Re-Imagining the 1994 NHL Entry Draft

The 1994 NHL Entry Draft took place 25 years ago. Unlike the drafts from the prior few years, it did not boast a generational talent like Eric Lindros, who headlined the 1991 Draft. Nor was it particularly deep, like the 1990 or 1993 Drafts. The 1994 Draft did have two players who scored over 1000 points — one who will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame some day — and three future Calder Trophy winners. And yet, those players weren’t even drafted in the first round!

So, let’s pretend that we could re-do the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Who would be the new first-overall pick? 

“With the first-overall pick, the Florida Panthers are proud to select…”

1 – Florida Panthers

Who They Picked: Ed Jovanovski (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Daniel Alfredsson (RW)

Custom card by Shellie Lewis

Why? “Jovo Cop” was the best defenseman in the 1994 Draft, but “Alfie” was the best player. Daniel Alfredsson had the most goals (414, assists (713) and points (1157) of everyone in the Class of ’94. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and was a team captain for 13 seasons. His number 11 was retired, and it is only a matter of time before he is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. And to think that Alfredsson was actually picked in the 6th round, 133rd overall. Any team picking first overall in 1994, knowing what we know today, would have taken Alfredsson without a second thought. 

2 – Anaheim Ducks

Who They Picked: Oleg Tverdovsky (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Patrik Elias (LW)

Custom card by Shellie Lewis

Why? Oleg Tverdovsky was worthy of being picked in the first round, but not at second overall. Among players picked in 1994, Patrik Elias is second in goals (408), assists (617) and points (1025). He also has the best plus-minus of everyone at +172 and was a team captain. Even if you “goofed” and “accidentally” picked Elias first overall, that still be an awesome pick. 

3 – Ottawa Senators

Who They Picked: Radek Bonk (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Ryan Smyth (LW)

Why? Radek Bonk had a lot of hype going into the 1994 NHL Entry Draft because, in the previous season, he played in the IHL at age 17. He was a boy among men, and fit in well, so there was little doubt that he’d be able to step into an NHL lineup right away and perform. However, center Ryan Smith had much better stats, and deserves to move up three spots in this fantasy re-draft. He finished third overall in goals (386) and points (842) among 1994 draftees, and played more games than anyone else  in his class (1270). 

4 – Edmonton Oilers

Who They Picked: Jason Bonsignore (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Ed Jovanovski (D)

Why? Ed Jovanovski was the best defenseman in the 1994 Draft. He led all D-men from his draft class in games played (1128 )and in points (500). His 500 points actually puts him at 9th overall among all players drafted in 1994, regardless of position. Jovanovski was durable enough to play most of his team’s games for 15 out of 18 seasons. 

5 – Hartford Whalers

Who They Picked: Jeff O’Neill (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Evgeni Nabokov (G)

Why? Jeff O’Neill is a first-rounder, but not the guy the Whalers would have taken 5th overall. Evgeni Nabokov was the best goalie in the Draft of 1994. He has the most wins (353) and the 2nd-best GAA (2.44) of any goalie in this draft class. He also won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Hartford (and later Carolina) could have really used a goalie of his caliber, but then again, who couldn’t? 

6 – Edmonton Oilers

Who They Picked: Ryan Smyth (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Milan Hejduk (RW)

Why? With Smyth going to Ottawa with the third-overall pick, Edmonton would instead take Milan Hejduk, who was 4th in points (805), 4th in goals (375) and 5th in assists (430) in 1020 regular season games. Hejduk had five seasons where he scored 30 or more goals, and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2002-03 when he netted exactly 50 goals. Also worth mentioning is that Hejduk was never traded during his 13-year NHL career, which just shows how valuable of a player he was. 

7 – Los Angeles Kings

Who They Picked: Jamie Storr (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Mattias Ohlund (D)

Why? Jamie Storr did play parts of nine seasons with the Kings, but he wasn’t the best (or even second or third-best) goalie in the 1994 Draft. A better pick would have been defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who played in 909 regular-season games and scored 343 points, which puts him at 2nd among defenders in both marks. 

8 – Tampa Bay Lightning

Who They Picked: Jason Wiemer (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Steve Sullivan (C)

Why? Steve Sullivan, who was actually picked in the 9th round (233 overall) of the 1994 Draft, moves up 225 spots and is the now the 8th-overall pick. He is 5th among ’94 draftees in points (747) and goals (290), and 3rd in assists (457). 

9 – New York Islanders

Who They Picked: Brett Lindros (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Chris Drury (LW)

Why? Chris Drury actually ended up playing for the other two teams in New York, but would have been a much better pick at 9th overall than Brett Lindros, whose career was cut very short due to concussions. Drury was 6th in points (615) and goals (255) among his 1994 peers, and scored 20 or more goals for nine of his 12 seasons. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and was a captain for two different teams. 

10 – Washington Capitals

Who They Picked: Nolan Baumgartner (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Tomas Holmstrom (LW)

Why? Holmstrom is 5th in games played (1026) and 7th in goals (243) and points (530) among his draft class. He was also important enough to be a part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams in his career.

11 – San Jose Sharks

Who They Picked: Jeff Friesen (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Actually, the Sharks would still take Jeff Friesen. 

Why? Jeff Friesen fit in well with the Sharks, playing more than half of his career in San Jose. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? His 516 points make him the 8th-best scorer among his ’94 peers. 

12 – Quebec Nordiques

Who They Picked: Wade Belak (RW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Tomas Vokoun (G)

Why? Believe it or not, Tomas Vokoun actually played more games (700) than any other goalie in this draft. In fact, he is 27th-overall in games played among ’94 draftees, and played more games than 259 other players taken in the draft (88 of which played in one or more NHL games). Vokoun is 2nd among goalies in wins (an even 300), and was a starter for the Nashville Predators for the team’s first eight seasons; had he played on a stronger team, he would have had more wins and maybe even challenge Nabokov as the best goalie in this draft. Playing for the Quebec/Colorado franchise in the mid-to-late 1990s might have given him better numbers over his career.

13 – Vancouver Canucks

Who They Picked: Mattias Ohlund (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Mathieu Dandenault (D)

Why? With Ohlund moving up six spots in this draft, and the Canucks wanting a defenseman, the next-best defender would be Mathieu Dandenault, who played 13 seasons in the NHL — winning the Stanley Cup thrice in Detroit — and is 3rd in games played for a defenseman (868).

14 – Chicago Blackhawks

Who They Picked: Ethan Moreau (LW) 

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Radek Bonk (C)

Why? Radek Bonk played 14 seasons in the NHL, and ended up 8th-overall in assists (303) and games played (969), and 10th-overall in points (497) among ’94 draftees. He might have had even better numbers if he stayed in the NHL past age 33. And the Blachawks desperately needed a second-line center, a role which Bonk would have fit perfectly. 

15 – Washington Capitals

Who They Picked: Alexander Kharlamov (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead: 
Oleg Tverdovsky (D)

Why? Alexander Kharlamov is the son of former Russian great Valeri Kharlamov, but never played in the NHL.

Also from Russia is Oleg Tverdovsky, who Washington would have instead taken with the 15th-overall pick. He was a smooth-skating defenseman who is 3rd in points (317) and 8th in games played (713) among D-men drafted in 1994. He also has the highest-points-per game (0.444) of the defenders on this list. But he also had a career plus-minus of -21, which is why he falls to 15th in this fantasy re-draft. He only played 11 seasons in the NHL. Had he stuck around longer, he would have had more points, and maybe focused his game to become more defense-first when he slowed down. But by then, he was back playing in Russia. 

16 – Toronto Maple Leafs

Who They Picked: Eric Fichaud (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Jose Theodore (G)

Why? The Maple Leafs wanted a goalie, and Jose Theodore had a much better career than Eric Fichaud. Theodore was 3rd in games played (648) and wins (286) among goalies drafted this year. He is also 6th on this list in a 2.68 GAA. 

17 – Buffalo Sabres

Who They Picked: Wayne Primeau (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Jeff O’Neill (C)

Why? Jeff O’Neill falls 12 spots to 17th overall in this fantasy re-draft. He is 8th-overall in goals (237) and 11th-overall in points (496) among players drafted this season. 

18 – Montreal Canadiens

Who They Picked: Brad Brown (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Sheldon Souray (D)

Why? Sheldon Souray played the 5th-most games (758) and has the 4th-most points (300) among all defenders taken in this draft. He also spent the prime of his career with the Canadiens, so it makes sense if they drafted him to begin with. 

19 – Calgary Flames

Who They Picked: Chris Dingman (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Marty Turco (G)

Why? At this point, I’d rather have the 4th-best goalie in the draft than the 10th-best scorer. Marty Turco is 4th in games played (543) and wins (175) among other goalies drafted in 1994. But his lifetime GAA of 2.36 is the best among his ’94 peers. Turco could have been that good goalie that the Flames needed once Mike Vernon moved on. 

20 – Dallas Stars

Who They Picked: Jason Botterill (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Fredrik Modin (LW)

Why? Assuming that the Stars don’t trade up one spot in this fantasy re-draft to pick Marty Turco, who in reality went on to be the Stars’ franchise goalie for nearly a decade, they would have picked Fredrik Modin, who is 10th in goals (232) and 12th in points (462) among his 1994 peers. 

21 – Boston Bruins

Who They Picked: Evgeni Ryabchikov (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Tim Thomas (G), of course! 

Why? The Bruins wanted a goalie, and Tim Thomas would become the goalie they wanted, albeit eight years later and via free agency. But knowing what we know now, Thomas was a darn good goalie in a relatively-short NHL career. In those eight seasons, Thomas won the Vezina Trophy twice, the Jennings Trophy once, and was the MVP of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Thomas was still good enough to be 1st-overall in save percentage (0.92), 3rd-overall in GAA (2.52) and 5th-overall in games played (426) and wins (214). Of course, he’d have more wins if his NHL career didn’t start so late. Had Thomas been drafted by the Bruins, maybe he would have. 

22 – Quebec Nordiques

Who They Picked: Jeffrey Kealty (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Bryce Salvador (D)

Why? Bryce Salvador played 786 games in the NHL, which is 4th-best among defenders drafted in 1994. 

23 – Detroit Red Wings

Who They Picked: Yan Golubovsky (D)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Wade Belak (RW)

Why? At this point, it’s really a toss-up between the draft’s 12th-best forward, 6th-best goalie or 5th-best defenseman — or, the draft’s best enforcer.  Wade Belak was the best tough guy in the 1994 Draft, and the Red Wings loved having tough guys in the lineup. According to HockeyFights.com, Belak fought 125 times in 529 games over the span of 14 NHL seasons. 

24 – Pittsburgh Penguins

Who They Picked: Chris Wells (C)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Richard Zednik (LW/RW)

Why? Late in the first round, the pickings are slim. Offensively-minded Pittsburgh would opt for Richard Zednik — who, like Jaromir Jagr, is from the former Czechoslovakia  (Zednick is from Slovakia, while Jagr is from the Czech Republic). Maybe the two could have played on a line together with center Martin Straka, and call their trio the “Czeching Line” (sorry, could not resist). Zednik is 11th in goals (200) and in assists (179) among players drafted in 1994. 

25 – New Jersey Devils

Who They Picked: Vadim Sharifijanov (LW)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Kim Johnsson (D)

Why? Kim Johnsson is 5th in points (284) and 6th in games played (739) among defensemen drafted in 1994. 

26 – New York Rangers

Who They Picked: Dan Cloutier (G)

Who They Should Have Picked Instead:
Ethan Moreau (LW)

Why? Dan Cloutier was a decent NHL goalie, but his 139 wins in 351 games isn’t really impressive enough to be a first-rounder. For the last pick in the first round, the Rangers would select Ethan Moreau, who was 9th in games played (928) out of all players drafted in 1994. Moreau didn’t exactly light it up during his career, and scored 287 points, which averages to about 0.301 points per game. But Moreau stuck around for a long time and was even a team captain, so he is worthy of being picked in the first round. 

An interesting addendum to this fantasy redraft is that nine of the players who were picked in the first round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft were still first rounders here — meaning that the scouts were right 1/3 of the time. 

So, what do you think of this year’s fantasy redraft? Who would you take with the first-overall pick? Would it be Alfredsson, Elias, Nabokov, Smyth, or someone else? 

And shout out to my girlfriend Shellie for making the awesome custom hockey cards for this article. ■

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

2 thoughts on “Re-Imagining the 1994 NHL Entry Draft”

  1. Sal – seeing your redraft further enhances my opinion about the ‘experts’ declaring winners and losers right after an entry draft has taken place. It truly takes a few years after the draft to determine which teams did well and which teams did not. And some players don’t receive the proper mentoring with the teams that selected them or don’t fit within the teams system.

    What I remember about that draft is the 3 players taken with the first 3 picks were the consensus top three. Actually Ottawa considered itself fortunate when Bonk was available with the third pick. And Jamie Storr was considered the top goaltending prospect. For some reason he just never developed as the scouts thought that he would (too much of the California sun?) Eric Fichaud – another one of the Leafs goalie selection busts (Felix Potvin and Tukka Rask being the exceptions). The two European goalies that you have in your selections were not on anyone’s radar. Maybe this helped them better develop.

    Brent Lindros I would give a mulligan. If he didn’t have the concussion issues and had to retire from hockey at an early age I think that he would have still been a top 10 pick.

    Overall a very interesting exercise.

    1. Hi Jeff, thank you for reading. It is pretty easy to look back 25 years later and say which team should have taken which player. Well, the first 4-6 picks are usually pretty easy to make, which is fun. The tough part is to determine who should be taken 12th overall, or 22nd overall, even with knowing what we know today.

      As for Brett Lindros, I think that had to do more with his playing style than the team that picked him. If he ended up with, say, the Blackhawks, he might have been an even more aggressive player. It was unfortunate that his carer did not last long; I was excited to see how far he would go, and was sad when I heard that he had to retire so soon.

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