In my first ever Hockeybuzz blog entry, I would like to look on the first five NHL Entry Drafts of the new millenium. I tried to list ten best picks from these years. This list doesn't mention neither Sid Crosby or Alex Ovechkin and others. Those aren't good picks, they are obvious picks. Rather, I have focused on the later rounds of draft and the giant pool of talent that might be hidden there from time to time.
10th - 2003, 5th round (148th overall), St.Louis Blues - F Lee Stempniak
American right winger was drafted five years ago. So far, he played three seasons with the St. Louis Blues posting 117 points in his 219 games. He finished his first full season (2006/07), as the highest scoring player of the team with 27 goals (altough he wouldn't reach this achievement if Guerin wasn't traded to San Jose in February). Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Stempniak as he scored only 13 goals, barely the half of his 2006/07 record. Still, Larry Pleau can be happy. It doesn't happen every draft that you add a solid young 3rd liner to your team with 5th round pick.
9th - 2001, 8th round (232th overall), Anaheim Ducks - G Martin Gerber
Martin Gerber was drafted as 26 years old after years of good performance in the Swiss league. In his first season in the NHL (2002/2003) he served as a backup for Jean-Sebastian Giguere in Anaheim's race to Stanley Cup Finals. He played 22 games in the regular season and posted great average of 1.94 goals allowed in a match and 92.9% of saves. In 2006, he won the Stanley Cup with Carolina Hurricanes, altough he was replaced by his backup Cam Ward after 6 games of the playoffs because of bad results. Last two years, he was catching for the Ottawa Senators in turns with unstable Ray Emery. After Emery's buyout, it is almost certain, that Gerber will be Ottawa's starting goaltender for the 2008/09 season. His main weakness is his puck control - he punches too many pucks in front of him instead of catching them.
8th - 2002, 8th round (240th overall), New York Rangers - F Petr Prucha
30 goals and 47 points in 68 games. That's quite a supply from a 240th pick in his rookie season, don't you think? Czech winger benefited from great line cooperation with his fellow countrymen Jagr and Rucinsky so much, that he finished 4th in rookie point chart. His second season was worse, he was criticised by Tom Renney for slow play and shooting too little. Prucha was even demoted to the 4th line in December, but he improved his play and since February 2007 he was the same old guy as the season before. He finished with 40 points in 79 games and earned an improved contract. Unfortunately, 2007/08 season was a big disappointment, Prucha had even worse problems adjusting his game to the "New Rangers" than his roommate Jagr and he scored just 7 goals with 17 points.
7th - 2003, 7th round (204th overall), San Jose Sharks - F Joe Pavelski
Pavelski started playing for San Jose on November 2006 as a 22 years old. His start in Sharks dress was stunning - 7 goals + 3 assists in 12 games. He played constantly well before suffering a leg injury that kept him sidelined for over three weeks. He finished his rookie season with 28 points from 46 games played. He had cooler start to season 2007/08 as he was still adapting to physically much harded NHL but the end of the season caught him in hot streak once again. He recorded 11 points in last 10 games of the regular season and he continued to perform well even in the playoffs where he scored 9 points including 3 game winning goals.
6th - 2001, 6th round (192th overall), Dallas Stars - F Jussi Jokinen
It took four years since Jokinen was drafted by the Stars before he showed his skill in their dress. Anyway, once he stepped up in October 2005, he didn't miss consecutive games in regular season until his knee injury on January this year. He collected 131 points in his 215 matches for Dallas. In February 2008, just before the trade deadline, he was sent to Tampa as a part of a deal that brought Brad Richards to the Stars. Altough he played well in his new dress, posting 2 goals and 12 assists in 20 games, his future remains uncertain. Lightning have problems with the salary cap and Jokinen's name was brought up in a few trade rumors as a player that is likely to be dealt.
This is where this part ends, you can find second half there: