The NHL Draft is coming this weekend...and I couldn't care less. That's not entirely true. I am curious to see what trades take place, and I'm itching to see some of the new jerseys that may or may not be on parade. But the draft itself? Ho-hum.
Part of my apathy stems from the fact that I don't follow hockey below the NHL level. I don't know Patrick Kane from Abel. I know there's a Sutter or two in the draft list, and an Esposito who has nothing to do with Phil or Tony. How good are they? How good will the be? I have no idea.
And that brings me to my second issue: neither do NHL GMs. Drafting in any sport is a hit-or-miss affair, and hockey is no exception. Just checking around some past drafts (thanks to hockeydb.com) and there's all kinds of examples of this. There just doesn't seem to be any way to tell if the guy you are drafting is going to be the next star...or the next bust. And, unlike football, it may be years before these guys show up with the parent club. Talk about delayed gratification.
1990: Owen Nolan was the first overall pick. Not bad. Petr Nedved and Keith Primeau go 2 and 3. No huge issue there, although the star of the draft - Jaromir Jagr - didn't go until #5. He goes right before Scott Scissons, who played all of two games in his NHL career. That's better than two other guys - Michael Stewart and Scott Allison - who never got a taste of NHL action. They went ahead of Keith Tkachuk and Martin Brodeur. Sergei Zubov was a 5th round pick. Peter Bondra was an 8th rounder.
1991: The Lindros draft. Lindros goes #1. Pat Falloon becomes the first choice of the new San Jose franchise, one spot ahead of actual franchise player Scott Niedermayer. Peter Forsberg goes 6th. Alexei Kovalev and Markus Naslund go 15th and 16th...after such big names as Patrick Poulin and Pat Peake. Three first roudners - Brent Bilodeau, Nicklas Sundblad and Trevor Halverson - will combine for 19 NHL games. That's 710 less than 10th round pick Igor Ulanov.
1992: A decent looking draft for the first 6 picks. Then you get 7 consecutive busts. The Ottawa 67's have two players taken in the first round - Curtis Bowen and Grant Marshall - who combine to play 700 NHL games (and counting). Unfortunately for Bowen, his contribution to that equation is zero. Jonas Hoglund, Dan McGillis and Anson Carter get drafted in the 10th round, and each will play at least 500 NHL games.
1993: In their 2nd draft, the Ottawa Senators drafted Alexandre Daigle at #1. How different would things have been if they'd taken the #2 guy - Chris Pronger - instead. Does Ottawa have any cute reporters? Lots of decent-but-not-quite-superstars in the upper part of the 1st. Seems like it's a crap shoot as to whether you are getting a top 6 player like Paul Kariya (4th) or Jason Arnott (7th) or a 4th liner like Todd Harvey (9th) or Rob Niedermayer (5th). Kimmo Timonen - the guy the Flyers just made quite rich - is taken in the 10th round, 250th overall.
1994: The Oilers have the 4th and 6th pick in the draft and select two forwards to be the cornerstones of the franchise for the next 10 years: Jason Bonsignore and Ryan Smyth. Smyth, of course, did just that before getting dumped by the Oilers this spring. Bonsignore? Not so much; he had stints with 2 NHL teams, 5 AHL teams, 2 IHL teams, 2 ECHL teams, a Swiss team and 2 Finnish League teams. A lot of so-so players in the first round. Meanwhile, Patrick Elias goes in the 2nd. Chris Drury is a 3rd round pick. Milan Hejduk gets taken after 86 other players. And the gem of the draft - Daniel Alfredsson - goes in the 6th round.
1995: Bryan Berard. Aki Berg. Chad Kilger. Eeek. The Oilers follow up the Bonsignore pick by taking Steve Kelly 6th overall. Nice work. The Sharks take some guy named Teemu Riihijarvi 12th overall. Riihijarvi never comes across the pond; his best season is 2002-2003 when he scores 18 points in Finland. What were they seeing there? Jarome Iginla is drafted just ahead of Teemu, and turns out to be the best player in a very weak draft.
1996: How much of an impact did the selection of Daigle over Pronger have on the Senators? In that draft and the three subsequent drafts, the Sens use 5 of their 7 Top 30 picks on defensemen (Daigle and Radek Bonk being the two exceptions). Instead of Pronger, the Sens take Radim Bicanek, Stan Neckar, Bryan Berard, Marc Moro and Chris Phillips. That has to hurt. Phillips goes #1 in this draft, and he looks like a superstar next to the guys taken after him. The Capitals take some guy named Alexandre Vochov with the 4th overall pick. His career spans all of 3 NHL games. The first round of this draft has a LOT of slugs.
1997: After two weak drafts, this one has talent at the top. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau go 1, 2. A few years later, terrible Boston mismanagement will allow them to do the same thing with the Sharks. Olli Jokinen, Roberto Luongo, Eric Brewer...all solid picks until you get to Daniel Tkaczuk at 6. After that it's hit or miss, with guys like Scott Hannan, Brendan Morrow and Marian Hossa mixed in with names like Stefan Cherneski, Kevin Grimes and Nikos Tselios.
1998: Vinny Lecavalier goes #1. David Legwand goes #2. Rico Fata (!) goes #6. Alex Tanguay goes 12th, sandwiched by Jeff Heerema and Michael Henrich. Seriously, NHL GMs might as well be using dart boards. Pavel Datsyuk gets taken late in the 6th round.
1999: First overall pick Patrik Stefan has not scored more than 40 points in an NHL season, and is probably going to be best remembered for his empty net miss this season. The first round of this draft is filled with busts or decent players, with the notable exception of Tim Connolly and the Sedin twins. Detroit follows up the Datsyuk pick by taking Henrik Zetterberg in the 7th round.
So, hockey fans, get excited if you want about your Kyle Turrises and your Jacob Voraceks. Rush out and buy that Keaton Ellerby jersey and your Alexei Cherepanov rookie card. Not me. I'll wait until we find out if any of these guys are actually any good or not. Check back with me in about 10 years.