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Historic pick

Islanders make DiPietro first goalie ever selected No. 1

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  Rick DiPietro made himself available for the draft when he voided the remaining three years of his college eligibility. AP

CALGARY, Alberta (CNNSI.com) -- When your franchise has been down since the late-80s, hasn't made the playoffs in six years and goes through almost annual ownership changes, you have to start somewhere.

For New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury, that somewhere was in net.

"It's a fantastic honor," 18-year-old Boston College goalie Rick DiPietro said after becoming the first goalie ever taken with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. "It's something I never imagined happening."

The Islanders already held the record, taking goalie Roberto Luongo at No. 4 in 1997. Luongo, by the way, was sent to Florida in a draft-day deal for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish as the Islanders cleaned house for their new owners.

"This is the most important goalie in the most important position in the sport," said Milbury, who also dealt goalie Kevin Weekes to Tampa Bay for a couple of draft picks. "There's a lot of danger, but we have a lot of conviction making this kid the No. 1 pick."

Owners Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar promised changes for the club, including raising the team's low payroll. The Islanders, who won four straight Stanley Cups during the 1980s, have not had a winning record since 1992-93.

"We have not made the playoffs in far too long and we need to get there," Milbury said. "Our owners didn't come into this business to wait another five years for us to make the playoffs."

"We were shifting assets here," Milbury said. "We have a different type of goaltender in DiPietro. We're wrenched over the loss of Luongo. He's a quality kid and a quality goaltender."

DiPietro, from Winthrop, Mass., was the top-ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. He went 17-3-5 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage this season. He also set an NCAA record with 77 saves in one game.

After only one year of college, DiPietro made himself available and voided his remaining three years of eligibility.

"It's a lot of pressure but it's something I want," DiPietro said.

He was chosen top goalie at this year's world junior championship, going 2-2-1 with a 1.81 GAA and a .935 save percentage for the fourth-place U.S. team.

The Atlanta Thrashers followed and picked Dany Heatley -- the top-ranked North American forward -- out of Wisconsin.

Heatley, 19, had 27 goals and 23 assists in 34 games with the Badgers this season.

"I'm thrilled to be a Thrasher," Heatley said. "I've got some work to do, in the weight room and things like that, but hopefully I can jump in and contribute."

The expansion Minnesota Wild chose left wing Marian Gaborik from Slovakia with the third pick.

Gaborik scored 25 goals and set up 22 more in 50 games with Trencin of Slovakia.

"We felt if anybody could come right in and play, it was him," Wild GM Doug Risebrough said.

The other expansion team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, then took defenseman Rostislav Klesla from Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League. The Prague native had 16 goals and 29 assists in 67 games last season.

"We believe this kid can come in right now and make our team," Columbus GM Doug MacLean said. "We think he's the best defenseman in the draft."

The Nashville Predators drafted right wing Scott Hartnell from Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League and the Boston Bruins took Swedish defenseman Lars Jonsson with the seventh pick.

At No. 8, the Lightning chose Russian right wing Nikita Alexeev from Erie of the OHL. Calgary then selected Brent Krahn of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

The Chicago Blackhawks chose Russian players with the 10th and 11th picks. They took center Mikhail Yakubov, then right wing Pavel Vorobiev.

All-Star defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was dealt from Colorado to Carolina, along with a second-round pick, for the Hurricanes' first three picks (Nos. 14, 47 and 63) and defenseman Nolan Pratt.

The Avalanche used the first of those picks on Vaclav Nedorost, a center who played with Budejovice of the Czech Republic.

Montreal took defenseman Ron Hainsey from Massachusetts-Lowell with the 13th pick and center Marcel Hossa at No. 16. Marcel's brother Marian is a star with the Ottawa Senators.

Anaheim took left wing Alexei Smirnov from Dynamo, Russia, with the 12th pick. Buffalo picked forward Artem Kriukov from Yaroslavl, Russia, at No. 15.

The Edmonton Oilers tabbed forward Alexei Mikhnov, another Yaroslavl player, with the 17th pick. Boston College players, defenseman Brooks Orpik and center Krystofer Rolanos, went consecutively to Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Los Angeles took the fourth Yaroslavl player of the first round, left wing Alexander Frolov. Ottawa also looked to Russia for the 21st pick, choosing defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

The Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils took defenseman David Hale from Sioux City of the United States Hockey League, Vancouver chose center Nathan Smith, Toronto followed with center Brad Boyes and Dallas selected center Steve Ott.

Washington used the 26th selection on center Brian Sutherby, The Boston Bruins exercised an option they earned in the trade that sent defenseman Ray Bourque to Colorado and chose Swedish defenseman Martin Samuelsson.

Justin Williams was selected by Philadelphia at No. 28, Detroit followed with Swedish defenseman Niklas Kronvall and St. Louis closed out the first round, choosing Minnesota center Jeff Taffe.


 
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