2012 NHL Entry Draft: 'Can't miss' players sometimes fizzle

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There were questions about Dave Chyzowski, as there are with almost every NHL draft prospect.

It's just that the ones being asked about him didn't reflect the usual concerns about size or skating or intangibles.

Rather, people were wondering just how quickly he had become one of the NHL's elite goal-scorers, and whether there was a goalie in the league who could stand up to him.

Phoenix general manager Don Maloney, who joined the New York Islanders as a player around the time New York used the second choice in the 1989 draft on Chyzowski, remembered the excitement that accompanied that selection.

"[Chyzowski was] 'Can't miss, big shot, 50 goals,'" he said.

Well, Chyzowski did miss. He ended up playing just 126 games over five seasons on Long Island, and left the NHL with just 15 goals on his resume. Which is to say, a total that once would have been seen as a good week of work for him.

The prevailing wisdom at the time held that Chyzowski and Mats Sundin were the top players in that draft. The prevailing wisdom proved to be half-right.

Mark Kelley, Chicago's director of amateur scouting, was evaluating talent for Quebec when the Nordiques grabbed Sundin with the top pick, and put it this way recently:

"We took Sundin and we were told we would regret it. I'm still waiting."

Why a guy who appeared to have as much promise as Chyzowski flopped so terribly is even more confounding than which spelling of his surname -- NHL draft records call him "Chyzowski," but other places identify him as "Czyzowski" -- is correct.

Craig Button, a former Calgary GM who is a TV analyst, cites Chyzowski as a textbook example of a promising young player who simply could not elevate his game when he moved to the NHL.

"A guy like David Chyzowski, he scored 60 goals in junior," Button said. "He was more mature, more physical, he overpowered people [while playing for Kamloops in the Western Hockey League].

"That's what I call the 'obvious evaluation.' What you have to ask yourself is, 'Can David Chyzowski overpower Patrick Roy? Can he overpower Tom Barrasso?

"OK, you're projecting him as a No. 1 left winger. Does he have the abilities to play against Chris Chelios or Eric Desjardins or Larry Murphy or Brian Leetch?"

Chyzowski, it turned out, could not overpower NHL goalies, and he could not compete effectively against NHL defensemen.

He hardly is the only prospect, however, whose productivity in the NHL fell woefully short of the greatness anticipated from him.

Witness Alexandre Daigle, who was seen as the cornerstone of Ottawa's franchise when the Senators took him with the No. 1 choice in 1993.

Daigle put together a decent NHL career, with 327 points in 616 games, but never came close to having the impact most envisioned when he was a celebrated prospect.

"Those are franchise-defining moments," Button said. "You're the worst team in the league and you're expecting a guy to come in and change the fortunes of your franchise. Fair or not, that's what you're looking for from that player."

Tyler Wright, who is director of amateur scouting for Columbus, noted that franchises with high picks generally need an infusion of talent and enthusiasm, and thus often expect too much, too soon from big-name prospects.

"You have to make sure they're mentally [prepared]," he said. "It's a grind at the NHL level. Anybody who thinks it's not ... To play 82 games and travel, you have a lifestyle that you're not used to. You're on your own, for the most part. It's a grind, and you have to be mentally ready to be able handle that on a daily basis.

"There are ups and downs, and you have to have mentors along the way. There are so many intangibles to help a kid out. You don't just put a first overall kid on the first-unit power play and say he's going to be a star.

"There are things [on which] you have to work with him, and help them along the way. When you think the time is right, you push it. But if you start pushing and they're not ready to handle it, I think it sets them back a long way."

Sometimes, so far back that even the most talented young players never can catch up.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published June 19, 2012 12:00 AM


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