December 10, 2020

Pavel Brendl, the Rangers ultimate failed first round pick?

Pavel Brendl (NHLI)

Former Rangers GM, Neil Smith spoke about his scouting and drafting experiences on the Cam and Strick Podcast. One of the more intriguing tidbits was Neil opening up about why Pavel Brendl failed as a first round pick.

Neil Smith on drafting Pavel Brendl

Smith reminisced about drafting Pavel Brendl, 4th overall in 1999 which may be one of the worst draft picks in Rangers history. “He scored 92 goals in the Western league, which is thought of as a tough league. The scouts all thought he would be the next Mike Bossy,” Smith explained. “It turned out he didn’t have the character make up to ever make it in the NHL.”

That was evident on day one of his brief Rangers career. On his first day skating with the Blueshirts he looked horrendous. This prompted many questions which led to Brendl commenting he had the flu. This did not sit well with Neil Smith.

”Now, you have to hope he does have the flu,” Neil Smith said after watching what was labeled as an unenthusiastic skate. ”You have to write it off, or you’ll drive yourself crazy. As in, ‘Oh, my God. I gave up Sundstrom, Cloutier and a first-round pick for him. What if he’s not sick?’ ”

Sadly, that is exactly what Smith did and certainly was factored into his eventual dismissal that season. As for Brendl, he played 78 games in the NHL over the span of 4 season for three different teams. Not a single one of them was for the Rangers.

Neil Smith on what he wants to be remembered for

Neil Smith Rangers
Neil Smith was the man who built a winner. (AP)

Neil Smith was asked about what he would like to be remembered for and his response was surprising. “I don’t want to be remembered as just a GM who signed free agents or made trades…I was a scout.,” Smith began. “I want to be remembered for finding Nicklas Lidstrom, keeping it quiet and drafting him in the third round.”

He continued to talk about his days as a scout with the Red Wings. He highlighted drafting Sergei Federov in the 4th round and that was the highest a Russian was ever drafted. Then he wanted to take Sergei Nemchinov in that draft, but the Wings didn’t want too many Russians, so he drafted Nemchinov the next year when he took over the Rangers.

While Smith had some misses, he had some big wins too. He remains the only GM since World War II to win a Stanley Cup for the Rangers.

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