Pick of the litter?
Expansion draft hasn't been a long-term answer in NHL
Posted: Friday June 25, 1999 01:58 AM
By Ryan Hunt, CNN/SI
There are some certainties and some questions as the NHL prepares to welcome its 28th team into the league with Friday's expansion draft.
The Atlanta Thrashers will fill out their roster for the first time. But how good will those players be and how long will they be around?
If history is any indication, the answers likely will be: not very good and not very long.
In the '90s, six teams have come into the NHL -- San Jose, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Florida and last year's entry, Nashville.
And of the expansion teams, excluding Nashville, the Panthers clearly came out looking the best. It's no coincidence that they are the only one of the '90s expansion teams to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Panthers struck gold in their expansion draft, nabbing veterans John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Skrudland and Scott Mellanby.
Mellanby, the 30th overall selection in the 1993 draft from Edmonton, has scored 135 goals in his six seasons with the Panthers, the most of any player selected in an expansion draft this decade.
The winger is a good chunk of the reason that 74.7 percent of the Panthers' goals in their inaugural season were scored by players picked up in the expansion draft, the highest percentage of any team.
Mellanby is one of four players still around from the expansion draft. Meanwhile, Ottawa, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Anaheim have three players remaining combined.
In the 1992 draft, the Senators and Lightning faced a much leaner draft pool and the results showed. By the time the franchises were in their third seasons, each had only two players remaining from their respective drafts.
Tampa Bay's best pick was center Brian Bradley, the lone remaining player from the draft. Bradley has scored 111 goals with the Lightning, including 42 in the team's inaugural season of 1992-93.
Bradley, coincidentally, is among the pool available to the Thrashers.
This decade, six players have been drafted in different expansion drafts -- Blair Atcheynum (Ottawa and Nashville), Lonnie Loach (Ottawa and Anaheim), Jim Thomson (Ottawa and Anaheim), Bob McGill (San Jose and Tampa Bay), Anatoli Semenov (Tampa Bay and Anaheim) and Frederic Chabot.
Ironically, Chabot, a goaltender selected by Tampa Bay and by Nashville, never played for either team.
In fact, 24.4 percent of the players selected in the expansion drafts, not including the Predators' draft last year, never played for the team that picked them.
And by year three, only 23.5 percent of the expansion picks still have remained on those teams.
As the NHL prepares for its fifth expansion draft of the decade, the rules and strategies have changed considerably.
The Sharks had both an expansion draft and a dispersal draft in 1991, thanks to the financial situation of the then-Minnesota North Stars. The Predators, meanwhile, drafted some players in 1998 just to trade them for draft picks.
On Friday, the Thrashers will unveil their draft strategy. But chances are, the players Atlanta selects won't be the same ones around in three years.