When you are a collector of a particular player you often find yourself acquiring oddball items just because the object of your collection is featured. Once you receive it, you find out it’s not only an addition to your collection, but also chock full of information. Case in point, the 1998 Entry Draft Information Guide.
Yes, I purchased this because it had Vincent Lecavalier on the cover. Although, for the overall number-one rated skater entering the draft, it isn’t actually the greatest group photo he was ever a part of (I’m guessing this one is probably his favorite). In case you can’t see it, that’s Vinny in the third row amongst the shadow created by Patrick DesRochers (based on his NHL numbers it was the only time DesRochers kept a forward out of the limelight).
The entire line-up for the cover photo consists of (front front to back, left to right) Manny Malhotra, David Legwand, DesRochers, Brad Stuart, Lecavalier, Michael Henrich, Bryan Allen, and Mathieu Biron. Why were these players chosen for such a prestigious distinction? Most likely because they were the top seven skaters and top goalie as ranked by the Central Scouting Service. For some reason they did not include the top ranked European skater - Dmitri Kalinin.
So what exactly is the 1998 Entry Draft Information Guide? Well, think of it as the internet before the internet became what it is today. While the internet existed in 1998 (I have a Hotmail email address to prove it), it wasn’t as accessible or filled with information as it is today. There were not website running profiles on prospects available to the media or fans attending the draft in Buffalo, so it served as a guide to how the draft operated, who the top prospects were and the draft history of each team.
Basically it provided just enough information to allow fans to hear a name, look at the three sentence description and say, “Holy crap that was a horrible pick, much like (flips to the back of the guide) when they drafted Ken Yaremchuk instead of Rich Sutter in 1982!”
The guide itself is broken down into a couple of sections. First up is an introduction which goes over the draft order including the draft lottery odds. Never forget that the Lightning actually lost the draft lottery despite having a 28 % chance of winning. If they hadn’t obtained the condition allowing them to swap first round picks with San Jose AFTER the draft position drawing, then David Legwand is the one Art Williams is calling the Scottie Pippen of hockey.
There is also a nice breakdown of the different junior hockey leagues in Canada, the US collegiate hockey system and “Hockey in Europe” (which even in 1998 was seen as a novel, mysterious way to obtain players).
The next section is devoted to the final CSS rankings (Lecavalier was number 1 and Brian McMeekin was number 193) and the bios of the top prospects. Following that was an interesting breakdown of the origins of drafted players from 1969 to 1997. Teams are separated by leagues (CHL, QMJHL, WHL, etc) and then ranked by the number of players drafted from that team. For instance, Flin Flon of the Western Hockey League had 39 players drafted by the NHL from 1969 until they folded after 1978.
The guide ends with the history of first round picks by year and also the complete draft history of every team. At the very end there is a tracker that media or the common fan could use to keep track of the draft at home.
It’s an interesting slice of pre-internet life and provides a written record of what the potential of these players who happened to be born between January 1, 1978 and September 15, 1980 had in the NHL.
Here is what they had to say about the players the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted that year:
Vincent Lecavalier (ranked number 1 by CSS) Drafted 1st Round, Number 1:
“An excellent skater with great balance and agility...he is very shifty and can change direction very quickly… possesses great outside speed...he is excellent at handling the puck with his feet...handles the puck extremely well and plays with poise and confidence...he is a very intelligent and craft playmaker...an accurate passer and is always a dangerous scorer who possess tremendous vision of the play...he has a heavy slap shot and a very quick wrist shot… an excellent two-way player who is always ready for the transition of play...he knows his role on the team and is a very dedicated player...he has excellent size and strength and can produce in physical games...a strong competitor who plays without fear and with great determination...he plays with maturity and a very good attitude towards the game.
Brad Richards (ranked 70th) Drafted 2nd Round, 64th overall:
“An intelligent player with clever playmaking abilities...has good vision and is an accurate passer..creates a lot of open-ice for his linemates...he has natural scoring instincts along with excellent hockey sense...a tough competitor who plays his best every shift...a string checker who always gets involved in the play...needs to improve his skating ability.”
Dmitry Afanasenkov (ranked 10th among European skaters) Drafted 3rd Round, 72nd overall:
“An excellent power skater...has very good puckhandling skills and is a good passer...has deceptive quickness with the puck and can rush end-to-end...a creative goal scorer with a quick shot...plays with intensity and is always involved in the play...is very effective along the boards and in front of the net.”
Eric Beaudoin (ranked 79th) Drafted 4th Round, 92nd overall:
“A good skater with a long stride...drives hard to the net and is able to create room for his teammates in the slot...a very hard worker who will sacrifice himself to make the play...is always involved in the play...uses his size to his advantage...a very valuable asset to his team...a character player.”
Curtis Rich (ranked 36th) Drafted 5th Round, 121st overall:
“Possesses good forward and backward skating abilities...has very good foot movement and pivoting skills...an effective passer who prefers to pass rather than rush the puck...uses his defensive partner very well...has a good shot from the point...he is a very steady competitor who adjusts well to all game situations...is very effective in front of his net and in the corners...has good anticipation and reacts well to the developing play...plays with a very level head and maintains his focus throughout the game.”
Sergei Kuznetsov (ranked 11th among Europeans) Drafted 6th round, 146th overall:
“A very good skater...has strong puckhandling skills and is a clever passer...has a quick shot...has good awareness of the developing play...a very good positional player.”
Brett Allen (ranked 37th) Drafted 7th Round, 174th overall:
“A strong skater with good acceleration...has good overall speed and is capable of beating opponents on the outside...an adequate puckhandler and has a good wrist shot with a quick release...a very effective two-way player...possesses a good work ethic.”
Oak Hewer (ranked 109th) Drafted 7th Round, 194th overall:
No bio, but oh my god what a great name!
Daniel Hulak (ranked 81st) Drafted 8th Round, 221st overall:
“A good skater with a wide stance...has good puckhandling skills and is a strong passer...uses his defense partner well...is a good decision maker and has the ability to carry the puck out of the defensive zone...he is a level headed, reliable player who plays with consistency...always completes his checks, but is not a punishing hitter...has good anticipation and likes to pinch in the offensive zone.”
Chris Lyness (ranked 91st) Drafted 9th Round, 229th overall:
No bio. Played 17 career games in the Sunshine State. All for the Florida Everblades where he made about $400 a week.
Martin Cibak (ranked 44th among Europeans): Drafted 9th Round, 252nd overall
He is not mentioned in this guide, but I think he’s perfectly fine with his name being engraved on the Stanley Cup.
How do you think the scouting service did? Fairly accurate? Overly optimistic?