|Head injury scared off other teams
By BUCKY GLEASON News Sports Reporter 6/25/00
CALGARY, Alberta - The Buffalo Sabres have been looking for a playmaking
center to replace Pat LaFontaine for the last three years. They found one
in Artem Kriukov, who comes the way LaFontaine left: surrounded by questions
The Sabres selected Kriukov, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound Russian, in the first
round Saturday of the NHL entry draft. He suffered a concussion in November
playing against Slovakia. Apparently, it was severe enough that he was
unconscious for several minutes and a stick blade was used to prevent him
from swallowing his tongue.
"I was unconscious," Kriukov said through an interpreter. "I don't remember."
Different versions of Kriukov's injury floated around the Saddledome
on Saturday afternoon. Several scouts who attended the game thought it
was a serious injury and suggested their teams remove him from draft consideration.
Obviously, the injury wasn't enough to scare off the Sabres, who picked
him 15th overall.
"I was at the game it happened," Sabres Player Personnel Director Don
Luce said. "It looked bad, but it was just a concussion. He got a little
hurt and played the rest of the season after coming back with no problems.
It was mild. . . . We looked into it. We're fine with it."
The Sabres selected offensive defenseman Gerard Dicaire in the second
round, 48th overall. They did not have a third-round pick after sending
it to Tampa Bay in the trade that brought Chris Gratton to Buffalo. The
draft concludes today with rounds 4 through 9.
Buffalo has been one of the better teams drafting over the last seven
years, but its selection of Kriukov was curious considering the increased
concern the NHL has had regarding concussions. Teams have been wary of
acquiring players who have suffered several over a short period.
Eric Lindros' problems last season, in which he suffered multiple concussions
and missed all but one playoff game for Philadelphia, were well documented.
LaFontaine's troubles in Buffalo led to his exit and eventual retirement.
Buffalo obviously believes Kriukov does not fit into the same category.
"(Kriukov) has had one concussion," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier
said. "The medical work has been done. Everybody is satisfied with him
being back 100 percent. As much as there should be a concern, it's also
something that you don't want to overreact to, too. It needs to be examined,
which it was, and then you move on."
Kriukov, 18, was rated 14th among European skaters according to the
Central Scouting Service, which called him "a big, fast skater with a powerful
shot." Scouts said he's a smart player and good puckhandler who moves well
through traffic. Buffalo needed a playmaking center.
He had no points in three games for Torpedo Yaroslavl II in a men's
league a step below professional hockey in Russia. Kriukov said he had
eight goals and nine assists in about 20 previous games in junior hockey
after coming back from the injury. Sabres scouts saw him play 15 games
after the concussion.