clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Flyers vs. Sharks history: When a pick swap goes wrong

Sure, no one could’ve known a seventh-rounder would end up being this good, but ... still.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The 2003 NHL Entry Draft is considered one of the best drafts in the league’s history. With 82 of the 292 selections playing in 100 NHL games or more, and 29 players with 100 goals or more, there is good reason why many people still talk about this particular draft class. The Philadelphia Flyers and their general manager at the time, Bobby Clarke, apparently decided that only 11 picks from this draft class instead of 12 wouldn’t be the worst thing.

With that in mind, the Orange and Black proceeded to ship a seventh-round pick (the 205th overall selection) to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, which turned out to be the 170th overall selection. Not only did the Flyers come away with NHL difference-makers in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards with two of those picks, they also landed four other NHL players in Colin Fraser, Stefan Ruzicka, Alexandre Picard, and Ryan Potulny.

However, there was one more name available that was taken with the 205th overall selection.

Joe Pavelski, who begins his 12th season in the NHL tonight, was taken by the Sharks at the 205th pick. To date, he has eight 20-goal seasons, three of which are 30-goal seasons and another of which was a 40-goal season. Since the start of the 2013-2014 regular season, Pavelski has the second-most goals with 145, trailing only Alex Ovechkin’s 187. He also has the third-most power-play goals in the league in that time behind Ovechkin’s 85 and Wayne Simmonds’ (aka The Wayne Train, aka Mr. Train, aka Hockey’s Best Wayne Ever) with 58.

On top of this, Pavelski is considered one of the best in the NHL, if not the best, at redirecting pucks in front. It would have been hard for any late-round draft pick to top Pavelski’s success, so it’s not the fact Philadelphia’s pick at 170th overall in 2004 never panned out. It’s more about how much this pick didn’t pan out.

Clarke and company took Ladislav Scurko, a forward who posted 44 points in 37 games for HK Spisska Nova Ves’ U-20 team and five points in 30 games for the franchise’s 1. Liga team. If you recognize the name Scurko, I have a hunch it’s not because of this stat line or the fact he averaged 0.66 points per game in 143 WHL games between 2004 and 2007. It’s most likely because in January of 2008 he killed Marek Liptaj, a hockey referee who was living with Scurko at the time of the murder.

It's believed that Liptaj had lied to Scurko about having cancer, which was apparently the reason why Scurko had let Liptaj live with him. Scurko and Liptaj then got into an argument over finances while on a drive one day, and Scurko stabbed Liptaj 14 times. Scurko then buried Liptaj's body in a nearby Slovakian forest and confessed to the murder in April of 2009 after the body had been discovered a few months earlier in December of 2008. Due to a 'diminished state of sanity,' the former Flyers' draft pick was sentenced to just eight years in prison.

Scurko spent a little over two years in prison and returned to hockey in 2011-2012 as a member of HK Slovan Gelnica in Slovakia's third-highest level of professional hockey. With the exception of the 2014-2015 season, Scurko played in lower-tier Slovakian leagues from 2011-2012 until 2016-2017. This season, Scurko is an alternate captain for HC Detva, a team that is currently 0-7-1 in Slovakia's Tipsport Extraliga (the highest level of hockey in Slovakia).

Needless to say, this pick swap for the Flyers was a little unlucky. More times than not, a late-round pick swap doesn’t result in that much of an impact for an organization at the NHL level. Sometimes, however, the pick you traded away becomes one of the best goal scorers in the league while the pick you obtained becomes a murderer. Not much the Orange and Black could have done about this trade besides realize that … sports are bad.