When the National Hockey League gets around to conducting its entry draft in St. Louis tomorrow, one, two, maybe three first-round picks will be able to join the big club and contribute something after a cram course in experience during training camp.
It's not likely Chris Phillips, Andrei Zyuzin and Craig Hillier, the top-rated amateur North American and European players and the best goaltender, respectively, will be able to hold their own completely, but they or one or two others might prove competitive.
Unlike pro football and basketball, which have a terrific feeder system called college provided for them, hockey starts off by divvying up the talent as soon as the prospects reach 18 years of age.
At that tender age, it's usually best to leave kids playing at home in Europe or in the strong junior leagues in Canada for a year or two before an NHL team starts moving them up its organizational ladder.
Anaheim, the parent club of the Baltimore Bandits, has the ninth Maneluk selection and, as Bandits coach Walt Kyle puts it, "We're not projecting our pick to come in and play. Almost all the kids have to go back and play major junior until they'reold enough to hack it in the pros."
Kyle will be in St. Louis with the rest of the administrative, scouting and coaching personnel of the Ducks, "mainly to go over all the guys in the organization, talk about players whose names come up and discuss [strategy] things the [Ducks] might be doing on the ice I might use [in Baltimore]."
Running down the present roster of the Ducks since expansion in 1993 and three subsequent entry drafts, Kyle pointed out that four original draftees are in the NHL, including the team's top pick in each of the last three years.
"It's generally conceded that after the first two rounds, the round in which a player is taken is an indicator of how long it's going to take him to make it. In other words, a No. 4 or 5 might be around that long in the minors if he continues to show improvement," said Kyle.
Several of the big producers for the Bandits, free agents and guys coming in a trade were either on a one-year contract or finishing up a contract and may or may not return.
Dwayne Norris, who was the top pointman and spiritual leader for Baltimore, is definitely a goner, opting to play in Europe. Kyle put Mike Maneluk and Nick Tsulygin in the category of having good shots at making the big-league roster and Jeremy Stevenson as a guy "who will spend a lot of time with Anaheim."
Steve King, the top goal-scorer for the Bandits and one of the players picked in the expansion draft three years ago, is likely to sign with another NHL team. Center Slava Butsayev and Jim Campbell are 50/50 to return to Baltimore if they are signed and don't start the coming season on the Anaheim roster.
Bandits MVP Mike O'Neill, finishing a two-year contract, will be back in goal unless something happens with the Ducks and he is pressed into backup service there. Same goes for Denny Lambert.
Similar to Butsayev and Campbell, Dave Sacco and Sean Pronger have played some with Anaheim and together with players who started in Baltimore last season and were called up, Darren Van Impe, J. F. Jomphe, Jason Marshall and Alex Hicks, could be shuttling back and forth next season.
Kyle, who drew strong backing for coach of the year honors for the job he did transforming the Bandits into a solid team after starting from scratch, says, "I'm almost sure of returning to Baltimore and that's fine with me. My family was very happy here and coaching here works right in with what's probably best for me career-wise."
Pub Date: 6/21/96