Thursday, November 30, 2006


Feeling a Draft

It's struck me, over the years, that as much success as the Avalanche have had on the ice (two Cups since '96, Vancouver fans!), the Pierre Lacroix/Francois Giguere era has been pretty lacking as far as the draft goes. Years of high hopes for Peter Ratchuk, Mikhail Kuleshov, Martin Grenier, and the like have embittered me.

I don't know if the Avs are really any worse (or better) than any other team, but (with one glaring exception) it seems like they've had a lot of underwhelming draft classes since coming to Denver.

Having some spare time at work tonight, I thought I'd take a look. I only started looking in 1995 -- rather unfairly, perhaps, since the Nordiques' 1994 draft class produced Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, and Tim Thomas. But this is hardly a scientific study, really -- more just humoring something that's been bugging me for a while.

So, the draft classes. Players that saw NHL time are in bold:

1995: Marc Denis, Nic Beaudoin, John Tripp, Tomi Kallio, Brent Johnson, John Cirjak, Dan Smith, Tomi Hirvonen, Chris George

Only Denis and Johnson remain in the league. Kallio was serviceable enough for the Thrashers for a couple years; the other guys were just on the fringe. Best player: Denis

1996: Peter Ratchuk, Yuri Babenko, Mark Parrish, Ben Storey, Randy Petruk, Luke Curtin, Brian Willsie, Kai Fischer, Dan Hinote, Samuel Pahlsson, Roman Pylner, Matt Scorsune, Justin Clark

Only Babenko and Hinote ever played for Colorado -- Parrish was traded away (for Tom Fitzgerald, I think) and Pahlsson in the Ray Bourque deal, which I certainly can't complain about. Hinote, Pahlsson, and Parrish are all very different players with similar usefulness levels -- I'd say Pahlsson is the best of the group, but I'm not religious about it or anything.

1997: Kevin Grimes, Graham Belak, Rick Berry, Ville Nieminen, Brad Larsen, Aaron Miskovich, David Aebischer, Doug Schmidt, Kyle Kidney, Steve Lafleur

Ok -- I'm a pretty big Avalanche fan, and in 1997 I was probably watching the draft. But for the life of me I cannot remember anything about Kevin Grimes. Uh, according to, he hasn't played since 2004. And he appears to have been a tough defenseman. That's about it. As an added bonus, the Avs managed to find the less-talented Belak brother. Only Aebischer keeps this from being a comically bad year. Best player: Abby, by a mile.

1998: Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula, Robyn Regehr, Scott Parker, Ramzi Abid, Philippe Sauve, Steve Moore, Evgeny Lazarev, K.C. Timmons, Alex Riazantzev

The odd year out. Giving us hope that the Avs were perpetually self-sustaining, Lacroix accumulated four first round picks, in exchange for Mike Ricci, Stephane Fiset, Chris Simon, Curtis Leschyshyn, Landon Wilson and Anders Myrvold. There were rumors that the four would be swapped for the number one pick, giving Colorado the Michael Jordan of the NHL; that didn't happen, obviously, but they still came away with four NHL regulars. Unfortunately, those four were eventually swapped out, most depressingly in the Regehr/Corbet for Theo Fleury trade. Added bonus for the year: I've seen Riazantzev spelled more different ways than any name I've ever seen. Best player: Regehr.

1999: Mikhail Kuleshov, Martin Grenier, Branko Radivojevic, Sanny Lindstrom, Kristian Kovac, Will Magnuson, Jordan Krestanovich, Anders Lovdahl, Riku Hahl, Radim Vrbata, Jeff Finger

Ah, Mikhail Kuleshov, perhaps the biggest disappointment. The early reports indicated this rarely-seen Russian winger was a diamond in the rough -- then it took a few years to get over, and he was a fringe AHLer when he got here. Grenier was part of the "I was traded for Ray Bourque" club. Of the full-time NHLers here, two of them were in the last three picks. Best player: Vrbata.

2000: Vaclav Nedorost, Jared Aulin, Sergei Soin, Agris Saviels, Kurt Sauer, Sergei Klyazmin, Brian Fahey, John-Michael Liles, Chris Bahen, Aaron Molnar, Darryl Bootland, Sean Kotary, Blake Ward

Or perhaps Nedorost is the biggest disappointment. He came to Colorado mucho hyped, made the cover of local magazines as the star of the new century, and so on, and ended up traded for Peter Worrell. He's back in Ceske Budejovice now, I think. Beyond that? I hadn't realized that the Avs originally drafted Kurt Sauer or Darryl Bootland. Learn something new every day. Best player: Liles

2001: Peter Budaj, Danny Bois, Colt King, Frantisek Skladany, Cody McCormick, Miiko Viitanen, Pierre-Luc Emond, Scott Horvath, Charlie Stephens, Marek Svatos

Two solid contributors bookending a bunch of minor-leaguers. It's about time for me to stop thinking that Mikko Viitanen's going to be a NHL star. Best player: Svatos.

I'll rather arbitratily stop here -- after 2001 it's probably still a bit early to tell, and it saves me having to contemplate that the Avs gave up Tom Gilbert for Tommy Salo.

But -- am I wrong here? Does this seem a bit below-par for a team over the same time period? Only the 1996 and 1998 classes can really be considered at all productive, beyond a player here or there. I'm not a stats guy -- or rather, I like stats but only when other people do them. So I really don't know if this is just about average. What say you?

Wolski will be amazing
I know how much you love the Wings, their notable drafts for the same time period are:
1995 Maxim Kunetsov
1996 none
1997 Yuri Butsayev
1998 Fischer, Datsyuk #171
1999 Zetterberg #210
2000 Kronwall, kopecky, Liv

from 95-97 not much at all, they might as well just redrafted some Maple Leaf flunkies
for a excuse of Nedorost - he suffered so many injuries, that he could use his own hospital to cure him. In 2001, before leaving to NHL, he was better than Plekanec, unformtunately missed so much time of his development idelined with an injury..
So in a 6 year span the drafted:

Marc Denis
Brent Johnson
Mark Parrish
Samuel Pahlsson
Dan Hinote
Ville Nieminen
Brad Larsen
David Aebischer
Alex Tanguay
Martin Skoula
Robyn Regehr
Radim Vrbata
Kurt Sauer
John-Michael Liles
Peter Budaj
Cody McCormick
Marek Svatos

who are still in the NHL. In terms of numbers there probably aren't many teams who have that many players still playing in the NHL that they drafted during that time.
You also need to take into account that over the period you reviewed, the Avs had one of the best cumulative regular season records in all of hockey. Many of those picks were consistently in the bottom half of rounds.

When you look at it that way, I think the results are pretty solid.
True enough. Huh. So in the end the Avs are probably far BETTER than average.

I guess I just can't accept any failures.
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As Eric said, The Avs (with their consistent success) tend to draft later in rounds which also impacts the quality of players they receive. Ditto with the Red Wings who still pulled out some gems like Zetteberg and Datsyuk.

I can't believe some of the names my team has let go over the years before they reached their "peak":

Sheldon Souray
Steve Sullivan
Brendan Morrison
Mike Commodore
Jason Smith
Willie Mitchell

Considering the overall return for those players was basically Doug Gilmour and Alexander Mogilny.
Anything playing past the first round of the draft has to be considered a success in the NHL.

I think the 'Lanche have had a great run. And where'd they get this Paul Stastny and Svatos bullshit? The team is doing just fine. TOO FINE, really.
My next post will be: the Colorado Avalanche -- Best-Drafting Team EVER?
The Avs have always used these draft to get trade bait. That, along with cold hard cash, was enough to keep them going under the old rules. Now, they have to make changes. But I bet there are a few regrets along the way. I bet they wish they had Regher back. Or Skoula (Best Av EVER!!!!)

Oddly enough, I have a game worn Babenko jersey, from Moscow. It's going up soon.
Two words: Edmonton Oilers.

More details, you say?

--1995: Georges Laraque is the only every-day NHLer to come out of the '95 draft, in which the Oil picked Steve Kelly ahead of Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.
--1996: The MVP of this draft is Fernando Pisani, taken 195th overall. The only other guy of note here is Tom Poti.
--1997: Jason Chimera. Jason. Chimera. At least he was taken 121st.
--1998: Shawn Horcoff in the third round, and a couple of hangers-on in Alex Henry and Mike Morrison. Better than '97.
--1999: "Decent" is a relative term. Okay, Mike Comrie, yeah, but Jani Rita, Alexei Semenov, and Tony Salmelainen. Tony is the only one of those three left, and unless he continues to progress under Savard, he's done.
--2000: Jury's still out on Alexei Mikhnov. Brad Winchester's a decent 3/4-liner, and Matthew Lombardi is doing pretty well for a 215th pick, but...yeah.
--2001: ALES FUCKING HEMSKY, Y'ALL! Finally, some action. Also, Jussi Markkanen. It's a twofer on the scale of Arnott-Satan in '93. If Satan had stayed in Edmonton, mind you. Honourable mention, though? Ales Pisa.

1995-2001 Avs drafting has nothing on 1995-2001 Oilers drafting.
Oh, and bonus coverage: In 1994, the Oilers took Jason Bonsignore two picks before their only regular NHLer for the year, Ryan Smyth. Also available that round? Jeff Friesen, Wade Belak, Mattias Ohlund, Ethan Moreau, Chris Dingman, and Dan Cloutier, as well as Jeff O'Neill at #5.

Actually, I'm surprised the Oilers even took Smyth, after seeing that list.
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