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Hockey

Most likely to succeed

The NHL should bank on a group of 10 for 2000

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Friday October 01, 1999 03:43 PM

  There may only be one Great One, but Jaromir Jagr at least deserves to be called The Really, Really, Good One. Al Bello/Allsport

By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated

Wayne Gretzky is gone, leaving a void that can never be filled. Mark Messier seems to finally be on his last legs in Vancouver. Dominik Hasek says this will be his ultimate season, and even the ever-impressive Ray Bourque admits that, as he nears age 39, the end is nigh. Who will emerge as the next generation of NHL leaders -- men who are at once held in awe by their peers and also break through the league's powerful provincialism to become national stars? As we look to the new millenium, here are 10 players the NHL hopes can slip the bounds of the game, become known even in the homes of hockey-phobes, and guide the league through 2000 and beyond. Some are already well on their way. By our criteria all are established NHLers (thus eliminating prospects such as the Sedin twins) and all are under 30, meaning that they still have some growth ahead of them.

1. RW Jaromir Jagr , Penguins, 27: The best offensive player in the game, and thusly dubbed by The Great One in his final game. Was that a torch Gretzky slipped him as he bade farewell?

2. C Eric Lindros , Flyers, 26: A compelling figure and hockey's most dangerous force -- a Cup or two would elevate him to true superstar status.

3. LW Paul Kariya , Mighty Ducks, 25: Small (5'10") and swift, he could be the NHL's next 150-point man.

4. RW Teemu Selanne , Mighty Ducks, 29: The league's most humble and accommodating star, Selanne is a good man and a great scorer. He could be the NHL's next 70-goal man.

5. G Olaf Kolzig , Capitals 29: Large (6'3", 235) and very aggressive, he answers to the name "Godzilla" and is a natural fan favorite as the most entertaining goalie south of Buffalo. Needs consistency to reach top tier of netminders.

6. D Chris Pronger , Blues, 25: At 6'6" he's a perpetual Norris Trophy candidate with an on-ice savvy beyond his years and as much heart as any defender in the league.

7. D Rob Blake , Kings, 29: A blond star hoping to revive hockey in L.A. (sound familiar?). He'll take over games in the Kings new downtown arena, and his big hits will rock the joint.

8. C Joe Thornton , Bruins, 20: Has already made great progress in his two years; could have a Hart Trophy ahead of him.

9. C Peter Forsberg , Avalanche, 26: Obliterated the notion of European players being soft, and keeps coming back for more. As long as he's around the Avalanche will contend.

10. D Sandis Ozolinsh , Avalanche 27: A wildly talented player who is brash, forthcoming and playful in interviews. May score 100 points one of these years.

Kostya Kennedy is a Sports Illustrated staff writer and regular contributor to CNNSI.com.

 
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