Monday, June 28, 2004


Scouring the Depths of the Draft Sea: 9th Round Hidden Treasures

Let's face it, you don't expect a draft pick from the 9th round to have a significant impact most of the time. If the player was so good, they would typically be taken earlier.

Of course, we know that NHL Scouts and GM still suffer from neanderthal tendencies, and certain circumstances have led to many 9th round draft picks rising to service and star careers in the NHL. Among them, the Slovak contingent is large

Pavol Demitra!!!
Petr Bondra
Ivan Majesky
Martin Cibak
Ronald Petrovicky

And some non-Slovaks:
Karlis Skrastins
Mikko Eloranta
Karel Rachunek
Sami Salo
Daniil Markov
Dick Tarnstrom
Kim Johnsson
Nathan Dempsey (Technically an 11th round pick, back when they had 11 rounds)
Wyatt Smith

The common theme of this group? Most are European players, drafted late either due to political circumstances (Bondra), limited viewing (some parts of Europe are still not well scouted), or the fact that they are overagers.

Looking at this year's 9th round, there are a few intriguing picks that have some potential of an NHL career, despite their late draft position. Although NHL teams don't think highly of these prospects, there are a few that offer something intriguing that sets them apart from the rest of the drudge and dreck.

#259 by Pittsburgh- Brian Ihnacak, C (Brown - ECAC) - 5'11" 185

Coming from a very good bloodline, Brian's father, Peter, had a quiet NHL stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian, a first-generation Slovak-Canadian (He was born in Toronto) was ranked 44th in North America by CSS and was expected to go in the 3rd or 4th round...somehow he slipped all the way to the 9th round

Brian's style is very much like his father's; quiet and opportunistic. Brian put up 30 points in 31 games in his freshman season at Brown, and his scouting report from

As a freshman with the Bears in 2003-04, he finished second on the team in both assists and points and showed an early ability to lead an offense. Plays a smart, cerebral game and loves to create for his linemates. Doesn't play a physical game, and needs to add more bulk in order to take his game to another level. Will live and die with his scoring prowess, because the rest of his game is mediocre.

Many prospects taken in the later rounds have very little upside, but Brian has significant offensive upside and has already produced solid numbers in the NCAA. I've been monitoring Ihnacak for a while, as the Slovaks will somewhat claim him as one of their own. Out of the 9th round picks, Ihnacak has one of the best chances to make it in the NHL, in my opinion.

#268 by Carolina - Martin Vagner, D (Gatineau, QMJHL) - 6'1" 214

When Vagner was selected by the Dallas Stars 26th overall in 2002, I thought he was selected a bit too high. Still, he was a pretty solid prospect and certainly one of the more skilled prospects at the time.

2 years later, and Vagner has regressed badly and been faced with many injuries. His play at the 2004 Memorial Cup was actually fairly good, but not enough to make up for a poor season. Vagner, for all of his natural talents, was as dependable as 10 year-old Yugo.
Vagner and Dallas couldn't come to turns, and now he's been picked in the 9th round by the Hurricanes. Vagner will have to beg for peanuts, rather than the lucrative 1st rounder money he was expecting. If the Canes are willing to be patient and develop him in the ECHL (Because he's not ready for the AHL), and if Vagner is willing his career in North American, then the Canes might have come out with something decent.

#287 by Vancouver - Jannik Hansen, W (Malmo, SWE JR) - 6'0" 176

As poorly as Vancouver scouts the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Basically, they don't scout there at all), the Canucks do a great job in Sweden. With the pick of Danish-born Jannik Hansen, the Canucks may have found a real gem in the depths of the 9th round.

What's to like about Hansen?
Let's start with his production in the WJC18, where he put up 7 points and a +3 rating in 3 games...for Denmark!! According to his report, Hansen "possesses blinding speed, and is one of the best pure skaters available for selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft."

And from Kyle Woodlief as Red Line Report:
"Has the kind of speed and moves that force defenders to back off the blue line. Perhaps he'll allow Wes O'Neill to keep his jock strap on the next time he breezes past him."

Why did he slip to the 9th round? He was ranked 41st in Europe.
Besides the fact he's weaker than American Budweiser Beer (If you want the real Budweiser, go here, to the Czech Republic.), Hansen's physical game is described as 'non-existant'. Yeah, he's known as a bit of a softie and perhaps not willing to work for the puck.

So, instead of looking at what he can't do, let's focus on the fact that he is potentially the best (it's subjective, after all) skater in the draft. A pure speedster can be converted into a defensive role player, as is the case with Magnus Arvedson, another Canuck Swede. Maybe Hansen will continue to use his speed and put up offensive numbers. If so, then his upside is quite high, and he'll be an intriguing pick for my hometown team.

#291 by Philadelphia - John Carter, C (Brewster, Ind. Jr.) - 6'4" 193

Flyers GM Bobby "Don't call me Bob, dammit!" Clarke promised Carter that he would use the Flyers last pick (the last pick in the entire draft) to take Carter. Surprising, Clarke kept his promise and took a 'flyer' on an intriguing project player.

If you've never hard of Team Brewster (Not related to Punky), either have I. Carter played last year for an independant junior hockey team in the USA (the Empire League in New York), and was basically playing against very poor competition compared to other prospects in the draft.

The numbers: 6'4" 193 lbs - A very tall, but underdeveloped kid.
117th - His ranking in North America by CSS
29 games, 16-30-46 and 52 PIM - It's hard to tell if those are impressive numbers given the league he plays in.

Is arguably the most obscure prospect available for selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, since he toiled for the independent Brewster Bulldogs in 2003-04. Owns awesome size for the center position and above-average puck skills. Must start playing against a higher level of competition to prove his physical skills can continue to translate into points. Should play at over 200 pounds as he moves up the ladder--probably to the NCAA in 2004-05.

If you are going to use the last overall pick on a prayer, Carter is the type of player to take. Sure, projects rarely pan out, but it's not as if the Flyers wasted a 1st round pick on the guy like the Islanders did on Michael Rupp.

USAJUNIORHOCKEY.COM has a nice feature on Carter.

It sounds like Carter will be working towards an NCAA scholarship, and will be a long-term project as he starts to play against higher competition and get an education at the same time.


In the end, the odds are against any of these prospects seeing the day of light in the NHL. It's likely that none of these kids will see an NHL game, or have more than a cup of NHL coffee. Given the pedigrees that each of these prospects has, I like their chances to succeed more than some of the prospects picked in the 8 rounds before them.

We'll check back in 5 years and see what happens.

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