Thursday

Shawn Antoski

People look back now and wonder how the Vancouver Canucks could have wasted the 18th pick in the 1990 Entry draft on Shawn Antoski. Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur and Bryan Smolinski went directly after Antoski. Later in the draft names like Doug Weight, Felix Potvin, Slava Kozlov, Sergei Zubov and Petr Bondra were all selected.

But teams really liked Antoski's fundamentals. He was a monstrous boy who was bigger than most of the men in the NHL. He stood at 6'4" and 220lbs and would play in the league at 235lbs. He was as tough as they come, a top tough guy. But he also had blazing speed. Its hard to imagine that a man that big could skate faster than most smaller guys. He was like a runaway freight train.

The Canucks weren't the only team interested in "Anton." Earlier in the draft the Canucks selected super skilled center Petr Nedved and they wanted Antoski's speed and toughness as part of their future plans as well. The Canucks also held the 23 selection, but felt that Antoski almost certainly would have been selected before then. The Canucks snatched him up with the 18th pick.

Obviously Antoski never panned out, and perhaps that isn't surprising in hindsight. Though his gifts were intriguing diamonds in the rough, he never really developed that necessary "hockey sense" at the NHL level. Perhaps this is because he took up the game on ice relatively late in life, at the age of 12.

He stuck in the league as a tough guy but never developed into anything else. He only scored 3 goals and 5 assists in 183 career games. He did pick up his play in the playoffs though, scoring 1 goal and 4 points in 36 playoff games. During his stay in Vancouver Antoski rarely played on any line other than the 4th line, usually with linemates Jack McIntyre and Tim Hunter.

An extremely well-liked player by teammates and the media, Antoski was a fun player to watch nonetheless. He was a devastating bodychecker.  When he plastered a guy at top speed and with all that body mass, boy it must have hurt!

Antoski was traded to the Philly Flyers in exchange for Josef Berenak. He played 1 and a half seasons in Philly before signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh. His stay in Pittsburgh was short as after only 13 games he was traded to Anaheim with Dmitri Mironov in exchange for Alex Hicks and Frederik Olausson.

Shawn had a rough time in Anaheim. He played in only two games as he badly sprained his left hip. The injury was so bad that he was forced to undergo season ending hernia surgery.

Shawn returned the following season and appeared in 9 games with the Ducks before tragedy struck. Antoski suffered a depressed skull fracture which required surgery after being involved in a one vehicle accident. Antoski's cousin Shawn Hall wrapped a 1996 Ford Mustang onto a freeway concrete center divider. Hall was later arrested on suspicion of felony drunken driving and drug possession. The accident almost cost these two their lives.

"The lesson is to not take things for granted," Antoski said. "This puts things in perspective. I hope other people learn from this. Be happy with what you've got. To have visited sick kids in the hospital like I have, then to be the guy in the ward sends a powerful message."

Antoski was well on his way to a full recovery and was expected to return to the NHL. However he suffered a freak mishap which reinjured his skull. Antoski had a large pet dog, who got himself into some sort of trouble. As he was helping out his dog, the dog's head came up, smashed into Shawn's head, and caused the reinjury.

So much for man's best friend.

Antoski made a full recovery though the incident showed just how brittle his injury left him. There was no way he could return to the wars on the ice. How long would it take before a punch to the head or a body check would cause another skull injury?

2 comments:

Eighty-Two 4:41 PM  

I'll never forget seeing that on the nightly sports highlights in Milwaukee.

C-fanSince88 11:06 AM  

I wept when Antonski was traded for the much smaller and sofer Beranek. Quinn was slowly turning the team from a big mean powerless to a smaller, faster, skilled team. It wouldn't work, and dealing away Anton was the beginning of that trend. Always thought his speed was veru underrated, and he probably played the very best hockey of his career in the '94 playoffs - he took Gino Odjick's spot away from him.

Antoski was also the victim of one of the hardest hits I've ever seen AGAINST a Canuck - Keith Primeau caught him with his head down skating out of the Canucks zone, and he creamed him - Anton was knocked out cold!

Always thought Antoski could have amounted to so much more as an enforcer - too bad injuries prevented him for enjoying a lengthier career.

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