The NHL Draft: An event where a young man’s dreams can become a reality. Its an event that could change the outcome of one team’s entire season or their existence in some cases. In the last twenty years no draft has come under more scrutiny than the infamous 1999 Entry Draft held in Boston Massachusetts. In what was called one of the deepest drafts in history, it failed to live up to hype that was placed on it. Though the draft produced many busts in the first round alone (Denis Shvidki, Ari Ahonen, and the Number 1 overall pick Patrik Stefan) there were a few solid selections.
Before we begin, lets define what constitutes as a “gem”. In this case a gem is a player who has mostly been selected below the first few rounds (Sorry Tim Connolly, Taylor Pyatt, and Barrett Jackmon. You guys were 1st rounders). The order of the list is judged by their success in the NHL based on their draft selection.
So without further adieu here are the Top 10 Gems in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft NOT Named Sedin.
Honorable Mention. Alexandre Giroux (7th round, C/LW, Hull Olympiques, QMJHL)
Though he never had very much NHL success, Giroux, an Ottawa Senators pick, is still playing professional hockey, all be it at the AHL level. Though only playing 48 NHL games, Giroux has had a Hall of Fame-type career in the minors and has amassed 40+ goals three times (42, 60, and 50 all with the Hershey Bears) and has broken AHL scoring records set by Hall of Famer Brett Hull. Having previously lived in the Hershey area, I had the pleasure of watching Giroux on a regular basis who was always a fan favorite. He is playing out the season in the KHL with Dynamo Riga in Latvia.
10. George Parros (8th round, RW, Chicago Freeze, NAHL)
Drafted by the LA Kings in the 8th round,”The Greek God of Throwing Fists” won a Stanley Cup with the King’s arch rival Anaheim Ducks in 2007 . Though a goal scorer in the junior ranks with the Chicago Freeze of the NAHL, he became more of a defensive player at Princeton University, where he majored in Economic AND was named the 4th smartest pro athlete by The Sporting News and has become one of the toughest guys to ever drop the gloves.
9. Garnet Exelby (8th round, D, Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
Exelby was a defensive force for the Atlanta Thrashers blue line before they moved to Winnipeg. An 8th round selection out of Saskatoon, Exelby was the inaugural winner of the Dan Snyder Memorial Award, which was given to the player who best excelled at hard work and dedication without reward (an award still given out to Jets players). Exelby was very physical and was regarded as one of the hardest body checkers in the league.
8. Mike Comrie (3rd round, C, University of Michigan, NCAA)
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, it was a happy day in the Comrie household when Mike was drafted by the hometown Oilers in the 3rd round out of the University of Michigan. Comrie scored 20+ goals four times in his career (two 20+ goal season and two 30+ goal season with Edmonton, Phoenix, and the Islanders). Comrie was a major part of the Ottawa Senators run to the Stanley Cup in 2007 despite playing with an injured shoulder registering 5 points in 15 games. Comrie retired during the 2012 season after undergoing hip surgery for the 3rd time.
7. Niklas Hagman (3rd round, LW, HIFK, SM-Liiga)
Selected in the 3rd round by the Florida Panthers, Hagman achieved his best success as a member of the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs where he registered three straight 20+ goal season (once with Dallas, twice with Toronto) and was a contributor in the Stars playoff run of 07-08. Hagman achieved his greatest success in the Olympics playing for his home country Finland, winning a Silver medal in ’06 and a Bronze in ’10 to go along with his Gold medal in the ’98 World Junior Championship. Hagman continues to play professionally in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
6. Craig Anderson (3rd round, G, Guelph Storm, OHL)
Anderson, who is the only player in this list to be drafted twice having reentered the 2001 Draft and was drafted by the Blackhawks in….you guessed it, the 3rd round. In what seemed to be a career that was destined to be as a backup goaltender, he found a place to start with the Colorado Avalanche winning 38 games and 7 shutouts in the 09-10 season leading them to the playoffs and was also a big part in the Ottawa Senators playoff run in the 2012 season where they took the New York Rangers to the brink, losing in 7 games. Anderson continues to be the Senators starting goaltender.
5. Radim Vrbata (7th round, RW, Hull Olympiques, QMJHL)
Vrbata, a 7th round pick from the Czech Republic, was a teammate of Alexandre Giroux (my honorable mention on this list). At the start of his career it seemed like Vrbata would be one of those journeyman forwards destined for the minor leagues. Having been traded for such names as Bates Battaglia, Kevyn Adams, Todd Fedoruk, and David Hale, he was able to find a home in Phoenix with the Coyotes, where he set career highs in goals twice including a 35 goal season in 2011-2012. Vrbata has been one of the main contributors for the Coyotes offense along with Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, and Keith Yandle, and has been a major factor for them in the playoffs for the past three seasonsl
4. Ryan Malone (4th round, LW, Omaha Lancers, USHL)
The son of former Pittsburgh forward Greg Malone, Ryan Malone would go on to be the first Pittsburgh native to play for the Penguins, who drafted him in the 4th round. Malone ha gone on to score 20+ goals all but twice since he became a full time NHLer. Malone won a Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2008 and was named to the United States Olympic Team. He and his father became the second father-son paring to record hat tricks in their NHL careers, a feet the Howe’s never accomplished! Malone continues to play in the NHL as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
3. Martin Erat (7th round, RW, ZPS Zlin JR, Czech Republic)
Selected in the 7th round and as Nashville’s 12th selection in the draft, Martin Erat has spent his entire career in the Predators system, setting rookie records for the team in the 2001 season in assists and games played. His 467 points rank 5th in terms of career points for players drafted in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Erat has become one of the premier playmakers in the NHL and has been one of the only players on the team to play his whole career in Nashville, and has been a staple on the Czech Republic Olympic team winning bronze in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
2. Ryan Miller (5th round, G, Michigan State, NCAA)
“Captain America” Ryan Miller is arguably the most successful goalie to come out of this class and has risen to Elite Status in the NHL. A 5th round pick out of Michigan State, Miller spent time in the Buffalo system with the Rochester Americans before getting his big break in the 2005-2006 season where he became the starting goaltender. He eclipsed Dominik Hasek’s record for career wins by a goalie as a Sabre 6 years after becoming the start. Miller was chosen to start for the 2010 United States Olympic team in Vancouver, winning a Silver Medal. A Vezina Trophy winner, Olympic medalist, and Olympic Tournament MVP, Miller has risen out of the Draft Bust ashes to become a superstar in the NHL.
So now we’ve reached the end of this list. No doubt picks 10 through 2 have been great players in their own right but it’d be very hard to argue that this next player is not the best gem to come out of this class. Ladies and Gentleman, the number 1 Gem in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and the BEST player not named Sedin is….
1. Henrik Zetterberg (7th Round, C/LW, Timra IK, Elitserien)
What can be said about Henrik Zetterburg that hasn’t already been said? This guy’s a multiple time Stanley Cup winner, Olympic Gold Medalist, and World Championship Gold Medalist becoming one of only twenty four players to achieve all three. “Hank” as he’s known in the clubhouse was named Captain of the Red Wings at the beginning of the season after the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and has become one of the premier players in the NHL. Not bad for a guy who saw 209 guys get drafted ahead of him.
So there you have it; ten players who turned out to be big finds for their respective teams. Like I stated before this list does not include 1st round draft picks who had success (ie Barrett Jackman, Marty Havlat, and Taylor Pyatt just to name a few) and is always open for discussion. Let the debate begin……