THE GRADES ARE IN!
Blues, Kings, Caps, 'Hawks big draft-day winners...
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Good: Top pick Petteri Nokelainen (16th overall) is probably one
of the safest choices in Round 1, though he doesn't offer huge upside
potential. Fourth-round defenseman Wes O'Neill (115th overall) is a
first-round talent, but lacks hockey sense and polish.
The Bad: Second-round right wing Blake Comeau (47th overall) is also
a safe pick, with limited offensive upside. He probably should have
been drafted one round later. The Isles didn't add a goaltender to
their stables until Round 9 (Sylvain Michaud, 276th overall).
The Unique: For the third year in a row, the Islanders went to
Scandinavia for their first-round selection: Finnish center
Nokelainen, Swede Robert Nilsson (15th overall in 2003) and Finnish
winger Sean Bergenheim (22nd overall in 2002).
The Grade: Nokelainen and Comeau should make the NHL, though with
limited impact. O'Neill and third-round center Sergei Ogorodnikov
(82nd overall) could make 2004 a memorable draft for GM Mike Milbury
if they pan out--a big if at this point... B-
The Good: With the team set to lose a bevy of forwards to the
unrestricted free agent market, the Bruins did well to stockpile up
front. In fact, six of seven 2004 picks are forwards, with only one
defenseman (Matt Hunwick, 255th overall) added to the mix.
The Bad: No draft can ever be great when you don't have a first-round
selection; Boston gave up their top pick to Washington in the Sergei
Gonchar deal. Since the B's were ousted in the first round of the
Stanley Cup playoffs, was it worth it in the end?
The Unique: 2004 marked only the second time since 1985 that the
Bruins didn't select in Round 1 (1998). Also, 64th overall pick David
Krejci was the first Czech to be taken with Boston's first pick.
Lastly, 160th overall selection Ben Walter is the son of former NHLer
The Grade: Considering their lack of first-round selection, the
Bruins did a decent job of refurbishing the system with forwards.
Keep an eye on second pick Martins Karsums (64th overall), who could
make the NHL in a hurry... B-
The Good: Top pick Drew Stafford (13th overall) fills a huge void in
the Sabres organization: An up-and-down winger with size and strength
at the right-wing position. Also, Slovakian juniors Andrej Sekera
(71st overall) and Michal Valent (145th overall) should turn into
excellent value picks.
The Bad: After finally coming to terms with 2002 draft pick Daniel
Paille, the Sabres didn't shy away from taking a lot of CHL players
this time around. That said, drafting five of eight players out of
the Canadian junior ranks is not wise asset management, especially
for the small-market Sabres.
The Unique: Whenever a team can draft a player from their own
backyard, it's both a special moment and smart marketing decision.
Therefore, full marks to the Sabres for taking rugged right wing
Patrick Kaleta of Buffalo with the 176th overall pick.
The Grade: Stafford will play for the Sabres--probably within the
next two years--and is regarded as one of the safest first-round
picks of 2004. However, Sekera and Valent may be real bargains when
all is said and done... B-
The Good: The Habs traded an extra third-round selection (95th
overall), along with backup netminder Mathieu Garon, to fill a huge
void at the center position (Radek Bonk). They also received backup
goalie Cristobal Huet in the deal. Also, third-rounder (84th overall)
Alexei Yemelin is raw but possesses the physical aggression Montreal
needs along the blueline.
The Bad: Along with Bonk, the Habs added another big center in first-
round pick Kyle Chipchura (18th overall)--who'll likely step in for
Bonk as the third-line center down the road. However, Montreal
management may regret passing up Lauri Korpikoski, Wojtek Wolski or
Andrej Meszaros in Round 1.
The Unique: The Habs used one of two ninth-round selections to grab
26-year-old Swiss defenseman Mark Streit--a veteran of eight seasons
in the Swiss National Liga. Streit is an offensive rearguard that may
emerge as a power-play specialist.
The Grade: Both Chipchura and Yemelin could turn out to be key
shutdown players for the Habs down the road. However, the team failed
to draft anybody with big offensive upside this time around... C+
The Good: Ottawa's first four picks (No. 23 Meszaros, No. 58 Kirill
Lyamin, No. 58 Shawn Weller and No. 87 Peter Regin) all have
excellent long-range potential. Meszaros may be the power-play
quarterback--and top-four right-shooting blueliner--the team has
lacked for some time. Also, Alexander Nikulin (No. 122) and Roman
Wick (No. 156) are sleeper forwards.
The Bad: Weller was an additional draft pick obtained in the Bonk
deal. Also, goaltender Patrick Lalime was dealt to St. Louis for a
conditional fourth-round pick in 2005. While the Senators needed to
create more payroll flexibility, they received far too little in
return for two quality members of team's nucleus.
The Unique: In taking Regin with the 87th pick overall, the Senators
almost made a historical Danish selection. In fact, Regin joins
Islanders prospect Frans Nielsen as the highest-drafted player ever
out of Denmark.
The Grade: Overall, the Sens did a nice job of stocking an already
deep farm system with more talented prospects. If they received a
little more return for their two salary dumps on draft weekend,
Ottawa would have been given straight A's... B+
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Good: Since the Maple Leafs are always in win-now mode, adding 24-
year-old Slovakian winger Roman Kukumberg with the 113th selection
could prove to be a coup for the organization. With two seasons in
the Slovakian Extraliga under his belt, Kukumberg may be ready to
help Toronto sooner than most.
The Bad: For the second year in a row, the Leafs didn't own a first-
round selection. Furthermore, they didn't choose until late in Round
3, so the pickings at the top end of the draft were slim and none.
Top pick Justin Pogge (90th overall) is a decent goalie prospect, but
won't be a factor for several more seasons.
The Unique: Toronto hasn't been very active in Russia over the years.
However, the Leafs selected two defensemen from Lada Togliatti of the
Russian Super League this time around: No. 157 Dmitri Vorobiev and
No. 220 Maxim Semenov.
The Grade: Considering their initial pick didn't arrive until No. 90,
the Leafs should be pleased with this year's draft crop. That said,
they aren't likely to see an impact emerge from their 2004 prospect
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Good: The Devils struck gold last year with the selection of Zach
Parise 17th overall. Now, they hope history repeats itself with
Travis Zajac at No. 20. Zajac has tremendous offensive potential, but
will likely need far more development time than Parise.
The Bad: Devils fans are used to having extra picks every year, but
times are changing. After Zajac, the Devils didn't choose until Round
5 (defenseman Alexander Mikhailishin at No. 155 overall) and totaled
only seven picks for the second year in a row.
The Unique: With the 216th overall pick, the Devils chose a player
who could easily be nicknamed 'Mr. Hyphen': Pierre-Luc Leblond-
Letourneau. An announcer's nightmare, he's a tough guy out of the
QMJHL with limited potential.
The Grade: Zajac could be another major feather in GM Lou
Lamoriello's cap, but he could also not pan out at all. Moreover,
he's not as sure a thing as Parise a year ago. The rest of New
Jersey's crop offers little upside... C+
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Good: Several forwards drafted by the Rangers this year have a
chance to make an impact in the NHL, led by first-round pick (19th
overall) Lauri Korpikoski, second-round selection (36th overall)
Darin Olver and fourth-round sleeper (127th overall) Ryan Callahan.
The Bad: With so many early selections, the Rangers brass could have
balanced out the picks better. Instead, they chose only one
goaltender (Alvaro Montoya, 6th overall) and one defenseman (Jonathan
Paiement, 247th overall) in the entire draft.
The Unique: Quantity reigned supreme for the Rangers in 2004, as they
made 13 selections in total--including eight of the first 80 picks.
It's the most draft choices for the Blueshirts since the 1994 NHL
Entry Draft (15).
The Grade: If at least three--and possibly more--forwards from the
2004 crop don't pan out for the Rangers, the organization will
continue to sputter. However, Montoya may help save this year's crop--
though he's now part of a goalie-prospect triangle with Dan Blackburn
and Henrik Lundqvist. At the very least, the Blueshirts have goalie
assets for the future... B
The Good: Despite not owning a pick in either the first or second
round, the Flyers did well to collect a total of 12 more draft
assets. They opted for several players that play the Flyers style to
perfection, and also found two potential steals (R.J. Anderson, 101st
overall and Martin Houle, 232nd overall).
The Bad: While last year the Flyers found offensive gems in Jeff
Carter, Mike Richards and Stefan Ruzicka, the drop-off in forwards
with upside this time around is significant. Perhaps this was done by
design, in order to balance things out, but Philly could have used
one high-scoring player this year.
The Unique: Draft picks don't come any more unique than center John
Carter, the last pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Carter is a major
long shot, since he was drafted out of the independent junior ranks
(Brewster Bulldogs), but does have some upside potential.
The Grade: Role players dominated Philadelphia's draft strategy in
2004, so the impact at the NHL level will probably be minimal. First
pick Rob Bellamy (92nd overall) figures to eventually play a third-
line role in Philly, which epitomizes their entire draft crop... C+
The Good: In No. 2 overall Evgeni Malkin and No. 31 overall selection
Johannes Salmonsson, the Penguins solved part of their offensive
problems. Also, second-round defenseman (61st overall) Alex Goligoski
is a high-risk/high-reward selection as a potential power-play
The Bad: While the emphasis should have been on offense in this
year's draft, the Pens ignored their own zone for the most part in
2004. Goligoski, fifth-round pick (130th overall) Michal Sersen and
seventh-round pick Chris Peluso (194th overall) all project to be
offensive rearguards in the pros.
The Unique: Snubbed by all 30 teams nine times over a year ago,
University of Notre Dame goaltender David Brown finally got the call
with the 228th pick this year. The Penguins hope they have as much
luck with Brown as they did with the 199th pick in 2003--goaltender
The Grade: Malkin gives Pittsburgh a future franchise center, while
Salmonsson should look more and more like a first-round talent in
years to come. If Goligoski and Brown pan out, Pens fans may long
remember the 2004 draft as a turning point for the franchise... A-
The Good: In defensemen Boris Valabik (10th overall) and Grant Lewis
(40th overall), the Thrashers now possess a nice combination of
shutdown ability and offensive potential from the back end. Also,
fifth-round pick Juraj Gracik (142nd overall) is another pure scorer
for the Thrashers organization.
The Bad: In taking Valabik, Atlanta may have made a mistake by not
drafting Lauri Tukonen--arguably the third-best player available in
the entire draft. Also, despite the organization being light in
quality center prospects, the Thrashers selected only one pivot
(Mitch Carefoot, 237th overall).
The Unique: In six years, the Thrashers' first round picks include a
Czech center out of the IHL (Patrik Stefan), a Canadian winger out of
the NCAA ranks (Dany Heatley), a Russian winger (Ilya Kovalchuk), a
Finnish netminder (Kari Lehtonen), an American center out of college
(Jim Slater) and now Valabik--a Slovakian defenseman out of the OHL.
The Grade: The combination of Valabik and Lewis may be enough to
offset Tukonen's long-range potential. However, the Thrashers should
have addressed their lack of center depth in Round 3--instead of
another defenseman (Scott Lehman, 76th overall)... C
The Good: Moving up four draft positions in Round 1 to secure left
wing Andrew Ladd was the splash Hurricanes fans wanted all along.
Ladd should also help Carolina on the ice--sooner rather than later--
as a legitimate scoring left-winger.
The Bad: After Ladd, the 'Canes chose only one other forward (Jonas
Fiedler, 235th overall) in the entire draft--despite having one of
the worst offenses in the NHL. Moreover, they completely ignored the
center position--a major organizational weakness.
The Unique: More than any other NHL franchise, the Hurricanes like to
select draft re-entry players. In 2004, eighth-round pick Fiedler and
ninth-round selection (268th overall) Martin Vagner join 2003 pick
Shay Stephenson (198th overall) and center prospect Mike Zigomanis
(46th overall in 2001) as Carolina draftees the second time around.
The Grade: Ladd ensures the Hurricanes a solid showing in the 2004
draft. Two more goaltenders in the system (Justin Peters, 38th
overall and Magnus Akerlund, 137th overall) can't hurt, either.
However, the overall crop lacks high-end depth... B
The Good: Instead of landing goaltender Alvaro Montoya at No. 7
overall--he went to the Rangers with the prior pick--Florida used its
first-round selection on center Rostislav Olesz and second pick (37th
overall) on goalie David Shantz. Overall, the Panthers are in better
shape without Montoya.
The Bad: After Olesz and Shantz, the Panthers didn't land any other
noteworthy prospects--and totaled only seven overall. Furthermore,
long-rumored deals involving Dallas sniper Bill Guerin, or the
possibility of moving up to the No. 1 or 2 draft slots never
The Unique: Seven is the lowest number of selections ever for the
Panthers franchise--the previous low was set in 2000 (8). Also, Olesz
is the fourth Czech player taken by Florida in Round 1 in their
history: (Radek Dvorak, 10th overall in 1995, Lukas Krajicek, 24th
overall in 2001 and Petr Taticek, 9th overall in 2002).
The Grade: It all depends on the development of Florida's top two
picks. Olesz should eventually play a key role up front, while Shantz
is a solid goalie asset and an insurance policy for All-Star
netminder Roberto Luongo... C
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Good: The Lighting addressed defensive depth concerns by taking
three promising blueliners: Andy Rogers (30th overall), Mike Lundin
(102nd overall) and Jan Zapletal at No. 188. Also, second-round
selection Mark Tobin (65th overall) is a quality gamble and potential
The Bad: Lightning GM Jay Feaster insists that Rogers was his
organization's sixth-best prospect. However, he was probably a slight
reach as the last pick of Round 1. After winning the Stanley Cup,
Feaster should get the benefit of the doubt this time around.
The Unique: The ever-changing landscape of the NHL was prevalent in
Tampa Bay's selection of forward Dustin Collins--a native of Arizona--
in the fifth round (163rd). While Collins now toils at Northern
Michigan (CCHA), he's a rare hockey product from the Desert.
The Grade: Not a lot was expected out of the Lightning draft, since
they picked at the bottom of almost every round. However, Rogers,
Lundin and Tobin offer a lot of long-range hope. Also, keep an eye on
WHL goal-scorer Justin Keller--the 245th overall selection... C
The Good: For the rebuilding Capitals, it's all about franchise
winger Alexander Ovechkin and added defensive depth. Ovechkin should
sell more tickets in D.C. and give the organization its first
legitimate homegrown superstar to build around. Adding five blueline
prospects is icing on the cake.
The Bad: It's probably nitpicking at this point, but second-round
selection (33rd overall) Chris Bourque was a reach--mainly due to his
family ties (son of Ray Bourque). While the younger Bourque does fit
the Caps mold to the letter, the club could have added a better asset
at that point in the draft.
The Unique: 2004 was only the third time in franchise history that
the Capitals owned the No. 1 overall pick. In fact, this year marked
the 30th anniversary of their first top draft selection: Defenseman
Greg Joly in 1974. Two years later, the Caps took defenseman Rick
Green first overall.
The Grade: Even without the five defensemen selected by Washington
(Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, Sami Lepisto, Clayton Barthel and Oscar
Hedman), 2004 would have been an excellent draft because of Ovechkin.
The combination gives the Caps an excellent starting point for their
reconstruction job... A
The Good: Chicago drafted only two defensemen in 2004, but No. 3
overall selection Cam Barker is considered a can't-miss prospect.
Among the eight new wingers, second-round pick Bryan Bickell (41st
overall) has a chance to become the best of the bunch, while David
Bolland (32nd overall) and Jakub Sindel (54th overall) have the most
potential among the center crop.
The Bad: While Barker should contribute to the Blackhawks cause
immediately, the team might have been better off selecting right wing
Lauri Tukonen--who would have looked great alongside fellow Finn
Tuomo Ruutu on Chicago's top line of the future.
The Unique: It's no secret that the 'Hawks are now committed to
drafting more North American players--following the Mike Smith era,
when Europe was very prevalent. To that end, 13 of 17 Chicago picks
in 2004 are North American. Look for that trend to continue.
The Grade: Time will tell whether or not passing on Tukonen was a
mistake for the Blackhawks. That said, the 'Hawks had a great draft
in 2004 and should reap the benefits over time... A
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Good: Sixth-round pick (190th overall) Lennart Petrell has great
size and sound two-way instincts. The big Swedish center could be the
first 2004 draftee to reach Columbus, since he's already 20 years old
and relatively polished.
The Bad: First-round pick Alex Picard should turn into a quality
NHLer, but the Jackets figure to be loaded at left wing for many
years to come (Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev et al). Columbus chose not
to address greater organizational needs at center and defense to grab
Picard at No. 8. In the end, he may not be worth it.
The Unique: Picard was the lone QMJHL product chosen in this year's
draft, and the only Quebec native drafted out of the 'Q' among the
first 106 picks. Moreover, Picard is the third left wing selected by
Columbus in the first round over a three-year span (Zherdev in 2003
and Nash in 2002).
The Grade: Picard won't have a major impact behind Nash and Zherdev,
and none of the three are as good if moved over to the right side.
Petrell will help, but there are too many other picks that are either
wild cards or of limited value overall... D
DETROIT RED WINGS
The Good: With no first-round pick (surprise, surprise!), the Wings
took 24-year-old Swede Johan Franzen with their first choice (97th
overall). Franzen should help the cause quickly, and might be a nice
fit in Motown. Fourth-round pick Evan McGrath, fifth-round pick
Siarhei Kolasau and eight-round selection Gennady Stolyarov also
possess intriguing potential.
The Bad: When you don't select among the first 96 picks of a given
draft, you're already behind the developmental 8-ball. The Wings have
done miracles with late-round picks for several years now but, sooner
or later, it will come back to haunt them.
The Unique: Defense prospect Niklas Kronwall is still the answer to a
Wings trivia question, as the only first-round pick of the new
Millennium for Detroit.
The Grade: Franzen could be one of the first 2004 draftees in the
NHL, but his impact will not be significant. Unless McGrath, Kolasau
and/or Stolyarov becomes the latest rabbit out of the Wings hat, the
2004 draft will not reap many benefits... D+
The Good: In Alexander Radulov, the Predators acquired a true game-
breaking forward--a major organizational weakness going into the off-
season. Third-round pick (81st overall) Vaclav Meidl also fills a
need at the center position, while fourth-round selection Nick Fugere
gives the Preds more size along the corridors.
The Bad: Aside from not having a second-round pick (dealt to Chicago
in the Steve Sullivan trade), there isn't a lot to dislike with
Nashville's 2004 draft crop. They added four defense prospects in the
later rounds, though none has great upside.
The Unique: In taking Radulov with the 15th overall selection, the
Preds ended a string of six straight North American first-round
picks. The first two hailed from the OHL (David Legwand and Brian
Finley), the next three from the WHL (Scott Hartnell, Dan Hamhuis and
Scottie Upshall), while Ryan Suter was drafted out of the U.S. under-
18 development team.
The Grade: Look for Radulov to provide as much of an impact as any
2004 first-round pick not named Ovechkin or Malkin. Overall, it was a
very successful draft for Nashville... A-
ST. LOUIS BLUES
The Good: Landing Marek Schwarz with the No. 17 pick was sheer
highway robbery for the Blues, who now suddenly have great
goaltending depth (St. Louis also acquired Patrick Lalime and Jason
Bacashihua via trades). Then, they addressed their future up front
with Carl Soderberg (49th overall) and Viktor Alexandrov (83rd
The Bad: Aside from dealing a conditional fourth-round pick in the
Lalime deal, and losing quality defense prospect Shawn Belle for
Bacashihua, draft weekend was a perfect success this time around.
The Unique: The Blues are now a strong presence in Europe. In 2004,
they took seven Europeans in a row, before skipping the eighth round
and taking Jonathan Michel Boutin out of the QMJHL with their final
selection (277th overall).
The Grade: GM Larry Pleau and draft guru Jarmo Kekalainen should be
very pleased with what transpired at the RBC Center in Raleigh on
draft weekend. When the organization needed it most, the Blues hit a
home run at the draft table... A+
The Good: The Flames traded down in Round 1, added a couple of mid-
round picks and still found enough 'Sutter-type' players to please
GM/coach Darryl Sutter. First-round selection (24th overall) Kris
Chucko will need time but should eventually be a regular winger in
Calgary, while third-round pick Brandon Prust has Flames energy
player written all over him.
The Bad: If the Flames had thoughts of finding immediate scoring help
for franchise winger Jarome Iginla, it didn't happen on draft
weekend. In fact, Sutter passed on OHL center Robbie Schremp--who
wound up with archrival Edmonton. That may come back to haunt Sutter.
The Unique: Even Calgary's European selections (Aki Seitsonen, 118th
overall and Fred Wikner, 182nd overall) play Sutter's brand of
hockey. Seitsonen already has WHL experience and has two-way acumen,
while Wikner is an agitating Swede in the Ville Nieminen mold.
The Grade: The Flames took home more of what brought them to the
dance this time around, though they are still missing one key forward
who will be able to take scoring pressure off Iginla... C+
The Good: The Avalanche needed to start looking at their core of
forwards for the future, and did well in selecting Wojtek Wolski,
Victor Oreskovich and Denis Parshin with their first three picks.
Parshin is especially intriguing, since the Avs have a history of
uncovering diminutive European gems.
The Bad: Wolski is a mild gamble at No. 21 overall, mainly because of
a recent incident where he allegedly assaulted a man in a Toronto
bar. Also, the Avs failed to select a center throughout the 2004
draft, despite the fact they have few long-term scoring options up
The Unique: GM Pierre Lacroix loves to deal prospects, so the 2004
draft class shouldn't get too comfortable in their Colorado
surroundings. In fact, Lacroix has dealt seven prospects in various
trades since the 2000 draft.
The Grade: If Wolski, Oreskovich and Parshin reach the NHL level, the
2004 draft should be considered a reasonable success for Lacroix and
the Avs... B-
The Good: The Oilers should get more than their money's worth with
25th overall pick Robbie Schremp and second-round selection Roman
Tesliuk. Furthermore, fourth-round pick Liam Reddox may surprise many
with his scoring potential.
The Bad: Edmonton better hope that Devan Dubnyk (14th overall)
develops into a quality NHL goalkeeper, because they passed on Marek
Schwarz--arguably the best goalie prospect available in 2004. Also,
the club gave up on Jason Chimera in a swap with Phoenix that
included three draft picks. Chimera's game was tailor-made for the
The Unique: 44th overall pick Tesliuk and 177th overall pick Max
Gordichuk know each other well, since they were often paired together
along the Kamloops Blazers blueline in 2003-04. However, while
Tesliuk hails from Russia, Gordichuk was in fact born in Edmonton.
The Grade: Teams like Edmonton need strong drafts in order to
survive. Consider their 2004 shopping spree a success, though GM
Kevin Lowe will be under constant scrutiny because of his preference
for Dubnyk over Schwarz... B
The Good: Minnesota natives are always welcomed to the Wild
organization, so defenseman A.J. Thelen (12th overall) should
eventually become a crowd pleaser at the Xcel Energy Center. Though
he doesn't fit the Wild system, Belarusian winger Roman Voloshenko
(42nd overall) could become an important scorer for the club down the
The Bad: While Thelen should eventually play a top-four role with the
Wild, fellow Minnesotan Drew Stafford (13th overall to Buffalo) might
have been a better fit. In fact, Stafford could have been an ideal
organizational replacement for 2003 first-round pick Brent Burns--who
is being converted to defense.
The Unique: The Wild placed strong emphasis on size and toughness in
this year's draft, including Swiss winger Julien Sprunger (117th
overall). The 6-4, 194-pound Sprunger is considered a potential
The Grade: The Wild added enough quantity (12 total picks) to declare
the 2004 draft a success, though it will be a while before Thelen
makes an impact... B-
The Good: In Round 1, the Canucks hope to have answered the question
of goaltender of the future with the selection of Cory Schneider
(26th overall). In Round 9, they added a potential steal in speedy
Dane Jannik Hansen (287th overall).
The Bad: In between Schneider and Hansen, the Canucks only added five
more players to their farm system, including a redundant goalie
selection (Julien Ellis-Plante, 189th overall).
The Unique: It will be a while before Vancouver's top three picks
suit up in a Canucks uniform, since none has yet to play at a high
level of competition: Schneider played U.S. high-school hockey in
2003-04, while third-round pick (91st overall) Alexander Edler played
Division 2 hockey in Sweden and 125th overall selection Andrew
Sarauer toiled in the tier II BCHL.
The Grade: Schneider should eventually make an impact in Vancouver,
but the lack of a second-round pick (traded to Pittsburgh for
underachieving goaltender Johan Hedberg) hurts the overall grade... C-
MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM
The Good: Three defensemen in the first three rounds should give
Anaheim the blueline depth they had been lacking. Re-drafting Tim
Brent (75th overall) was also a smart idea, since they can now bring
him aboard on the team's financial terms. Lastly, seventh-round
goaltender (203rd overall) Gabriel Bouthillette may move quickly
through the system.
The Bad: Adding Ladislav Smid (9th overall) should provide immediate
dividends, since the Ducks are expected to continue their salary
purge by dealing longtime blueliner Ruslan Salei--among others. Also,
they didn't address their long-term offensive needs this time around,
in case the club is successful in dealing forwards Vaclav Prospal
and/or Petr Sykora.
The Unique: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. That's
Anaheim's approach to the European market for older draft talent.
After Jonas Ronnqvist (98th overall in 2000) and Timo Parssinen
(102nd overall in 2001) failed to make an impact, the Ducks hope to
get better results with 22-year-old winger Janne Pesonen (269th
overall) this time around.
The Grade: Smid and Brent should help make the 2004 draft crop a
success in Disneyland. However, Bouthillette's development could
prove to be a key down the road... B-
The Good: Second-round defenseman (34th overall) Johan Fransson, and
fourth-round winger (104th overall) Fredrik Naslund could emerge as
sleeper Swedes. Also, adding defensive prospect Shawn Belle in a deal
for Jason Bacashihua was an excellent move.
The Bad: Where to begin. Instead of taking an offensive asset for the
future at pick No. 20, the Stars traded down twice to finally land
defensive defenseman Mark Fistric with the 28th overall pick. Fistric
should eventually play in Dallas, but will never be an impact
The Unique: To no one's surprise, the Stars selected defenseman
Trevor Ludwig--son of longtime NHL defenseman and current Stars
organization member Craig Ludwig--with the 183rd pick.
The Grade: Dallas failed to draft an impact player, failed to shed
salary (i.e. Bill Guerin) and failed to address long-term needs at
the center position. If not for the acquisition of Belle, the Stars
would have received an F for failure... D-
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The Good: In Lauri Tukonen (11th overall), the Kings have acquired
perhaps the steal of the 2004 draft. While L.A. was expected to land
a goalie, the team did one better by adding Tukonen and trading for
Canadiens goaltender Mathieu Garon in the same weekend.
The Bad: Maybe the only blemish of GM Dave Taylor's draft weekend was
dealing Radek Bonk to Montreal--minutes after acquiring him from
Ottawa. While Bonk was essential in order to land Garon, the Kings
could really use a player like the big Czech center right now.
The Unique: Unique doesn't begin to describe eighth-round goaltender
(238th overall) Yutaka Fukufuji, who has served as Japan's national
team netminder in recent years. He's the first Japanese-trained
player drafted into the NHL since 1992. Fukufuji may be a role model
for other Asian hockey talent down the road.
The Grade: Without a doubt, the Kings struck gold with Tukonen and
Garon on draft weekend. Throw in the potential of defenseman Paul
Baier (95th overall), and the leadership of veteran blueline
acquisition Stephane Quintal via trade, and you get a near perfect
2004 draft for Taylor and the Kings... A
The Good: The Coyotes addressed long-term scoring potential needs
with the additions of forwards Blake Wheeler (No. 5 overall), Enver
Lisin (50th overall), Roman Tomanek (103rd overall), Kevin Porter
(119th overall) and Chad Kolarik (199th overall).
The Bad: Wheeler was a reach of mega proportions, considering most
observers had the U.S. high-school right wing going late in Round 1--
or possibly even early in the second round. Also, rugged rearguard
(35th overall) Logan Stephenson was taken ahead of several other
defenders with better all-around ability.
The Unique: Size continues to be a huge part of the Coyotes drafting
philosophy. In 2004, seven of 10 draftees were 6-1 or taller--
including hulking left wing Kevin Cormier (168th overall), who's a 6-
3, 236-pound enforcer with minimal hockey ability.
The Grade: Despite Wheeler's long-term potential (place the stress on
the word LONG), he wasn't worth the outlandish gamble as the No. 5
pick in the draft. The Coyotes could have done a lot more with their
draft assets but chose to stick to their draft list. If Wheeler
bombs, it will probably be GM Mike Barnett's head--among others... F
SAN JOSE SHARKS
The Good: With no immediate organizational concerns, the Sharks added
another quality scorer for the future with the selection of Czech
winger Lukas Kaspar (22nd overall). With time, Kaspar may even
outscore several players drafted ahead of him.
The Bad: In an organization that already boasts Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa
Toskala, Dimitri Patzold and Patrick Ehelechner--to name four young
netminders in the system--adding four more goalies appears to be
somewhat redundant. Of the four draftees, Thomas Greiss (94th
overall) and Jason Churchill (129th overall) were probably the best
player available at the time of selection. Adding two more in Rounds
8 and 9 is overkill.
The Unique: San Jose does not shy away from selecting U.S. high-
school talent. They added three more in 2004, plus ninth-round
defenseman (289th overall) Christian Jensen from an independent
junior team in New Jersey. Traditional feeder leagues be damned!
The Grade: Kaspar was a nice find for the Sharks, while Greiss should
eventually challenge the other quality European netminders for ice
time in San Jose. Despite the selection of too many puck-stoppers,
San Jose gets a solid grade... B-