Inexact science

We have been tearing the house apart lately*, and one of the things that came down from the attic Sunday was the 1989 Hockey News draft preview. Fascinating stuff. Especially since it’s one of those drafts that goes to my theories about the draft itself (as I may have mentioned). And it’s of a time, too; one of the stories is about how teams have to wonder whether these kids named Pavel Bure and Robert Holik, top-three players if they were Canadian, would ever get out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Here’s that draft as it actually played out. Here’s THN’s rankings, and don’t forget that we’re back here in the days of the Original 21:

1) Mats Sundin (Quebec, 1). Not bad. Though there’s a funny note high up in the write-up. “‘Why all this interest in Sundin?’ asks a Swedish hockey writer. ‘He is not our best young player.'”

The Swedish hockey writer meant Niklas Andersson, but the NHL consensus was less favorable, leaving him to Quebec at 68. But whether you think the Swedish hockey writer was actually correct or not depends on how you weigh Sundin against one Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit, 53).

2) Dave Chyzowski (N.Y. Islanders, 2). “He’s either going to be a boom or a bust in the NHL,” predicts one scout. The luck could have been worse…

3) Jason Herter (Vancouver, 8). You know how there’s always that one guy in a draft, when you look back? Here he was this draft for me. Played only one NHL game; for the Islanders, as it turned out.

4) Scott Thornton (Toronto, 3). Played himself 941 games in the NHL.

5) Bill Guerin (New Jersey, 5). He was the top-rated U.S. player. “‘Guerin is similar to Thornton in many respects,” says one scout. ‘They’re both big, strong, aggressive kids. And neither of them is going to score too many goals.'” Well, 408 goals (only three in this draft had more) later…

6) Stu Barnes (Winnipeg, 4). Worked out.

7) Adam Bennett (Chicago, 6). “…he doesn’t play all that tough for a big guy”: Could be many a defenseman’s epitaph.

8) Kevin Haller (Buffalo, 14). An effective career; won a Cup with Montreal.

9) Jason Marshall (St. Louis, 9). “His offensive abilities surpass his defensive skills,” THN wrote. Marshall then never scored more than 11 points in an NHL season. You never know.

10) Steve Bancroft (Toronto, 21). He was coming off shoulder surgery, which I suppose may have contributed to the drop. Bancroft went on to a long career… mostly split between the AHL and the IHL.

11) Jarrod Skalde (New Jersey, 26). “‘Now, I’m not saying Jarrod Skalde is the next Joe Nieuwendyk,'” THN quotes one scout, “‘but I am saying he’s got some excellent offensive potential.'” I remember looking at the back of the hockey cards and thinking that scout had a good point. Another one with a long career, mostly in the minors.

12) Mike Sillinger (Detroit, 11). Never heard of him. Thought to be too small at the time. Maybe they were right.

13) Shayne Stevenson (Boston, 17). The write-up includes those petrifying words: “attitude,” “work ethic,” “character.” Can’t tell you whether those questions were accurate or not, but any opportunity for a Ken Baumgartner reference is worth taking.

14) Rob Woodward (Vancouver, 29). “A tight end on skates,” THN said. Was considered a project. And stayed that way: He played one year of pro after college, then coached for a few years, then came back for a couple of years. He’s now an assistant coach at MSU.

15) Steven Rice (N.Y. Rangers, 20). The scouts called him a solid player but wondered about his upside. Played 329 games in the NHL.

16) Patrice Brisebois (Montreal, 30). “He’s a complete liability defensively,” one scout sniffed. Said another, “I don’t believe he’s as good as J.J. Daigneault, and look where Daigneault is.” Daigneault was in the minors at the time, but he went on to play 899 games in the Show. Brisebois has played over 1,000. They won a Cup together in 1993.

17) Jamie Heward (Pittsburgh, 16). Heward was a right winger at the time. He’s still playing, but he’s a defenseman.

18) Travis Green (N.Y. Islanders, 23). He’s compared to his future teammate in the first paragraph: “Travis Green, like… David Chyzowski, is a goal-scorer. Pure and simple.” Green went on to score almost 200 NHL goals.

19) Jason Miller (New Jersey, 18). Played only six NHL games; I feel like I saw them all. He’s still kicking around Germany’s minor leagues.

20) Jason Soules (Edmonton, 15). A few fellow first-rounders almost never played in the NHL. Soules is the only one who actually never did play in the NHL. There’s always a story.

21) Adam Foote (Quebec, 22). Some questioned him. “Others call him the sleeper of the draft,” THN wrote. And here we are, 1,040 NHL games later.

THN noted five goalies next: Byron Dafoe, Olaf Kolzig, Mike Parson, Felix Potvin, John Tanner. Kolzig went 19th to Washington; the Caps then took Dafoe at 35. Boston took Parson 38th. Quebec snagged Tanner at 54. Potvin went 31st… the following year. (He was only 18, so by rule, he had to be drafted in the first three rounds.)

Another 42 players followed in alphabetical order, some familiar (Bob Boughner, Bure, Kris Draper, Robert “no photo available” Holik, Paul Laus, Yanic Perreault, Rob Zamuner, Pierre Sevigny, one Ted Drury), some much less so. Another 17 are given the one-line, “other top prospects” treatment; most notable is Robert Reichel.

If the names “Nicklas Lidstrom,” “Sergei Fedorov” (Detroit, 74), “Dallas Drake” (Detroit, 116), “Vladimir Konstantinov” (Detroit, 221) or even “Donald Audette” (Buffalo, 183) or “Arturs Irbe” (Minnesota, 196) appear, I missed them. But on a few of those cases, of course, it’s a different era.

Speaking of which: Bobby Holik, Hartford, 10; Pavel Bure, Vancouver, 113.

Michael Fornabaio