Panthers 1999 draft evaluation

By Liam Peverley

Florida Panthers 1999 draft evaluation

Generally considered to be one of the weakest drafts
of the ‘90’s, the 1999 draft is sometimes written off as an unimportant draft.
However, the best drafting organizations often show their pre-eminence over
their peers by drafting a successful NHLer from the weaker draft classes.


Five years has seen a lot change in Florida. As then
Panthers GM Bryan Murray prepared to step up to the podium to makes his
selections, he represented a team almost unrecognizable from the Panthers
roster of today. Pavel Bure had just joined the organization. Ed Jovanovski had
gone to Vancouver in the same trade. Other long since departed players to lace
them up for the Cats that season include Kirk McLean, Sean Burke, Dino
Ciccarelli, Bill Lindsay and Ray Whitney.


The Panthers selected nine players in the 1999
draft.  These players have gone on to
play a total of 323 NHL games, for an average of 36 games per pick. 


Denis Shvidki, RW – 1st
round, 12th overall (OHL – Barrie Colts)

Status: NHL Prospect

NHL Games Played: 76


Drafted after a brilliant rookie season in North
America, Denis Shvidki went back to the OHL for the 1999-00 season to refine
his game. Shvidki certainly had a good season, breaking the 40 goal and
100 point barriers for the Barrie Colts, good enough for second on his team and
fourth in the OHL. He was signed by Florida on the 14th of June 2000
and split the 2000-01 season between the NHL and Florida’s then AHL farm team,
the Louisville Panthers. Shvidki played well for Louisville, his 26 points good
for fifth in team scoring and first for Louisville’s rookie scoring lead,
despite only playing in 34 games. Shvidki actually played more games in the NHL
that season, appearing 43 times and registering 16 points. Shvidki missed only
one game through injury.


It all started to go wrong in the 2001-02 season.
Injury forced him to miss most of the season as he suited up only 16 times for
eight AHL games where he scored 6 points, and eight NHL games where he managed
3 points. A fit Shvidki started the 2002-03 managed a total of 67 games played
but in 23 NHL games managed only 6 points as he was unable to convince the
Panthers he deserved a spot on the top two lines. He registered just under a
point every other game in 54 AHL games. In 2003-04 Shvidki played in only two games
during a late season call up. With little ice time he failed to register a
point. He did fair somewhat better in the AHL however, as his 54 points in 77
games were good enough to lead San Antonio.


What next for Shvidki? He must become a regular in the
NHL this season. Florida’s new coach and GM could be very important to him. He
could be given a spot on the second line with Florida or buried in the minors
again. A trade may be the best thing for Shvidki, although as a player who has
never scored 60 points in a season with a reputation for disappearing in big
games or when tightly checked he looks to be edging perilously close to bust


Alex Auld, G – 2nd
round, 40th overall (OHL – North Bay Centennials)

Status: NHL Prospect

NHL Games Played: 14


Auld is just on the cusp of being classed as a NHL
player as he seems likely to assume back-up duties for the 2004-05 NHL season,
after a stint in goal during the playoffs which moved him from third to second
in the organizational depth chart. Sadly for Florida he will this happened for
Vancouver, who acquired Auld for the ever-popular future considerations, which
turned into a third round pick in 2002 and a compensatory pick in 2001.


The 6’4” Auld was drafted after only one season as a
starting goaltender in the OHL, Florida trading up five spots to grab him.
After he was drafted, he two more years in the OHL, improving his play every
year. He left the OHL at the end of the 2000-01 season and was dealt to
Vancouver. In the Canucks system he started his career in the ECHL, suiting up
for the Columbia Inferno. He was quickly moved to Vancouver’s top minor league
affiliate the Manitoba Moose where he was the back-up and appeared in 21 games,
going 11-9-0. Auld also made his NHL debut that year, appearing in one game for
the Canucks, a game he won.


In 2002-03 Auld was back in the AHL, splitting time
with Tyler Moss in Manitoba. Auld played in 37 games and went 15-19-3 with
three shutouts. He reduced his goals against average from 3.53 in 2001-02 to
2.64. Again he spent some time in the NHL with Vancouver. He appeared in seven
games, going 3-3-0 and recording his first NHL shutout. He also made a relief
appearance in the playoffs for Vancouver, appearing in one period. In 2003-04
Auld supplanted Moss as Manitoba’s starter. He appeared in 40 games, went
18-16-4, recording four shutouts and again lowering his goals against average,
this time to 2.55. Again he was called up to the big club and his six games for
Vancouver saw him go 2-2-2. Most remarkable was his performance in the playoffs
with Vancouver. He played well; going 1-2 against Western Conference champions
the Calgary Flames. His performances as a big, smart goalie whose size allows
him to play the butterfly style very effectively make him a virtual certainty
as the Canucks back-up.


Niklas Hagman, LW/RW – 3rd
round, 70th overall (Finland – Espoo Blues)

Status: NHL Player

NHL Games Played: 233


Hagman was selected higher than his CSB ranking
because he had the tools to make the NHL as a third or fourth line player with
little chance of failing. A safe pick, but every franchise needs those. After
being drafted Hagman played a season in Finland for Karpat Oulu, scoring 28
goals and adding 18 assists in 56 games. Hagman came over to Florida for the
2001-02 season and slotted onto the team easily enough, scoring 10 goals to go
with 18 assists in 78 games. He was selected to play at the 2002 Winter
Olympics for Team Finland and scored 3 points in four games during that
tournament. Since then he has been steady, if not spectacular. In his second
season (2002-03) he was selected for the Young Stars game and played 80 games
in the NHL (a career high) but only managed 8 goals. In 2003-04 he again
notched 10 goals. He’s already well developed and has the potential to score 15
goals and 30 points on Florida’s third line while using his speed to play a
good all round game. The best player from this draft still on Florida’s roster
he seems certain to be a steady NHLer on an evolving Florida team.


Jean-Francois Laniel, G – 3rd
round, 40th overall (QMJHL –
Shawinigan Cataractes)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0


Having selected a solid NHL role player 10 picks
before Florida had another third round pick and used it to select goaltender
Laniel. Laniel had been the backup behind Mathieu Chouinard at Shawinigan but
started the 1999-00 with Val-d’Or Foreurs where he was the third choice goalie
behind Dave Verville and Adam Morneau. For the 2000-01 season Laniel was again
a third choice goalie, this time behind Simon Lajeunesse and Adam Russo. Laniel
has since played for two CHL teams, also as a backup, and spent 2003-04 in the
QSMHL playing in 14 games.


Morgan McCormick, RW 4th
round, 103rd overall (OHL – Kingston Frontenacs)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0


McCormick was drafted after his rookie year in the
OHL, a season that saw him score 6 goals and add 5 assists along with 43
penalty minutes. After he was drafted McCormick returned to the OHL with
Kingston for the 1999-00 season, but was traded after eight games to the Guelph
Storm. He scored a total of 9 goals and 30 points but the following season
managed just 11 points in 45 games. In 2001-02 McCormick played his last year
of junior, scoring 20 goals and 24 assists along with 148 PiM, all career
highs, in 56 games. After he left the OHL McCormick played six games for
Canadian College side St. Mary’s in the 2002-03 season, scoring once and adding
one assist.


Rod Sarich, D – 4th
round, 109th overall (WHL – Calgary Hitmen)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0


Six picks after McCormick, Florida was
making another pick and they used it to select their first defenseman of the
draft. In 1999 the 6’3” Sarich was coming of his first full season in the WHL
however his first action in that league came in 1996-97 when he played four
games. He appeared in another nine in the 1997-98 season and 17 playoff games
before cementing his place as a regular in 1998-99 playing 65 times during the
season. After being drafted Sarich played three more years in the WHL,
finishing in the 2001-02 season with 7 goals and 41 assists in 71 games. Sarich
moved straight to the ECHL where he played his rookie pro season in 2002-03
with the Louisiana IceGators, appearing 72 times and registering 32 points. He
started the 2003-04 season with the Espoo Blues in Finland, but after putting
up only 1 assist in 20 games he moved back to the ECHL and Louisiana 30 points
in 55 games.


Brad Woods, D – 6th
round, 169th overall (OHL – Brampton Battalion)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0


Florida added another defenseman, this time from the
OHL. Woods was coming of his rookie season in junior hockey and upon his return
to Brampton for the 1999-00, he put up career highs in games played, goals,
assists and points, recording 16 points in 68 games. Woods was back in junior
for the 2000-01 season. After 14 games for Brampton Woods had recorded 5 points
when he was traded to the Oshawa Generals with left wing Mike Rice, for center
Jonah Leroux. Woods played 38 games in Oshawa but was only able to add another
five assists to his production. He started the 2001-02 season with the
Kitchener Rangers but was restricted to just 19 appearances and 6 assists.
After leaving the OHL Woods played in the Canadian university system for St.
Thomas University where his 2003-04 season teammates included fellow draftee
Thatcher Bell.


Travis Eagles, C – 7th
round, 198 overall (WHL – Prince George Cougars)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0


Florida waited until the seventh round to draft a
center and they used that pick to select the 6’4” defensive pivot. Eagles had
played briefly in 1996-97 for Prince George, appearing three times. In 1998-99,
he played 48 games and recorded 10 points (1 goal) with 66 PIM before being
drafted. In 1999-00 he recorded 8 goals and 15 assists in 59 games and appeared
in 13 playoff games, scoring 4 goals. Seemingly primed for a breakout the
2000-01 season started well with Eagles recording 14 points in 23 games.
However he was traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings for a third round pick in the
2001 Bantam draft. His offensive production dipped slightly in Brandon as he
recorded only 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 25 games. The following season
saw him appear in 34 games as an over-aged player for Brandon, scoring five
times and adding 8 assists.


After leaving the WHL Eagles enrolled at the
University of Manitoba to study arts. In his first season with the Bison Eagles
put up 6 points in 26 games and in the 2003-04 season he got 2 goals and 8
assists in 32 games.


Jonathan Charron, G – 8th
round, 227 overall (QMJHL –
Val-d’Or Foreurs)

NHL Bust

Games Played: 0


used their last trip to the podium to select their third goaltender of the
draft. Charron had played two years in the QMJHL when Florida had selected him.
He played 23 games serving as backup to
Gingras for the Laval Titan College Francais in 1997-98. In 1998-99 he was with
the Val-d’Or Foreurs where he shared goaltending duties with Roberto Luongo,
Dave Verville and David St. Germain, appearing 26 times. His final season in organised
hockey was 1999-00 when he shared backup duties Martin Pare, appearing 10 times
for the Quebec Remparts.


So how did the draft go for Florida? A lot depends on
how Denis Shvidki turns out. If he can develop into a top six forward the draft
can be seen as a success for the Panthers. Alex Auld is capable of filling part
of the depth weakness Florida have in goal, which makes the trade look somewhat
regrettable now. Niklas Hagman is developing into an excellent role-playing
forward. After those three however, all of the Panthers selections are busts,
and with players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Radim Vrbata, Mikko Eloranta,
Pierre Hedin and Garnet Exelby coming from the lower rounds, this draft must be
considered mediocre at best.