The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.
As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.
The Ducks suffered through a horrendous season that saw them finish with 65 points, just one point out of the bottom of the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
Goalies: Mikhail Shtalenkov
Defensemen: Drew Bannister(Gr.II – RFA), Doug Houda, Nikolai Tsulygin(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Shawn Antoski(Gr.II – RFA), Ted Drury, Peter Leboutillier(Gr.II – RFA), Eric Lecompte(Gr.II – RFA), Tommi Miettinen(UE), Richard Park(Gr.II – RFA), Craig Reichert, Tomas Sandstrom, Brent Severyn(Gr.III – UFA), Jeremy Stevenson, Kevin Todd(Gr.V – UFA), Bob Wren, Scott Young(Gr.V – UFA)
Shtalenkov will move to the board, as will two of the three defensemen (Drew Bannister and Nikolai Tsulygin). Of the twelve forwards, only Richard Park, Bob Wren, and Craig Reichert will carry to the draft board. Scott Young would if not for his pending Group V free agent status; he may be a target in free agency instead.
G Mikhail Shtalenkov– 32-year-old goalie, originally a 5th-round pick of Anaheim (1993)
The case for taking Shtalenkov – Anaheim has three goalies that could be protected: Patrick Lalime, Guy Hebert, and Shtalenkov. Lalime is 24 years old and just one year removed from a record-setting NHL entry. Hebert is 31 and coming off a concussion, but has been the Ducks’ top goalie for their four years in the NHL. Shtalenkov was basically a serviceable backup to that point, but impressed in place of the injured Hebert during the otherwise-disastrous 1997-98 campaign.
He’s finally gotten the chance to play a decent number of games in the NHL and didn’t look out of place. He has no injury history to speak of. And he had turned in a stellar effort in the 1998 Olympics, guiding Russia to a silver medal.
There aren’t a ton of goaltending options to choose from, and Shtalenkov should be able to fill in as Mike Dunham’s backup or as a starter if he falters. And if Shtalenkov simply gets outplayed, we know that both Florida and Edmonton are going to be looking to fill the gaping hole that’s going to be left by the departure of their current high-profile starting goalie. He may have significant trade value, which is an important consideration.
The case against taking Shtalenkov – Shtalenkov will turn 33 just a couple weeks into the 1998-99 season, not exactly a prime age for goalie development. He’s been serviceable but not great during the previous two seasons with Anaheim, and hasn’t outperformed Hebert. Yes, Russia ended up with an Olympic silver medal; they were regarded as serious contenders for gold if not for the hole in net. Shtalenkov needed only to outplay Andrei Trefilov to be the starter, and not to screw up too badly on a team that was loaded with NHL stars. He’d been bailed out big-time in the semifinal against Finland after allowing four goals (two to non-NHL players); only Pavel Bure’s incredible five-goal game prevented an embarrassing loss to an inferior team.
Sure, there aren’t a ton of NHL goalies out in the market. But who could Shtalenkov actually fill in for? He couldn’t beat out Guy Hebert in Anaheim; how could he replace John Vanbiesbrouck in Florida, or Curtis Joseph in Edmonton, or Ron Hextall in Philadelphia, or Mike Richter in New York? Teams unaware of where they actually stood might like Shtalenkov as an option, but not exactly a prime one. The market was decent, but not that good.
D Drew Bannister – 24-year-old defenseman, originally a 2nd-round pick of Tampa Bay (1992)
The case for taking Bannister – Just 24 years old, but a long history of winning hockey. Bannister was a key part of the Soo Greyhounds teams that won two OHL championships and played in three straight Memorial Cups from 1990-91 to 1992-93, including a Memorial Cup win in the final year. He wasn’t a passenger either; he’d been named to the All-Memorial Cup team in 1991-92 and 1992-93. And for good measure, he was a vital part of Canada’s World Junior Championships gold medal team the next year.
Pierre Page praised his character; so did a lot of other coaches and people around the game. For a young expansion team in need of long-term character players, Bannister could fit the bill perfectly.
The case against taking Bannister – Take away the wins that he was a part of, and there’s not much else. Bannister could be physical, but frequently isn’t. He could generate offense with a crisp outlet pass, but rarely does. Basically, he’s an all-around defenseman who won’t provide many headaches but also won’t provide much upside. He’s been given opportunities on a succession of bad teams (Tampa Bay, Edmonton, and the disaster that was Anaheim this past season) but hasn’t really capitalized on any of them. Just this past season, he was traded straight up for Bobby Dollas, who’s 33 and clearly on the downswing of his career; we wouldn’t be looking at a strong trade market for Bannister if we take him and he doesn’t work out.
D Nikolai Tsulygin – 23-year-old defenseman, originally a 2nd-round pick of Anaheim (1993)
The case for taking Tsulygin – Tsulygin is just wrapping up his third professional season in North America. He anchored a thin Baltimore Bandits blueline through the AHL playoffs as a rookie, then put up a point per game in 17 games the next year before getting the callup. He’d end up scratched for close to half the NHL season, playing just 22 games and recording just a single assist. Most recently, he spent 1997-98 in the AHL with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and paired with Mike Crowley to provide some stability on a bad team.
This doesn’t sound flattering, but Anaheim is really floundering and can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing. The franchise was publicly blasted this past season by a minor league owner (David Franke of the Fort Wayne Komets) for not knowing where they were sending their prospects, Tsulygin among them. Tsulygin can move the puck and provide stable defense; the numbers don’t show up in the stats sheet because the Cincinnati team that he played on this year couldn’t score unless it was the Wren-Reichert-LeClerc line on the ice.
The case against taking Tsulygin – Tsulygin could not beat out the following defensemen for ice time in Anaheim: Pavel Trnka, Mike Crowley (a pro rookie), Jamie Pushor, Dan Trebil, and Ruslan Salei. All entered Anaheim’s system later than Tsulygin, and all have passed him on the organizational depth chart. I don’t see a list of future Norris Trophy winners there; these players all project to be second- or third-pairing players at best, and Anaheim won’t give Tsulygin a look over any of them. Even taking into consideration that Anaheim is stumbling around, there’s little reason to pass on someone like Shtalenkov (if for no other reason than his trade value) for a big gamble in Tsulygin.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and although it’s unlikely he signs elsewhere, there’s a chance that he does or that he heads back to Russia. And if nothing else, he’ll count against our limit of six free agent selections.
F Richard Park – 22-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of Pittsburgh (1994)
The case for taking Park – He put up some big scoring numbers in the OHL after being drafted in 1994: 28 goals and 79 points in just 45 games, then 9 goals and 27 points in 16 playoff games. The next year he spent most of the season with Pittsburgh, learning the ropes on one of the best Penguins teams that they’ve ever had, but was sent back to the OHL late. No problem: 6 goals and 13 points in 6 regular season games, then 18 goals and 30 points in just 14 playoff games. Pittsburgh would keep him in the minors the next season (1996-97) before trading him at the deadline to Anaheim for Roman Oksiuta.
In the 1997-98 season with Cincinnati in the AHL, he’d finished as the team’s third-leading scorer, which doesn’t sound impressive until you realize that he played just 56 games and no one outside of Bob Wren and Craig Reichert were scoring at all.
Park possesses three things: offensive skill, terrific speed, and a relentless work ethic. Hockey coaches generally will refer to a player’s work ethic in a positive manner if asked, but Park has had several of his coaches specifically rave about him unprompted going back to before he was old enough to drive. If we can put him on a wing with a couple of other speedy forwards, we could get more out of him than anyone else could think possible..
The case against taking Park – Outside of the OHL, he hadn’t produced anything offensively at any other level. Not scoring in Pittsburgh was understandable because he was buried in the bottom six with limited ice time, but 12 goals in 50 IHL games? The third-leading scorer in Cincinnati finishing with 43 points, less than half of second-place Craig Reichert? Sure, Park had been praised for his work ethic, but what’s the likelihood of a 22-year-old having played on a contender with Pittsburgh being willing to reinvent himself if taken by an expansion Nashville team after a dismal stop on a bad Anaheim team in between? He had no goals and two assists in 15 NHL games this year, continuing with non-existent production at the highest level so far: 83 NHL games, 5 goals and 14 points.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit of six free agent selections.
F Craig Reichert – 24-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Anaheim (1994)
The case for taking Reichert – He’s scored everywhere that he’s been: 52 goals and 119 points in the WHL in his draft year, 22 goals and 75 points in the AHL in 1996-97 to lead Baltimore, and 28 goals and 87 points in 1997-98 to finish second with Cincinnati. This was 44 points ahead of his next-closest teammate (Richard Park). None of this was on good teams either; he’s usually surrounded by middling talent, so this isn’t a case of him vulturing points off of better players.
The case against taking Reichert – Even when Anaheim was falling apart with injuries, Reichert only had three games in the 1996-97 season and none in 1997-98. He was at or near the top of his teams in scoring, but didn’t get the call. That someone who scored 50 goals and 162 points in the last two seasons didn’t get anything more than a three-game callup two years ago is hardly an encouraging sign.
F Bob Wren – 24-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Los Angeles (1993)
The case for taking Wren – Born one day too late for the 1992 draft, Wren erupted in his draft year of 1992-93 with Detroit of the OHL, bagging 57 goals and 145 points in just 63 games. He was a 4th-round pick that year, and would return to the OHL in 1994-95. He would spent 1995-96 in the ECHL and 1996-97 in the AHL, gradually discovering what it took to score in the minors. In 1997-98, he went scoreless in a three-game callup with Anaheim, but led Cincinnati with 42 goals and 100 points.
All Wren has done is score, and given the chance in the NHL on a first-year team, we may be able to get a lot out of him.
The case against taking Wren – So he’d put up numbers in the AHL, big deal. An NHL team decimated by injuries had no interest in calling up their leading minor league scorer outside of three games, preferring to give ice time to guys like Ted Drury and Mark Janssens. In addition, Wren has had a reputation as a bit of a loose cannon on the ice; when things got tough, he would get annoyed and end up in the box. His penalty minute totals in the OHL never touched 100, but he had 257 in that year in the ECHL and 151 in the most recent season with Cincinnati.
So far he’s scored in the OHL, and one year out of four professional seasons. Considering who else is on the board from Anaheim, like a couple of guys who have actually stuck on an NHL roster, there’s no point in seriously considering Wren.