Top 5 Biggest NHL Draft Steals of All Time

12 May

 

empty nhl draft arena

NOTE: This is an old article, formerly featured on hockeyquarterly.com.  All opinions and jokes are, unfortunately, mine, but are old.  So be kind.

 

As a general rule, NHL scouts aren’t known for their lack of thoroughness. Every NHL team has a vast network of scouts, plugged directly into other, lower level, vast networks of the hockey living/eating/breathing type. The whole thing combines into a extraordinarily large, complex and thorough net that catches just about everybody that plays in an organized hockey league.

But for all their thankless work (anyone want me to do a top five list of scouts?! *crickets*) and expertise, every once and a while a gem slips through cracks; and when they do, some GM somewhere is made to look very, very good. This is a catalogue of the five biggest mistakes scouts and GM’s ever made.

Limitations and Stipulations

In order to make this list manageable (and to avoid much of the unnecessary debate) a few concessions had to be made. First, players drafted from the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc have not been included. Draft numbers of guys like Pavel Bure or Sergei Fedorov were artificially suppressed due to the politics of the day (i.e. it’s difficult to justify drafting a guy in the first round who, just in order to enter your

country, must break the laws of his own country and defect). Second, as with most of these types of lists, I’ve limited the time frame to the post expansion era. Since the draft only included a couple of dozen players until 1969, this is really the only way to go. Finally, I’m not including any completely undrafted players because, well, that would be an entirely different list.

So, with the formalities out of the way, I bring you, #5!

henrik zetterberg pavel datsyuk red wings

#5 – Pavel Datsyuk & Henrik Zetterberg – Drafted by Detroit in 1998 (6/171) and by Detroit in 1999 (7/210)

Combined Career Totals: 1248 GP | 451 G | 755 A | 1206 P

Using editorial license on the first item of a Top 5 list isn’t usually recommended, but these guys are too good of a story to pass up. Detroit has built arguably the most stable franchise in the league around the idea that really smart drafting can win you championships (smart drafting and not wasting money on high priced goalies, but that’s for another column) but even the Wings outdid themselves when they selected Datsyuk and Zetterberg in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Between the two of them, they have well over 1000 points, 9 individual trophies, 4 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic medals (one Gold) and Henrik is the lowest drafted player ever to win the Conn Smythe. Often considered two of the smartest players in the game today, these two are so good for their draft position that the NHL featured them both in a commercial.

So, with that, I give you Detroit’s Dynamic Duo at #5.

Theo Fleury

4 – Theoren Fleury – Drafted by Calgary in 1987 (8/166)

Career totals: 1084 GP | 455 G | 633 A | 1088 P

The heart and soul of the Calgary Flames for 10 years, this Olympic/World Junior/Canada Cup Gold medalist only seemed to miss time when it was of his own devices; he played over 80 games in 10 of his 13 seasons (twice having played shortened seasons do to drug abuse problems).

Coming in at a generous 5 foot 6, it’s not really a surprise that Fleury was picked behind enough hockey players to populate a small mining town. Constantly being introduced as another one of those “too- short-to-make-it” success stories, he more than made it up for his…ummmm…short-comings, with a feisty temper (read: Punch up in Piestany and 1800+ career PIMS) and more skill than you’ll find in most second lines (read: over 1000 career points). But you can put all that aside, perhaps the most amazing part of Fleury being on this list is the fact that, due to his own personal demons, he had such a short NHL career, playing only 13 full seasons. But when you think of everything he’s gone through in his life, it’s amazing he ever made it to the NHL at all.

triple crown line

#3 – Dave Taylor – Drafted by Los Angeles in 1975 (15/210)

Career totals: 1111 GP | 431 G | 638 A | 1069 P

The only player on this list to be drafted below 200, Dave Taylor may not be as flashy as the other names mentioned here, but he was a rock solid player for years and years and years, was a member of the much feared (and awesome-ly named) Triple Crown Line (with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer) and managed to play his entire career with the Kings. He’s also the lowest drafted player to ever score 1,000 points over his career and that’s enough to secure the #3 spot on the list.

Luc Robitaille

#2 – Luc Robitaille – Drafted by Los Angeles in 1984 (9/171)

Career totals: 1431 GP | 668 G | 726 A | 1394 P

Despite major junior numbers so good that they named a trophy after him, Robitaille was drafted mystifyingly low. Picked behind Darcy Wakaluk and several arena janitors that were mistakenly picked out of the crowd, Robitaille made a career out of crushing his skeptics, winning the Calder in his first year with the Kings and scoring over 40 goals in each of first 8 seasons.

Following in the footsteps of the L.A. King legend, Marcel Dionne, Robitaille continued a tradition of wildly underrated Los Angeles Kings hockey players. Whether it’s a compliment or not, through several trades, Robitaille was traded for Rick Tocchet, Petr Nedved, Sergei Zubov, Kevin Stevens, and a 2nd round draft pick.

Oh yeah, and he ended his career as the highest scoring left-wing in history, with 1394 points, not bad for a 9th rounder.

Brett Hull

#1 – Brett Hull – Drafted by Calgary in 1984 (6/117)

Career totals: 1269 GP | 741 G | 650 A | 1391 P | and one very illegal Stanley Cup winning goal.

Picked a few rounds ahead of our #2 selection, Hull boasts the most impressive resume of anyone on this list. A list that includes, but is in no way limited to: being 3rd all time in goals, 6th in playoff scoring, a World Cup gold medal winner, having the second highest single season goal total (behind Wayne Gretzky) and the second most career 50/50 seasons (behind Wayne Gretzky). He’s also 21st all-time in scoring and has an adorable smile.

But that’s not that’s not the only reason he’s here, Hull tops the list not simply because he has all-world numbers (which he obviously really, really does) but because of the impact he had on the world of hockey as a whole. To give you a taste of what Hull meant to the NHL, he ended his career with fewer points than our #2, Luc Robitaille, but how many people remember riding a “Lucky Luc Toboggan” as a kid? How many Theoren Fleury video games did you play? Brett Hull was a rootin’, tootin’, hockey hair havin’, slapshootin’ rockstar, and for that…he tops the list.

Honourable Mentions:

The Soviet Bloc: No question that these guys were ludicrously late picks but, as I mentioned, it’s impossible to say how much of it was due to the politics of at the time. Bure, Fedorov, Dominik Hasek

make it to the HM list based on the fact that two of them defected to the US to play in the NHL, the third had his NHL career shortened by the fact he didn’t defect. Great players, impossible to rank, sorry comrades.

We Hopeful Few: Players who have a shot at making this list in 20 years. Jaroslav Halak of stop sign t- shirt fame, was a 9th rounder…the draft stops at 7 now. Henrik Lundqvist might as well have been the last guy in the room at 205th overall! And rounding out what, for some reason, is a category dominated by goalies, Ryan Miller, the franchise goalie who Buffalo was lucky enough to scoop up in the 5th round. Good luck gents, see you in 20 years.

3rd Round’s the Charm: The third round seems to be a great hiding place for some of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and that’s just where you’ll find Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Roy and Mark Messier. Not just great hockey players, these three (all picked in the third round) went on to be, arguably, the greatest of all time at their respective positions. Unfortunately for them, the third round is a little too high to be considered for the list. 

We’re back baby!!!!

12 Apr

Logo for the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Diving back into the online world of hockey writing/blogging/tweeting has reminded me of just how angry and negative hockey fans seem to have become.  If you didn’t know any better you’d think the Flyers had been caught slipping a fifty into the refs pocket and Shea Weber had literally murdered Henrik Zetterberg with his bare hands.  Like Marv crushing that guy’s head style murder.  For those of you that haven’t seen the incidents in question, relax.  One, they weren’t that bad and, two, they’re outlined below.

Flyers v. Pens

Briere Celebrates his goal against Pittsburgh


– Two players you barely noticed out there: Malkin and Couturier.  Strange coincidence.

– Just like Gretzky, Lemieux, Jagr, etc….try as you might, there’s no stopping Crosby, he’s simply too good.

– What does a comeback like that mean to Philly and to Ilya Bryzgalov in particular? Imagine being a Philadelphia Flyer and having confidence in your goalie.  That’s some Twilight Zone shit.

– Daniel Briere has 31 playoff goals/30 assists since leaving Sabres in 07. Sabres as an entire team have scored 33 playoff goals.

Shitheads v. Kings

Luongo makes a save versus the Kings.

– It literally took 5 minutes before the diving and faking started for Vancouver.  If this is how they think the playoffs work they’re in for a major surprise.

– People are really overlooking the Mike Richards factor.  This guy is an angry, mean, dirty, physical presence who just happens to be a Memorial Cup Champion, World Junior Champion, Olympic Champion and former NHL captain who’s already been to one Stanley Cup finals in his career.  It’s like he was built in a lab to anger and hurt the Vancouver Canucks.

UPDATE: Mike Richards was named the first star of the game.

 

Wings v. Predators

– Shea Weber hit according to Nashville Predators fans.

Shea Weber slams Henrik Zetterberg into the glass.

Shea Weber hit according to Twitter and Detroit Red Wings fans.

– The whole Predators gold-rush thing (I don’t know if they call it the gold rush or not, but if they don’t ,they should) is AWESOME.  They just need a bit more coherence.

– Weber will not be suspended.

 

All that’s old is new again….

11 Apr

Nothing to get the creative juices flowing like the opening of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  In between eating chicken wings and screaming at my TV laptop I found a list of old, unfinished Primitive Puck posts longer than a Leonard Cohen song (not my joke).  I figure this is as good a time as any to start posting some thoughts.  So, while I imagined a lot more fanfare in my return to writing for The Puck, this “article” will have to do.

While you’re reading this, I’ll be working on an algorithm that calculates which team’s fans are the whiniest on twitter.  Hint: It’s Pittsburgh.

Lapierre tries to get Bergeron to bite his finger

Check out this asshole right here.

– Remember how much we all hated those jerks in Vancouver?  Let’s do that again.

– Seriously, if you’re picking an all-time playoff hockey team, how high is Daniel Briere on your list?  He’s second in playoff goal scoring since the lockout.

–  Not unlike the researchers that discovered the new flavour called “Umami”, recently Sidney Crosby discovered a new emotion.  But unlike Umami, this new emotion can only be expressed by contracting all the muscles in your face in order to create a smaller, angrier, sadder face.

– Of all the fun, weird bets you can make on the playoffs, I’ve yet to see anything about when Don Cherry will create his first firestorm of controversy.  I’ve got money on his first segment after Vancouver plays.

– In that same vein, lay off Grapes would ya?  The world doesn’t owe you a commentator you agree with.  Replace Cherry with another Kelly Hrudey, nobody cares and nobody watches.

– I read somewhere that Brooks Orpik is a real son-of-a-bitch.  The more I watch him, the more I can see what they mean. That guy plays to hurt people.

– I have an old article called “Sidney Croncussionsby”.  I can’t wait to finish that up.

more later….

 

Flyer Sale

24 Jun

One year ago, the Flyers were two wins away from being 2010 Stanley Cup champion.  Four months ago, the Flyers were the odds on favourite to win be 2011 Stanley Cup champions. Earlier today, they traded away both their captain and their leading goal scorer in separate deals, then signed a 31 year old goalie (with no playoff success to his name) to a nine year deal, paying him 10 million in the first season.

The most shocking part of the whole thing? The Flyers may be a better team today than they were yesterday.

The Flyers Lost

– Their captain, and fan favourite.

– Their perennial leading goal scorer.

– A combined 130 points last year.

The Flyers Gained

– A high first round pick.

Highly touted prospect, Brayden Schenn.

– A combined 76 points.

– A third round pick.

– A second round pick.

– A top flight goalie (with limited playoff experience mind you)

– 11 million off the books.

 

And now…for something completely different.  Instead of the usual bullet point system, I’m trying out a sort of Point/CounterPoint format, tentatively titled “I hate this!!/I hate you!!”. The title seems appropriate since that’s what most of my hockey conversations boil down to. So, here we with the pilot episode of….

I HATE THIS!!!!/I HATE YOU!!!!!

I hate this!!!

The Flyers needed a goalie, I get that, but according to everyone who matters, they were one step away from winning the cup (that step being a solid goaltender).  So all they needed to do was make enough room to sign a Bryzgalov type and lock down everyone else for a couple of years and you’re set.  Sure, they might have to move Matt Carle or Ville Leino but that’s a small price to pay to finally get a world class goalie.  Instead, the Flyers go and their two best players for a handful of drafts and prospects?  Ed Snider isn’t getting any younger, I thought the mandate was “win now, at all costs”, not “pick up some potentially great young talent that can come into it’s own as Daniel Briere and Chris Pronger get too old to be effective”.

I hate you!!!

Yes, the Flyers lost their captain, yes, they lost their leading goal scorer and annual 40 goal threat, but at the end of the day these were 66 point players last year and in trading them, the Flyers gained so much more.  In Bryzgalov they get what they haven’t had since Bernie Parent, a legitimate top-end goaltender.  On top of that they managed to stock up on three great young hockey players and three draft picks (including a first rounder). You’re saying to yourself, “those three players can’t put up points like Richie and Carter” and you may be right, but they may not have to.  Remember that Claude Giroux is only 23 years old, and JVR is starting to come into his own. In this last post-season, these two had 13 points to Richards/Carters 7.  Not to mention the whole idea behind getting a quality goaltender is that you don’t have to score as many goals.

Yes the Flyers need some of these young players to continue their development, but the Chicago Blackhawks showed the Flyers a couple of years ago, you can win with young talent, if you manage it well enough.

At the end of the day, the Flyers are younger, cheaper and they have a goalie.

 

NHL Awards – Primitive Predictions

21 Jun

2011 NHL Awards Logo

This isn’t who should win, this is who’s going to win, and why.

UPDATE: Primitive Puck goes 5 for 5 in NHL Awards predictions prophesies.

Vezina – Tim Thomas

When you set a record for the highest save percentage in the history of the game, you get the Vezina, period.

Hart – Corey Perry

To me this is clearly a two horse race, but the key will lie with the oft-argued definition of the award.  That is, that it’s given to the player who’s “most valuable to his team”.  With that in mind, it’s hard to argue with the guy who single-handedly dragged his team into the post season, scoring 15 goals in March alone, especially when he’s up against a guy whose team won the President’s Trophy and is playing on a line with the reigning NHL MVP and leading scorer.

Without Perry the Ducks don’t even get close to the playoffs, without Daniel Sedin, the Canucks finish 5th in the league instead of 1st.  No contest.

Norris – Lidstrom

I’m having a really hard time with this one.  It’s Chara or Lidstrom.  My thinking here is that the voting was completed when everyone thought Lidstrom was going to retire, so the Scorcese factor will come into play and Lidstrom will win.

Calder – Jeff Skinner

The youngest of the lot at 19 years old (Grabner is 23 and Couture is 22) leading rookies in scoring on a non-playoff team as an 18 year old is too good to pass up.

Lady Byng – St. Louis

Because 99 points, that’s why.

The other awards are a mixture of too boring and too difficult to predict, so I’m out of here!

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MBATF: JAGR, BRYZ, LIDSTROM, SMYTH

21 Jun

Here’s what you missed while you were busy talking about Game of Thrones…the latest news at the start of what looks to be a very interesting couple of weeks….

– The cap is going up to 64 million. Great news for the Flyers and Devils among others.

– Ryan Smyth requests a trade, wants to go back to Edmonton.

– Ryan Smyth denies he requested a trade to go back to Edmonton.

– Flyers are close to signing newly anointed franchise saviour, Ilya Bryzgalov. The big question is what will it cost them? Matt Carle looks like the likely option at the moment.

– Jammy Jagr wants to be a Penguin again.

– Lidstrom saves the Red Wings one last time by returning for a 20th season. He also ensures there will be a long talk about his place in the greatest defenceman category and is a long shot to equal Bobby Orr’s record for most Norris trophies.

– I wrote an article for Hockey Quarterly, counting down the best draft day steals of all time.  Go read it!

– Neither Craig Mactavish, nor Craig Ramsay will be the first coach of the Winnipeg “Something-or-Others”.

– The Boston Bruins know how to party.

– Norm Macdonald continues to struggle to find a comedic home.  Sorry Norm.

 

 

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Crank’s Corner – Vancouver’s Loss is Hockey’s Gain

20 Jun

Man having a heart attack

"Hey did you hear? Lapierre was just traded to the Red Wings!"

 

Well, the season is over, the riot is over, and any respect I had, which was very little if any, for Max Lapierre and Alex Burrows is forever gone. The only thing worse than an old school team like Boston losing to the Canucks would be the fact that  jerks like them would get to have their names on the Stanley Cup. Unacceptable!! I like to think that it is because of players like these that teams, who have every odds maker believing in them, lose. You see, odds makers use stats and numbers, not heart, determination, and respect to calculate who should win.

Who could cheer for the Canucks after watching the childish, YES CHILDISH, antics of not only those two clowns but also of the Sedin sisters. Thankfully, our great game was not reduced to the embarrassing level of a soccer match dive fest. I’m not a big fan of the NHL’s officiating (as my previous posts will attest) but they at least let ‘em play for the most part, although they had to try to even it up in the 3rd of game seven by throwing a couple of phantom penalties at the Bruins. It seemed to me that they were sending a strong message that you gotta man up and show some balls if you want the cup, and good on them.

I suppose every one will blame the players for Vancouver’s failure, but you gotta look at the management team that wasn’t savvy enough to realize that players like the one’s mentioned above will ruin any team’s chances by epitomizing how not to play the game, while undermining the good intentions and hard work of your classier players.

Embarrassed at home in game 7?  Looks good on ‘em.

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Quite a Riot

17 Jun

I’ve avoided talking about the riot in general, both on The Puck and at work/home/bars/the street (at least as much as one can avoid talking about these things).  But in the end, like everything else, it turns out I have an opinion on it!!

“Smile, shitheads!” *CLICK*

 

Those aren’t real Canucks fans!

Yes they are, shut up. Professional rioters don’t buy $200 vintage Trevor Linden jerseys before they turn over a garbage can.  But don’t fret Van-City, it’s ok that they’re Canuck fans, this is not a phenomenon unique to Vancouver.  Get a large enough group of people together and you’re going to have some idiots.  Make that group trend towards young, add in some alcohol, whip them into a frenzy and cram them into a small area and guess what? A few cars are going to get turned over.

Legacy

I think my biggest problem with the riot is that we may be beginning to set a precedent. Last year in Montreal, this year in Vancouver, I’m worried this may become a thing that we do, like putting maple syrup on sausages.  I sincerely hope that’s not the case because, while the occasional unruly mob doesn’t bother me, the idea that hockey playoffs will become tied with rioting is really terrible.  If for no reason other than I want to be able to stay downtown and drink after a game without being run over by a cop on a horse.

At the end of the day…

It wasn’t that bad.  Vancouver woke up the next morning as if from a horrible one-night stand, shook it’s head, looked around and was thoroughly embarrassed.  Now it’s dealing with the aftermath in a very Canadian way.  Hopefully the city’s memory is long enough that this doesn’t happen next year when Chicago beats them out of the playoffs in the first round.

Also, it’s not like Vancouver has the post-sporting-event-riot market cornered.

Vancouver riot police after Game 7

How do you know you’re at a Canadian riot?  The police wear hockey gloves and carry broom handles for clubs.

A man cheers in front of a burning car at the Vancouver riot

Nothing says “annoying riot dad” like a front-backpack, wrap-around sunglasses and a baldness hiding haircut.


Men standing in front of a burnt car

What’s the best way to look even dumber while having you’re photo taken in the middle of a riot?  Dress like Tank Girl.


Asian kid with a hockey stick at the riots

I have nothing that to say that could be as funny as this picture.




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Game 7 – 2 Girls, No Cup

16 Jun

 


The Counting your Chickens award goes to….

“If we win,” predicted Kesler, the Canucks’ assistant captain, “then we’re legends”.  No word yet on what Kesler is now.

A Touch of Class

Alexander Burrows really let down the side (and Vancouver fans in general) with a blind-side head shot on Rich Peverley with about 5 minutes left in the game.  Peverley seemed to be unaffected by it, which is lucky for him (and Burrows), as I can’t imagine what it would feel like to listen to your teammates celebrate a Stanley Cup while you’re being checked by a doctor for a concussion.

I doubt a suspension will come of it because it’s the last game of the season and there’s so much else going on right now, but if ever there was a suspend-able hit, that would be it.

Pullongo!

Why keep playing Luongo going into the third?  He’s not playing well, your team is down 3 – 0 and obviously needs something to get them going.  Did Vigneault really believe his team was going to turn it on by themselves?  As a coach sometimes you need to shake your players back into the game, Vancouver just kept rolling the same game plan even when it became obvious it wasn’t working.

Recchi

One of the things I’ve grown to dislike in the “new NHL” is how powerful youth has become.  It’s getting harder and harder for older players to compete with the speed and power of today’s youth.

With that in mind, how awesome is Mark Recchi?  At 5-foot-nothing, and 43 years old, he’s still out there schooling younger, stronger, faster men, in the most difficult hockey tournament in the world.  Laying out fools and leading the final round in scoring, Recchi didn’t look out of place for a second.

Boston Bruins Cup Celebration

Pumping Tires

People are actually asking what will happen with Roberto in Vancouver in light of  his recent failures and his hefty contract, but I can’t imagine much. The guy backstopped you to a record setting season and then to game 7 of the finals, while getting nominated for the Vezina, hard to fire a guy for that, even if he didn’t play well at the end.

Hodgson

Could Cody Hodgson have helped out the Canucks in those final games?  I know a lot of people hate the shoulda coulda’s of hindsight, it must be hard for Canuck fans to see Tyler Seguin taking a regular shift and providing some spark from time to time while your team is struggling to get anything going offensively and your own wunderkind sits in the stands.

Vancouver Riots

Meh, more on this later.

2 Girls No Cup

Vancouver fan or not, that’s pretty funny.  NOTE: A friend sent me that picture, sorry I can’t credit the creator (send me a note if you know who it is).

 

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