The Draft Giveth, and the Draft Taketh Away

Every year, the NFHL draft represents a new dawn for franchises: a chance for rebirth, an opportunity for progress, and a frenetic time to change fortunes and find that new franchise building block. This year, the draft was particularly special, with GMs getting together for the first ever in-person Draftapalooza, with GMs flying in from far and wide to swing trades, imbibe to excess, and put their stamps on their franchise. But the hopefulness of draft day also comes with a start reality - for every team that hits the jackpot, many will swing and miss. Even picks that look promising at first glance may fizzle out, and rabid fans will be sure to scrutinize every pick for eternity. In some cases, the franchise's entire fate may rest upon the draft. It can be the culmination of years of grueling work, roster management, trades, and strategy, but it is often met with disappointing results and has derailed more than a fair share of rebuilding attempts, yielding mediocre prospects or ineffective development strategies. While it's early and training camps are still coming in, we thought it'd be fun to provide way too early initial run down of the most recent crop of prospects. Players highlighted in green have received a training camp to date.

Round 1

#

Owned By

Name

OV

Pos

1

NY Rangers

Jarome Iginla

74

F

2

Buffalo

Martin St. Louis

73

F

3

Florida

Shane Doan

71

F

4

Tampa Bay

Marc Savard

70

F

5

Calgary

Miikka Kiprusoff

71

G

6

Pittsburgh

JS Giguere

71

G

7

Tampa Bay

Wade Redden

68

D

8

Florida

Dan Boyle

72

D

9

Los Angeles

Brian Boucher

68

G

10

Edmonton

Bryan Berard

69

D

11

Montreal

Petr Sykora

67

F

12

Montreal

Daymond Langkow

69

F

13

Tampa Bay

Michal Handzus

68

F

14

Edmonton

Radek Dvorak

70

F

15

Toronto

Jan Hlavac

66

F

16

Toronto

Pavel Rosa

62

D

17

Hartford

Jochen Hecht

66

F

18

Hartford

Martin Biron

71

G

19

Quebec

Brad Isbister

68

F

20

Minnesota

Stephane Robidas

70

D

21

Tampa Bay

Jay McKee

66

D

22

Winnipeg

Kyle McLaren

67

D

23

Tampa Bay

Filip Kuba

69

D

24

Los Angeles

Brent Sopel

66

D

25

Buffalo

Shawn Thornton

67

F

26

Buffalo

Jan Hrdina

67

F

Round 2

#

Owned By

Name

 

Pos

 

27

Tampa Bay

Vesa Toskala

66

G

28

Tampa Bay

Denis Gauthier

68

D

29

NY Rangers

Danil Markov

67

D

30

Calgary

Peter Schaefer

66

F

31

Montreal

Mikael Samuelsson

70

F

32

Detroit

Alyn McCauley

67

F

33

Colorado

Chad Kilger

66

F

34

NY Islanders

Chris Mason

67

G

35

Los Angeles

Andre Roy

67

F

36

Buffalo

Alexei Morozov

66

F

37

Florida

Sean Brown

67

D

38

Quebec

Artem Anisimov

63

D

39

Winnipeg

Aki Berg

66

D

40

Tampa Bay

Marc Denis

66

G

41

Buffalo

Christian Laflamme

67

D

42

Toronto

Brad Larsen

65

F

43

Los Angeles

Dmitri Tertyshny

64

F

44

Boston

Georges Laraque

67

F

45

Toronto

Brent Johnson

65

G

46

Philadelphia

Ville Nieminen

65

F

47

Chicago

JS Aubin

64

G

48

New Jersey

Chris McAllister

65

D

49

Toronto

Jason Doig

66

D

50

Toronto

Mike Leclerc

65

D

51

Winnipeg

Clarke Wilm

66

F

52

Colorado

Vladimir Orszagh

65

F

Round 3

#

Owned By

Name

 

Pos

 

53

NY Rangers

Dale Purinton

64

D

54

NY Rangers

Daniel Tjarnqvist

65

D

55

NY Rangers

Zac Bierk

62

G

56

Calgary

Dwayne Hay

65

F

57

Vancouver

Petr Buzek

64

D

58

Tampa Bay

Peter Worrell

65

F

59

Florida

Jason Podollan

67

F

60

NY Islanders

Justin Kurtz

62

D

61

Winnipeg

Byron Ritchie

64

D

62

Florida

Sergei Vyshedkevich

65

D

63

Florida

Maxim Kuznetsov

65

D

64

Vancouver

Tomi Kallio

#N/A

F

65

St. Louis

Dmitri Nabokov

62

F

66

Florida

Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre

#N/A

D

67

Edmonton

Shane Willis

#N/A

F

68

Florida

Mike Hanson

66

F

69

Florida

Sergei Gusev

64

D

70

Buffalo

Ladislav Kohn

65

F

71

Florida

Brad Symes

66

D

72

NY Rangers

Jason Reid

62

D

73

Buffalo

Jason Holland

67

D

74

Florida

Corey Neilson

65

D

75

Florida

Johan Davidsson

66

F

76

Vancouver

Daniel Goneau

65

F

77

Winnipeg

Marc Chouinard

66

F

78

Tampa Bay

Sven Butenschon

#N/A

D

Unsurprisingly, Jarome Iginla was selected first overall. Surprisingly, the first overall pick was traded just before the draft, being dealt from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the New York Rangers. When the deal was initially made, some believed it was an overpayment by the Rangers, who sent the 4th and 6th overall selections, along with young defender Mattias Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who continued to stockpile assets. Once the draft results were released, Iginla's development, or lack thereof, was met with consternation, and the deal looked like it was approaching bust territory for New York. However, after reviewing the player's combine results, it became apparent that Iginla truly was the cream of the crop in this draft class, an elite talent that was already well on his way to stardom. Meanwhile, it was the Tampa Bay picks that quickly drew scrutiny. The team took Marc Savard 4th overall, a good playmaking center but far from a superstar, followed by Wade Redden at 6th overall. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the Redden pick has already drawn the ire of Tampa's faithful. While it's early, Redden's defensive game is sorely lacking and he is one of the slowest players in the draft class, a bad mix, especially for a highly touted prospect. To make matters worse, Dan Boyle was drafted by the intrastate rivals, the Florida Panthers. While Boyle was unable to bench press his own bodyweight in the combine, the rest of his game is lightyears ahead of Redden's. Brian Berard was the next defender off the board, taken by Edmonton at #10, who also looks like a better player than Redden, and while Toronto took Pavel Rosa as the next defender (we'll get to that one...), the following blue-liner was Stephane Robidas, taken at #20 by Minnesota, who also looks like a much better prospect than Redden. On another team, Redden might be OK - after all, Robidas already received the blessing from Minnesota management who sent him to a training camp, but Tampa simply has better prospects than Redden who are more deserving of the investment. Heck, Filip Kuba, who they took 23rd overall, is already ahead of Redden. It will be interesting to see how Tampa approaches the development of these prospects - they surely are plentiful - but management must be kicking themselves for taking Redden over Boyle.

Speaking of Boyle, the Florida Panthers, notoriously forever devoid of players not members of AARP (that's the America Association of Retired Persons for our Canadian friends), made the curious decision not to camp Boyle (or Shane Doan), instead decided to invest more assets into their version of The Monster, Dirk Tenzer. Possessing what is arguably the strangest build in NFHL history, Tenzer possess superhuman strength and intensity, an incredible burst of speed, but is essentially useless at both ends of the ice. We'll see how this one plays out. Nonetheless, Florida's decision not invest in either of Doan or Boyle shows that both will almost certainly be dangled as trade bait, and the Panthers simply did not want to invest additional assets into players that likely won't be sticking around South Florida for too long. 

As we march down the list, very little stands out until you get to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who picked back-to-back with picks 15 and 16. Toronto, who has essentially been forgotten since GM Clark traded in his skis for a surfboard, wasn't in a position to nab a franchise-altering star, but definitely would have benefitted by adding to their relatively thin prospect pool. Instead, they ended up with Jan Hlavac - passable for where he was taken, and Pavel Rosa, by far the worst pick in the draft. Not only was Rosa not worthy of a first round pick, he may not even have been worthy of a draft pick at all. If Toronto was desperate for a defensive prospect, literally, not figuratively, any other defensive player taken in the draft would have been an upgrade. After Rosa, the next player to stand out is Martin Biron. First the first time in eternity, the Whalers had not one, but two first round draft picks. While they swung and missed on their first selection, Jochen Hecht, who looks fine offensively but likely has a long developmental path ahead, the hit a homerun with their next pick, nabbing Martin Biron 18th overall. For Biron, landing in Hartford was the perfect scenario. Unlike many other teams with stocked cupboards of prospects, the Whalers had a relatively limited number of youngsters worth investing in, with a complete lack of young goaltending talent. Hartford knew they needed to draft a goalie with an aging Don Beaupre in net, and while they weren't able to grab someone like Miikka Kiprusoff or J.S. Giguere, it may be just as well. It'll be interesting to track the careers of these three goalies, but one thing is for sure, Hartford finally got their heir apparent. And while the Whalers (and Flames, and Penguins) all hit on their goalie selections, the Los Angeles Kings have the feel a little envious. With Kiprusoff going to the Flames at 5th overall and Giguere going to the Penguins at 6th overall, the Kings took Brian Boucher 9th overall, nine picks before Biron went to Hartford. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Boucher currently looks a step or two behind the other three, and also may have landed with an organization that cannot devote the resources necessary to develop him - Tommy Soderstrom, the 26-year-old starting netminder, was sent to Goalie Development Camp instead, giving a clear indication of where the team is placing its priorities. 

In the 2nd round, things start getting less certain. Montreal had the best pick, taking Mikael Samuelsson 31st overall. Despite being 19 years old, Samuelsson has some talent and could develop into a viable player. Unfortunately for him, Samuelsson is in a terrible situation, stuck behind a boatload of young talent without enough developmental resources to go around. Montreal may look to trade the appealing youngster, who may be highly sought after by a team with fewer young assets. As the picks progressed, more teams elected to go with slightly older prospects, hoping to bring in more pro-ready talent, sacrificing a year of development. The Quebec Nordiques gave it to old college try with the 38th overall selection, picking defender Artem Anisimov. Unfortunately for Quebec, Anisimov and Pavel Rosa may both be on the next flight to some unidentified Eastern European country. Swing and a miss for the Nordiques, who could have taken Christian Laflamme instead. Laflamme, while not exactly a superstar, was a solid pick for the Buffalo Sabres, and while his athleticism and strength need work, he can actually play defense and is only 18 years old. 

In the 3rd round, the Florida Panthers decided to get weird, praying that if you mash up all nine (!) of their third-round selections you might actually get one viable player that could then immediately be traded for Igor Kravchuk. Florida took the shotgun approach, largely drafting unheard of 19-year-olds like Jason Podollan, Mike Hanson, and Brad Symes, with the hope that one of these players will hit the Diamond in the Rough and become moderately viable as a professional athlete. It's not a bad strategy in all reality, but few third rounders end up being noteworthy on either end of the spectrum, especially with expectations so low. Winnipeg did snag a potentially solid asset with the penultimate Mr. Irrelevant, drafting Marc Chouinard 77th overall. While Chouinard leaves a lot to be desired offensively, he projects as a responsible defensive forward and could one day serve as a decent 4th liner or penalty kill specialist - a fine return for such a low pick. As time progresses, it will be fascinating to track the developmental paths of these players, especially ones that immediately gave their respective GMs heartburn or butterflies.