Looking Back Part Two: The 1998 NHL Entry Draft
1998 NHL Draft In Review
10th Overall--Nikolai Antropov
35th Overall--Petr Svoboda
69th Overall--Jamie Hodson
87th Overall--Alexei Ponikarovsky
126th Overall--Morgan Warren
154th Overall--Allan Rourke
181st Overall--Jonathan Gagnon
215th Overall--Dwight Wolfe
228th Overall--Mikhail Travnicek
236th Overall--Sergei Rostov
The Vincent Lecavalier draft actually saw the Maple Leafs with a rare first round pick, which they used to take Nik Antropov 10th overall. Antropov was highly scrutinized throughout his Maple Leafs career, and has only recently begun to come into his own.
Antropov has turned into a great power forward type player for Toronto, but you could argue they may have been better off to draft Alex Tanguay, Robyn Regehr, Simon Gagne, and Scott Gomez, all of which they passed on to take the lengthy Kazakh.
Petr Svoboda is a great NHL agent these days. Many people say he is kind, and easy to deal with. Unfortunately, that was his scouting report on the ice as well. Svoboda only played 18 NHL games. The Leafs chose him ahead of; defensive gem John Erskine, Sens centre Mike Fisher, as well as the reborn Mike Ribeiro.
Jamie Hodson was chosen with their third choice in the draft. Hodson was a goaltender with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He never appeared in the NHL, spent four seasons in the Toronto farm system, where he was mostly used in a back-up role. Hodson's name was called just before Erik Cole Francois Beauchemin, and Brian Gionta, all of which would look pretty nice in the Blue and White these days.
With their next pick, Toronto chose the second half of the 'Twin Towers' Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Ukrainian born winger has gone on to have some good success with Toronto, developing a great wrist shot, and providing some great secondary scoring. Was taken 13 picks before Shawn Horcoff.
Morgan Warren played three seasons in the Maple Leafs farm system before heading overseas to Europe with little to no fanfare. Despite Warren never making the big leap to the NHL, the Leafs couldn't have done much better.
Jaroslav Spacek was chosen quite a few picks before, and bit pieces Jay Leach and Jiri Dopita were chosen right before. Rob Scuderi and Andrew Raycroft were chosen a few slots down.
With the 154th selection, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Allan Rourke, a defenseman out of Kitchener whe ended up playing just 55 NHL games, none of which were with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Within the next ten selections Chris Neil, Andrei Markov, and Ales Kotalik were all plucked. All of which would have much better served the Blue and White than Rourke. Not to completely throw the scouting staff under the bus, as Rourke was a pretty good junior with the Rangers, he simply didn't pan out in the bigs.
The 181st pick was used to grab Jonathan Gagnon, who played his junior with the Cape Breten Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. Gagnon never made it to the NHL and is currently in the LNAH. Really though, the Leafs couldn't have done a whole lot better.
Tyler Arnason was chosen two spots down, and is the most notable player around Gagnon. Arnason is now a 3rd/4th line player with the Avalanche, who had a few good seasons in Chicago.
Dwight Wolfe was the 215th player chosen overall, going to the Blue and White as an 8th round pick. Wolfe was a shutdown defenseman from the Quebec junior league, but never made it higher than the UHL. Chosen with the next pick, Michael Ryder.
Mikhail Travnicek was the next Leafs pick, 228th overall. In 2000-01 Travnicek did have a 70 point season with the St. Johns Maple Leafs and did appear to be a diamond in the rough of sorts. However, just one season later he decided to head back to Russia and hasn't been seen in North America since.
In choosing Travnicek, the Maple Leafs missed, by two selections, Karlis Skrastins. Skrastins developed nicely into a solid but unspectacular defenseman who wasn't afraid to block shots, and lay the body playing a physical style. He also did that while maintaining tremendous health, and is the NHL's most recent "Iron Man."
Sergei Rostov was the Maple Leafs last choice in the 1998 NHL draft, taken 236th overall. Although Rostov never came over form Russia, where he played with the Moscow Dynamo, the Maple Leafs really didn't miss out by choosing him instead of another players.
Notable players chosen after Rostov are, Martin Cibak, Bruno St. Jacques, Matt Hussey, and John Pohl.
The Leafs did well to draft Antropov and Ponikarovsky, no matter who they missed out on in the process. As for the rest of the picks, they missed the target by a large margin, particularily with the 2nd and 3rd round choices.
As big of a fan as I am of the draft and scouting, even I will admit when you get past 100 players in the draft, it can become just as much about luck as it is about knowledge and identifying the right players for your squad. The Leafs get marks for the Twin Towers developments, but don't even come close to a passing grade in the 1998 Entry draft.
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