Mighty Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira called goaltender Jamie Storr the surest bet to become a star of any player in Tuesday’s NHL entry draft--then passed over him with the No. 2 pick, helping the delighted Kings snag Storr with the seventh.
“It’s the old cliche--we couldn’t believe the player we wanted was available,” said new Kings GM Sam McMaster, who rated Storr second in the draft behind Radek Bonk.
The Ducks also passed over Bonk--the top prospect in many eyes--after Florida made defenseman Ed Jovanovski the No. 1 selection. Ferreira, with no tempting trade offers, used the second pick on Ukranian defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky--a player he insists was their first choice all along.
Bonk fell to No. 3, where he was taken by Ottawa in a first round that didn’t lack for surprises. The biggest was a convoluted deal in which Toronto sent Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, prospect Landon Wilson and the No. 22 pick to Quebec for Mats Sundin, Garth Butcher, prospect Todd Warriner and the No. 10.
The Ducks’ selection of Tverdovsky was the first upset of the draft--and marked the first time two defenseman have gone 1-2. True, the Ducks had little need for another goalie, even if they did consider Storr the best goalie in the draft in years. And though Ferreira says money didn’t enter his consideration, club president Tony Tavares made it clear the Ducks weren’t interested in another contract stalemate like the one they’re in with Paul Kariya, last year’s No. 4 overall. That was the prospect presented by Bonk, who starred with minor league Las Vegas last season at 17.
Most observers ranked Tverdovsky third or fourth, but the Ducks saw it differently.
“When I saw him play in Russia, he brought me out of my seat,” said Ferreira, who describes Tverdovsky as a future quarterback for the Ducks’ needy power play, though perhaps not as soon as next season. “He’s the type of offensive defenseman that every team that wins championships has, a Sergei Zubov, a Brian Leetch, a Ray Bourque. I’m not comparing him to them, though, I’d never put that pressure on him.”
David McNab, the Ducks’ director of player personnel, said the difficulty of scouting Tverdovsky in Russia might explain the difference of opinions--though most everyone agreed he was the top European player. Tverdovsky was scratched from a big tournament McNab tried to attend, and the performance that impressed him most was at a game where no other scouts were present.
“It was not something I had to go back and see again,” he said. “When you shoot the puck as well as he did--you don’t do that one day and never again. A pitcher doesn’t throw a 95 mile-an-hour fastball one day and never do it again.”
The Kings, who figured Storr would be gone by the seventh pick, got their man--barely avoiding a potential fiasco by picking Brett Lindros, who reportedly had made it clear he didn’t want to play with Wayne Gretzky.
“We probably would have taken young Lindros--and worried about it later,” McMaster said.
Instead he got Storr, a player he knows extremely well, having seen him play perhaps 100 games when he was a general manager in the Ontario Hockey League and Storr played for the OHL’s Owen Sound team, as well as when McMaster was the director of operations of a championship under-17 national team Storr played on. Most recently, Storr was named best goaltender of the 1994 World Junior tournament where his Canada team won the gold medal.
Drafting goalies at 18 is considered risky, but McMaster had no doubts.
“He’s the best,” he said. “He had a .918 save percentage and his team was weak defensively. I was in junior hockey 18 years and never saw another like him.”
The Kings plan for Storr to be in training camp, but McMaster says what happens after that will be determined by Storr.
“I hope (Storr, 18) can be a No. 1 goalie at 23 or 24,” McMaster said.
The Kings also were able to fulfill their other very big need, for a very big forward, taking 6-foot-5, 225-pound Matt Johnson in the second round with the 33rd pick overall.
The Ducks used their second-round pick, the 28th overall, on Swedish forward Johan Davidsson, a slender 6-footer whose skills are skating and playmaking.
The draft ends today with rounds 3-11. . . . In Tuesday morning’s supplemental draft involving older undrafted players with college experience, the Ducks took center Steve Rucchin and the Kings took Quinn Fair. . . . Richard Park, from Rancho Palos Verdes, was taken by Pittsburgh in the second round with the 50th pick overall. . . . . The Mighty Ducks have joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in a working agreement, including player development and marketing, with Russia’s Central Red Army team, which once was among the best hockey teams in the world but fell on hard times after the dismantling of the Soviet sports machine.