Many of you know by now I am a bit of a draft historian when it comes to hockey. I love to go back and see where and why scouts got it wrong and look for trends or red flags that were overlooked. Quite often I can pinpoint one or two traits in a particular prospect and in hindsight say this is the reason why so and so didn’t make it. (For more on what I look for check out the Scouting tab). I’m always promoting what I call “NHL Translatable skills over Junior Production” when it comes to evaluating prospects, as there have been so many examples of point production being the ultimate culprit when it comes to missing on a Prospect. Sometimes however, it is a certain program or organization that ultimately is the one to blame as the players they continue to churn out are great Junior players but not so great NHL’ers. Case and point – The 1995-1999 Barrie Colts.
The Barrie Colts entered the Ontario Hockey League in 1995 as an expansion team. That first year was a modest one but was good enough to make Barrie the first ever expansion team to make the OHL playoffs in their inaugural year with a 28-31-7 record. They were led by their 18 yr old Captain at the time – Jeff Cowan (who played over 400 NHL games in his career as an undrafted free agent). The next 3 years following the Colts continued to improve on each previous season’s record and by 1998-1999 were the Top team in the OHL finishing with a sparkling 49-12-6-1 record. What’s astonishing is not how quickly they were able to climb up the OHL ladder or how many of their players ended up getting drafted high – it’s how so many of their players that were drafted early all end up being colossal busts. In 4 years from 1996-1999 Barrie had SIX players drafted in the 1st round, FIVE of them were Top 15 picks who all ended up being huge BUSTS while the other drafted 17th overall had a decent NHL career. So who were they? Take a look.
(Drafted 4th overall by Washington in 1996)
Volchkov burst onto the scene as a 17 yr old in 1995 scoring 36 goals and 63 points in just 47 OHL games. He was a star for the Expansion Colts and was the best draft eligible player in the OHL. He had a vast array of skills but due to attitude problems, a poor work ethic and lack of consistency the “Volch-inator” only played 3 NHL games and never registered a single point. Volchkov holding himself almost completely unaccountable basically chalked his failed NHL career up as not having “good luck“.
(Drafted 6th overall by Calgary in 1997)
Tkaczuk scored 45 goals and 48 assists for 93 points in 62 games in his draft year (1997-98). He also went on to play for Team Canada twice in the World Juniors and scored 105 points in 58 games including 15 pts in 12 playoff games in 1998-99. He made the AHL All-rookie team in 1999-2000 season after registering 66 points in 80 games. The following year he only played 19 NHL games for Calgary but had 11 points which has to be one of the best Point per game averages of any busts in the history of the league because he never played another NHL game after that.
(Drafted 13th overall by Edmonton in 1998)
Henrich, exploded for 41 goals in his draft year playing mainly on a line with Tkaczuk. He was a big strong kid who went hard to the net and was a handful for OHL defencemen to contain. He scored 38 goals each of the next 2 seasons as his overall point total climbed and registered a whopping 28 playoff points in 25 playoff games in 1999-2000. Call it not developing properly or just a miscalculation of his NHL translatable skills but for whatever reason his game wasn’t good enough to even get him into 1 NHL game in his career. He played 4 seasons in the AHL then bolted to Europe to finish out his career.
(Drafted 17th overall by Colorado in 1998)
Skoula, played 2 seasons for Barrie in the OHL and while he wasn’t necessarily an offensive dynamo he was considered an excellent 2 way defenceman who could skate very well for a big man and possessed a heavy shot. He was accredited with a high hockey sense and good offensive instincts after registering 103 points in 133 career OHL games. While his offense didn’t really translate to the NHL, he did played the better part of 10 seasons for 6 NHL clubs and finished with 196 points in 776 career games making him a very serviceable pro.
(Drafted 12th overall by Florida in 1999)
Shvidki, came over from Russia for the 1998-99 season in the import draft and immediately began to torch the OHL. He ended up with 94 points that year playing with Tkachuk and Henrich while adding another 16 points in 12 playoff games. Shvidki was very fast and had dazzling stick handling ability that drew comparisons to another fellow Russian – Pavel Bure. He was also a great passer with excellent vision but was considered a perimeter player who lacked consistency. The following year he scored 41 goals and 106 points and looked like a can’t miss prospect. He registered 25 total points in 76 career NHL games.
(Drafted 6th overall by Nashville in 1999)
Finley, was a big (6’4) and athletic goalie who played 156 games for Barrie registering 88 wins, 44 losses, 2.89 GAA & .910 SV%. He turned Pro after the 2000-2001 season ended but ended up with a severe groin injury that would cost him the entire 2001-2002 campaign. He toiled in the AHL for 4 years putting up respectable numbers but never could really crack the NHL club finishing with only 4 career NHL games and zero wins under his belt. He retired from Pro hockey in 2007 at the age of 26.
To summarize, in 4 seasons in Barrie from 1995-1996 to 1998-1999 the Colts played a total of 266 games compiling a 148-88-28-2 record. In those 266 games played four players – Alexandre Volchkov, Daniel Tkaczuk, Michael Henrich and Denis Shvidki amassed 333 goals, 398 assists for 731 points…….in 266 games. How much of that offence translated to the NHL? A grand total of 36 points in 98 NHL games total between ALL FOUR OF THEM. FIVE Top 15 first round picks all from the Barrie Colts were all colossal busts including goalie Brian Finley who played 4 NHL games going 0-1-0 with a 4.70 GAA & .909 SV%. Martin Skoula played 2 seasons for Barrie was the only one who really worked out as he went on to play 10 seasons in the NHL registering 196 points in 776 games.
So when “experts” tell you how good a prospect is because of the amount of points he put up in Junior or because of the dominant Junior teams he was a part of, just remember the 1995-1999 Barrie Colts and remind yourself that you can’t carry those points over to the NHL. It all starts over for a Prospect and if he doesn’t have the necessary translatable skills to help him succeed at the next level, all the points in the world he got in Junior won’t help him one bit at becoming a good Pro. I’ll take my chances on a prospect with good NHL translatable skills over Junior Production every single time.
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all facts and information provided from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrie_Colts with statistically information provided from wwwhockeydb.com.