It was announced today that the Florida Panthers will host the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise. The last time NHL General Managers and Scouts gathered there was 2001, so I thought, 'what better way to celebrate the return of the draft then to look at what once was and what has transpired since?!' Twitter personalities everywhere were scrambling for this stuff in the morning, so I thought I would compile some thoughts.
Firstly the NHL was in a new era of expansion in 2001. Nashville had just completed their third season and were looking like a legitimate team finishing at 34-36-9-3, 10th place. Should be noted; Barry Trotz and David Poile are STILL there today. They've done well in Tennessee. The sophmore Atlanta Thrashers, led by current TSN Analyst Ray Ferraro (76pts Ray not bad), were drafting some interesting players whom in the following season would give the fans some hope (just a little though). Of course let's not forget Columbus and Minnesota were rookie clubs having formed via the 2000 expansion draft the previous summer. And gee-golly they were rotten.
What's more is that some recently relocated teams were having great success. The Avalanche who moved from Quebec City were fresh off their 2nd championship in 6 years of hockey in Denver. Success that was the product of the trade that sent half the Flyers team to Quebec for Eric Lindros a few years before the first Avalanche Championship. The following season the Hurricanes (i.e. the recently deceased Hartford Whalers) would march all the way to the Cup Finals before losing to the Red Wings. Scotty Bowman was too busy piling up Stanley Cups to bother with Carolina (3rd ring in 6 seasons). That Carolina team under the leadership of Rod Brind'Amour (another Flyer tie-in) would also develop into a Stanley Cup winner a few years later in 05-06.
The Flyers meanwhile were dealing with a now-crybaby Eric Lindros (okay let's be honest he was a crybaby his whole life) who didn't play in 2000-01 over a contract dispute, and was eventually traded to the New York Rangers to begin his fade into mediocrity. Aside from that drama Philly was still a great team and continued to make playoff appearances without 'Big E'.
Now that your memory is stirring and you have a general idea of the state of events, the first portion of the draft went a little something like this.
First overall was such a no-brainer that even Atlanta couldn't mess it up.
Ilya Kovalchuk is excited to take your money Atlanta! COLIN BRALEY/REUTERS
1. Atlanta - Ilya Kovalchuk (LW) Spartak Moscow
2. Ottawa - Jason Spezza (C) Windsor Spitfires
3. Tampa Bay - Alexandr Svitov (C) Omsk Avangard
4. Florida - Stephen Weiss (C) Plymouth Whalers
5. Anaheim - Stanislav Chistov (L) Omsk Avangard
After sifting through the data I think it's pretty obvious here that the entire league had a bit of a crush on Russians (see: the later portions of this article). Kovalchuk couldn't possibly be the ONLY Russian player that could make a difference at the NHL level, could he? Well short answer.. yes. In this draft he was. I will give Fedor Tyutin some credit here, he's turned out to be a pretty useful defenseman for the Jackets. Other than Ilya and Fedor though, it was a series of bad Russian picks that just didn't live up to expectations.
Spezza was a bit of a gamble for Ottawa considering he was known as a player who didn't want to back-check in an era where defensive hockey was King. Captain Senator's 652pts in 652gp to this point in his career is pretty telling of how that gamble turned out. Florida's selection of Stephen Weiss paid great dividends for the Panthers as he went on to captain that team through a very long stretch of dismal play. Weiss currently ranks second in all-time FLA scoring behind Olli Jokinen with 394pts and first in franchise assists with 249. Hard to argue with those results. Next!
6. Minnesota - Mikko Koivu (C) TPS Turku
7. Montreal - Mike Komisarek (D) U. Michigan
8. Columbus - Pascal Leclaire (G) Halifax Mooseheads
9. Chicago - Tuomo Ruutu (C) Jokerit Helsinki
10. NY Rangers - Dan Blackburn (G) Kootenay Ice
If you're a Wild fan you're awfully glad Minny ended up with 6th pick and avoided the earlier Russian-duds because Koivu has reigned supreme in Minnesota for years. If you're a Habs fan.. lol Komisarek. Ruutu is a good NHLer, but he didn't really develop until he was traded to Carolina and even now he's always plagued by injuries. Poor Pascal Leclaire never really had a chance behind awful Blue Jackets teams that never gave him the support he deserved, and Dan Blackburn sadly had his career cut short by injury. Although he will always be famous as 'the guy who tried to make a comeback with 2 blockers instead of a blocker and a glove'. Blackburn's hand/shoulder injuries prevented him from rotating his wrist, hence he couldn't hold his glove correctly. Sad story..
Teams who did well in the 2001 Entry Draft; Buffalo, Ottawa, San Jose.
Jason Spezza's draftmates for Ottawa included Windsor teammate Tim Gleason, Ray Emery, German utility-man Christoph Schubert, long time Capital Brooks Laich, and current Euro-league-star-former-useful-checking-forward Brandon Bochenski.
The Sens did well, but not quite as well as the Sharks. Turns out Ottawa didn't pick the right Germans. The Sharks took defensively-minded center Marcel Goc of Schwenningen, and offensive defenseman Christian Ehrhoff of Krefeld. San Jose also snagged newfie Ryane Clowe with the 175th pick in the 6th round. While Clowe is fading in recent years he's still a steal as a late selection.
Teams who didn't know what the hell they were doing: Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, New Jersey, Detroit.
Tampa did draft Svitov who played 179 games, and fellow Russian bust Evgeny Artyukhin who suited up for 199 games, but despite piling up games played they never amounted to anything. The worst part is they drafted another 12 players that year WHO DIDN'T EVEN PLAY A SINGLE GAME! In case you were wondering, yes 4 of those other 12 were Russians.. really? I MEAN REALLY!?
The Islanders were in their Mike Milbury malady period (or comedy period depending on if you're an Isles fan or not! Hey-Oh!). They drafted a bunch of no-shows who played 8 combined games. I guess Andy Chiodo should be happy he got to see what the inside of an NHL dressing room looks like. Only 1 Russian pick surprisingly, also their first pick was 101st.. so they didn't have much to work with.
The Devils picked knuckle-dummy Aaron Voros who played 3 minutes a night for 162 games and LW Andreas Salomonsson of Djurgardens who played 71 contests.. that's it. Another 3 Russians picked.. no games played.
Meanwhile, the usually magical scouts of the Detroit Red Wings pulled out a total stinker of a draft. Only 8th rounder Dmitry Bykov played a meaningful number of games with 71. Yes a Russian. They also wasted their 62nd overall selection on Igor Grigorenko. Russian.
If you've read this far.. congratulations.. I wrote this and I didn't even read this far. BUT you get to see the Flyers draft picks!
Flyers Faithful, Forsythe, Flyers.com
27. Jeff Woywitka (D) Red Deer Rebels
95. Patrick Sharp (RW) U. Vermont
146. Jussi Timonen (D) Kalpa
150. Bernd Bruckler (G) Tri-City Storm
158. Roman Malek (G) Slavia Praha
172. Dennis Seidenberg (D) Mannheim Eagles
177. Andrei Razin (C) Magnitogorsk Metallurg
208. Thierry Douville (D) Baie-Comeau Drakkar
225. David Printz (D) Great Falls
We all know Woywitka just never amounted to the player he was supposed to be. Case closed. Patrick Sharp though, thanks Bobby C, thanks a lot for Matt Ellison. Then of course there's Dennis Seidenberg. After a superb year with the Phantoms (yes the year they won the Calder Cup), Clarke traded Seidenberg for 37 YEAR OLD PETR NEDVED.. kill me. Clarke was a fan of letting guys develop to the point where they were almost great players and then trading them for nothing.
As for the rest Jussi Timonen, and David Printz almost made it. They were part of the Flyers organization in 'the year of which we shall not speak'. Goaltender Bernd Bruckler has played in pretty much every Euro league as well as American College hockey, so that's.. umm.. something? Roman Malek.. well.. he never really made it past the Czech border. Clarkey wasn't afraid to jump on the Russian bandwagon picking Razin, who actually had a decent career in the Russian league, but appears to have never tried to make the transition. Lastly, Douville was a complete goon who played a grand total of 3 AHL games registering 7 PIMs.
Lessons learned from the last draft in Sunrise. Pick Germans, Avoid Russians, don't trade all the guys you picked when they start to have some success at the NHL level. Simple as that I guess.