An essential stage of growth is the ability to accept past mistakes and correct them. That could mean just admitting to old faults and moving forward. In this case, the mistake the Philadelphia Flyers made was drafting Maxime Ouellet in the first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The admission is unanimously understanding that Ouellet was a bust on a team that needed a goaltender in that 1999 NHL Entry Draft. Let’s rewind to the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and understand what other options the Flyers had at goaltender.
Their heart was in the right place. A goaltender was a requirement for the 1999 Philadelphia Flyers after Ron Hextall retired. On the Flyers roster was an aging John Vanbiesbrouck. I don’t fault them for selecting a goaltender with the idea that Maxime Ouellet was the best prospect, but Philadelphia needed a franchise goaltender. It speaks volumes when a player is taken in the first round and traded after two games (especially ones he didn’t start.)
Maxime Ouellet was nineteen in 1999 and made his NHL debut with the Philadelphia Flyers, but was packaged with three draft picks and sent to the Washington Capitals for Adam Oates. When Ouellet was 22-years-old, he earned his only two NHL wins with the Capitals. By age 24, his NHL career was over after a 0-2-1 season with the Vancouver Canucks. Most of Ouellet’s career was spent in the AHL. The worst part about this is the names that were available after the first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
Craig Anderson’s NHL career has lasted at least seventeen years. I say “at least” because he’s still an active goaltender for the Ottawa Senators. Anderson has been on the decline for the last three seasons, but so has Henrik Lundqvist. It’s natural for that to happen to good goaltenders as age creeps.
In 1999, Craig Anderson was drafted 77th overall in the third round by the Calgary Flames. He made his first official NHL start in the 2002-2003 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. By the 2003-2004 season, he was an NHL backup. By 2009-2010, Anderson was an NHL starting goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche. He finished fourth in the Vezina Award voting twice and has earned the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy once.
Even with drafting Maxime Ouellet, Craig Anderson on the Philadelphia Flyers could have been a reality. In the 2009-2010 season, the Flyers signed Ray Emery when Brian Boucher had a tough season. Philadelphia was going to need a goaltender soon and thought they found something with Michael Leighton. By 2010-2011, when the Leighton experiment was over, Anderson was being shopped around. Instead, the Ottawa Senators is where Anderson was shipped to from the Colorado Avalanche.
Speaking of Michael Leighton, his NHL career was a decade long. He retired during the 2016-2017 season during his second stint with the Carolina Hurricanes. Leighton was lightning in a bottle during the 2009-2010 season for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the Flyers version of Nick Foles. Leighton had one good run with Philadelphia after goaltenders were injured and made it deep into the Stanley Cup Finals, but he never clicked anywhere else.
In 1999, Michael Leighton was drafted 165th overall in the sixth round by the Chicago Blackhawks. He made his official start in the 2002-2003 season with the Blackhawks just like Craig Anderson. By 2008-2009, Leighton was throttled into the backup role with the Carolina Hurricanes before signing on with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009-2010. If Leighton were selected by the Flyers in 1999, would he have thrived in Philadelphia? If Nick Foles weren’t traded for Sam Bradford, would the Philadelphia Eagles have a Superbowl before 2017?
This is the one that gets under my skin the most from this 1999 NHL Entry Draft class. There have been times that I wanted Ryan Miller as the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender based on the simple fact that he, at one time, was the best. The difference between Miller and the other goaltenders listed is that Miller was practically ready for the NHL upon his debut. There is a distinct possibility that Miller was a middle-to-late draft gem at goaltender in 1999. Maxime Ouellet wasn’t worth the investment after parts of two NHL games.
In 1999, Ryan Miller was drafted 138th overall in the fifth round by the Buffalo Sabres. A product of Michigan State, Miller played fifteen games in his NHL rookie season. By 2005-2006, he was an NHL starter. There was a span of six seasons where he played at an all-star level for the Sabres. During his time in Buffalo, Miller won the Vezina Trophy, was an NHL All-Star, and finished in the top five of the Hart Memorial Trophy voting once.
If this selection is made, Ryan Miller is likely the goaltender needed to bring the Stanley Cup to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009-2010. That season was when Miller was an NHL All-Star and a Vezina Trophy winner. It’s the same season where the Flyers were the ultimate underdogs because of the goaltender situation. He’s still an active goaltender after seventeen seasons, just like Craig Anderson. If Philadelphia drafted Miller in 1999, he could have been in Carter Hart’s corner today (which Brian Elliott has been doing a great job of.)
Mandatory Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre