft as neither very strong or very weak in talent, but somewhere inbetween. Three years later, and the draft has already produced a good amount of solid NHLers. Not to mention that more are still developing and have a good shot at cracking an NHL lineup in the not-to-distant future.

Heading into the draft, everyone knew that center Vincent Lecavalier from the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL was going to be the first selection. However, the question was what team was going to have the 1st overall pick when it was all over? The Tampa Bay Lightning held the first selection, and there were a lot of rumors floating around about a possible trade. The Colorado Avalanche were one of the teams definitely interested, as Pierre Lacroix (GM of the Avalanche) stocked up on early draft picks in an attempt to obtain the 1st overall pick and select the player he wanted most, Lecavalier. Add in the extra excitement as the Nashville Predators were entering the league in the upcoming season and they were ready to be a part of their 1st NHL Entry Draft.

The following is a full review of each selection in the 1st round of the 1998 Draft. Included is the player selected, his position, what team he was drafted from, and his career stats thus far in the NHL.

1. Tampa Bay – Vincent Lecavalier, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
230 GP, 61 G, 85 A, 146 P, 132 PIM

The Tampa Bay Lightning did the right thing by selecting Vincent Lecavalier from the Rimouski Oceanic first overall. They didn’t bite at offers to deal the pick. Labeled as a future superstar, Lecavalier scored 44 goals and 115 points in 58 games during his draft year. The Lightning wasted little time making their selection, and quickly all the pressure was put on young Vincent to turn around the lowly Tampa Bay franchise. Lecavalier made the Lightning right out of training camp and wasted little time making an impact in the NHL, scoring a respectable 13 goals and 28 points in 82 games as an 18 year old. In 1999-00, Lecavalier more than doubled his production, scoring 25 goals and 67 points in 80 games. The 19 year old center, called “Prince Vince” by some, also took over the captaincy after Chris Gratton was traded towards the end of the season. The emerging star seemed to thrive under pressure, and was on a tear for the remainder of the season since getting the C on his sweater. There was definitely no sophomore bust for this young man. However, in his third season, this past year Lecavalier struggled at times and missed 14 games due to injuries. He still scored 23 goals and had 51 points in 68 games, which equals about 62 points in 82 games. With an improved Tampa Bay team this year, expect Lecavalier to set new career highs in all categories. If he can lead the team offensively, and Khabibulin can consistently keep the puck out of the net, the Lightning have a chance to push for a playoff spot. The Lightning definitely made the right selection, as Lecavalier is arguably one of the best up and coming forwards in the business.

2. Nashville – David Legwand, C, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
153 GP, 26 G, 43 A, 69 P, 68 PIM

Afraid that the San Jose Sharks would take David Legwand with the 2nd overall selection, the Nashville Predators pulled off a deal to swap picks with San Jose, moving up from 3rd to 2nd in the draft. Nashville got the player they wanted, the selecting the offensive whiz in David Legwand, a center from the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. The Predators said from the start that there team will be built around speed, and Legwand certainly has a great deal of it. However, they liked everything else about the slick center as well. A playmaker with excellent hockey sense and offensive instincts, the Predators put all the pressure of being the cornerstone of the franchise on his shoulders. After a long look in training camp, the team felt it would be best for Legwand’s development to be sent back to juniors, where he could mature physically and improve some areas of his game. After scoring 31 goals and totaling 80 points in 55 games for the Plymouth Whalers during that 1998-99 season, David appeared in one late season game for Nashville, registering no points or penalties in 12 minutes and 50 seconds of ice time.

The following year Legwand stayed with the Predators for the full season, scoring 13 goals and racking up 15 assists for a total of 28 points and 30 penalty minutes in 71 games. Although his rookie season was not outstanding, the then-19 year old center showed flashes of becoming that world-class player that everyone believed he could be. David improved during his rookie season, again scoring 13 goals, but he almost doubled his assist totals, this time finishing with 28 assists and a total of 41 points. He has not had that true breakout season just yet, but this upcoming season, his third in the NHL, could be the year we see him shine. I expect him to put up totals of around 20 goals and 60 points this year, but certainly expect more production in the future.

3. San Jose – Brad Stuart, D, Regina Pats (WHL)
159 GP, 15 G, 44 A, 59 P, 88 PIM

After moving down to 3rd overall after a trade with Nashville, the Sharks selected the player many believed they wanted all along, defenseman Brad Stuart from the Regina Pats of the WHL. An excellent two-way defenseman with top notch offensive skills, San Jose fell in love with Stuart’s potential, believed to be an all-star number 1 defenseman when he reaches his peak. After nearly making the NHL as an 18 year old, Brad went back to the WHL and had an excellent season, eventually being traded to the Calgary Hitmen towards the end of the season. Stuart was a big part of Calgary making it to the Memorial Cup, although the team failed to win the championship. The next year, 1999-00, Stuart made the Sharks right out of training camp and had an outstanding rookie season, leading all San Jose defenseman in scoring with 10 goals and 26 assists in 82 games. Brad didn’t win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, but he came close, finishing 2nd to Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils, who had a 70 point rookie campaign.

This past year, 2000-01, Stuart struggled offensively at times, totaling only 5 goals and 18 assists in 77 games. He will look to rebound this year by posting career numbers, however he will likely miss some time at the start of the season while rehabbing a shoulder injury he suffered this summer. All in all, an excellent selection by the Sharks, as it is clear Stuart is a budding star. The team has already penciled in the 21 year old defenseman as a future replacement for Gary Suter, who is likely in his last season in the NHL.

4. Vancouver Canucks – Bryan Allen, D, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM

Compared to players such as Chris Pronger and Derian Hatcher, the Vancouver Canucks selected stay-at-home defenseman Bryan Allen with the 4th overall pick of the ’98 draft. Allen has been coming along slowly since being drafted, as injuries have slown down his development. In 1998-99, he played in only 37 games for Oshawa of the OHL, and the following year he missed practically the whole season with injuries, playing in only 3 games for Oshawa and 9 for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. This year Bryan bounced back and stayed healthy all season, while also making great improvement in his game. He appeared in 75 games for the Kansas City Blades of the IHL, scoring 5 goals and 20 assists for 25 points, including 99 penalty minutes. He also got a 6 games call-up with the Canucks, register no points or penalty minutes.

In the playoffs, Allen suited up for 2 games against the Colorado Avalanche, totaling no points and 2 penalty minutes. This season Allen will try and make the Canucks roster during training camp, but if the team feels he’s not ready yet, he’ll spend most of the season in the AHL. Bryan is still a little rough around the edges, but he will improve with more pro experience and as he gains more confidence. You can’t write this kid off just yet, even though he is taking a little longer to develop than most believed. Still one to keep your eye on in the future.

5. Anaheim – Vitali Vishnevsky, D, Torpedo-2 Yaroslavl (Russia)
107 GP, 2 G, 11 A, 13 P, 125 PIM

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks surprised a lot of people with the 5th overall selection, taking Russian defenseman Vitali Vishnevsky. A stay-at-home defenseman, Vishnevsky is a very physical defenseman who loves to throw huge body checks as well as bang around in the corners and in front of the crease. Vitali remained in Russia for 1 more season after being drafted, scoring 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points and 38 penalty minutes in 34 games for Torpedo Yaroslavl, a Russian Men’s team. Vishnevsky made the trip over to North America the following season, splitting time between the AHL and NHL. With the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL he registered 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points and 45 penalty minutes in 35 games. In 31 games with the Ducks he had 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points and 26 minutes in penalties. This season Vishnevsky stepped up and played excellent for the Ducks in 76 games, scoring 1 goal and adding 10 assists for 11 points, including 99 penalty minutes. Vishnevsky finished 5th in the league in hits with 286, ahead of such players as Mattias Norstrom, Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk. Vishnevsky will be one of those players who goes out and plays a simple, yet very effective game. He’s one of those players you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.

6. Calgary – Rico Fata, RW, London Knights (OHL)
27 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 10 PIM

Said to be one of the best skaters in the draft, as well as a very good offensive player, the Calgary Flames scooped up Rico Fata with the 6th pick overall. Fata stepped right into the lineup of the Flames the following season, although he had only 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes in 20 games. The Flames sent Fata back to juniors, and in 23 games with the London Knights of the OHL Rico scored 15 goals and totaled 33 points, including 41 penalty minutes. Fata came to camp the next year looking to stay with Calgary for the full season, but instead he spent the year in the AHL as a 19 year old. In 76 games with the Saint-John Flames, he had 29 goals, 29 assists and 58 points, along with 65 penalty minutes. This past year Fata again played the majority of the season in the AHL, scoring 23 goals and 29 assists in 70 games for a toal of 52 points, along with 129 penalty minutes. He suited up for 5 games for the Calgary Flames, registering no points and 6 penalty minutes. With 4 years in junior hockey, 2 years in the AHL, plus 27 games in the NHL, Rico is clearly ready to make the NHL full time this season. With the departure of Valeri Bure, the Flames are looking for more scoring on the wings, and if Fata comes to camp and puts on a show, he’ll be in Calgary and stay there as long he can consistently contribute to the team.

7. New York Rangers – Manny Malhotra, C/LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
150 GP, 12 G, 16 A, 28 P, 48 PIM

Considered one of the best prospects available in the draft, Manny Malhotra slipped to the Rangers at 7th overall. An excellent skater who plays a tough, physical game to go along with some good offensive ability, the Rangers’ envisioned Malhotra becoming a very similar player to Michael Peca. Manny came to camp in great shape and one a roster spot as an 18 year old. Although he didn’t receive a lot of ice time, Malhotra scored 8 goals and added 8 assists in 73 games, including 13 penalty minutes, as a rookie. Malhotra impressed the Rangers at times during the year and showed some good potential for the future. But everything started to go downhill the following season. During training camp John Muckler, then the coach of the Rangers, made a firm statement to reporters that Malhotra was never going to be more than a 3rd line center in the NHL. That badly hurt Manny’s confidence, and Muckler didn’t get him much ice time during the season. Malhotra appeared in 27 games with the Rangers scoring no goals or points. He also was sent down to the AHL on two seperate conditioning stints, scoring 1 goal and adding 4 assists in 12 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

When the trade deadline came around, Rangers GM Neil Smith figured Malhotra wasn’t going to get any key ice time with the Rangers for the remainder of the season so he sent him back to the Guelph Storm of the OHL, after spending a year and a half in the NHL. That was a weird situation to be in for the young Mississauga native, and you could tell his confidence was nearly ruined. When he went back to juniors, he scored 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 games at the end of the regular season, and had 2 assists in 6 games during the playoffs before Guelph was eliminated. Malhotra received a sigh of relief when the Rangers fired John Muckler and Neil Smith at the end of the season, bringing in Glen Sather as GM, and Ron Low as coach. Malhotra got a chance to start all over with a clean state, and he was given a chance to prove he was ready to stay in the NHL full time. The Rangers sent Malhotra down to the AHL at the beginning of the 2000-01 season to get some playing time that he wouldn’t get in New York. At mid-season, when the Rangers were going through some injury troubles, they recalled Malhotra from the minors. He played the majority of the remainder of the season in the NHL, suiting up for 50 games. When head coach Ron Low put Malhotra at LW on a line with Radek Dvorak and Mark Messier towards the end of the season, the line instantly clicked. Malhotra played the best hockey of his NHL career in the remaining 15 games or so, and finished off the season on a very high note, totaling 4 goals and 8 assists in the 50 games, along with 31 penalty minutes.

Now 21 years old, Malhotra will likely start the season where he left off last year, at LW on a line with Dvorak and Messier. If Manny plays the whole season on that line, he could score 15 goals and end up with 40 points, but if he struggles expect Ron Low to change the lines and that could effect Manny’s production. Malhotra is doing a good job getting back on track, and still has the potential to be that very good two-way center. With a lot of very talented players being selected later in the draft, like Alex Tanguay and Simon Gagne, Malhotra doesn’t look like a good pick. But give the youngster a few more years to develop and he could impress. He will not be an all-star, but a player who gives you something on the ice night in and night out.

8. Chicago – Mark Bell, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
13 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 4 PIM

A high-scoring, physical power forward from the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Mark Bell 8th overall. It was said at the time that Bell needed a few years to develop, and that statement was correct. The ‘Hawks let Bell finish out his remaining junior hockey eligibility, scoring 55 points in 44 games during 1998-99 and 72 points in 48 games during 1999-00. In 2000-01, Bell graduated to the pro ranks, playing in 61 games with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Mark registered 15 goals and 27 assists for a total of 42 points, including 126 penalty minutes. The ‘Hawks gave him a chance to make his mark in the NHL, although Bell only had 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes in 13 games of NHL action. Coming into training camp this year, Bell has one thing on his mind: Making the team out of camp. At 21 years old, he feels he’s ready to become a full-time NHLer. Whether the ‘Hawks decide to keep him for the season will depend upon how well he plays during training camp. My feeling is he will make the team, but with Mike Smith as the GM, nothing is predictable.

9. New York Islanders – Michael Rupp, LW, Erie Otters (OHL)
No NHL Experience

With Mike Milbury and the Islanders on the clock with the 9th overall pick, you knew the chances of Milbury making a surprise selection were pretty good. And surprise he did. The Islanders selected 6’5 230 pound Michael Rupp, a left wing from the Erie Otters of the OHL. The Islanders felt Rupp had a lot of raw skill, and with a few years of development, he could develop into a very good power forward. But, Rupp never improved the way the Islanders wanted him to, and they never signed him and let him re-enter the 2000 Draft. He was scooped up by the New Jersey Devils in the 3rd Round (76th Overall), and played this past season in the AHL with the Albany River Rats, scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 71 games, along with 63 penalty minutes. There is still some hope that Rupp could make the NHL, as time is on his side. But his stock has plummeted the past few years and right now he’s looking like a bust, although it is unfair to write him off yet. Clearly a bad selection by the Islanders.

10. Toronto – Nikolai Antropov, C, Torpedo UST-Kamengorsk (Russia)
118 GP, 18 G, 29 A, 47 P, 71 PIM

The Toronto Maple Leafs shocked the world when they selected a little known player by the name of Nikolai Antropov from Russia. The scouting report on Antropov said he was a big, playmaking center, although his skating was below average. After spending a season with Dynamo Moscow in Russia, where he scored 5 goals and 14 points in 30 games, Antropov came over to North America before the 1999-00 season and played a full-season with the Leafs. In 66 games during his rookie year, Nikolai totaled 12 goals, 18 assists, 30 points, and 41 penalty minutes. Antropov had 6 goals and 11 assists in 52 games this past year, missing a lot of time while recovering from knee surgery. The Leafs liked what the 6’5 center brings to the table, and they are looking for him to have a good season this year, although with players like Alexander Mogilny, Robert Reichel and Travis Green being acquired by the Leafs, Antropov’s ice time will likely decrease. Keep an eye on this player in the future, as he does have the potential to be very good some day. Whether he will reach that potential is uncertain, but so far so good.

11. Carolina – Jeff Heerema, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
No NHL Experience

The Carolina Hurricanes selected Jeff Heerema, a Right Winger from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL and a native of Murillo, Ontario. The Hurricanes saw a lot of scoring potential in Heerema, and drafted him 11th overall. The team let the young winger develop slowly, as he has played 2 seasons in juniors and 1 in the IHL since being drafted. This past season, with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Heerema scored 17 goals and finished with 33 points and 42 penalty minutes in 73 games. Although the Hurricanes probably would have liked for Jeff to be contributing in the NHL by now, he could make the show this upcoming season. Look for him to make some noise in training camp, as he is hungry for a taste of NHL action. If he does get sent back to the minors, look for him to put up better numbers than he did last season. It’s too early to write off Heerema, as some players just take longer to develop than others. If Heerema can develop into a very good NHLer, the Hurricanes will say that he was well worth the wait.

12. Colorado Avalanche – Alex Tanguay, C/LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
158 GP, 44 G, 84 A, 128 P, 59 PIM

The Colorado Avalanche got an absolute steal when they select forward Alex Tanguay from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. After not being able to come to terms on a contract following an outstanding performance training camp before the 1998-99 season, Tanguay was returned to the QMJHL, where he had 27 goals, 34 assists, 61 points and 30 penalty minutes in 31 games. The following season, Tanguay was able to agree on a contract with the Avalanche, and he made the team right from the start of camp. He played on a few different lines throughout the year but ended up having a very good season, scoring 17 goals and 51 points in 76 games, finishing 2nd in scoring among rookies behind only Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils.

This season Tanguay suited up for all 82 games, and played on a line with Joe Sakic, the eventual league MVP, and Milan Hejduk. The line clicked instantly and was one of the highest scoring lines in the NHL during the season. Tanguay improved 26 points from the year before, finishing up with 27 goals and 50 assists for 77 points. Tanguay also came up huge in the playoffs, scoring 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in 23 games, including 2 goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, sealing the victory and the Stanley Cup for Colorado. At just 21 years old, the sky is the limit for this youngster from Ste-Justine, Quebec. Some say Tanguay’s numbers were largely because of the team he played on and the fact he played with Sakic and Hejduk, but it is clear that he has some world-class talent of his own. Tanguay is a budding star and was one of the biggest steals of the 1998 Draft. Another excellent selection in the long line of great drafting by the Colorado Avalanche organization.

13. Edmonton – Michael Henrich, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
No NHL Experience

The Oilers fell in love with Henrich’s excellent offensively ability and his great playmaking skills. They happily drafted him with the 13th overall pick and looked for great things from him in the future. But three years later, Henrich hasn’t developed the way the Oilers had hoped. Nearly failing to come to terms with the Oilers, the team signed Henrich just before the midnight deadline on June 1, 2000. If Henrich hadn’t signed, he would have re-entered the draft. However, he was a disappointment this season, struggling greatly in the AHL, scoring only 5 goals and notching 10 assists in 73 games with the Hamilton. The Oilers sent him to the ECHL to hopefully give him a spark, but he didn’t respond too well, scoring only a goal and an assist in 6 games. Edmonton is hoping that Michael rebounds this year and has a solid season, but he really lost a lot of confidence last season and it’s going to be hard for him to gain it back. Will still need a few more years to develop if he’s going to take a shot at the NHL, and the Oilers will patiently wait to see if they blew this selection, or were right all along.

14. Phoenix – Patrick DesRochers, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
No NHL Experience

The Phoenix Coyotes selected the first goaltender of the 1998 Draft, taking Patrick DesRochers from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL 14th Overall. Three years later, DesRochers has not developed as the Coyotes hoped he would have by now. Labeled as a potential franchise goaltender leading up to the 1998 Draft, the Coyotes did what they thought was an excellent move by selecting DesRochers 14th overall. Now it is unclear if DesRochers can make the NHL as a backup, let alone a starter. He has been vastly inconsistent in two seasons with Springfield of the AHL. This past season he was 17-24-5 in 50 games, while posting a 3.33 GAA and an .893 save percentage. Luckily for DesRochers, he is still young at only 21 years old. The Coyotes are hoping he can rebound this season with Springfield and improve his stock. Don’t write him off just yet, but if he struggles again this season in the AHL he could possibly be traded to another organization. A fresh start could turn his career around, but we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out.

15. Ottawa – Mathieu Chouinard, G, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
No NHL Experience

The Ottawa Senators selected goaltender Mathieu Chouinard 15th overall after he posted a 32-18-3 record with the Shawinigan Cataractes the previous season. The Senators got into a sticky situation with Chouinard, as they failed to sign him by the June 1, 2000 deadline to sign players drafted in 1998 from juniors. The Senators received the 45th overall pick of the 2000 Draft as compensation, and with that pick, they select Chouinard again as luckily he was still available. It’s kind of a weird situation, as it seems like he never re-entered the draft because he was selected by the same team, but oh well. Mathieu graduated to the pro ranks this season, appearing in 28 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the IHL, posting a very respectable 17-7-1 record along with a 2.64 GAA and a .902 Save percentage. Ottawa has two solid young goalies in Patrick Lalime and Jani Hurme, but it is possible that Chouinard could beat out Hurme for the backup spot this season if he has a better training camp than Hurme. If he gets returned to the AHL it will still be a challenge for Chouinard, as he continues to adapt to the quicker paced game and also he will be gaining valuable pro experience. His upside is a starting goaltender, but likely it will still be 1-2 years before Chouinard is ready for full-time duty in the NHL.

16. Montreal – Eric Chouinard, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
13 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, 0 PIM

The Canadiens selected a high-scoring center from the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by the name of Eric Chouinard, son of former NHLer Guy Chouinard. The Canadiens liked Chouinard’s offensive skills and saw him as a future NHLer with a lot of upside. This year Eric saw his first full season in pro hockey after spending the last 3 years in the QMJHL. Eric had 12 goals, 21 assists, 33 points and 6 penalty minutes in 48 games with the Quebec Citadelles of the AHL. He also saw 13 games in the NHL with the Habs, scoring 1 goal and adding 3 assists. Chouinard will be looking to make the Canadiens full time this season, but he will have to work on his skating as well as his physical play to be effective in the NHL. In a few years we could have a good player on our hands, or a bust. It all depends how well Eric can adapt to pro hockey.

17. Colorado – Martin Skoula, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)
162 GP, 11 G, 30 A, 41 P, 58 PIM

The Colorado Avalanche hit gold again, this time by selecting Czech defenseman Martin Skoula from the Barrie Colts of the OHL, 17th overall. Skoula is an excellent two-way defenseman with great hockey sense and offensive instincts. His skating is excellent, and he has a very good shot from the point. The Avalanche returned Skoula to juniors the following season after being drafted, and the young Czech defenseman anchored the Colts’ blue line, scoring 13 goals and assisting on 46 others in 67 games. The following season, 1999-00, he won a spot in Colorado and played extremely well in his rookie season. He scored 3 goals, assisted on 13 and finished with 16 points and 20 penalty minutes in 80 games. Skoula was also a +/- 5 and averaged 18 minutes and 15 seconds of ice time. This past season Skoula increased his production, scoring 8 goals and assisting on 17 for a total of 25 points in 82 games. He saw his ice time decrease when the Avalanche acquired Rob Blake at the end of the season, and he also didn’t see as much ice time in the playoffs as he hoped he would have. But this year, with Ray Bourque retired, the Avalanche are looking for Skoula to come up big this season offensively and effectively play the point on the power play alongside Rob Blake. Expect Skoula to put up career numbers this year and most likely played around 20 to 25 minutes a game. The 21 year old defenseman has excellent potential and will likely be a top 2 defenseman in a few years. Hats off to the Avs for this great selection.

18. Buffalo – Dmitri Kalinin, D, Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russia)
83 GP, 4 G, 18 A, 22 P, 42 PIM

Ranked as the number 1 European prospect by Central Scouting heading into the draft, defenseman Dmitri Kalinin fell to the Buffalo Sabres at 18th overall. The Sabres saw a lot of potential in the stay-at-home defenseman and deemed him worthy of their 1st round pick. Kalinin came over to North America the summer after being drafted, and spent that season (1998-99) in the QMJHL with the Moncton Wildcats, scoring 7 goals and adding 18 assists in 39 games. The following season Dmitri graduated to the pros, spending the majority of the year with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, scoring 2 goals, assisting on 19 and registering 52 penalty minutes in 75 games. Kalinin received a 4 game call-up to the Sabres, registering 4 penalty minutes and no points during his short stay. This year was Kalinin’s first full season in the NHL, and he played very well. He was solid defensively for the Sabres all season and chipped in on offense too, scoring 4 goals and totaling 18 assists for 22 points. Buffalo is expecting a lot from the 21 year old Russian Defenseman in the future as he prepares himself for bigger and better things.

19. Colorado – Robyn Regehr, D, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
128 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 16 P, 116 PIM

The Colorado Avalanche selecting a stay-at-home defenseman in Robyn Regehr, born in Brazil, at 19th overall. However, Regehr was not an Avalanche for long as the team dealt him to the Calgary Flames towards the end of the 1998-99 season in the deal that brought all-star Right Winger Theoren Fleury to Colorado. Regehr suffered a career-threatening injury in the off-season, breaking both of his legs in an automobile accident. Doctors were unsure if Robyn would be able to get back into full form, but he worked extremely hard to get back into great condition and continued on with his career without missing a beat. He took his physical defensive game to Calgary the following season and played very well. In 57 games during 1999-00, Regehr had 5 goals and 7 asissts, along with 46 penalty minutes. This past year, in 71 games, he had 1 goal and 3 assists, along with 70 penalty minutes. The Flames have high expectations for Regehr and believe in the young defenseman. They see him developing into a top 3, bonecrunching defenseman. Although he has limited offensive potential, he makes up for it with smart, slick plays in his own end. Look for great things from him in the future.

20. Colorado – Scott Parker, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
96 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, 226 PIM

Originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 3rd round of the 1996 Draft, Scott Parker failed to sign with them and re-entered the 1998 Draft and was scooped up in the 1st Round, 20th overall, by the Colorado Avalanche. Parker was known as a very physical player who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves and always stuck up for his teammates. In 1997-98, Parker developed an offensive part to his game, scoring 30 goals in 71 games for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. The Avalanche saw Parker as an emerging power forward and selected him 20th overall. Three years later, and Parker has become nothing more than a 4th line enforcer in the NHL. His offensive game has not improved, and he only has 2 goals and 5 points in 96 NHL games, albeit seeing little ice time. I guess you can’t always make great selections, and this clearly was a blown pick by the Avs. Parker will likely continue to see 3rd or 4th line action with Colorado.

21. Los Angeles – Mathieu Biron, D, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
74 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 P, 50 PIM

The Los Angeles Kings fell in love with this 6’6 defenseman from the Shawinigan Catarctes of the QMJHL. Biron is a physical defenseman that also has some offensive skills. He currently is with the Tampa Bay Lightning, after the Kings dealt him to the Islanders two years ago, and then this past summer the Islanders shipped him off to Tampa Bay. He saw 74 games of NHL action with the Islanders over the past two seasons, scoring 4 goals and 5 assists, along with 50 penalty minutes. Biron should get a chance to crack Tampa Bay’s lineup this season, and he will add some toughness and grit to their backline. The Lightning have been building their team around size as of late, and Biron is no exception. Brother of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Martin Biron, Mathieu has the potential to be a defensively sound Top 5 defenseman one day.

22. Philadelphia – Simon Gagne, C/LW, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
149 GP, 47 G, 60 A, 107 P, 40 PIM

The Philadelphia Flyers selected a player with outstanding offensive skills by the name of Simon Gagne 22nd overall. A center from the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Gagne scored 30 goals and 69 points in 53 games during his draft year. Now more than 3 years later, this was absolutely a huge steal by the Philadelphia Flyers. Clearly another prime example of scouts underrating the abilities of players from the QMJHL. Gagne is a budding star and this kid’s potential is sky high. The Flyers let him develop one more season after he was drafted, and he responded with 120 points (50 goals and 70 assists) for the Remparts in only 61 games. He played well enough during training camp in 1999-00 to win a spot on the roster, and he had an excellent rookie campain. He scored 20 goals and 48 points in 80 games, and finished 4th in voting for the Rookie of the Year award. This year Gagne emerged as a future star, showing flashes of brilliance in 69 games, scoring 27 goals and 59 points. He was selected to the North American all-star team this year, and played on a line with Mario Lemieux. The Flyers are expecting at least 35 goals and 70 points from Gagne this year, as he will be playing on a line with Mark Recchi and Keith Primeau. Gagne has the potential to score 90-100 points in the NHL when he reaches his full potential, and he will be one very exciting player to watch. An excellent selection by the Philadelphia Flyers and one that will be talked about for many years to come.

23. Pittsburgh – Milan Kraft, C, Keramika Plzen (Czech.)
42 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 P, 8 PIM

Milan Kraft was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 23rd overall selection of the 1998 Entry Draft. A playmaking center with high-end offensive skills, Kraft won a spot on the Penguins roster this past season and had 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points and 8 penalty minutes in 42 games. Milan is considered one of the best young players in the game today, and has the potential to be a very good offensive player in the NHL. Although he split time between the minors and the NHL last year, expect Kraft to see a full season with the Penguins this year. 15 goals and 45 points is not out of reach for 20 year old center, provided that he plays with some decent linemates. With Jaromir Jagr off to Washington, it is possible that he might be able to see some playing time with Mario Lemieux on one of the top lines for Pittsburgh. Keep an eye out for Kraft in 5 as he could be an offensive force in the NHL.

24. St. Louis – Christian Backman, D, Vastra Frolunda (Sweden)
No NHL Experience

The St. Louis Blues admired an offensive minded defenseman by the name of Christian Backman, and selected the Swedish blue liner 24th overall. Compared by some to have similar offensive skills to Brian Leetch, Backman has not made the trip over to North America yet. He has spent the past 3 seasons playing for Vastra Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, and will stay in Sweden again this year. He has not put up the offensive numbers that many said he would, although he did post a career high 11 points this season (1 goal and 10 assists) in 50 games. It is not known when he will come over to North America, but the Blues would like for him to develop a few seasons in the minors before taking a shot at the big club. A sleeper prospect who could surprise a lot of people in 3-4 years.

25. Detroit – Jiri Fischer, D, Hull Olympiques (QMJHL)
107 GP, 1 G, 16 A, 17 P, 104 PIM

The Detroit Red Wings selected Hull Olympiques defenseman Jiri Fischer 25th overall. The young Czech defenseman is a big, physical defenseman with some excellent offensive skills. After being drafted, he spent another season in juniors where he scored 22 goals and 78 points in 65 games for the Olympiques. In 1999-00, Jiri appeared in 52 games for the Red Wings, scoring 0 goals but notching 8 assists, along with 45 penalty minutes. This year Fischer improved his numbers, scoring 1 goal and assisting on 8 others, along with totaling 59 penalty minutes in 55 games. Fischer is one of the only good young player the Red Wings have in their organization, and they are extremely high on the young man. He has a bright future in the NHL and has the potential to become a top 3, two-way defenseman some day. He should see a lot ice time with the Red Wings this season and look for him to have a breakout year offensively. Definitely a good pick by the Wings, and a player that many NHL GMs consistently try to acquire in trades.

26. New Jersey – Mike Van Ryn, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, P, 0 PIM

The New Jersey Devils were very high on defenseman Mike Van Ryn when they selected him 26th overall out of the University of Michigan. However, because of a loophole in the NHL’s Bargaining agreement with the NHLPA, Mike Van Ryn was granted free agency from the New Jersey Devils following the 1999-00 season and signed with the St. Louis Blues. It all started when Van Ryn left the University of Michigan before the 1999-00 season to go play for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Since Van Ryn was now considered a “major junior” player, the Devils had to sign him by June 1st, 2000 or risk losing his rights. They failed to sign him and the case had to be heard by an arbitrator before they finally ruled that Van Ryn was indeed a “major junior” player and since he wasn’t signed by the deadline, he was granted unrestricted free agency, as he was too old to re-enter the draft. He signed with the St. Louis Blues and played this season with the Worcester IceCats of the AHL, scoring 3 goals and 13 points in 37 games. He appeared in 1 game for the Blues, totaling no points or penalty minutes. Although some feel Van Ryn hasn’t developed the way he should have, he still has the potential to be a top 4 defenseman in the NHL. The Blues will likely send him back to the AHL for another season where he will work on his defensive game while also becoming stronger physically. In return for not signing Van Ryn, the Devils received a 2nd round compensatory pick in 2000, which they used to select Russian forward Alexander Suglobov.

27. New Jersey – Scott Gomez, C, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
158 GP, 33 G, 100 A, 133 P, 124 PIM

The New Jersey Devils selected an Alaska native in Scott Gomez of the Tri-City Americans of the WHL 27th overall. The Devils felt Gomez could develop into a 1st or 2nd line playmaking center in the NHL, and they were right on the money. Gomez stepped right into the Devils’ lineup during the 1999-00 season, and won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year, as well as the Stanley Cup with New Jersey. Gomez scored 19 goals and added 51 assists for 70 points in 82 games. He scored 19 more points than the second rookie leading scorer, Alex Tanguay, who had 51 points. Gomez’s 51 assists alone would have tied him for the Rookie scoring lead. The 1st Hispanic player to ever play in the NHL, Scotty Gomez struggled a bit in his sophomore season, but still managed 14 goals, 49 assists and 63 points in 76 games. Gomez received an invite to Team USA’s orientation camp this September, and seems like a lock to make the team for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gomez should be a top flight center in a few years, and reminds a lot of people of Doug Weight. An excellent selection by the Devils and certainly one of the steals of the draft.

Some Quick Notes on 1998 Draft

1st Rounders With 1 NHL Game Played: 21 out of 27 (Only Rupp, Heerema, Henrich, DesRochers, M. Chouinard, Backman have not)

1st Rounders With Likely NHL Careers: 24 out of 27 (My Opinion – Everyone except Rupp, Henrich, DesRochers)

1st Rounders with All-Star Potential: 10 out of 27 (My Opinion – Lecavalier, Legwand, Stuart, Vishnevsky, Tanguay, Skoula, Gagne, Kraft, Fischer, Gomez)

1st Round Busts: 4 out of 26 – (My Opinion: Rupp, Henrich, DesRochers, Parker)

Late Round Draftees with All-Star potential: My Opinion – Christian Berglund, Ossi Vaananen, Brad Richards, Tomas Kloucek, Andrei Markov

Best Player in Each Round (My Opinion):
Round 1 – Vincent Lecavalier
Round 2 – Ossi Vaananen
Round 3 – Brad Richards
Round 4 – Josef Vasicek
Round 5 – Tomas Kloucek
Round 6 – Andrei Markov
Round 7 – No Clear Cut Winner
Round 8 – No Clear Cut Winner
Round 9 – Karlis Skrastins

There it is, the 1998 Draft Review. Hopefully everyone enjoyed it, and if you have any comments, please post them below. I will not be making a 1999 or 2000 Draft review as I feel it is still to early to rate those drafts.

Brandon LeBourveau
Rangers and Coyotes Editor