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THN.com Blog: Out with a whimper

Shhhh! Did you hear that?

It was Patrik Stefan's career ending with a whimper after the bang of being drafted first overall in 1999.

Stefan, the first-ever draft pick in Atlanta Thrashers history, had signed on with Bern in the Swiss League this season, but apparently had a change of heart and announced his retirement Sunday.

The center, a native of Pribram, Czech Republic, never realized the potential he flashed as a 17-year-old playing pro hockey in the IHL in the late 1990s. Stefan's best NHL season was a 14-goal, 40-point effort in 2003-04; in total, he scored 64 goals and 188 points in 455 NHL games. (1993 No. 1 overall pick Alexandre Daigle, by comparison, had 129 goals and 327 points in 616 games.)

Here's what the scouting report on Stefan said in the July, 1999 issue of The Hockey News:

“Atlanta is convinced the big Czech center can be an impact player despite some questions about his medical status after sustaining two concussions last season. Stefan is a power center who has put up points at every developmental level. He's the prospect most ready to step into the NHL.”

Not that Stefan is the only bust from the 1999 draft. Right winger Pavel Brendl (No. 4, Rangers) also flopped, while Brian Finley (No. 6), Kris Beech (No. 7), Jamie Lundmark (No. 9), Denis Shvidki (No. 12), Jani Rita (No. 13), Jeff Jillson (No. 14) and Scott Kelman (No. 15) performed far, far below expectations.

Really, only the Sedin twins, drafted second (Daniel) and third (Henrik) overall, have delivered (and they weren't exactly well-received in their first couple of seasons, if you recall).

The No. 5 pick was Tim Connolly, who has had one semi-healthy campaign (63 games in 2005-06) in the past three seasons due to concussions.

Taylor Pyatt went eighth overall; his 23 goals last season – while playing mostly with the Sedins in Vancouver – were a career high.

Other forgotten first-rounders include Konstantin Koltsov (No. 18), Kirill Safronov (No. 19), Barret Heisten (No. 20), Luca Cereda (No. 24), Mikhail Kuleshov (No. 25), Ari Ahonen (No. 27) and Kristian Kudroc (No. 28). The big steal in the first round was Ottawa snagging Martin Havlat at 26th overall – and the big steal, period, was Detroit nabbing Henrik Zetterberg 210th.


NO SLUMP IN THIS SOPHOMORE

Colorado center Paul Stastny, who had a rookie-record 20-game point streak in the second half of last season, has picked up where he left off, with eight points in his first three games.

Stastny opened the 2007-08 campaign with a hat trick against Dallas, and then had a goal and four assists in Game 3 versus San Jose. (In between, Stastny and the Avs were shut out 4-0 by Nashville.)


LIGHTS OUT

Stanley Cup hangover? What Stanley Cup hangover? Part I:

The Ottawa Senators, who made it to the NHL final last season, went 7-0-0 in the pre-season and were 4-0-0 to start 2007-08.

Stanley Cup hangover? What Stanley Cup hangover? Part II:

OhhhÂ…that Stanley Cup hangover. The Anaheim Ducks, meanwhile, the defending NHL champions, won one of their first five games after starting the season with a two-game swing through England.

BEST SERVED COLD

Think Islanders coach Ted Nolan got any satisfaction out of starting the season with a two-game sweep of his old team, the Buffalo Sabres?

DUCK HUNTING?

The Edmonton Oilers rewarded GM Kevin Lowe with a four-year contract extension on the weekend. And wouldn't you know it, Anaheim forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both set to be restricted free agents at the end of the season. (Getzlaf, like Dustin Penner, is from Western Canada, too. Penner is a native of Manitoba; Getzlaf is from Saskatchewan.)

GOOD LUCK, JASON

Here's wishing Toronto Maple Leafs winger Jason Blake a full and complete recovery in his battle against Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.

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