He had pedigree (top 50 pick) and genetics (his Dad was an excellent, steady defender for Buffalo in the 1970s) and whenever the Hockey News wrote something about him it was good.
Hajt didn’t turn out to be an NHL calibre defender (but there’s still time!) and serves as warning for Oilers fans when viewing this generation of kids.
Especially AHL kids. When a Sam Gagner can play well in the NHL at 18, when an Andrew Cogliano can play in the highest league at 20 it’s an indicator that a nice NHL career is straight ahead.
The AHL is the melting pot. Some make it, some do not.
Four years ago, I had a look at the 99 Hamilton Bulldogs and compared them to the 03-04 Toronto Roadrunners. You can see the HF thread here.
I thought it might be an idea to look back at those two teams and then apply the same analysis to the current AHL team.
- 99-00: Daniel Cleary, Michel Riesen, Dan Lacouture, Chris Hajt, Alex Henry
- 03-04: Jani Rita, Tony Salmelainen, Joe Cullen, Doug Lynch, Jeff Woywitka.
- 07-08: Rob Schremp, Liam Reddox, Marc Pouliot, Theo Peckham, Devan Dubnyk.
The 20-Year Old Regulars
- 99-00: 4 regulars: LW Michel Riesen (29-31-60), C Peter Sarno (10-36-46), LW Jason Chimera (15-13-28) and D Alex Henry (1-0-1).
- 03-04: 2 regulars: D Doug Lynch (11-25-36), D Jeff Woywitka (4-22-26), and part time forward C Dan Baum (4-6-10), D Mathieu Roy (0-2-2).
- 07-08: 2 regulars: LW Slava Trukhno (13-20-33), D Theo Peckham (6-5-11) and part time forward F Ryan O’Marra (2-7-9).
In spring 2004 I wrote “The best player of that group is probably Lynch, although Woywitka might end up being better down the line. Chimera is a fine young player, and had Riesen been drafted by an organization more focused on skill he likely would have had a career imo.” Lynch got hurt and Woywitka incredibly is still trying to gain traction on an NHL job. Chimera is established as a contributing NHL player. So of the 6 AHL regulars who were 20 on the 99 and 03 clubs, 1 has become a useful NHL player and another hung around for a couple of seasons. Something to keep in mind when projecting Trukhno, Peckham and O’Marra.
The Regulars 21-25
- 99-00: D Chris Hajt(21) (0-8-8), RW Dan Cleary(21) (22-52-74), C Brian Swanson(23) (19-40-59), LW Dan Lacouture(22) (23-17-40), D Brad Norton(24) (5-12-17), D Sergei Yerkovich(25) (2-28-30), D Alex Zhurik(24) (2-16-18), D Ryan Risidore(23) (3-13-16), D Matthieu Descoteaux(22) (5-7-12), D Elias Abrahamsson(22) (1-3-4), D Kevin Bolibruck(22) (1-4-5), G Eric Heffler(23) 3.13 .910, D Alain Nasreddine (24) 1-6-7.
- 03-04: RW Tony Salmelainen(22) (19-25-44), LW Jani Rita(22) (17-24-41), C Joe Cullen(22) (14-16-30), C Mike Bishai(24) (11-22-33), D Bobby Allen(25) (5-10-15), LW Nate DiCasmirro(25) (17-18-35), C Chad Hinz(24) (11-23-34), C JJ Hunter(23) (12-16-28), RW Sean McAslan(23) (12-15-27), RW Michael Henrich(23) (14-10-24), RW Brad Winchester(22) (13-6-19), G Mike Morrison (24) 2.52 .913.
- 07-08: C Rob Schremp (21) 20-50-70, C Marc Pouliot (22) 20-22-42, LW Liam Reddox (21) 16-25-41, LW Jean-Francois Jacques (22) 11-14-25, RW Colin McDonald (23) 12-11-23, F Tim Sestito (23) 6-9-15, Stephane Goulet (21) 9-5-14, LW Troy Bodie (22) 7-6-13, D Mathieu Roy (24) 2-8-10, Sebastien Bisaillon (21) 3-7-10, Tyler Spurgeon (21) 1-7-8, D Danny Syvret (22) 2-15-17, C Fredik Johansson (23) 4-1-5, C Jonas Almtorp (24) 2-2-4, D Bryan Young (21) 0-4-4, Jeff Deslauriers (23) 2.91 .911, Devan Dubnyk (21) 2.99, .908.
I’ve bolded the players from the first two teams to indicate those who have had an NHL career of at least a couple of seasons. There were 23 prospects this age on those two clubs, and 4 made some kind of NHL impact. That means if the math holds then three of the current crop will have an NHL career (based on a very liberal requirement level).
- 99-00 featured RW Alexandre Volchkov(22) (2-6-8) and there was a big whoop about him once upon a time (He was a top 5 pick in 1996). RW Vlad Vorobiev(27) (9-9-18) and RW Max Spiridonov(21) (5-2-7) were on that team. So was Paul Comrie(22) (3-3-6) and who knows what he might have done and what his being an Oiler would have meant to his brother. LW Sean Selmser(25) (14-12-26) played 1 game.
- 03-04 featured LW Jamie Wright(27) (23-27-50), D Mikko Luoma(27) (3-16-19), G Steve Valiquette(27) (2.59).
- 07-08 features a few older players, including D T. J. Kemp (26) (6-36-42), C Ben Simon (29) 12-10-22, D Allan Rourke (28) 3-11-14, D Rick Berry (29) (2-8-10).
Valiquette has had a little success at the NHL level and was a waiver draft pickup a couple of years back. Allan Rourke would seem to be the most qualified of the current group in this category. Finally, here’s the list of NHL games played (career) for each club since their minor league seasons:
Hamilton Bulldogs since 1999
- Daniel Cleary 496
- Jason Chimera 371
- Dan Lacouture 323
- Alex Henry 175
- Brad Norton 124
- Brian Swanson 70
- Alain Nasreddine 59
- Michel Riesen 12
- Peter Sarno 7
- Chris Hajt 6
- Matthieu Descoteaux 5
- Sean Selmser 1
I haven’t included Alexei Semenov on the list because he was a late signing, kind of like Cody Wild on this year’s team.
Toronto Roadrunners since 2003
- Brad Winchester 116
- Jeff Woywikta 84
- Tony Salmelainen 70
- Jani Rita 53
- Bobby Allen 50
- Mathieu Roy 29
- Mike Morrison 29
- Mike Bishai 14
- Peter Sarno 7
- Mikko Luoma 3
- Doug Lynch 2
I think the current group of AHLers is much better than the 1999 and the 2003 group, but I said the same thing about the 2003 group.