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March 25, 2012
Pucks From The Past
Saskatoon Westerns, 1998-99

by Iain Fyffe

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If you look at the list of the 30 best 1998 Entry Draft prospects available (using an objective draft ranking system such as the Project-a-Tron) and compare it to the actual draft results for these players, you'll notice some significant discrepancies. It doesn't look bad at first—in fact, the first three players were drafted in that order in real life: Lecavalier, Legwand, and Stuart. But the list also contains four players who were drafted in the 200s, and six players who were not drafted at all. There will never be full agreement between the top-30 rated players, and the top-30 drafted players, in part because not every player is rated by the system—US high school players and European goaltenders, for example, are not. But 1998 is one of the worst seasons in this regard, as indicated by the following table, which shows the number of top-30 ranked players drafted within the first X draft picks:

Year	1st 30	1st 60	1st 90	1st 120
1983	13	18	22	24
1984	12	17	17	21
1985	14	16	19	21
1986	8	11	18	21
1987	16	20	22	22
1988	11	16	21	21
1989	8	13	15	15
1990	9	16	18	20
1991	15	18	20	20
1992	13	17	18	22
1993	19	23	25	26
1994	15	20	23	25
1995	17	23	25	26
1996	10	14	19	21
1997	13	18	20	21
1998	12	16	18	19

1998 is the first year since 1991 that 10 or more top 30-ranked players were not selected within the first 120 picks of the draft. But 1989 through 1991 are special cases, when most 17-year-old CHLers were restricted to the first three rounds of the draft. So other than these three seasons, 1998 has the highest number of top-ranked players undrafted in the first 120 picks.

Part of this is surely to do with the fact that the 1998 Entry Draft was the high-water mark (or low-water mark, depending on how you look at it) of "bigger is better" drafting. Bryan Allen (fourth overall), Michael Rupp (ninth), Scott Parker (20th), and Mathieu Biron (21st) are all indefensible picks at that level, but all are six-foot-five or taller, so that made them desirable, apparently. Then there's Kyle Rossiter, Stephen Peat, Andrew Peters, John Erskine, Jason Beckett…all drafted before Mike Ribeiro or Brad Richards. I've written about this before so I won't rehash it here, but it still makes me feel a bit queasy to look at this draft. Andrew Peters ahead of Brad Richards? Are you kidding me? It started out so well, too…

Rank	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+	Drafted
1	Lecavalier, Vincent	F	QMJHL	21.3	1
2	Legwand, David		F	OHL	9.8	2
3	Stuart, Brad		D	WHL	9.7	3
4	Chouinard, Mathieu	G	QMJHL	9.7	15
5	Ribeiro, Mike		F	QMJHL	8.9	45
6	Richards, Brad		F	QMJHL	8.1	64
7	DeCecco, Bret		F	WHL	7.7	-
8	Kosick, Mark		F	CCHA	7.7	211
9	Kraft, Milan		F	Cze	7.7	23
10	Zalesak, Miroslav	F	Svk	7.6	104
11	Abid, Ramzi		F	QMJHL	7.5	28
12	Gionta, Brian		F	HE	7.2	82
13	Peterson, Toby		F	WCHA	6.8	244
14	Mitchell, Kevin		D	OHL	6.6	234
15	Papineau, Justin	F	OHL	6.5	46
16	Wallin, Rickard		F	Swe	6.5	160
17	Girard, Jonathan	D	QMJHL	6.2	48
18	Cheechoo, Jonathan	F	OHL	6.0	29
19	Tanguay, Alex		F	QMJHL	6.0	12
20	DesRochers, Patrick	G	QMJHL	6.0	14
21	Brind'Amour, Frederick	G	QMJHL	6.0	209
22	Kinch, Matt		D	WHL	5.8	-
23	Sejna, Peter		F	Svk	5.8	-
24	Kim, Alex		F	CCHA	5.8	-
25	DuPont, Micki		D	WHL	5.7	-
26	Betts, Blair		F	WHL	5.6	33
27	Prosofsky, Garrett	F	OHL	6.0	29
28	Biron, Mathieu		D	QMJHL	5.6	21
29	Gorman, Mike		G	OHL	5.5	-
30	Gagne, Simon		F	QMJHL	5.4	22

Fictional Saskatoon GM Ardal Ekrub has no problem with other teams drafting based on size, of course. That just leaves more good players for him. And with the extra draft picks he acquires with his excess forward talent (see below), he ends up with a bevy of skilled forwards that other teams are not interested in. Not all of them will pan out, of course, but with the benefit of our knowledge of the future, we know the Westerns have drafted a number of excellent future NHLers, while the Islanders (for example) drafted the likes of Michael Rupp, Chris Neilsen, Andy Burnham, Kevin Clauson, and Ben Blais.

Pick	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+
26	Ribeiro, Mike		C	QMJHL	8.9
31	Richards, Brad		C	QMJHL	8.1
42	DeCecco, Bret		RW	WHL	7.7
43	Kosick, Mark		C	CCHA	7.7
53	Zalesak, Miroslav	RW	Svk	7.6
74	Gionta, Brian		RW	HE	7.2
78	Peterson, Toby		C	WCHA	6.8
106	Mitchell, Kevin		D	OHL	6.6
133	Brind'Amour, Frederick	G	QMJHL	6.0
161	Kinch, Matt		D	WHL	5.8
190	Sejna, Peter		LW	Svk	5.8
217	Kim, Alex		C	CCHA	5.8
245	DuPont, Micki		D	WHL	5.7

The 1998 Expansion Draft claims goaltender Stephane Fiset and retirement (due to a concussion) claims veteran defenseman Jeff Brown. Once again facing a logjam of forward prospects trying to break into the NHL lineup, Ekrub finds himself with an excess of resources and transforms them into draft picks. He trades Andreas Dackell and Steve Larouche to Ottawa for their third round pick (74th overall), Sami Kapanen to Philadelphia for their second round pick (42nd overall) and Alexei Zhamnov to Phoenix for their second round pick (43rd overall).

He also releases Paul Brousseau, Martin Prochazka, Sergei Shalamai, Vladimir Vujtek, Anders Soderberg, Alexander Cherbaev, Oleg Petrov, and Kevin Dahl. With the departure of Dahl, every player on the Saskatoon Reserve List is now one that was drafted by the team—Dahl had been acquired by trade years ago to fill a hole in the minor-league lineup.

Saskatoon Westerns 1998-99 Reserve List

Pos	Name			Age	Acquired
G	Biron, Martin (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (15)
G	Brind'Amour, Frederik	18	Draft, 1998 (133)
G	Garon, Mathieu (k)	20	Draft, 1996 (36)
G	Henry, Frederic (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (162)
G	Theodore, Jose (k)	22	Draft, 1994 (26)
G	Wilkinson, Derek (k)	24	Draft, 1992 (119)
D	Boyle, Dan (k)		22	Draft, 1995 (216)
D	Campbell, Brian (k)	19	Draft, 1997 (130)
D	Clark, Brett (k)	21	Draft, 1996 (77)
D	Corvo, Joe (k)		21	Draft, 1996 (49)
D	DuPont, Micki		18	Draft, 1998 (245)
D	Ference, Andrew (k)	19	Draft, 1997 (102)
D	Guren, Miloslav (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (52)
D	Julien, Stephane (k)	24	Draft, 1992 (239)
D	Kaberle, Frantisek (k)	24	Draft, 1992 (191)
D	Keller, Aaron (k)	23	Draft, 1993 (155)
D	Kinch, Matt		18	Draft, 1998 (161)
D	Markov, Andrei		19	Draft, 1997 (213)
D	Mitchell, Kevin		18	Draft, 1998 (106)
D	Musial, David		22	Draft, 1995 (56)
D	Numminen, Teppo (k)	30	Draft, 1986 (15)
D	Salo, Sami (k)		24	Draft, 1993 (51)
D	Smith, Ryan (k)		24	Draft, 1992 (143)
D	Snell, Chris (k)	27	Draft, 1990 (249)
D	Van Impe, Darren (k)	25	Draft, 1991 (104)
D	Zhitnik, Alexei (k)	25	Draft, 1991 (65)
D	Zidlicky, Marek (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (108)
D	Zubov, Sergei (k)	27	Draft, 1990 (81)
C	Bowler, Bill (k)	23	Draft, 1993 (285)
C	Briere, Daniel (k)	20	Draft, 1996 (23)
C	Brylin, Sergei (k)	24	Draft, 1992 (30)
C	Kapanen, Niko		20	Draft, 1997 (119)
C	Kosick, Mark		19	Draft, 1998 (43)
C	Lapointe, Claude (k)	29	Draft, 1988 (229)
C	Lyashenko, Roman	19	Draft, 1997 (14)
C	Malov, Roman		20	Draft, 1996 (186)
C	Marchant, Todd (k)	25	Draft, 1992 (215)
C	McLean, Brett (k)	20	Draft, 1996 (159)
C	Nieuwendyk, Joe (k)	32	Draft, 1985 (9)
C	Norris, Warren (k)	23	Draft, 1994 (104)
C	Perreault, Yanic (k)	27	Draft, 1990 (102)
C	Perrin, Eric (k)	23	Draft, 1994 (78)
C	Peterson, Toby		19	Draft, 1998 (78)
C	Ribeiro, Mike		18	Draft, 1998 (26)
C	Richards, Brad		18	Draft, 1998 (31)
C	Robinson, Todd (k)	20	Draft, 1996 (105)
C	Savard, Marc (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (27)
C	York, Mike		20	Draft, 1997 (22)
C	Whitecotton, Dustin	19	Draft, 1997 (242)
LW	Bicek, Jiri		19	Draft, 1997 (76)
LW	Butsayev, Yuri		19	Draft, 1997 (49)
LW	Demitra, Pavol (k)	24	Draft, 1993 (77)
LW	Hossa, Marian (k)	19	Draft, 1997 (12)
LW	Kallio, Tommi (k)	21	Draft, 1995 (72)
LW	Kariya, Steve		20	Draft, 1997 (186)
LW	Kozlov, Vyacheslav (k)	26	Draft, 1990 (18)
LW	Kratna, Ondrej		21	Draft, 1996 (132)
LW	Miettinen, Tommi (k)	22	Draft, 1994 (182)
LW	Mikahilov, Egor		20	Draft, 1996 (212)
LW	Recchi, Mark (k)	30	Draft, 1987 (142)
LW	Sejna, Peter		18	Draft, 1998 (190)
LW	Whitney, Ray (k)	26	Draft, 1991 (21)
RW	Bednar, Jaroslav	21	Draft, 1995 (80)
RW	Blazek, Tomas		23	Draft, 1993 (129)
RW	DeCecco, Bret		18	Draft, 1998 (42)
RW	Fleury, Theoren (k)	30	Draft, 1986 (204)
RW	Gendron, Martin (k)	24	Draft, 1992 (71)
RW	Gionta, Brian		19	Draft, 1998 (74)
RW	Hassinen, Jani		23	Draft, 1994 (234)
RW	Lehtinen, Jere (k)	25	Draft, 1991 (131)
RW	St. Louis, Martin (k)	23	Draft, 1994 (52)
RW	Sidyakin, Andrei	19	Draft, 1997 (157)
RW	Tuomainen, Marko (k)	26	Draft, 1991 (175)
RW	Varvio, Jarkko (k)	26	Draft, 1991 (153)
RW	Vasiljevs, Herbert (k)	22	Draft, 1995 (189)
RW	Zalesak, Miroslav	18	Draft, 1998 (53)

Players on Reserve List (Maximum 80): 76
Players Under Contract (Maximum 50): 48

During the season, the Westerns join the trend of alternate uniforms (or "third jerseys") in the NHL. Not wanting to just jazz up their existing sweaters or design an alternate crest, the team instead develops an homage to history. The Westerns are not in fact Saskatoon's first major-league hockey club. In the early 1920s, the Saskatoon Crescents (later the Sheiks) played in the Western Canada Hockey League (later Western Hockey League), until the western major league was absorbed into the NHL in 1926. So the Westerns alternate uniforms are a reproduction of the Crescents sweater:

SASKATOONALTERNATE1998-99.jpg

Jose Theodore is pencilled in as started at the beginning of the season but falters badly, and eventually spends some time in the minors. Thankfully, Martin Biron steps up big-time, producing a surprising 15.2 GVT in only 44 games, which is enough to keep the Westerns near the top of the league standings. It would have been a shame to waste big offensive seasons from Theoren Fleury and Pavol Demitra. This era supresses raw scoring totals, but on a GVT basis, these players had two of the best scoring years ever for Saskatoon. Jere Lehtinen and Todd Marchant again demonstrate that drafting skilled players will not only bring you high-scoring, defensively-challenged players. Lehtinen wins his second consecutive Selke Trophy.

Saskatoon Westerns 1998-99 NHL Season Results

GP	W	L	T	GF	GA	Pts	Finish
82	47	23	12	277	205	106	1st place, Central; 2nd overall

Player			No	Age	Pos	GP	OGVT	DGVT	GVT
Fleury, Theoren		14	30	RW	75	20.0	4.5	24.5
Demitra, Pavol		38	24	LW	82	19.1	3.8	22.9
Zubov, Sergei		46	27	D	81	9.3	6.3	15.6
Biron, Martin		43	21	G	44	0.0	15.2	15.2
Nieuwendyk, Joe (C)	25	32	C	67	11.8	2.9	14.7
Lehtinen, Jere		20	25	RW	74	5.8	6.8	12.7
Numminen, Teppo (A)	27	30	D	82	6.3	5.4	11.7
Whitney, Ray		13	26	LW	81	7.6	0.9	8.5
Perreault, Yanic	49	27	C	76	4.7	3.6	8.3
Salo, Sami		5	24	D	61	2.5	5.4	7.9
Marchant, Todd		39	25	C	82	3.4	4.5	7.9
Recchi, Mark (A)	8	30	RW	71	5.0	2.8	7.8
Kozlov, Vyacheslav	16	26	LW	79	5.9	1.9	7.8
Lapointe, Claude	17	29	C	82	2.7	3.7	6.4
Zhitnik, Alexei		44	25	D	81	4.2	1.4	5.6
Kaberle, Frantisek	7	24	D	56	3.0	2.0	5.0
Van Impe, Darren	48	25	D	60	2.3	1.2	3.5
St. Louis, Martin	15	23	RW	67	2.1	0.6	2.7
Brylin, Sergei		47	24	LW	47	0.9	1.6	2.5
Boyle, Dan		21	22	D	22	1.4	0.9	2.3
Zidlicky, Marek		3	21	D	32	0.5	1.2	1.7
Perrin, Eric		10	23	LW	41	1.3	0.1	1.4
Briere, Daniel		18	20	RW	32	0.7	0.3	1.0
Savard, Marc		9	21	C	15	0.7	0.1	0.8
Hossa, Marian		22	19	LW	4	0.2	0.1	0.3
Gendron, Martin		32	24	RW	9	0.3	0.0	0.3
Clark, Brett		2	21	D	5	-0.1	0.3	0.2
Henry, Frederic		34	21	G	6	0.0	0.1	0.1
Guren, Miloslav		19	21	D	12	-0.1	0.2	0.1
Wilkinson, Derek	35	24	G	4	0.0	-0.5	-0.5
Theodore, Jose		33	22	G	28	0.0	-6.4	-6.4
Total						82	121.5	70.9	192.4

The Westerns are the league's best faceoff team in 1998-99, topping Philadelphia's 55.4% rate with a 56.2% mark, led by Joe Nieuwendyk and Yanic Perreault, with Claude Lapointe and Theoren Fleury contributing significantly to the effort. Faceoffs are a hidden talent for Fleury, the sort of thing that would never have been known if not for the RTSS stats. But from 1997-98 to 2000-01, Fleury had outstanding winning percentages, though he never took a full-time center's worth of draws in any year.

Saskatoon Westerns 1998-99 Faceoff Stats

Player			Pos	GP	FO	FOW	FOL	FO%
Perreault, Yanic	C	76	1188	682	506	57.4
Nieuwendyk, Joe		C	67	1170	740	430	63.2
Marchant, Todd		C	82	1086	543	543	50.0
Lapointe, Claude	C	82	1035	586	449	56.6
Fleury, Theoren		RW	75	444	262	182	59.0
Savard, Marc		C	15	102	49	53	48.0
Brylin, Sergei		LW	47	92	46	46	50.0
Recchi, Mark		RW	71	81	36	45	44.4
Demitra, Pavol		LW	82	50	22	28	44.0
Briere, Daniel		RW	32	60	29	31	48.3
Whitney, Ray		LW	81	36	16	20	44.4
Kozlov, Vyacheslav	LW	79	19	7	12	36.8
Lehtinen, Jere		RW	74	9	3	6	33.3
Total				82	5372	3021	2351	56.2

Playoffs, First Round

Facing the San Jose Sharks for the fourth time in six seasons, the Westerns finish off their frequent opponent in six games (7-1, 3-4, 0-2, 2-1, 7-0, 3-2) and increase their playoff record against the team to 16 wins and four losses.

Playoffs, Second Round

The Westerns and Colorado Avalanche play a wide-open second round. Saskatoon wins the exciting series (a rarity for this era) in five games by scores of 6-4, 7-3, 3-5, 5-1, and 6-4.

Playoffs, Third Round

The Dallas Stars, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with excitement. They do, however, win their series with Saskatoon in five games. The Westerns win the first game 1-0, but the Stars take over and finish off the Canadian team 3-2, 4-2, 2-1, and 1-0 thereafter.

Saskatoon Westerns Season Results Through 1998-99

Season		GP	W	L	T	GF	GA	Pts	Pct
1983-84		80	32	39	9	314	324	73	.456
1984-85		80	34	36	10	311	313	78	.488
1985-86		80	40	32	8	321	309	88	.550
1986-87		80	40	32	8	328	297	88	.550
1987-88		80	41	31	8	345	307	90	.563
1988-89		80	45	26	9	365	297	99	.619
1989-90		80	45	27	8	344	277	98	.613
1990-91		80	47	23	10	341	257	104	.650
1991-92		80	45	25	10	339	269	100	.625
1992-93		84	53	23	8	382	268	115	.685
1993-94		84	53	21	10	360	253	116	.690
1994-95		48	34	9	5	185	124	71	.740
1995-96		82	47	26	9	315	250	103	.628
1996-97		82	42	29	11	268	229	95	.579
1997-98		82	51	19	12	278	196	114	.695
1998-99		82	47	23	12	277	205	106	.646
Total		1182	654	392	136	4805	3656	1443	.610

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