Fun from the start
Blue Jackets take Nash after getting top pick from PanthersPosted: Saturday June 22, 2002 1:43 PM
Updated: Saturday June 22, 2002 10:35 PM
TORONTO (AP) -- Rick Dudley traded the No. 1 pick in Saturday's NHL draft and still got the player the Florida Panthers wanted.
Doug MacLean of the Columbus Blue Jackets needed to move up to get their guy.
MacLean and Dudley got together and swapped two of the first three picks. MacLean then made rugged left wing Rick Nash the first pick in the NHL draft.
"We've had him No. 1 all year," MacLean said. "We're absolutely thrilled to get a power forward in our organization. He along with [Rostislav] Klesla and Pascal Leclaire give us a nice combination."
Dudley wanted defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who was still available when the Panthers picked third.
Nash, who has drawn comparisons to Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, had 32 goals and 72 points in 54 games with London of the Ontario Hockey League last season. At 6-foot-3, 188-pounds, scouts believe that he must still work on improving his skating ability.
"I'm very excited," Nash said. "I knew last night they were pretty high on me, but I had no idea."
Nash became only the fourth left wing to be selected No. 1, and the first since Toronto took Wendel Clark in 1985.
The first three rounds were scheduled for Saturday, with rounds four through nine on Sunday.
In a draft considered short on immediate-impact players, the league's general managers certainly made up for it by making a series of deals. The Philadelphia Flyers started the trade frenzy a day earlier, dealing Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-round selections to Tampa Bay for the No. 4 pick.
A couple of notable players were swapped on Saturday. The Buffalo Sabres traded Slava Kozlov to Atlanta, and acquired Edmonton center Jochen Hecht for two second-round picks. The New York Islanders dealt offensive forward Mariusz Czerkawski to Montreal for Arron Asham and a draft pick.
For Dudley, this marked the second time he has traded the No. 1 pick. As general manager of Tampa Bay in 1999, he helped swing a complicated deal involving numerous teams. It allowed Atlanta to acquire the top pick and choose Patrik Stefan.
As part of this deal, the Panthers also gave up their third- and fourth-round picks this year to Atlanta in exchange for the Thrashers' promise that they wouldn't select Bouwmeester with the No. 2 pick.
Bouwmeester, considered one of the few prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL next season. wasn't disappointed with dropping two spots.
"As I said all along, it's just exciting to get drafted and have the opportunity to hopefully one day play," said Bouwmeester, one of the few players to represent Canada at three consecutive junior hockey championships.
Atlanta selected Kari Lehtonen, of Finland, making him the highest European goalie ever selected in the draft.
"This is a big moment in my life. Now the NHL is closer," Lehtonen said.
Lehtonen was also the first European player drafted this year.
"I'm very proud of that," he said. "I think this shows that there are very good goalies in Europe, too."
The Flyers used the No. 4 pick to select Joni Pitkanen, the highest-rated European player on the NHL's Central Scouting list. It was Philadelphia's highest pick since taking Mike Ricci No. 4 in 1990.
Pittsburgh rounded out the top five by selecting defenseman Ryan Whitney out of Boston University.
There were few surprises the rest of the way, although among the biggest cheers went to Dan Paille, selected 20th by Buffalo. Paille had about 90 members of his family at the Air Canada Center and grew up in Welland, Ontario, about 20 miles outside of Buffalo.
Nashville selected forward Scottie Upshall with the sixth pick. Forward Joffrey Lupul went next to Anaheim, and was followed by center Pierre-Marc Bouchard to Minnesota.
Florida swapped picks with Calgary to select center Petr Taticek at No. 9, while the Flames used the 10th pick on Michigan forward Eric Nystrom.
The Sabres selected Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard next, followed by Washington's two picks. The Capitals took defenseman Steve Eminger 12th and center Alexander Syemin went next.
Three centers were taken next: Yale's Chris Higgins by Montreal; Jesse Niinimaki by Edmonton; and Jakub Klepis by Ottawa.
With its third pick of the first round, Washington took forward Boyd Gordon 17th.
Los Angeles selected Russian defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, Phoenix chose Czech center Jakub Koreis, and Paille went to Buffalo to round out the top 20.
Europeans were taken with three of the next four picks: Russian defenseman Anton Babchuk by Chicago, 21st overall; Finnish forward Sean Bergenheim by the New York Islanders 22nd; and Sweden center Alexander Steen by Toronto with the 24th pick.
Phoenix used the 23rd pick to select Canadian left wing Ben Eager.
Cam Ward was the second goalie taken in the draft, selected 25th by Carolina.
After Dallas selected defenseman Martin Vagner, San Jose used the 27th selection to take the first high-schooler, right wing Mike Morris, who attended St. Sebastian's in Needham, Mass.
Colorado selected forward Jonas Johansson 28th; Boston took goalie Hannu Toivonen; and Atlanta finished the first round by choosing Michigan State center Jim Slater.