Hurricanes 1999 draft evaluation

By Glen Jackson

The Carolina Hurricanes took part in only their third Entry Draft in franchise history on June 26, 1999. Five years later we evaluate how the Hurricanes did and catch up with all nine players that they selected in that draft. It was the year of Patrick Stefan, the Sedin brothers, and Martin Havlat. Mike Comrie wasn’t drafted until the third round, 91st overall. And, probably the steal of the draft, Detroit’s 210th pick overall in round 7 was Henrik Zetterberg.

Only one of Carolina’s nine picks that year has seen regular action in the NHL (David Tanabe), while the rest have played two games or less, and a few are not playing professionally at all anymore or are no longer with the Hurricanes organization. However, four of these picks are still in the system and some appear close to making the team, perhaps as early as next training camp. The Hurricanes did not select Pavel Brendl, Rob Zepp, Ed Hill and Michael Zigomanis in the 1999 draft, other teams did, but all have found their way into the Hurricanes system either redrafted in 2001, via free agency, or via trade.

The nine players selected by the Hurricanes in 1999 have gone on to play a combined 301 regular season games in the NHL, or an average of 33 games per pick. Of course, David Tanabe has played 98 percent of those games. Below you will find each of Carolina’s picks and how they turned out so far. The team in brackets to the right of each player’s name is the team they were originally drafted from.

David Tanabe, D – 1st round, 16th overall (NCAA – U. of Wisconsin)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 296

When Carolina selected David Tanabe with their first round pick in 1999, they were hoping the White Bear Lake, Minnesota native would be the NHL’s next Paul Coffey.

In fact, after a strong training camp for Tanabe, it was Coffey who felt the sting of the Hurricanes hopes in the young blueliner as he lost his spot on the team’s powerplay and was scratched in 11 of 18 games to start that season. Tanabe soon cooled down and began to struggle and Coffey was reinstated, going on to have his last decent year in his second to last season in the league. As for Tanabe, he came back and had a good season the next year with 29 points in 74 games, but after that he looked less and less like a future Coffey as his play slumped each of the next three seasons.

With just 13 points in 2002-03 and his contract up, Carolina moved Tanabe to the Coyotes where, and it’s no coincidence, Coffey is a special teams consultant. Coffey and Tanabe formed a friendship in their one season playing together and Coffey found him to be easy to coach and full of potential. The 23-year-old had a strong season with the Coyotes that year, at times playing just as those who drafted him in Carolina and those who traded for him in Phoenix had hoped. On January 16th his season ended prematurely with torn ACL.

Perhaps the Canes now wish they had selected Nick Boynton, who went 21st overall, or maybe they, and many other teams, are kicking themselves for passing up on Martin Havlat, who went 26th, but even with the full extent of Tanabe’s potential still unclear it’s not difficult to give the nod to Carolina on a good first round pick. There are many players picked ahead of Tanabe in 1999 who have yet to pan out or make as much of an impact in the NHL as he has. In the trade for Tanabe and Igor Knyazev, the Hurricanes got Daniil Markov and a conditional fourth rounder, and they subsequently traded Markov for Justin Williams. That’s good value for a first rounder who hadn’t quite lived up to expectations years later and a defensive defenseman in Knyazev. They also still have potential with a fourth round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft and the 22-year-old Williams had 44 points in 2003-04 and has the potential to be a star winger. Next season might be a difficult one for Tanabe, recovering from a knee injury, but as long as his speed isn’t affected too much he should continue to evolve with the Coyotes.

Brett Lysak, C – 2nd round, 49th overall (WHL – Regina Pats)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games played: 2

Brett Lysak appeared in his first game for the Hurricanes in March of this year when he played in two of five games during his call-up before returning to the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL without an NHL point. He has 64 points in 173 career games with Lowell and it appears that he will be a checking or possibly a third line center if he can ever stick at the NHL level. On the one hand the 23-year-old is still in the Hurricanes system and doing fine in the AHL, on the other it looks like he was selected too early in the 1999 draft for the role he is looking to end up with.

Brad Fast, D – 3rd round, 84th overall (BCJHL – Prince-George Spruce Kings)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

After Brad Fast was drafted by the Hurricanes, he went on to a productive career with Michigan State, collecting 114 points in 165 games, 46 of those points coming in his final season with the team. Fast had 35 points in 79 games in 2003-04, his first full season in the AHL, and in his one game with the Hurricanes this season he scored a game-tying goal.

Fast has good potential to become a power play specialist in the NHL, and even if he doesn’t, his offensive skills from the blue line should come in handy for the ‘Canes. For a defenseman selected 84th overall, Fast was a good pick, although he still has to prove himself in the NHL.

Ryan Murphy, C – 4th round, 113th overall (NCAA – Bowling Green State U.)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Ryan Murphy was drafted by the Hurricanes after coming off an impressive season with Bowling Green State University where he’d picked up 33 points in 34 games. When his college career was over the Hurricanes assigned him to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and he had a good second season with the club, collecting 45 points in 58 games. His play led to a chance with Lowell, but he only managed 1 goal and 2 assists in 12 games. On July 30th, 2003, Murphy was signed as a free agent by the New Jersey Devils and spent the season with the Albany River Rats where he got only 19 points in 71 games. It doesn’t look like the 113th overall pick in the 1999 draft has much of an NHL future.

Damian Surma, LW – 6th round, 174th overall (OHL – Plymouth Whalers)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 2

So far, Damian Surma’s career looks very similar to Lysak’s. Both have only a few NHL games under their belt, both are 23, and both seem to have a checking line in their future. The difference is that Surma was selected 174th overall, and Lysak, 49th. Lysak has a slight offensive edge on Surma, but even so Surma was the better pick because he came four rounds later. With the ECHL Everblades Surma had 15 points in 18 games this season along with 8 points in 14 playoff games so far (the Everblades are currently playing in the Kelly Cup ECHL finals). In 117 games spread over the last three seasons with Lowell, he has 30 points. In two career games with the Hurricanes over two seasons, he has a goal and an assist. Surma was a good pick for the sixth round.

Jim Baxter, D – 7th round, 202nd overall (OHL – Oshawa Generals)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Hurricanes had four picks between position 202 and 259, the realm of longshots and sleepers. Jim Baxter was first drafted 180th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1997 Entry Draft and attended the next two training camps without making the team before ending up on the Hurricanes draft list two years later. He participated in training camp with the Hurricanes in 1999 and 2000, but didn’t get a chance to continue on with the team. He’s played for five ECHL teams in his five years in the league, but the last three were spent with the Mississippi Sea Wolves where he has been an alternate captain for three seasons and seems to have found a home. In 2002-03 he was named the ECHL defenseman of the year and All-ECHL First Team Defenseman, and this season the blueliner collected 69 points in 63 games and was named an All-ECHL Second Team Defenseman. That earned him his first call up to the AHL on loan to the Grand Rapids Griffins where the Brantford, Ontario native scored in his first game. He played in one more contest before being returned to the Sea Wolves.

Although he has by no means been a wash out professionally, it seems in doubt that he will ever play a game in the NHL for any team. And for Carolina, file this under hindsight is 20/20, but some of the defensemen who were selected after Baxter in 1999 include Garnet Exelby, Radek Martinek, and Alexander Khavanov who have 86, 136 and 284 regular games played in the NHL respectively.

David Evans, LW – 8th round, 231st overall (NCAA – Clarkson U.)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Two of the Hurricanes’ four late picks are already out of hockey including David Evans. Evans, who hails from Sand Lake, NY, had finished his first season with Clarkson University when he was drafted by the Hurricanes. He went on to have a decent career with Clarkson with 98 points in 136 games spanning four seasons. He spent the 2002-03 season with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL where he recorded 40 points in 67 games, and then this year he went off the radar and out of professional hockey.

Antti Jokela, G – 8th round, 237th overall (Finland – Lukko Jr.)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Hurricanes used the 237th overall pick, acquired from the Flyers, to select Finnish goaltender Antti Jokela. He has not yet played in a North American league, but Jokela seemed to pick up steam this season after a number of statistically mediocre years in the Finnish SM-League with Assat Pori and Lukko. He had a 2.41 GAA and .920 save percentage in 11 games played, by far his best season outside of junior hockey. It is unclear at this point how Jokela would adapt to the North American playing schedule as he’s only ever been a backup with handfuls of games played in the SM-League, and the most pro games he’s appeared in in one season was 28 with Jaa Kotkat of the second tier Finnish league in 2001-02 where he had a 3.51 GAA. At the very least the eighth round selection is still professionally active and in the Hurricanes plans for the future.

Evgeny Kourilin, C – 9th round, 259th overall (WCHL – Anchorage Aces)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Kourilin’s best season came with the Anchorage Aces of the West Coast Hockey League in 1998-99, a season in which he potted 10 goals and added 9 assist in 42 games. The Hurricanes took a chance on the native of Belarus but the following season was his last. He played 11 games for the Arkansas RiverBlades and had only one assist, and then suited up in five games for the Johnstown Chiefs and had a goal. That was the last professional hockey saw of Evgeny Kourilin, the final pick of the Hurricanes in the 1999 Entry Draft.