Usually every year when the NHL Entry Draft rolls around a lot of questions come with it. 1999 is no different in that regard.
However, this year there's an additional dilemma: who will go number one? Lately, around this time of year the team that is due to pick first overall is already deep into contract negotiations with its projected pick, but this year insiders believe that the Lightning don't even know who they want as of yet.
Most of the year, people thought that the Lightning and Calgary Hitmen star Pavel Brendl were due for a pairing, but offseason moves have complicated matters slightly. If Jacques Demers was still in charge, his choice would be Brendl - he watched him countless times during the WHL playoffs - but if the sale of the Lightning goes through before Saturday, newly-appointed Rick Dudley will be heading their table on draft day. His choice, many believe, is Swedish phenom Daniel Sedin.
Here is an overview of the draft class of '99 and where I think each player will go on June 26:
- Daniel Sedin, MoDo (Sweden) - Tampa Bay
A lot of people picked Daniel Sedin and his brother Henrik to go in the top three or four of this year's NHL draft, but very few had him pegged at number one. The reason for this was likely the brothers' poor showing at the World Junior Championships in Winnipeg this past winter. At least one person it seems was not fooled by their poor performance under pressure - Tampa Bay President Rick Dudley. Dudley flew to Sweden to see Sedin play at least 15 times this past season (on his former employer Ottawa's dime no less!) and if he's heading Tampa's draft chair, Sedin's name will be called before any other.
- Patrik Stefan, Long Beach (IHL) - Atlanta
They don't get much closer to eligibility than Patrik Stefan. The cut-off date for players entering a draft comes on September 15th so Patrik Stefan was one day away from going in last year's draft. He is such a highly thought of prospect, that some scouts and executives stated that Stefan would have gone number one or two last year if he had to. The extra year of development helped Stefan as he established himself as the player most likely to step into the NHL next year. The only question with Stefan is concussions, and the fact that his agent would not let other teams examine him in the days leading up to the draft. The doubt surrounding his very serious injury is enough to bump him from being a consensus number one pick to a question mark.
- Pavel Brendl, Calgary (WHL) - Vancouver
Brendl had an amazing year in the WHL but questions about his defensive play may slip him down to third in this year's draft. Many actually have Brendl pencilled in as their choice to go number on in this year's draft, but I think that the WHL player of the year and rookie of the year will be bumped down a few notches. Regardless, he'll be an excellent choice wherever he goes and will probably be ready to jump into the NHL next season if called upon.
- Henrik Sedin, MoDo (Sweden) - Chicago
Some think that he may end up being the better of the two Sedins in the long run. Generally regarded as the smarter but not as talented brother, he just might end up the steal of the draft if he goes as low as number four. Talent and character both play key roles in the development of a hockey player, and if Henrik has as much of the latter as people think, the 'Hawks would be wise to hang on to him rather than make a trade and see where he takes them.
- Kris Beech, Calgary (WHL) - NY Islanders
Kris Beech just might be the lowest risk player available in the entire 1999 draft. Almost all scouts project him to be no worse than a second liner and there's a chance that he could be the first-line centre that so many teams are looking for. While his numbers are a bit unimpressive (68 games, 26 goals, 67 points) for a player who could easily go top five, don't let them fool you. Beech played behind the highly-touted Pavel Brendl for the entire 98-99 season and was not called upon for most offensive situations.
- Jamie Lundmark, Moose Jaw (WHL) - Nashville
Oftentimes, the best player from a draft class is actually not the player taken first overall. This year might not be different as this youngster from Edmonton has many scouts projected the sky as his limit. While players such as Brendl and Stefan are highly touted and could step in right away, after two more years of seasoning in junior, Jamie Lundmark might be set to dominate the NHL. All he needs is a little bit of time to grow - both physically and mentally - and he won't disappoint whomever selects him.
- Denis Shvidki, Barrie (OHL) - Washington
- Tim Connolly, Erie (OHL) - NY Islanders
- Oleg Sapryikin, Seattle (WHL) - Calgary
- Brian Finley, Barrie (OHL) - NY Islanders