100 games a season: Gare Joyce's puck blog

Just like being in the scouts' & press' lounge, without the bad coffee and day-old Timbits

Location: Toronto

I've written for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com the last five years. My work has made the "notable" list of the Best American Sports Writing seven times and won four Canadian National Magazine Awards. My most recent book is Future Greats and Heartbreaks: A Year Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts. I've written three other sports books: When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game; Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm; and The Only Ticket Off the Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CHL Euro Draft: Hockey's Biggest Crapshoot

Jonathan Jackson, a dogged reporter with the award-winning Owen Sound paper, properly upbraided me about the CHL rights of Sergei Samsonov back when. (See comment on the previous post.) Did the quick search and indeed, Samsonov was claimed by Owen Sound (the Platers back then). My understanding, though, is that Samsonov wouldn't report to OS--that his agent put out feelers elsewhere to see if something could be worked out.

The CHL Euro draft is so broken I wonder why they bother. Although it's supposed to be a way to balancing leagues and fairly dispersing talent, it doesn't work. It's not remotely enough to draft the best available talent. Everything rides on signability and so it's the agents who hold the hammer--actually more like a nail gun. (The NHL teams that have drafted the players also have influence on the prospects' decisions, but really it's an agent-driven deal.) It's all backroom stuff--agents play one team against another, squeeze teams for cash. There's lots of lies, lots of broken promises.

I took a look at the CHL Euro draft in Samsonov's year. Pretty fascinating to look at what was, what is, and what was supposed to be.

1. Baie-Comeau, Edo Terglav, rw, Slovenia
did play for Baie-Comeau and Montreal Rocket, decent junior, maxed out at about 30 goals in the Q, drafted by Buffulo, last played in North America for Albuquerque Scorpions, in the French league at last report

2. Edmonton, Patrik Stefan, c, Czech Republic
never reported, played in the I for Long Beach, I never got the buzz about him, pure crap as No. 1 although in retrospect not much of a draft

3. Toronto, Jan Sulc, Czech Republic, Tampa Bay, 5th 1997
did report and played for a good stretch in the O, Mr Jackson might have seen the best of him in Sulc's stay in OS, fifth-rounder with Tampa Bay but strictly a East Coast and I guy

4. Moncton, Alexei Tezikov, d, Russia, Buffalo, 5th 1996
did report, Buffalo was very high on him but though Brian Campbell and him were same player, Sabres kept the right one

5. Portland, Marian Hossa, rw, Slovakia, Ottawa, 1st 1997
reported, obviously worked out, the Senators had a connection with Portland, that's where they wanted him to go, for sure the message to other teams was that he wasn't coming

6. Sarnia, Ivan Novoseltsev, rw, Russia, Florida, 4th 1997
Years back I saw an Ottawa game in Sarnia and the 67's won by--I guesstimate--8-1. But Novoseltsev's goal for the Sting was the best goal I saw at any level that season, I always thought he'd turn out to be a better play, a 57-goal junior but then so was Miguel Delisle

7. Rouyn-Noranda, Martin Barcek, c, Slovakia
Listed as "Barcek" but I'm presuming that this is Martin Bartek, reported, played for three Q teams that season, late draft of Nashville, now in German league

8. Spokane, Petr Sykora, c, Czech Republic, Detroit, 3rd 1997
the other Petr Sykora, never reported, 12 NHL games in two seasons, six years apart

9. North Bay, Jan Fadrny, c, Czech Republic
ended up in the Dub somehow, one AHL season, back in the old country

10. Sherbrooke, Maxim Patapov, rw, Russia.
"Potapov" reported, 15 games with Johnstown, 1 with the Vipers

11. Tri-City, Josef Melichar, Czech Republic, Pittsburgh, 3rd 1997
reported, played

12. Plymouth, Yuri Babenko, c, Russia, Colorado, 2nd 1996
reported, played one year, three NHL games

13. Hull, Jiri Fischer, d, Czech Republic
reported, I saw him play a fair bit with 'ull, a great kid and a tremendous junior, I thought that he'd step in and star in the NHL, was still a significant and blooming player when he had his heart crisis, a real tragedy

14. Prince George, Petr Kubos, d, Czech Republic, Montreal, 8th 1997
reported, played a couple of seasons in PG, only two seasons in North America

15. North Bay, Michal Krupa, lw, Slovakia
reported, played 12 games with NB and then four with Barrie and that was all she wrote, apparently undrafted by NHL

16. Rimouski, Adam Borzecki, d, Poland
now that's off the map, reported, NHL undrafted, bouncing around Germany

17. Red Deer, Franasek Mrazek, c, Czech Republic, Toronto, 5th 1997
reported, 30-goal guy in the Dub but didn't piss a drop in two seasons on the Rock, still playing in Czech

18. Sarnia, Marek Posmyk, d, Czech Republic, Toronto, 2nd 1996
remember how he was going to be a Leaf savior, played the one season in Sarnia, a handful of games in Tampa

19. Quebec, Petr Klouda, c, Slovakia
reported, evidently for three games

20. Seattle, Petr Vala, c, Czech Republic
squirtish guy, reported, played one season without distinction

21. Kingston, Marco Sturm, c, Germany, San Jose, 1st 1996
played in San Jose right away, never reported, obviously Kingston and SJ weren't on the same page

22. Drummondville, Zoltan Patovsky, c, Slovakia
reported, played three seasons, sort of a 20-goal junior with no NHL prospects, last North American stop, Kentucky Thoroughblades

23. Kelowna, Jan Dusanek, d, Czech Republic
reported, played one season, part of next, off the radar

24. Sault Ste. Marie, Peter Bohunicky, rw, Slovakia
played part of one season, one goal for the Soo, hope he kept the puck from his only North American goal, the teams on his career page look like some Scrabble hands I've had

25. Chicoutimi, Robin Bacul, lw, Czech Republic, Ottawa, 7th 1997
what would possess a kid to leave Prague for Chicoutimi, Bacul did for one season but decided against another

26. Saskatoon, Petja Pietilianen, c/lw, Finland
reported, two seasons with Blades, third last player selected in the 1998 draft (Detroit), went back to Europe after jr

27. Plymouth, Steve Lyle, g, Wales
I thought this was a joke--a kid from Wales playing for the Whalers--but he reported and played four games for Whalers, 6.00 GAA, a fixture in British league, I'd love to know how they found this guy

28. Halifax, Ladislav Nagy, c, Slovakia, St. Louis, 7th 1997
reported, scored 71 goals in 63 games and was off to the pros after that, the question is how he dropped behind a Welsh goaltender and countryman Bohunicky, Nagy was no secret at that stage but obviously Halifax bought him and had his agent tell teams he wasn't coming

29. Moose Jaw, Sergei Stakhovich, lw, Belarus
didn't report, played two seasons in North America, wonder if he kept his sweaters from the Port Huron Border Cats and the Mohawk Valley Prowlers

30. Windsor, Sergei Zimakov, d, Russia, Washington 3rd 1996
didn't report, never left Russia

31. Val-d'Or, Alexandre Byskovskih, c, Russia
if you can find him let me know, didn't report

32. Tri-City, Roman Sykora, rw, Slovakia
reported, played eight games

33. Barrie, Martin Skoula, d, Czech Republic
reported, first-rounder by Colorado next season, helluva junior, again a case of a much better player who had a pre-cooked deal in Barrie and told others he wouldn'y show

34. Shawinigan, Jura Slovak, d, Slovakia
reported, two seasons, maxed out at East Coast league, undrafted by NHL

35. Seattle, Stanislav Gron, c, Slovakia, New Jersey, 2nd 1997
reported, played two seasons in Dub, one lonely NHL game

36. Guelph, Bohuslav Subr, lw, Czech Republic
reported, played three seasons with mixed results, maxed out in East Coast league

37. Victoriaville, Boris Majesky, d, Czech Republic
reported, played one season without distinction, great name, no game

38. Regina, Alexandre Fomitchev, g, Russia, Edmonton, 9th 1997
reported and played three years in Dub, Calgary's guy in Mem Cup run, looks like he did okay in a brief stint with Hamilton Bulldogs but didn't get a sniff

39. Sault Ste. Marie, Martin Galik, lw, Slovakia
reported, played a couple of seasons, no NHL prospects, back to the old country

40. Sydney, Anton Mikhailov, d, Russia
reported, one season, six games, off the radar

41. Red Deer, Robert Schnabel, d, Czech Republic, N.Y. Islanders, 3rd 1997
reported, played one season and one game the next, a monstrously sized guy, maxed out at AHL

42. Hull, Miroslav Zalesak, rw, Slovakia
reported, played two seasons in Drummondville, tore it up with 50 in one, drafted by San Jose, made the show for a dozen games

43. Prince Albert, Milan Kraft, rw, Czech Republic
took a year to report but he tore it up when he came over, first rounder of Pitt and was supposed to be a big deal, scored 19 with Pens less than three years back, could someone breathe life into him?

44. Brandon, Petr Havelka, lw, Czech Republic, Pittsburgh, 6th 1997
didn't report but so what, the guy played seven seasons in Czech league without scoring twenty goals--total
45. Owen Sound, Sergei Samsonov, lw, Russia, Boston, 1st 1997
obviously didn't have anything worked out but a gamble worth taking you suppose

46. Calgary, Andrei Korhov, c/rw, Latvia
off the radar

47. Oshawa, Boris Ivanov, lw, Russia
reported, played eight games one season, five with Windsor the next, off the radar

48. Regina, Pavel Beranek, rw, Czech Republic
reported, played one game, no points

49. Ottawa, Petr Mika, c, Czech Republic, NY Islanders, 4th 1997
reported, played one season without much of an impact, probably seemed to max at East Coast league but improbably made it for a week with maybe the only team that woulda had him, the Isles

Second Round
a heckuva drop-off here

50. Baie-Comeau, Tommy Hafnier, c, Slovenia
did not report, off the radar

51. Toronto, Ari Katavisto, rw, Finland
reported, played one season without distinction, off the radar

52. Victoriaville, Pavel Sasik, rw, Slovakia
reported, played one season split between a couple of teams, vanished without a trace

53. Kingston, Tomas Dolak, lw, Germany
played one season, a few games for Kingston before being fobbed off on North Bay, NHL undrafted

54. Chicoutimi, Rene Stussi, c, Switzerland, Anaheim, 8th 1997
did not report, never left Switzerland and can you blame him

55. Rimouski, Maxim Balmochnykh, lw, Russia, Anaheim, 2nd 1997
waited a year, reported (for a while) to les Remparts but then bolted back to the motherland, you woulda thought he maxes out at AHL (he never scored double digits there) but made into the Ducks line-up for six games, picking up an assist, do you keep the puck for your first point? he should have

56. Prince George, Alex Andreyev, d, Latvia, Phoenix, 8th 1997
reported, played one season in PG, another in Moose Jaw, maxes out at East Coast league

57. Belleville, Branislav Mezei, d, Czech Republic
a guy I remember, reported, very nice junior player, turns into a first-rounder 10th overall, has landed in bad situations (NYI, Florida), thought he'd be better at this point

58. Laval, Alex Ryazantsev, d, Russia
don't see him, Laval had their imports already booked

59. Prince Albert, Jaromir Smatrala, c, Slovakia
reported albeit to The Hat, career junior line 8 games, zeroes on goals, assists and PIMs

60. Ottawa, Markus Pottinger, d, Germany
reported, played one season

61. Halifax, Yuri Bicek, lw, Slovakia, New Jersey, 5th 1997
did not report apparently, went directly to Albany, fringe guy with Devils over four seasons (barely 60 games), in Sweden now

62. Val d'Or, Vladimir Konopka, ld
reported, played 17 games, no NHL draft, off the radar, I wouldn't be surprised if he was a distant relative to Zenon Konopka (who has to be the unlikeliest guy to make the NHL, another story that I'll address at another juncture)

63. Sydney, Arten Rybin, lw, Russia
reported, played three years, then played with the New Mexico Scorpions, what would his view of North America be based on time in Cape Breton and Albuquerque

64. Oshawa, Ilja Demidov, d, Russia, Calgary, 6th 1997.
reported, put in his time, East Coast guy

It's just not an effective system of dispersing talent. Take the best available player without something in place and you risk with nothing. The second pick in the draft is a no-show, meanwhile Halifax with all the dough get Nagy in the late going--how did that even the playing field? I'm sure that some of these teams that drafted players who didn't report thought they did have deals with players. And because of the restrictions on how many Euros you can draft and have on your roster, there's no margin for error--which puts teams in a bind. My suggestion: Have a draft that goes five rounds, first-come first-served when you go to negotiate with the agents and players--take the deal or I'll offer it to the next guy.

the fine print ... i'll do a work-up on last year's chl draft--who reported, who didn't, who's worth a look ... halifax took voracek first overall ... leading them in scoring, better than a point a game guy, he was a bit off a disappointment at summer-18s but he'll play