Welcome back. In today's episode, there's a serial killer on the loose...in CSI: Balamory! [/joke that will only really make much sense to Brits]. I hope I'm not the only one who basically exploded laughing at the indescribable picture of Mangled-Face-Stormtrooper Ian White, who looks like he was a Goldeneye character removed very (very very very) early on in the development process for being just too freaky. Also, who knew Alex Steen was a Manchester City fan? I can safely say I have progressed beyond general dislike for the man and now actively hope he flames out in St. Louis, the money-grabbing bastard.
So, 2003. A draft year like any other, it seemed at the time - Pittsburgh made what some thought an odd choice, taking goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the QMJHL at #1, but much as some people might have wanted a do-over in the years where Fleury stumbled and guys like Eric Staal flourished, it's working out for the Pens now, something I'm sure has absolutely nothing to do with the presence of that one guy, what's-his-face...y'know, Concussy St. Falldown. Time has proven kind to the 2003 first round in particular, with even Hugh Jessiman getting to appear in a game, so it makes a kind of twisted, narratively-horrible sense that Toronto didn't appear until midway through the second round. Our first-round pick went to Boston, as the final horrible part of the Owen Nolan trade, and it's a small mercy they picked Mark Stuart rather than...Christ, imagine what the Bruins'd be like with Ryan Kesler or Mike Richards in the squad. Our second-round pick was #57, which is where we jump in.
Buckle up. This one's a doozy.
Round 2, #57 Overall - John DOHERTY
Not to suggest that all players drafted from unconventional sources will turn out to be utter shite, but Doherty was picked out of Phillips-Andover, a school whose hockey pedigree doesn't appear to be the greatest and that I would assume plays at a level of competition significantly below what Doherty would later experience at college or in the USHL. After leaving school, he spent two seasons with the University of New Hampshire where, in a sign things probably weren't going to pan out for him, he appeared in just nineteen games. He managed nearly forty playing with Des Moines in the USHL, but then appeared to drop off the radar entirely for two years, resurfacing with Quinnipac University in 2006. To this day, the six games he played with the Columbia Inferno - once Toronto's ECHL affiliate - remain the highest point of his career. And that's terrible.
Verdict: Setting the tone for the rest of this draft, Doherty was a horrible pick. Phillips-Andover might not be as bad as I've painted it - it appears Shattuck-St. Mary's is considered on the same level, and you could make a hell of a starting lineup from their alumni - but Doherty remains a prime example of why drafting out of high school is a giant crapshoot.
Round 3, #91 Overall - Martin SAGAT
Purely from a punning perspective I'm disappointed Sagat never appeared in the NHL. Imagine if he turned out to be a gifted fighter, like a proper old-school enforcer, we'd have delighted ourselves riffing on Street Fighter puns until the end of time. He gets a game misconduct for a questionable hit? TIGER KNEE-ON-KNEE! He KOs Matt Carkner? TIGER UPPERCUT! And...well, I'm sure there's more punning potential. I don't know, it's not MY job to come up with this crap, leave me alone! Sagat did make the jump to America post-draft, playing two years with the Kootenay Ice and a further two with the Marlies, but evidently wasn't retained past 2007 and returned to Europe. Whether he's still active I have no idea. Shame.
Still On The Board: Zach Stortini (94)
Verdict: Well, obviously he's a bust. He seemed to top out as an AHL plugger, which would have been a good result in a sixth or seventh round pick, but we expect more from people picked in the top hundred.
Round 4, #125 Overall - Konstantin VOLKOV
I believe Volkov is actually still in the system, but I haven't been able to find anything to corroborate that. Surprisingly, the guy was expected to go higher than this - apparently, the CSB had him ranked #14 among European skaters at one point, and history (/my five minutes of Google research) does not recall why he fell to the fourth round; whatever reason probably played a part in his lack of development as well. He's currently in the KHL, where he's been for the last two years.
Verdict: Bust. It probably seemed like a great sleeper pick at the time.
Round 5, #158 Overall - John fucking MITCHELL
159 GP - 20 + 35 = 55, -30, 76 PIM
Yep. Here it is, folks, you now have to accept that John fucking Mitchell was the best player the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted in 2003. There are worse outcomes, but this is pretty terrible. Now, in the man's defence, he was never a truly, apocalyptically bad player - his stats, particularly in the AHL, are really pretty good for a fifth-round pick, the best being the 07/08 season where he put up 51 points in 79 games with the Marlies and added 12 more over the course of the playoffs. And considering he was mostly just a plugger, averaging 0.38 points/game in limited time is not bad work. In the man's prosecution, however, he is still John fucking Mitchell, a man for whom the turnover was less an error in judgement and more an art form.
Verdict: Weeeell...neutral. Arguably a win, but using that word too close to John fucking Mitchell will make him break out in hives and hives are too good for the man.
Round 7, #220 Overall - Jeremy WILLIAMS
32 GP - 9 + 2 =11, 0, 6 PIM
Wikipedia says that he scored goals in each of his first three games, with each of them coming in a different season - playing once in 2005, once in 2006 and a positively marathon-esque 18 times in 2007. I get the sense he's a typical ‘tweener', not quite good enough to keep his place on an NHL roster but a very solid AHL player - he tallied 404 games in the AHL in total, first with our affiliates, then with the Wings and Rangers' baby clubs, and left America with exactly 300 points to show for it.
Still On The Board: Jay Rosehill (227)
Verdict: A limited win. Nothing was expected of Williams and he delivered a fair bit more than that.
Round 8, #237 Overall - Shaun LANDOLT
Never made it. With a career high of 42 points, attained with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL in his overage season - he was 20, I think that's overage - it's fair to assume expectations were fairly non-existent and boy howdy, did he deliver. Popped up for four games with the Marlies, played a season with the Pensacola Ice Pilots and Victoria Salmon Kings - the latter in 2008 after he spent the season enjoying life as a point-per-game player in the Italian league, meaning there's an excellent chance he just turned up one day with a pair of skates and everybody thought he belonged there.
Verdict: Eh. I'm inclined to call him a bust because if we were two picks later we'd have a defensive corps that goes Schenn-Enstrom-Phaneuf-Gunnarsson-Franson-Liles. THIS WOULD BE THE CASE ENSTROM WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TRADED BY JFJ FOR SOMEBODY HISTORICALLY AWFUL LET ME BELIEVE.
Career Players: Zero. Mitchell falls short by about fifty games and MIGHT make it, but it's a long shot.
Grade: F. No career players, nothing until the fifth round and John fucking Mitchell was the best player we got. Plus, our first round pick was the final part of that terrible, terrible Nolan deal. Literally the only reason I am not giving this a worse grade (F-, unclassified, A--) is because Mitchell wasn't as impossibly awful as he could have been.