Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Draft Arcana

In looking up NHL draft notes on Owen Nolan and spinning that off into its own thing, I kept going further and further down the hole until I had another entirely new post. So, since Owen Nolan entered the league in 1990, who are the worst top ten picks, who are the best late rounders and what other draft oddities could I find? (NOTE: No, I am not the first person to ever think of this.)


The Worst of the Best
Who were the worst top 10 picks of the last two decades? Not surprisingly, it's a pretty long list.

2006 - #10 - Michael Frolik - Florida
Mainly because he's the only one of the top 13 picks that year to not play an NHL game yet.

2005 - #2 - Bobby Ryan - Anaheim
Jack Johnson, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal all were drafted after Ryan, who has shown nothing during his 23 early season NHL games.

2004 - #6 - Al Montoya - New York Rangers
It's been three years and this alleged University of Michigan superstar hasn't seen a single second of NHL action.

2003 - #12 - Hugh Jessiman - New York Rangers
Breaking my own rule and stretching it to the 12th pick here, but it's warranted because Jessiman is the only one of the top 33 picks to not play at least 6 NHL games. Top 33! Guys taken after Jessiman include Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Stever Bernier, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry. Two whiffed first round picks back to back. I guess that's how a team ends up signing Gomez and Drury for $15 million. We'll be returning to the Rangers' colorful draft history later.

2002 - #9 - Petr Taticek - Florida
Weird how we keep seeing a top notch franchise like Florida on this list. In fairness, they did draft Jay Bouwmeester #3 in 2002, so maybe their were still celebrating when the 9th pick came up. Taticek played 3 games in the NHL, many less than Alexander Semin or Cam Ward. Though he did have a #1 disco hit in the Czech Republic with "Klad Syzk Muzik".

2001 - #3 - Alexander Svitov - Tampa Bay
Kovalchuk, Spezza, Svitov. Those top three picks have a nice ring to them.

2001 - #5 - Stanislov Chistov - Anaheim
Not every Ducks fan thinks this was a bad pick.

2001 - #10 - Dan Blackburn - New York Rangers
Though, really, around this time, the Rangers did on their research on free agents and former Oilers, not draft picks.

2000 - #1 - Rick Dipietro - New York Islanders
Probably shocking to see this one since DiPietro is so good, but the Islanders already had Roberto Luongo. So instead of trading Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, Mike Milbury could've kept Luongo and taken #2 pick Dany Heatley, #3 pick Marian Gaborik or even #10 pick Mikhail Yakubov. Because as good as DiPietro is, Luongo is better and Jokinen is better than Parrish and Kvasha combined. Mike Milbury is such a bad GM he should've been working for the Rangers. He is also NBC's lead NHL analyst.

2000 - #7 - Lars Jonsson - Boston
And on drums...Lars Jonsson.

2000 - #8 - Nikita Alexeev - Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay again! It's almost like some teams have just been poorly run! So, so odd. 37 points in 159 career games is a good way to get on this list.

2000 - #10 - Mikhail Yakubov - Chicago
With back to back picks, Chicago netted Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev. They combined for 37 points in 110 total games. Honestly, it would be hard to do that badly if you were trying to.

1999 - #1 - Patrik Stefan - Atlanta
He just got another concussion reading this.

1999 - #4 - Pavel Brendl - New York Rangers
What can you even say about the Rangers any more? A lot, trust me!

1999 - #6 - Brian Finley - Nashville
The 2nd first round pick in Nashville history is also the worst.

1999 - #7 - Kris Beech - Washington
Was once traded for Jaromir Jagr. Not straight up. Charlie Stephens was the only one of Washington's first four picks in 1999 that wasn't included in the package for Jagr. But that's mainly because after being drafted 31st by Washington in 1999, he stayed in the OHL and then was drafted 196th by Colorado in 2001. Double draftee!

1998 - #6 - Rico Fata - Calgary
Fata has played more games in the minors and Europe than the NHL. No doubt Calgary's scouts fell in love with his wheels and figured they could teach him scoring touch in camp. They figured wrong.

1998 - #7 - Manny Malhotra - New York Rangers
Oh hello, Neil Smith. Welcome back! In 133 games for the Rangers, Malhota tallied 11 goals and 14 assists. Low return on investment. But now the Rangers have New Jersey's first rounder from 1998, Scott Gomez.

1997 - #6 - Daniel Tkaczuk - Calgary
Tkaczuk apparently wasn't enough to keep Calgary out of the top 10 picks in 1998.

1997 - #10 - Brad Ference - Vancouver
Since 2004, Ference has played for four different AHL teams and one French team. He also had five games with the Flames in that span, five more than he ever played for Vancouver. The Canucks maybe should've gone with 1997's #12 pick, Lord Marian Hossa.

1996 - #2 - Andrei Zyuzin - San Jose
The second pick? Jesus.

1996 - #4 - Alexandre Volchkov - Washington
Yeah, well, at least he wasn't picked second.

1996 - #5 - Richard Jackman - Dallas
Most people would believe he was picked in the fifth round, not fifth.

1996 - #6 - Boyd Devereaux - Edmonton
Um...

1996 - #7 - Erik Rasmussen - Buffalo
Here's the good thing. At least no team got better in the 1996 draft, so it all evens out.

1996 - #8 - Johnathan Aitken - Boston
I've used up all of my comments for 1996. But this must be it, right?

1996 - #10 - Lance Ward - New Jersey
Hot gravy. What a top ten. The #1 pick was Chris Phillips, the best is probably #3 J.P. Dumont, and #9 Ruslan Salei is only the third non-bust of the whole group. Hard to believe Jaroslav Svejkovsky didn't go until #17 this year.

1995 - #3 - Aki-Petteri Berg - Los Angeles
One of the following statements is true: Aki Berg went on to a wonderful career in F1 racing after flaming out of the NHL. Aki Berg played 606 games in the NHL.

1995 - #4 - Chad Kilger - Anaheim
It might seem like I'm being extra hard on 1995's picks. At least you've heard of Aki Berg and Chad Kilger, right?

1995 - #6 - Steve Kelly - Edmonton
There are 11,492 guys in Canada named Steve Kelly. None of them should ever be picked in the top 10 of anything.

1995 - #8 - Terry Ryan - Montreal
Terry Ryan played 8 NHL games, amassing 0 points and 36 PIMs. Jarome Iginla, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Petr Sykora and Martin Biron all went later in the first round in 1995 and had slightly more success.

1994 - #3 - Radek Bonk - Ottawa
Teams still think he's heading toward a breakout year.

1994 - #4 - Jason Bonsignore - Edmonton
Not sure what Edmonton saw in Bonsignore that they didn't see in Ryan Smyth, but they took Jason Goodmister (Italian translation) 4th and Smyth 6th.

1994 - #7 - Jamie Storr - Los Angeles
The goalie of the future is now the goalie of the past.

1994 - #8 - Jason Wiemer - Tampa Bay
I'm sure Koules and Barrie will turn around Tampa's draft issues. They seem pretty level headed, with an eye on the future.

1994 - #9 - Brett Lindros - New York Islanders
The Islanders tried trading Brett Lindros for Daniel Forsberg, but the deal was shot down.

1993 - #1 - Alexandre Daigle - Ottawa
There aren't as many flat out #1 overall busts as people like to think, but Daigle is definitely king of the hill, top of the heap, A #1.

1993 - #5 - Rob Niedermayer - Florida
You know...

1993 - #7 - Todd Harvey - Dallas
...Niedermayer and Harvey had long careers as useful third liners, but they were top 10 picks in a year when Brendan Witt, Adam Deadmarsh, Jason Allison, Saku Koivu and Todd Bertuzzi went in the first round.

1992 - #3 - Mike Rathje - San Jose
A guy in your third defensive pairing shouldn't be your third overall pick.

1992 - #4 - Todd Warriner - Quebec
Four years of high Quebec picks went Sundin, Nolan, Lindros, Warriner.

1992 - #7 - Ryan Sittler - Philadelphia
Never played a game in the NHL, though in 1995-1996, he played for Raleigh, Mobile, Hershey and St. John's. In four season of minor league hockey, he played for nine teams. But Bobby Clarke would never have drafted Euro like Sergei Gonchar or Martin Straka that year.

1992 - #8 - Brandon Convery - Toronto
The meat in a bad pick sandwich.

1992 - #9 - Robert Petrovicky - Hartford
Don't mix him up with Ronald, the good Petrovicky.

1991 - #2 - Pat Falloon - San Jose
It's frightening how many top 10 busts ended up playing for the Penguins in the first half of the '00s.

1991 - #4 - Scott Lachance - New York Islanders
Bill Torrey was the Islanders' GM from 1972 to 1992 and built a team that won four straight Cups in the 1980s. Three of his last draft picks were Scott Lachance (4), Scott Scissons (6) and Dave Chyzowski (2). He did not go out on a high note.

1991 - #7 - Alek Stojanov - Vancouver
Luckily, four years later, the Canucks managed to trade this guy for Markus Naslund.

1991 - #9 - Patrick Poulin - Hartford
He's the reason Hartford moved to Carolina.

1990 - #6 - Scott Scissons - New York Islanders
The top eight picks in 1990 played a combined 7,549 NHL games. Scott Scissons contributed 2 to that total.

1990 - #9 - John Slaney - Washington
John Slaney of the Newfoundland Slaneys? Why, yes.


Let's Party Like It's 1999 (Actually, Let's Not. This Year's Draft Sucked.)
It's possible early Y2K troubles screwed up every team's computerized database at the draft and GMs had to just wing it, but 1999 was a fairly atrocious draft year all around. In the entire nine rounds, 272 picks, the only players who are decent or above are the Sedins, Tim Connolly, Taylor Pyatt, David Tanabe, Barrett Jackman, Nick Boynton, Martin Havlat, Alex Auld, Mike Commodore, Jordan Leopold, Adam Hall, Niklas Hagman, Frank Kaberle, Niclas Havelid, Mike Comrie, Chris Kelly, Ryan Malone, Ryan Miller, Martin Erat, Radim Vrbata, Radek Martinek and Doug Murray. Oh, and Henrik Zetterberg, who was selected 210th. That's it. 24 useful guys out of 272. 25 if you count the 240th pick, Jeff Finger. What a year.


What's The Deal With The Rangers In The First Round?
You'll probably find this hard to believe with their free agency acumen, cap management, two Cups in 58 years and seven straight season out of the playoffs until 2004, but the Rangers have not always had a great time at the NHL draft. No, really!

Neil Smith was the Rangers' GM from 1989-2000, then Glen Sather took over and he's still in charge. Sather's best pick was Henrik Lundqvist, the 205th selection in the 7th round. That was in 2000, when he took Filip Novak with the team's first selection, which didn't come until the 64th slot. His other find with Brandon Dubinsky, taken 60th overall in 2004, aka the Al Montoya year. Sather's first rounders have been Novak, Dan Blackburn, Hugh Jessiman, Montoya, Lauri Korpikoski, Marc Staal, Bob Sanguinetti, Alexei Cherepanov, and Michael del Zotto. The last three came in 2005-2007, so the jury's still out on them. However, the jury is long back on the other picks and the verdict on every one except Staal is Terrible in the First Degree. Staal has played 80 NHL games, Blackburn actually got through 63 and that's it. In 2002, the Rangers didn't have a first round pick and opened up their draft with Lee Falardeau in the 33rd spot.

When he was hired, Sather promised Rangers fans he'd live up to the high standards Neil Smith set. He knew it would be hard to flame out in the first round every single draft, but so far he's doing a decent job of it. Smith's last first round picks were in 1999, when he took Pavel Brendl 4th and Jamie Lundmark 9th. His other first rounders include Manny Malhotra, Stefan Cherneski, Jeff Brown, Christian Dube, Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, Peter Ferraro, Alexei Kovalev, Michael Stewart and Steven Rice.

Out of 13 first round picks, Kovalev has been a star, Sundstrom was decent and Cloutier suffered his way through 351 games. Brown and Cherneski never saw an NHL game from ice level. Back to back first round picks that didn't make the league. No wonder Smith had to keep importing old Oilers.


I Know He's Old, But How Old?
Chris Chelios was drafted 40th overall by Montreal in 1981. He is 46 years old and still playing. He has played for so long that his fellow Class of '81ers Dale Hawerchuk (#1), Ron Francis (#4) and Grant Fuhr (#8) are all in the Hall of Fame already. Mario Lemieux was drafted three years after Chelios, is in the Hall of Fame and owns the team that faced Chelios' squad in the finals.


With The Steal!
It's so karmically damaging to harp on the flops, the busts, the coulda beens and never weres, the flame outs. Let's look at the best picks from the inward half of the draft since 1990.

2004 - #262 - Mark Streit - Montreal
Had a great year with Montreal last season and got a big free agent deal from the Islanders.

2003 - #205 - Joe Pavelski - San Jose
He's not a world beater, but he gets some top line time with Thornton and has shown some promise.

2003 - #245 - Dustin Byfuglien - Chicago
One of Chicago's top defensemen after Brian Campbell. On draft day, he was most likely called Dustin BIFF-you-gleen.

2002 - #183 - Paul Ranger - Tampa Bay
Basically, any guy picked in the second half of the draft that ends up playing regular minutes is a steal, but Ranger has been pretty decent for the Lightning. With Boyle, he's in one of Tampa's top two pairings.

2002 - #234 - Max Talbot - Pittsburgh
A good third line cog and a fine actor.

2001 - #151 - Kevin Bieksa - Vancouver
Big hitter and key to Vancouver's blue line.

2001 - #176 - Marek Zidlicky - New York Rangers
A good producer from the power play point, naturally he never played for the Rangers. They can't even take advantage of their good picks.

2001 - #192 - Jussi Jokinen - Dallas
A shootout assassin on par with Jaarko Ruutu.

2001 - #214 - Cristobal Huet - Los Angeles
The Kings have been looking for a good starting goalie every season since 2001. Why can't they ever find one?!

2001 - #227 - Mark Svatos - Colorado
If Joe Sakic ever retires, which may actually be soon, Svatos will be one of Colorado's young leaders.

2000 - #159 - John-Michael Liles - Colorado
The anchor for the Avalanche on defense.

2000 - #205 - Henrik Lundqvist - New York Rangers
Quite possible the best Rangers draft pick of the last 20 years, which is like being the best carcinogen.

1999 - #138 - Ryan Miller - Buffalo
Did you know he earns money in the offseason doing snap battles in Vietnam? In full goalie gear!

1999 - #191 - Martin Erat - Nashville
When you take Brian Finley 6th and Erat 191st in the same year, is that draft still considered a success? Do you just remember it like you took Erat 6th?

1999 - #210 - Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit
Maybe you've heard of him. The Bizarro Daigle.

1998 - #162 - Andrei Markov - Montreal
Tough and talented, he took over the Montreal power play after Sheldon Souray went to Edmonton. Montreal's #1 defenseman right now.

1998 - #171 - Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit
In consecutive years, Detroit got Datsyuk and Zetterberg after 379 other players had been selected. Although Detroit's first two picks in 1998 were Jiri Fischers and Ryan Barnes, so they're not total evil geniuses.

1997 - #137 - Mike York - New York Rangers
Had a couple of really good seasons when lined up with Lindros and Theo Fleury.

1997 - #156 - Brian Campbell - Buffalo
Now one of the richest players from this draft.

1997 - #177 - Ladislav Nagy - St. Louis
He should be so much better than he is, but he was picked in the seventh round. So maybe he is living up to expectations after all.

1996 - #204 - Tomas Kaberle - Toronto
Highly, highly underrated. Naturally, Toronto discusses trading him every year.

1994 - #219 - Evgeni Nabokov - San Jose
These Russian scouts for NHL teams in the '90s, I can only imagine what they went through. "Trust me, this guy will be our goalie for a decade!" "Okay, okay. NAB-oh-koff. I got it. I'll see if we get around to him."

1994 - #233 - Steve Sullivan - New Jersey
Drafted by New Jersey, traded to Toronto, didn't really start putting up points until Chicago and Nashville.

1994 - #257 - Tomas Holmstrom - Detroit
I always feel like he should have more points each season than he does, but he always steps it up in the playoffs, to use a phrase.

1994 - #286 - Kim Johnsson - New York Rangers
The very last pick in the draft was a solid pro.

1993 - #151 - Darcy Tucker - Montreal
For a mid-round scrapper and grit player, he's had a long career.

1993 - #174 - Andrew Brunette - Washington
It feels like he's 100 years old, but he didn't even find his groove until 2000.

1993 - #227 - Pavol Demitra - Ottawa
Once had 93 points in a season for the Blues.

1993 - #250 - Kimmo Timonen - Los Angeles
Will make $8 million this year. On another note, do the Kings draft around 25 players each year and then just seed them around the league. Every guy on this list picked by the Kings got good for somebody else.

1992 - #204 - Nikolai Khabibulin - Winnipeg
Won a Cup for Tampa, don't you know? And has now been a highly-paid goalie that his team desperately wanted to trade in both Tampa and Chicago.

1992 - #220 - Anson Carter - Quebec
Pretty solid career for a guy who must've had the first dreadlocks in the league. In a side note, I was once at a Kings/Oilers game where Carter beat up Kelly Buchberger like he was a child.

1990 - #133 - Robert Lang - Los Angeles
Justin Azevedo, you were drafted 153rd by the Kings this year. You will be good in the NHL one day, but for another team.

1990 - #156 - Peter Bondra - Washington
Banzai!

1990 - #252 - Ted Miskolczi - Boston
Never played a game in the NHL, was not signed by Minnesota this weekend, but was the last player selected in the Owen Nolan draft.

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