How apropos that at the beginning of this week, the NHL Awards were held in Las Vegas. The city where dreams go to die or so I have heard. Where high rollers bump shoulders with weekend gamblers. Where the word crapshoot is in the everyday vernacular. So it is only fitting that as the week comes to a close, the NHL Draft 2014 is set for tonight and tomorrow in Philadelphia. The NHL Draft 2014 is hockey’s own version of spinning the roulette wheel, rolling the dice and hitting on 15.
It is all mixed into two nights of picking kids to play on your team, maybe, anywhere from next fall to four or five years from now. The Tampa Bay Lightning contingency with Steve Yzerman, Al Murray (Director of Amateur Scouting) and their staffs along with the other 29 teams have descended upon the City of Brotherly Love for two nights of selecting their teams future. They have already scoured every indoor and outdoor rink from Manitoba to Minsk to find players that will help bring you to the Promised Land. Despite all their work, the NHL Draft 2014 can come down to luck.
I have read about a dozen mock NHL Drafts and with two first round draft picks for the Lightning, I have seen about 413,000 different permutations of exactly who they would pick. Rather than attempt to guess who it is that Yzerman and the Lightning will pick, I decided to review some of the players who were picked at previous NHL Drafts in the two slots the Bolts have in the first round this year.
I went back 15 years, to 1999 and looked at the players who were selected at both #19 and at #28 in the NHL Draft. These are the two first round picks owned by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since it may take some time for a player, especially an 18 year old, to mature enough to play in the NHL, I threw out the last three years drafts. Although, in 2012, the Lightning did select Andrey Vasilevskiy with the #19 pick. Perhaps, this is a good omen.
So let’s look at the #19 picks for the 12 years between 1999 and 2010 or as I like to call it: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It gets off to a really ugly start with three guys who played in the NHL but are now playing in either Europe or Russia. They include, Kirill Safronov, Krys Kolanos and Shaone Morrisonn.
The bad picks were Jakub Koreis, Mark Mitera and Logan Macmillan, who despite being drafted at #19 in the NHL draft, never even made it for a single cup of coffee in the NHL. Yeesh! This is the crapshoot part in case your mind is wandering. I know some of you are thinking, no Dan, this is the hitting on 14 and getting a face card part. Tomato, to-mah-to.
The good comes in the form of Ryan Getzlaf, Lauri Korpikoski, Jakub Kindl, Chris Kreider and Nick Bjugstad who plays down the road in Sunrise, Florida. All are playing in the NHL. So, hope abounds at #19.
The only #19 selection that didn’t fit my Good, Bad or Ugly criteria was Luca Sbisa. He has continued to bounce back and forth between the NHL and AHL since being drafted by Philadelphia in 2008. My message to Luca is: C’mon already, I need to slot you.
So, to summarize, for the 12 years I painstakingly researched the historical #19 selections in the NHL draft – Five are playing in the NHL; Three had made it to the NHL but are playing the prime of their careers elsewhere; Three never made it to the NHL and one is called Luca Sbisa.
Moving along to the #28 pick, same rules, reviewing the 12 years from 1999 to 2010. Sticking with the cheesy movie title references, I’ll call this one: The Secret to My Success.
I’ll start with the summary of this group. Of the 12 players I reviewed, seven of them are playing in the NHL including some big names such as: Justin Williams (Mr. Game 7); Corey Perry; Matt Niskanen along with four others. Only one of this group played in the NHL but is now playing in Russia – Viktor Tikhonov.
There are two players picked at #28 who played less than 10 games in the NHL never to return, Jonas Johansson and Kristian Kudroc. There are also two players who never made it – Nick Petrecki and Adrian Foster. Interesting sidenote: When I googled, er I mean, researched that last pick, Adrian Foster, selected by the New jersey Devils in 2001, the NFL running back came up and I said to myself, “I didn’t know he played Hockey”. Just to save you some time, DIFFERENT GUY.
Sorry for the digression. There you have it. As Yzerman, Murray and the Tampa Bay Lightning brain trust works their fingers to the bone to determine who the best player for the organization is, I hope they keep this in mind. In the NHL Drafts, most of the players drafted at 19 & 28 made the NHL.
My calculations show 16 of 24 played significant time in the NHL. That’s 67%. Two out of three. Good odds. At least better odds than you’ll ever get in Vegas. But for every Justin Williams and Corey Perry there is a Nick Petrecki. For every Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kreider, there is Jakub Koreis. For every Matt Niskanen and Nick Foligno, there is Adrian Foster. No, not that Adrian Foster, the other Adrian Foster.
Now, if Yzerman pulls off a trade, not only do I have to dig in to do more research, but everything you just read, forget about it. It means nothing.