Why was Aki-Petteri Berg so highly touted?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Habsfan18, Feb 13, 2011.

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  1. Habsfan18

    Habsfan18 Registered User

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    Drafted 3rd overall in 1995, in a draft in which many felt he was the best prospect in the entire draft.

    A few quotes from Kings GM Sam McMaster in the '95 Draft Review issue of THN:

    "He's the best, young defenseman to come out of Europe ever, a franchise defenseman."

    "At 18, he can hit like Scott Stevens and skate like Paul Coffey."

    "He likes to hurt people and he has tremendous offensive skill."

    :laugh: Seriously..?

    I watched him quite a few times throughout the course of his NHL career, and he was honestly one of the worst players I have ever watched play in the NHL.

    I know it can be hard to judge prospects at such a young age, but I can't for the life of me figure out how he was such a highly touted prospect.

    Does anyone here remember following him during his draft season? Was the hype at that time justified?
     
  2. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    Basically, because he was big and physical. Clearly that physicality didn't transfer over as well to the NHL level. I mean, he'd try to take his man out but he wasn't great at it and he was certainly not punishing.

    He was not a terrible player. Very, very mediocre, yes. The most he ever played was 18:43 per game, good for 5th on a 100-point team. But he doesn't have the market cornered on mediocrity. Look around the league - there are plenty of guys who won't manage 16.75 minutes a game for 600 NHL games.
     
  3. Slapshooter

    Slapshooter Registered User

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    This. The worst NHL players are actually those who did not get regular ice time and whose names nobody remembers. The issue with Berg was the huge contrast or contradiction between the hype and his on ice performance (ie. Skates like Coffey, hits like Stevens!). So Aki became a sort of comedic camp figure because this hype and his very medicore level of play.

    Aki Berg had some success as he was probably the best Finnish defensive D in 1998 Nagano Olympics when their team won a bronze medal.
     
  4. Mayor Bee

    Mayor Bee Registered User

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    Funny thing is that just a year earlier, scouts were gushing about Oleg Tverdovsky as being easily the best European defenseman prospect ever. A couple even dropped Bobby Orr's name into the conversation.
     
  5. jkrx

    jkrx Registered User

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    Calling Berg the worst in NHL just shows little to no hockey knowledge. He was a competive defense who never shined.
     
  6. Yeah he definitely wasn't the worst player, I never recognized how highly touted he was until quite a while after watching him and yes I was very surprised.
     
  7. Leaf Lander

    Leaf Lander Registered User Sponsor

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    he was the best # 6 d-man in the nhl at one point;)

    and he was a good team mate very well liked in the locker room
     
  8. cynicism

    cynicism Registered User

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    Wasn't this the same draft were everyone was going ******* over big defensemen because you "can't teach size."?

    I seem to remember the Leafs wasted a first round draft pick on Jeff Ware :laugh: :facepalm:
     
  9. hannes_ko

    hannes_ko Registered User

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    I'm no expert but here's my opinion.

    Aki-Petteri was physically gifted guy who shined when he had the confidence. He never had very good hockey sense and that affected his play when he made the jump to playing pro. Berg was a very good skater when he was young but he rarely showed that in NHL.

    Olli Jokinen had similar learning curve. He dominated junior hockey and SM-liiga because he was big, strong and confident but his lack of hockey sense was big problem early in his NHL career. Jokinen turned his career around but Berg was sucked into the mediocrity.

    It's a shame that three great Finnish prospects Berg, Jokinen and Joni Pitkänen all lack hockey sense. I wish guy like Ville Peltonen could donate some of his to Olli or Joni...
     
  10. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    to be fair, if he hadn't played in toronto, i don't think berg would have been the punchline he is now, same as mccabe, larry murphy, lefebvre, and komi/beauchemin/finger, etc.

    but i wonder if environment had something to do with berg not developing as planned.

    you look at the kings' d-corps when berg stepped in: blake as the leader, mcsorley was still good, and then you had young guys: boucher, sydor, modry, norstrom, and o'donnell. zhitnik had just been traded for fuhr and boucher, and you had to think that berg would grow into zhitnik's old role. big, physical, skating ability, etc.

    by the time berg left LA, norstrom was a core guy, they had given up on sydor and he became a core guy on an excellent dallas d-corps, and o'donnell was a solid NHL defenseman. but they were still waiting on boucher and modry, who would both eventually establish themselves as top four guys who could score 40 points.

    so what happened to these young defenseman who all had the ability to be top four offensive guys? why did stay at home guys like norstrom and o'donnell develop but not the offensive ones (boucher, sydor, modry, berg)?

    i don't have an answer to this, but this is the question i remember asking about him when he played.
     
  11. Habsfan18

    Habsfan18 Registered User

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    I didn't call him the worst player I had ever seen, I called him one of the worst I have seen in the NHL. Big difference. ;)

    Maybe he just sucked every single time I decided to watch him play?
     
  12. gifted88

    gifted88 Dante the poet

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    Berg never looked like the #1 Dman he was touted to be, but he had strung together 2 decent years in LA that made him look like he had potential.
     
  13. mooseOAK*

    mooseOAK* Guest

    Every time I see Brett Lebda I pine for the days of Aki Berg.
     
  14. Boxscore

    Boxscore #OldNHL

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    Yeah, I remember that nonsense. :laugh:
     
  15. Ferjo

    Ferjo Registered User

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    heh, the quote I have was from an excellent talent evaluator in John Ferguson Sr. "I played and coached against Bobby Orr, and Oleg Tverdovsky, is Bobby Orr".

    As for Berg, extreme awkwardness was probably a big part of his disappointing career. Unfortunately this also led to him being grossly underrated, because nothing he did looked smooth. His lateral movement, crossovers, and simply turning around looked awkward and uncoordinated. Unfortunately a not so silky smooth defenceman with a penchant for baffling gaffs in a market like Toronto will lead you to noteriety, but I could never consider him worse than some of the other plugs the early 2000 leafs had on their point.

    I dont think someone who says Berg is the worst defenceman they had ever seen really watched much leaf hockey because just to name two, Lumme, and Khavanov came and left during Bergs tenure, and were significantly, and I mean significantly worse than A-P Berg.
     
  16. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    Good post.... BUT..... Lefebvre? He was very popular, very solid, and missed for years. Where I come from, Lefebvre's trade was a turning point that the leafs' defense corps never recovered from.
     
  17. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    Ain't that the truth.
     
  18. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    Lumme was not worse. He got significantly more minutes from Quinn, and he deserved them.

    The late-career editions of diduck and manson, on the other hand.....

    Hmm, here's a good one - Berg or Cross?
     
  19. Ferjo

    Ferjo Registered User

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    18 minutes vs 19 minutes is hardly significant. They were even on the depth chart, but in my eyes Berg was a better player by that point of Lummes career, in my opinion. The one thing I did not like about Leaf era pat quinn was his obsession with Lumme, I just couldnt see what he saw in him by that point. Obviously i was missing something.
     
  20. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    except Lumme didn't play just 19 minutes, he played 19:57 in 53 games and then 20:37 for 73 more, to average 20.34 per game. In the same period, Berg averaged 16.91. That's not 18 v 19, and that is significant.

    It's possible Quinn is an idiot and that you knew better than him all along, but not likely. Sometimes I thought I did, too.

    I never understood why we went out and got Lumme either - in my mind, he was always an offensive specialist and by then his offense had dried up, so I didn't see the point. However, he was still a smooth skater, I found out he was still adequate defensively, and he made smart plays with the puck. You could say that by that point he was a "savvy veteran".

    Not even close to my favourite Leaf ever, but I admit he did a pretty good job for a #4.
     
  21. Noldo

    Noldo Registered User

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    Lumme had unforgettable moment before going to NHL as he collided with his defensive partner behind the opponent's net, lost the puck and the other team scored on the ensuing break away.
     
  22. buffalowing88

    buffalowing88 Registered User

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    Aki Berg was never the player he was supposed to be but I can count on 5 hands the amount of highly touted defensmen who feel short of what even Berg achieved. It was a combo of the Toronto media and his persona that killed him, the talent was there.
     
  23. Ola

    Ola Registered User Sponsor

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    The 95' draft was pretty mediocre.

    The first round in order:
    Bryan Berard, Wade Redden, Aki-Petteri Berg, Chad Kilger, Daymond Langkow, Steve Kelly, Shane Doan, Terry Ryan, Kyle McLaren, Radek Dvorak, Jarome Iginla, Teemu Riihijarvi, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jay McKee, Jeff Ware, Martin Biron, Brad Church, Petr Sykora, Dmitri Nabokov, Denis Gauthier, Sean Brown, Brian Boucher, Miika Elomo, Alexei Morozov, Marc Denis, and Maxim Kuznetsov.

    Three very good players, and maybe three - four more solid types...

    You have to remember that 90', 91' and 93' had sick drafts. People in 95' didn't know the 94' draft was pretty meh.

    If you picked a kid who looked like a tremendous prospect playing against his peer's in 95' -- its easy to get fooled that that kid will be as good as the best player in previous draft.

    Cross-scouting between country's and years are without any single doubt extremely hard. Watch 10 players play in the same league, and its not that hard to rank them. But watch one kid play one night at one level, and then the other night another kid at another level -- and it can be really hard to compare them.

    Then Aki had some classic -- highly touted D prospect stepping in and playing for a worthless team for his first handful of years-issues. Was not developed all that well. He was not really able to expand his register et c.

    A young forward can develop on a worthless team. You need to practise on what you are good at, and as a forward you will always get your chances. But for D's, its much much much harder. If you play on a worthless team as a young D, more often then not you will only get burned if you try stuff offensively, or even trys to be aggressive defensively. (Great teams seem to produce great D's, while worthless teams seems to produce great forwards. Look at the trend through the years!)
     
  24. MS

    MS 1%er

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    A few things happened with Berg:

    - first, he was picked in the mid-1990s at a time when size/grit was at an absolute premium and the league was heading into the darkness of the dead-puck era. If he were to come along today, he'd probably still be a first-rounder but not go nearly as high. On the flipside, a guy like Ryan Ellis wouldn't have been taken in the first 3 rounds of the draft in 1995 as a defender at his size.

    - Berg was one of those guys who matured physically very early. Was 210 lbs. and hit like a truck when he was 17. The fact that he was so physically dominant against kids probably made him look like a better prospect than he actually was.

    - LA rushed Berg to the NHL when he was 18. Instead of being in a comfortable environment in Europe for another year or two to develop his overall skill level and offensive game, he was thrown into the fire in the NHL and had to cope. Go out on the 3rd pairing, only ever make the safest play possible. Didn't play another shift on the PP at any level after he was 18. As a result his skill level (which was decent at lower levels - scored 6 points in 5 games at the 1994 World U-18s at the age of only 16) completely stagnated. Textbook example of how to rush and mis-handle a young player.

    And in the end, Berg wasn't *that* bad. He was a solid, serviceable bottom-pairing defender for a number of years, and left the NHL on his choosing in 2006 to go back to Europe - could have hung around a few more years if he'd wanted to.
     
  25. Slapshooter

    Slapshooter Registered User

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    A very good point and imo this is the answer for the op's/topic's question.
     

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