June 24, 2015

1995 NHL Draft: 20 Years Later

The 1995 NHL draft will not go down as the greatest draft in history. In fact, it was one of the weaker classes. But it will be remembered for Bryan Berard, Wade Redden, Jarome Iginla, a number of goalies, and a number of misses.

Let's review the actual draft order:

  1. Bryan Berard - Ottawa
  2. Wade Redden - NY Islanders
  3. Aki Berg - Los Angeles
  4. Chad Kilger - Anaheim
  5. Daymond Langkow - Tampa Bay
  6. Steve Kelly - Edmonton
  7. Shane Doan - Winnipeg
  8. Terry Ryan - Montreal
  9. Kyle McLaren - Boston
  10. Radek Dvorak - Florida
  11. Jarome Iginla - Dallas
  12. Teemu Riihijarvi - San Jose
  13. Jean Sebastien Giguere - Hartford
  14. Jay McKee - Buffalo
  15. Jeff Ware - Toronto
  16. Martin Biron - Buffalo
  17. Brad Church - Washington
  18. Petr Sykora - New Jersey
  19. Dmitri Nabokov - Chicago
  20. Denis Gauthier - Calgary
  21. Sean Brown - Boston
  22. Brian Boucher - Philadelphia
  23. Miika Elomo - Washington
  24. Aleksey Morozov - Pittsburgh
  25. Marc Denis - Colorado
  26. Maxim Kuznetsov - Detroit
What do we see? Very few stars. Quite a few goalies. And a whole lot of misses. 

Teemu Riihijarvi never played a game in the league. Miika Elomo and Brad Church, both Washington picks, played just two games each. Terry Ryan played 8 games, Jeff Ware 21, Dmitri Nabokov just 55. Steve Kelly and Maxim Kuznetsov weren't much better.

And the most outlandish question with the benefit of hindsight has to be: How the heck did Jarome Iginla not get drafted until 11th?

Speaking of hindsight, let's re-draft the class of 1995 based on their career reviews 20 years later:
  1. Jarome Iginla
  2. Miikka Kiprusoff
  3. Shane Doan
  4. Jean Sebastien Giguere
  5. Petr Sykora
  6. Sami Kapanen 
  7. Wade Redden
  8. Bryan Berard
  9. Daymond Langkow
  10. Martin Biron
  11. Radek Dvorak
  12. Marc Savard
  13. Michal Handzus
  14. Stephane Robidas
  15. Brian Boucher
  16. Jay McKee
  17. PJ Axelsson
  18. Brent Sopel
  19. Marc Denis
  20. Kyle McLaren
  21. Georges Laraque
  22. Chad Kilger
  23. Aki Berg
  24. Jan Hrdina
  25. Vesa Toskala
  26. Jan Hlavac
Let's take a look back at what The Hockey News Draft Preview 1995 had to say. Brian Costello was the editor, and he and his team put together a rankings that was strikingly similar to the way things actually panned out:

Bryan Berard - seven of ten scouts will tell you Berard will go 1st overall....raw skill, athletic ability and aggressive temperament..."I wonder about his hockey sense and how he fits in with the framework of a team" warned one scout. Scotty Bowman said "He reminds me of Ray Bourque." In hindsight: Will be remembered for scary eye injury that almost ended his career. Never emerged as a true top-end defenseman.

Wade Redden - key word: poise..."He'll be an absolute, bona fide, 100 percent NHL defenseman for 15 years. he makes the easy play all the time. He won't be a superstar but he'll be awfully good for a long time," said a scout. In hindsight: Scout was half right. Redden was really good for the first half of his career, then awful in the end. He earned an outlandish contract which became a real albatross for him.

Aki Berg - At least one team, perhaps more, has Berg rated at No. 1 ahead of Berard and Redden...."embodies the best of both guys"....strong mobile, great open ice hitter....chance to be a star...In hindsight: Perhaps he could have developed in a different organization, but he seemed rushed into NHL in Los Angeles. Never really got untracked. 

Daymond Langkow - similarities with San Jose's Jeff Friesen....breakaway speed, outstanding vision, offensive creativity..."The only thing holding him back is size, but his competitive nature should make up for that," said one scout...Could be taken anywhere from no. 1 (outside chance) to no. 10. In hindsight: Played nearly 1100 games in the NHL in a underrated career.

Chad Kilger - very safe top 10 pick....skates well, competes, has character. No real weak spot...question is how much upside does he have...."He just might be a Ronnie Francis or Jason Arnott. Do you really want to pass on a player that good?" said one scout. In hindsight: Kilger did play over 700 games in the NHL, mostly as a bottom six forward. He was not Jason Arnott, and certainly not Ron Francis. 

Kyle McLaren - "He has incredible size and speed," said one scout. "He could be a Larry Robinson type defenseman except more of a physical specimen than Larry was at first." In hindsight: Not even close to Larry Robinson. But he did play in 700 games and, when healthy, was good depth defenseman.

Steve Kelly - blinding speed...fastest skater in the draft....compared to Geoff Sanderson....blue chip investment....one scout said "He shows big time speed but doesn't show an ability to finish when he makes plays at that speed. He really has to develop a consistent scoring touch if he's going to be an NHLers because finesse is what he brings to the table." In hindsight: That scout was right.

Petr Sykora - stock is falling....offensive whiz....size is questionable...."Shocked if he fell out of the top 10"...."Some are speculating Radek Bonk's difficult NHL adjustment after big year in IHL is impacting negatively." In hindsight: Sykora fell all the way to 18th, and the New Jersey Devils were very happy about that.

Radek Dvorak - sustained a broken wrist that limited viewing.....big Czech power forward is one of six prospects who could be chosen 1st overall. "Fantastic skill. He can skate, score, make plays and he's big and strong to handle the rough going. He could be a dominant first line NHL forward." In hindsight: Solid second/third liner when healthy.

Outside of the top 10, they also had Shane Doan at #11. "He's a legitimately tough kid who can run people over, but he has an awfully long fuse. You would like to see him play harder and tougher more consistently." They also suggested his skating needed work.

They ranked Jarome Iginla at 15. "Everything good, nothing outstanding," said one scout. "He might be the sleeper of the first round." I'll say. "He's not likely to ever be a star but he has a good chance to be a player." Wow.
They, unlike the San Jose Sharks, were also right on Teemu Riihijarvi, ranking him outside the first round. They dubbed the 6'6" Finn as "intriguing" though they call him a defenseman. But they raved about his intimidating physical play. "He was as mean as you could get." But they never mentioned anything about his skill level, which he apparently lacked at the NHL level. He never made the jump to North America.

Every year I tend to latch on to one player who I pick as a personal favorite and see how they fare on their journey to the pros. In 1995 that player wasNathan Perrott. "He's major league tough and play a lot without being a liability," The Hockey News said. "He's totally fearless." I've evolved over the years, but obviously back then I valued toughness! Perrott delivered, too. After leaving the Oshawa Generals he embarked on a long minor league career with 89 NHL games on his resume, too. I remember him temporarily be a bit of a cult hero in Toronto for his truculence.

I also was intrigued by Denis Gauthier, another tough S.O.B. who also happened to be the grandson of former pro-wrestler Jacques Rougeau. How cool is that? Gauthier played well over 500 games in the NHL and developed a reputation as a reckless and controversial hitter.

The other player I liked was a skilled, undersized center out of Quebec. Christian Dube, son of former Kansas City Scouts and Quebec Nordiques forward Norm Dube, is still playing 20 years later. He has been in Switzerland forever, it seems. He did get into 33 games with the New York Rangers over two different seasons, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist.
Let's look into one last player. Igor Melyakov was an undersized but speedy Russian who really shone at the World Juniors in Red Deer in 1995. He scored 6 goals in 7 games and turned some heads. The Hockey News ranked him 35th, but he ended up sliding all the way down to the 6th round, where the LA Kings took him 137th overall. He never ended up jumping to North America, but did play in various Russian leagues until 2008. 


sd said...

It could be interesting to have a list of players who was undrafted but menaged to get a very good NHL career like Dino Ciccarelli, Martin St. Louis, Adam Oates, Ed Balfour, Joe Mullen,...

Anonymous said...

Jacques Rougeau was Denis Gauthier's Uncle, not Grandfather. Would have been tough for Jacques to have a grandson at the age of 16!

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of Jacques Rougeau... Sr? A real Qu├ębec folk hero. Father of, among others, Jacques Jr, and GRANDFATHER of Denis Gauthier.

Aaron said...

Love this! Hope to see more posts like this on other draft years