Ovechkin the jewel of 2004 Draft
Posted 12 May 2004 - 01:30 PM
By Alan Adams | NHL.com columnist
April 6, 2004
Montreal Canadiens executive Andre Savard had the honor -- no make that the privilege -- of playing with Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur.
Savard was Lafleur's linemate in the early 1970s in Quebec City and some of the character traits he saw in Lafleur three decades ago he is seeing again in Russian teenager Alexander Ovechkin.
"I played with Guy Lafleur and what made Guy Lafleur a star was determination, wanting to become a star player. And why some players with a high skill level do (become stars) and why some don't ... at the end it is your commitment, your determination, your pride and you can sense he has that," says Savard. "No one will question your talent, but what pushes you on top is determination. You become the cream and you push and push yourself to be the best. I see that in (Ovechkin)."
Ovechkin is a sure bet to be the No. 1 pick when teams assemble in Raleigh, N.C., for the NHL Entry Draft on June 26-27. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound left winger, who shoots right, had 13 goals and 23 points in 56 games with Moscow Dynamo this season in his second year of playing in Russia's elite league.
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Ovechkin is a power forward in the North American mold that combines an impressive array of skills with speed and a hard, heavy shot. He's the type of player who lifts people out of their seat.
The scouting report on Ovechkin reads like this: He is a wonderful skater who has superb acceleration. He loves playing hockey. That strength and athleticism undoubtedly was passed down from his parents, both of whom excelled in sports in their youth. His mother, Tatiana, won gold medals with the Soviet Union's women's basketball team in 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow, and his father, Sergei, is a former professional soccer player with Moscow Dynamo.
What makes Ovechkin the complete package is his attention to detail when it comes to the less sexy parts of the game, such as gaining position and picking up his man in the defensive zone. He likely won't have the same offensive impact Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk has had so early in his career, but he's a far more responsible player at age 18 than the Thrashers' star is at age 20.
Savard has heard the comparisons to Kovalchuk and says Ovechkin has a ways to go to match that skill set.
"He (Ovechkin) is talented, but I do not think he is the same level of talent. There is a difference," he says. "I would say Kovalchuk is a step higher but this guy here is a talent. He also works and he has a great shot and great size. Then there will be an adjustment to learn the (NHL) style. Style-wise he has a tendency to over-handle the puck but that is normal. He is 18 and at times that is a positive because he is showing a lot of confidence."
Goran Stubb, who runs the NHL's European Scouting Service, thinks Ovechkin will end up being a different style player from Kovalchuk.
"Ovechkin is a complete package," Stubb said. "He is a superb skater with excellent acceleration and he's creative with the puck. He has an outstanding touch around the net and I'd say he has excellent overall skill level and excellent hockey sense. He has a superb attitude. He's a finesse player, but does not mind playing physical. He can hit and take a hit. And he's a leader on and off the ice and a gentleman in private. He has all the tools needed to become a superstar."
So highly regarded is Ovechkin the Florida Panthers attempted to select him at the draft last June in Nashville. A player has to be 18 by Sept. 15 in his draft year, but Ovechkin's birthday is Sept. 17. The Panthers tried to argue that because of leap years, he was eligible. The NHL said he was not.
Ovechkin speaks some basic English he picked up watching TV, specifically Eurosport and BBC Sport. But once he is comfortable with the person interviewing him, he converses more freely in English.
Ovechkin has also suffered tragedy in his life. It was his brother, Sergei, who insisted that Alexander play hockey because he could see his brother's love for the game. When Alexander stopped playing for a spell because his parents could not take him to hockey, Sergei took the initiative and enrolled his brother in the Dynamo sports school. Sergei died in a car accident a few years ago and Ovechkin has said he thinks about his brother every day and thanks him for pushing him to play hockey.
Then at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Ovechkin's advisor and close friend, Anna Gorvan, died unexpectedly.
Ovechkin was asked at the World Junior tournament about the draft and he said it's a non-issue. "I am not thinking about the draft," he said.
When pressed about which NHL team he likes, he said Pittsburgh.
"I know they have a great player in Mario Lemieux. He's my favorite player, one of the best players ever. I also like Owen Nolan, and especially Lemieux."
Ovechkin has been described as a franchise player and the last time the Penguins drafted a franchise player, it was Mario Lemieux.
Ovechkin may not be another Lemieux but there is little doubt NHL fans had better get used to seeing his name in the scoring summaries.
"If (Ovechkin) is not one of the next superstars, I don't know anything about hockey," says Stubb.
Posted 12 May 2004 - 02:31 PM
Posted 12 May 2004 - 02:50 PM
And your point?
Man Land On Moon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted 12 May 2004 - 02:56 PM
Posted 12 May 2004 - 06:17 PM
The average hockey fan has no idea about who's being drafted, so in that regard, this is a great article -- especially drawing comparisons between Ovechkin's desire/talent level and those of former greats like Lafleur... that establishes a connection for some hockey fans as to how special this kid could be.
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