Friday, March 8, 2013

Top 10 Import Players in Winterhawks History

Every once in awhile, I will have a top 10 Winterhawks list. My opinion is factored in these lists, as well as stats and the overall success of the team.

First up: the CHL has held an import draft since 1992 and the Winterhawks have had many great players come to them from overseas. I put a minimum requirement of half a season (36 games), so recent Hawks Luca Sbisa and Marcel Noebels are not eligible. I also did not factor in current Hawks imports Oliver Bjorkstrand and Kirill Vorobev, as their seasons are not complete. This list is my opinion on the top 10 of these import players:

Honorable Mentions:
Jakub Klepis
-Jakub Klepis (2001-02) Klepis was slected 36th overall as a 17 year old from Prague, Czech Republic in the 2001 import draft. He had an immediate impact scoring 64 points in 70 games. He had great chemistry with fellow Czech native Jozef Balej and it helped carry the Hawks into the playoffs (they would lose in 7 games to Seattle in the 1st round). Klepis was selected 16th overall by Ottawa, but would not come back to the Hawks for the 02-03 season, instead leaving to play professionally in his homeland. He would play 66 games over 2 seasons in the NHL, before going back to Europe, where he still plays professionally.

#10: Ondrej Vesely (1996-98)
Ondrej Vesely
-Vesely was selected 47th overall in the 1996 import draft as an 18 year old from the Czech Republic. In his first year he had 53 points in 72 games. Vesely was a force for the Hawks and most fans were shocked when Vesely was traded to the Tri City Americans just 8 games into the 1997-98 season. This trade set the Hawks up to bring Marian Hossa over. Vesely would finish out the 1998 season with the Ams before heading back home and playing 14 pro seasons (including this year) in the Czech pro league.

#9: Jannik Hansen (2005-06)
Jannik Hansen
-Hansen was selected 33rd overall in the 2005 import draft, breaking the mold, as he was the Hawk's first pick from outside Slovakia, Czech Republic and Russia. Hansen had already been selected in the 9th round by the Vancouver Canucks in the 04 NHL draft. He would prove Hawk's management right in bringing him over, when he had 64 points in 64 regular season games and 13 pts in 12 playoff games. Unfortunately, he was a 20 year old for the next season and was brought up to the AHL. Hansen, currently plays for the Canucks and has 116 points in 293 NHL games.

#8: Nino Niederreiter (2009-11)
Nino Niederreiter
-El Nino' was immediately a hit with the Hawks after he was picked 2nd overall out of Switzerland in the 09 draft. He helped turn around the franchise, scoring 60 points in 65 games played in his first year and returning the Hawks to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They would even advance to the 2nd round before being ousted by Vancouver in 6 games. Nino then followed up his sensational rookie year with 70 points in 55 games in 2010-11. This time he would help the Hawks to the WHL finals with 27 points. Nino was drafted 5th overall in 2010 draft by the New York Islanders. This, so far, has been to his detriment as the Islanders played him as 1 19 year old, on the 4th line for 55 games in the 2011 season, despite the fact that he had only 1 goal. This year he is leading their AHL affiliate in points with 41 points in 55 games.

#7: Marcel Hossa (1998-2001)
Marcel Hossa
-Hossa followed his older brother over to the Hawks after being picked 13th overall in the 98 import draft. Though comparisons to his older brother were inevitably made, he never quite lived up to these expectations. The younger Hossa's big issue was that he could dominate one game then not show up for the next one. He did, however have 164 points over 3 seasons with the Hawks. He was drafted 16th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2000 draft. Hossa had 61 points over 237 NHL games and is currently playing in the KHL

#6: Andrej Podkonicky (1996-98)
Andrej Podkonicky
-Podkonicky was drafted 20th overall out of Slovakia in the 1996 import draft. Podko would have 145 points over 2 seasons with the Hawks and help them capture the 1998 Memorial Cup. His chemistry with Marian Hossa would be one of the reasons the Hawks were able to make this deep run. Andrej was picked in the 8th round of the 1996 NHL draft and scored 1 goal in 8 NHL games. After 13 professional seasons Andrej hung up the skates in 2012.

#5: Sven Bartschi (2010-12)
Sven Bartschi
-The Swiss sensation followed El Nino' over after the Hawks took him 7th overall in the 2010 import draft. He immediately had chemistry with linemate Ty Rattie and formed a formidable 2nd line for the Hawks in the 2010-11 season. Bartschi had 84 points over 66 games and helped the Hawks to the WHL finals. He would repeat this performance the next year, scoring an impressive 94 pts in only 47 games. He then had 37 points in the playoffs, helping the Hawks again win the Western Conference title. Bartschi was picked 13th overall in the 2011 draft by the Calgary Flames and has 4 points over 15 games in the NHL.

#4: Jiri Bereanek (1991-93)
-Bereanek came to the Hawks out of Slovakia, the year before the first import draft. He has the 2nd most points(180) by an imported Hawk and the most assists (124). He was known for his slick puck-handling and ice vision during his 2 years with the Hawks. Beranek never played in the NHL but had a successful career overseas, playing until 2006.

#3: Jozef Balej (1999-2002)
Jozef Balej
-Balej came over to the Hawks out of Slovakia, the 18th overall selection in the 99 import draft. Jozef was fun to watch, with his explosive speed and aggressive play. Balej has the most points(190) and the most Goals(105) by an import player in Winterhawks history. Joe was picked 78th overall in the 2000 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens and would play 18 NHL games, netting 6 points. He is currently still playing in the Czech pro league where he continues to be a dangerous scorer.

#2: Richard Zednik (1994-96)
Richard Zednik
-Zed was one of the most talented players to ever put on a Winterhawks sweater. Zednik was picked out of, surprise surprise, Slovakia 18th overall in the 94 import draft. He had 167 points over 2 seasons and if not for the player I ranked above him, would easily be my favorite Hawk import. Zednik, after being drafted 249th overall in 1994 by Washington, would have 379 points in the NHL in 745 career games, before hanging up the skates in 2011. He was the victim of a dangerous skate cut to the throat from teammate Oli Jokinen in 2008, but amazingly returned to play another season for the Florida Panthers. Him returning says all that needs to be said about his tenacity and perseverance and why he was fun to cheer for.

#1: Marian Hossa (1997-98)
Marian Hossa
-Hossa, picked 5th overall in the 1997 import draft, came over and became one of the most dominant players in Hawks history. He was already an NHL pick before he came to the Hawks (12th overall by Ottawa in the 1997 draft) and was told to ply his trade in the WHL to get him used to the rougher play that he would see at the NHL level. He hardly seemed like he needed it, scoring 85 points in 45 games in dominating fashion. Many were the time when I saw him dance around several Defensemen before sniping the puck past a hopeless Goaltender. His play would carry the Hawks to the Memorial Cup title game, where he was injured by a vicious knee on knee hit late. The Hawks, after winning in overtime, would hand him the cup and push him around the ice, while he sat on a chair (video below). Hossa would recover from the injury and has played over 1,000 games in the NHL. He is nearing the 1,000 point threshold and also helped the Chicago Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2010. Even though he only played one season for the Hawks, he has to be one of the most talented players I've ever seen in person and that is why he ranks #1, in my book.

No comments:

Post a Comment