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1999 NHL Draft

Euro flavor

Thrashers select Patrik Stefan No. 1 after trading up

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Saturday June 26, 1999 07:52 PM

  Patrik Stefan scored 11 goals and added 24 assists in 33 games last season in the International Hockey League. John Ferry/Allsport

BOSTON (AP) -- Maybe they should rename the National Hockey League entry draft the European Hockey League entry draft.

For the first time, Europeans were chosen with the first four picks Saturday. And for only the third time, a European was taken first.

"There is more scouting being done in European countries," New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

The top pick was Patrik Stefan, a powerful forward from the Czech Republic selected by the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Thrashers hope he can, eventually, provide offense they couldn't get when they chose 26 players in Friday's expansion draft. They obtained the choice, originally held by Tampa Bay, as part of a flurry of pre-draft trades.

Vancouver had the next two picks and chose twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who play in the competitive Swedish Elite League and wanted to stay together in the NHL.

"Having all the Europeans is a little bit of a coincidence," said Toronto assistant general manager Anders Hedberg, also from Sweden. "It doesn't matter where they come from. They're chosen on projection [to play in the NHL] and talent."

Pavel Brendl from the Czech Republic was chosen by the New York Rangers with the fourth pick, obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay. He had 73 goals in 68 games last season with Calgary of the Western Hockey League, one of the Canadian Juniors leagues that consistenly turns out top NHL talent.

Stefan had 11 goals in 33 games with Long Beach of the professional International Hockey League but had his season shortened by two concussions. That apparently didn't bother Atlanta and Stefan said he's fine now.

Stefan and Brendl are considered the only two drafted players likely to play in the NHL next season.

"Brendl's not European. He played in Calgary," Philadelphia general manager Bobby Clarke said. "It's ridiculous to say that they are European when they have to get trained in Canadian junior hockey."

The first non-European taken was Tim Connolly with the fifth pick by the New York Islanders, who play not far from his Baldwinsville, N.Y. home.

"It's a great honor being the highest U.S. player drafted," Connolly said. "I don't feel pressure. Pressure is when you don't have a job and have six kids to feed."

The first five players taken were all forwards. Then Nashville chose goalie Brian Finley of Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League with the sixth pick. The first defenseman drafted was Branislav Mezei of Belleville of the OHL by the Islanders with the 10th pick.

Of the 28 players chosen in the first round, 15 were from Europe, although some of them played junior hockey in Canada or the United States.

Before Stefan, the only Europeans drafted No. 1 were Mats Sundin of Sweden by Quebec in 1989 and Roman Hamrlik of the Czech Republic by Tampa Bay in 1992.

"It's not a trend," Hedberg said of the European emphasis in Saturday's draft. "That may not be the case next year."

There was a distinct trend Saturday toward deals. Seven of the first 11 picks were made by teams who traded for them.

The biggest names changed teams later when Anaheim sent the 15th pick and center Travis Green to Phoenix for defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky. Green had 13 goals and 17 assists last season, while Tverdovsky was one of Phoenix's top defensemen with seven goals and 18 assists.

Tampa Bay originally had the first pick for the second straight year -- it chose Vincent Lecavalier in 1998 -- but ended up without a first-rounder.

Instead, it got two picks in Saturday's third round from Chicago and obtained from the Rangers goalie Dan Cloutier, right wing Niklas Sundstrom and their picks in the first and third rounds next year.

Trades changed the order of the first four picks from Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Vancouver, Chicago to Atlanta, Vancouver, Vancouver, Rangers.

That jockeying centered on the desire of the Sedins to play together and Vancouver's resolve not to part with the third pick that would give another team a chance to get them.

"I said [Friday] night, 'I've got [the third pick] and no one is walking out of here with both of them. Only I can,' " Vancouver general manager Brian Burke said.

Daniel Sedin, considered the better prospect, had said Friday he thought he and his brother would remain in the Swedish Elite League for at least another season.

But on Saturday, that didn't seem as firm.

The Canucks "haven't said to us we have to come over next year, so it's our decision," Daniel said.

Burke said his trades were contingent on him not taking Stefan, the top-rated player by the NHL's Central Scouting Service.

"You hate to put a projection on a player 18 years old," Atlanta general manager Don Waddell said. "It's going to take three or four years to see what you want out of him."

"This is unbelievable," Stefan said. "It has been my dream to be No. 1."

"I didn't care if I went No. 1 or No. 4," Brendl said. "I'm really happy to be in New York."

That made two Europeans drafted in the top four who probably will continue their development next season in North America.

"They're not being trained in their own country," Clarke said. "They're just born there."

NHL Draft First Round
Team Player Position Previous Team League
Atlanta
Vancouver
Vancouver
N.Y. Rangers
N.Y. Islanders
Nashville
Washington
N.Y. Islanders
N.Y. Rangers
N.Y. Islanders
Calgary
Florida
Edmonton
San Jose
Phoenix
Carolina
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
Phoenix
Buffalo
Boston
Philadelphia
Chicago
Toronto
Colorado
Ottawa
New Jersey
N.Y. Islanders
Patrik Stefan
Daniel Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Pavel Brendl
Tim Connolly
Brian Finley
Kris Beech
Taylor Pyatt
Jamie Lundmark
Branislav Mezei
Oleg Saprykin
Denis Shvidki
Jani Rita
Jeff Jillson
Scott Kelman
David Tanabe
Barret Jackman
Konstantin Koltsov
Kiril Safronov
Barrett Heisten
Nick Boynton
Maxime Ouellet
Steve McCarthy
Luca Cereda
Mikhail Kuleshov
Martin Havlat
Ari Ahonen
Kristian Kudroc
C
LW
C
RW
C
G
C
LW
C
D
C/LW
RW
W
D
C
D
D
W
D
LW
D
G
D
C
LW
C-W
G
D
Long Beach
MoDo
MoDo
Calgary
Erie
Barrie
Calgary
Sudbury
Moose Jaw
Belleville
Seattle
Barrie
Jokerit
University of Michigan
Seattle
University of Wisconsin
Regina
Cherepovec
St. Petersburg
University of Maine
Ottawa
Quebec
Kootenay
Ambri-Piotta
Cherepovec
Trinec
Jyvaskyla
Michalovce
IHL
Swedish Elite League
Swedish Elite League
WHL
OHL
OHL
WHL
OHL
WHL
OHL
WHL
OHL
Finnish Elite League

WHL
Western Collegiate Hockey Association
WHL
Russian National League
Russian National League
Hockey East
OHL
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
WHL
Swiss League
Russian National League
Czech Senior League
Finnish Junior League
Slovak Division One


 
Related information
Stories
NHL expansion draft selections
Stefan, Brendl top prospects for NHL draft
NHL Expansion List
Goalies galore but not much scoring
Thrashers looking for defense, goaltenders at expansion draft
Mock expansion draft: Diamonds in the rough
NHL Draft Order
Round one picks
Multimedia
SI senior writer Michael Farber says Patrik Stefan could pay big dividends for the Thrashers. (166 K)
SI senior writer Michael Farber thinks keeping the Sedin twins together will benefit the NHL. (227 K)
SI senior writer Michael Farber says the Rangers took a huge gamble on Pavel Brendl. (244 K)
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