Radek Bonk was the jewel of 1994 NHL Entry Draft. The teenager from Czech Republic came to North America and dominated the IHL minor league with 42 goals and over 200 minutes and penalties. Expectations for the 6'3", 215lb man-child were through the roof.
The Ottawa Senators selected Bonk 3rd overall. He would spend the rest of his career struggling to live up to the unrealistic expectations.
Bonk's skating was a terrible detriment, and prevented him from early scoring success in the NHL. But eventually he found his niche as a strong, two way power pivot.
"Maybe the expectations were for something that is not his strength," suggested Claude Julien, Bonk's coach in Montreal. "When you draft players in the first round, all of a sudden people have a tendency to think he should be your leading scorer. You can't have 20 leading scorers, everybody's got to be really good at their jobs."
Bonk admits that the years failing to meet those lofty goals in Ottawa began to wear on him and eventually affected the way he played the game.
"You were trying to do things that normally you don't try," he said. "When you try to do something different, you don't play your role and that's when your game collapses. So I really want to concentrate on my role (in Montreal) and leave the goals to the goal-scorers."
Bonk did emerge as a regular 20 goal, 60 point threat in Ottawa. And he did play in the NHL over 1000 games (including playoffs). He scored 194 goals, 303 assists and 497 points - a pretty nice career when all was said and done.
But you definitely got the feeling Bonk was happy to leave Ottawa after 10 seasons of failing to meet expectations.
"I want to do whatever I can to help the team win," Bonk said. "We have a great group of players here and we all want to win the Cup. Everyone believes in each other and that makes a huge difference."
"I don't mind have more demands put on myself," he added. "I'm very demanding on myself. I want to win and I want to be a big part of this team being a success."
Bonk joined Montreal in 2005, then Nashville in 2007. He left for Europe in 2009, playing one season with Yaroslavl of the KHL before returning home to the Czech Republic to play several more seasons.