Maple Leafs 2001 draft evaluation

By Matt Peters

The Toronto Maple Leafs laid the foundation for their future defense in the
2001 draft. This was not a draft that paid dividends right away, but
the Leafs are starting to see some return now. Three defensemen expected to compete
for spots at training camp next season were drafted in 2001. A remarkable seven out of 12 played at least one NHL game. With Kyle Wellwood and Carlo Colaiacovo as the closest to sure things from this draft, the Leafs have several others who at least could make an impact with the team over the next few years.

The 12 picks have played a total of 249 NHL games, for an average of 21 games per pick.

Carlo Colaiacovo, D – 1st round, 17th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games played: 25
DOB: 1-27-1983 HT: 6’1 WT: 185

Carlo Colaiacovo has had an on again, off again flirtation
with the NHL since he was drafted in 2001. Each year the Leafs have
wondered if this would be Colaiacovo’s year. He’s shown potential, but
for the most part that hasn’t translated to NHL success. At times,
it’s looked as though Colaiacovo could serve as a premier offensive
defensemen to lead the Leafs’ top power play unit. Other times, it looks like potential unrealized. Colaiacovo very possibly could have moved up to the level of permanent NHL player had
he not suffered a season-ending concussion in January. He was on his
longest call-up yet and found his way into 21 games with the Leafs.
Just as he was living up to some of his hype within the organization,
his concussion set him back. Defense was a particularly strong position for Leafs prospects
this season and now Colaiacovo will get his shot at training camp, but an automatic roster
spot is far from a sure thing.

Karel Pilar, D – 2nd round, 39th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 90
DOB: 12-23-1977 HT: 6’2 WT: 206

Unlike many of his peers in the Leafs 2001 draft, Karel Pilar
had early NHL success coupled with recent problems. He currently plays
in the Czech Republic and has been struggling after contracting iral
myopathy, a heart condition that stiffens the heart muscle and doesn’t
allow for enough blood to pump through the body.
Earlier, he missed the second half of the 2002 season and the first 16
games of 2003 season with the same condition. This season he missed
all but six games for playing Sparta Praha. However, he recovered for
the playoffs when he scored six points in 14 games. As one of the
older players selected in the 2001, Pilar jumped into the Leafs lineup
quickly, spending 23 regular season games and 11 playoffs games with
the club during the 2001-02 season. Throughout the next couple
seasons, Pilar was shuffled back and forth between the NHL and AHL.
During the lockout, Pilar decided to return to his native Czech
Republic, playing for Praha. In May, Leafs GM John Ferguson said the
team is still optimistic about Pilar and his condition, but he
still needs a new contract. He presents somewhat of a wild card in the
Leafs future. He has more NHL experience than any other Leafs player
drafted in 2001, but it’s unclear how reliable he is due to injuries.
Then again, he could make the fight for an NHL defense spot for the
Leafs that much more interesting in 2005-06.

Brendan Bell, D – 3rd round, 65th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 1
DOB: 3-31-1983 HT: 6’1 WT: 205

Brendan Bell has played consistently with the Leafs AHL team over the
last three years. Each year Bell’s numbers have improved on the
previous year’s effort. He played in his first NHL game this season.
Bell will likely be a top defenseman with the Toronto Marlies
next season if he doesn’t earn an NHL spot. With the Leafs’ defensive
corps in a bit of transition period, Bell will certainly garner a look
come training camp.

Jay Harrison, D – 3rd round, 83rd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 8
DOB: 11-3-1982 HT: 6’4 WT: 211

If this evaluation had come out a year ago, Jay Harrison probably would have
fallen under the “left for dead” category. Those within the Leafs
organization had given up hope on the former third round pick. But, this is why one must wait so long after a draft to determine dividends. When
former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice entered as coach of the
Marlies, Harrison’s prospects with in the organization improved
drastically. Maurice took a liking to the defensive defenseman’s style
and expanding offensive potential. As a result, Harrison had his best
season in the AHL. Maurice moving up to coach the Leafs certainly
doesn’t hurt Harrison’s chances within the organization.

Nicolas Corbeil, C – 3rd round, 88th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0
DOB: 3-30-1983 HT: 5’11 WT: 177

Nicolas Corbeil has not only struggled to make the NHL, he’s struggled
to find a place in the AHL, playing just 17 games in the
league so far. The Leafs never seemed keen on keeping him in the
organization and Corbeil became a free agent without having ever
played a minute for any team within the Leafs organization. He
signed with the Blackhawks in 2003, but wasn’t able to stick with them
either. Corbeil has
had decent success at the ECHL level, with 103 points in 156 games, but has yet to translate that to any level higher.
He never lived up to the potential he flashed in the QMHL
when he scored well over a point per game.

Kyle Wellwood, C – 5th round, 134th overall
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 82
DOB: 5-16-1983 HT: 5’10 WT: 180

The Leafs found a steal in Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood is type of player
the Leafs can begin to rebuild around, not something you can
say about many fifth round draft picks. Wellwood proved to be a well-
versed playmaker in his first season with the Leafs. He had his share
of rookie moments, but still turned in an impressive first NHL
campaign. In another year he perhaps could have garnered more attention. Now the goal is to follow his 11-goal, 34-assist campaign.

Maxim Kondratiev, D – 6th round, 168th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 36
DOB: 1-20-1983 HT: 6’2 WT: 190

Kondratiev’s time with the Leafs came to end with the Brian Leetch
deal in 2004. He played seven games with the Leafs before the trade.
This season he appeared in 29 games with the Rangers, but was shuffled
around between the Hartford Wolf Pack and Portland Pirates.

Jaroslav Sklenar, LW – 6th round, 183rd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0
DOB: 11-22-1982 HT: 6’2 WT: 172

Jaroslav Sklenar’s attempted journey to play in the NHL didn’t last
much longer than draft day. Sklenar played only four games in North
America for the Ottawa 67’s. Sklenar returned to Europe and played in both the Slovak and Czech leagues.

Ivan Kolozvary, F – 7th round, 198th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0
DOB: 2-16-1983 HT: 5’10 WT: 174

Kolozvary never brought his talents overseas after being drafted by the
Leafs. Kolozvary stayed in Slovakia playing mostly for Dukla Trencin. In 2004-05, he had 17 points in 34 games for Dubnica Spartak HC.

Jan Chovan, G – 7th round, 213rd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0
DOB: 9-7-1983 HT: 6’0 WT: 185

When you’re a goalie and you average over three goals per game, it’s
hard to make a case to move up in the ranks. Jan Chovan is
still playing hockey, having spent time in the OHL, USHL, UHL, SPHL. In the
last two years, Chovan has played just 22 games with five wins. His GAA reached a career
high this season at 5.57 with a .846 save percentage in the low-level SPHL.

Tomas Mojzis, D – 8th round, 246th overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 7
DOB: 5-2-1982 HT: 6’1 WT: 192

Tomas Mojzis’ affiliation with the Leafs ended long ago. Toronto traded Mojzis to the
Canucks in 2002 for Brad Leeb. Mojzis now plays for the St. Louis Blues after being
traded again this season along with a third round pick for Eric Weinrich. Mojzis played seven
games for the Canucks this season in his only time in the NHL. Despite
not reaching the top level, Mojzis has consistently remained in the
AHL since he was drafted in 2001.

Mike Knoepfli, F – 9th round, 276 overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0
DOB: 4-9-1982 HT: 6’1 WT: 205

After a completing a successful career with Cornell University with 88 points in 137 games that
culminated with being named captain in his senior year, Mike Knoepfli
moved on to play hockey in Switzerland this season. Knoepfli admittedly made his
mark through work ethic rather than skill. Knoepfli also excels as a
leader and locker room presence, but his low skill level will probably
keep him from ever using those skills at the NHL level.

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