PITTSBURGH – If the NHL-draft is a reflection of a talent development program, then some European countries may be struggling. Not a single Slovak player was selected in the 2012 draft and only six Czechs were claimed. Eight years ago there were 21.
When the 2012 NHL Entry Draft concluded on Saturday afternoon, a total of 211 young hockey players from eleven countries were selected by the 30 clubs.
As usual, Canada dominated emphatically with 98 players (15 more than last year), followed by the USA with 56 (59 in 2011).
As for the Europeans, nobody expected Sweden to surpass their record number of 28 players from last year in St. Paul, but with 23 selections the Swedes were again by far the most coveted Europeans.
The rest of the selections from the old continent, with last year’s numbers in brackets:
Russia 11 – (9)
Finland 9 – (10)
Czech Republic 6 – (10)
Switzerland 2 – (2)
Denmark 2 – (1)
Latvia 2 – (0)
Belarus 1 – (0)
France 1 – (0)
The best international story from the second day of the draft is probably about the player who is behind France’s lone figure in the above listing.
Tim Bozon, who has represented France in two IIHF U18 World Championships, was selected early in the third round by the Montreal Canadiens. It was the first time in 11 years that a French player was drafted and his 64th overall selection is the highest position ever for a Frenchman.
Tim is the son of Philippe Bozon, who was inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2008 in Quebec City, alongside players like Mario Lemieux and Igor Larionov.
Philippe, recognized as the best French player to lace ‘em up, was all smiles when he watched from the stands of the Consol Energy Center as his son leaped down to draft floor to don the rouge-blanc-bleu jersey of the storied club.
"I’m very happy," the elder Bozon said to NHL.com. "I played my major junior hockey in [the Montreal suburb of] St-Jean and I went to go watch the games at the Forum. It was my childhood dream, so to see Tim have a chance to be part of an organization that I would have liked to be a part of makes me very proud."
He could have added that, if young Tim makes it, he won't any language issues in the Quebec metropolis.
Philippe, who represented his country in four Olympic tournaments and in 12 IIHF World Championships, was the first French player to skate in the NHL. He played 144 games for the St. Louis Blues between 1992 and 1995 and Tim was born in the Missouri city in 1994.
So Bozon Jr. is a dual US-French citizen and has chosen to represent France internationally, although his hockey skills have mainly been acquired in the places where father played and coached pro hockey outside of France.
Tim started to play organized hockey in Mannheim, Germany when Philippe played for the DEL Adler Mannheim in the late 90s. After Bozon Sr. took his skates to Switzerland, Tim represented Geneva-Servette, Kloten and Lugano before he last season opted for the Canadian junior route and the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.
If things go as all involved are hoping for, Tim Bozon could become the second French (as in "from France") player to represent Les Canadiens. Goaltender Cristobal Huet played for Montreal 2005-2008.
Slovaks and Czechs slip again
Although there has been some encouraging increase in numbers of good juniors coming from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the 2012 draft indicates that the talent-scouts are not convinced of the Czech and Slovak 17-18-year olds’ potential to eventually compete at the NHL level.
Since the opening of the borders in the late 80s, it has happened only once before (in 2008) that not a single Slovak was drafted. As a comparison; in 2000, 16 Slovaks were picked.
The Czech figure of six selected players can be compared with 21 who were drafted in 2004.
Other countries who lately have strongly upgraded their youth programs, but did not have any players selected in Pittsburgh are Norway and Germany.
- Tanner Richard (by Tampa Bay in the third round/71st overall, from Guelph, OHL) and Christoph Bertschy (by Minnesota in the sixth round/158th overall, from SC Bern) were the two Swiss drafted. Both performed well for their country at the IIHF World Juniors in Canada last winter.
- One oddity was the selection of Denmark’s national team and World Championship goalie Frederik Andersen. He became one of the few players to be drafted twice. The Anaheim Ducks were able to claim him in the third round, as Carolina who selected him originally two years ago, were not able to sign him so he became draft-eligible again. At 22, Andersen became the oldest player to be selected in the 2012 draft.
- To be selected 211th and last in the NHL draft can be compared to the merits that comes with finishing last in the Tour de France, it’s almost a distinction. This year’s number 211 overall was American defenseman Nick Ebert who was picked by Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles.
- But this very last position comes with an astonishingly good record. Three Swedish players, Kim Johnsson (by NY Rangers 1994), Jonathan Ericsson (by Detroit 2002) and Patric Hörnqvist (by Nashville 2005), had their names called out last of all but all three became solid NHL players.