Panthers 2000 draft evaluation

By Holly Gunning

The Florida Panthers made eight picks in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the first not until the 58th pick, nearly into the third round. Of the eight picks, only one player has played any NHL games, Josh Olson, who remains in the system. Two other players remain prospects as well, goaltender Davis Parley, now in the Calgary system, and Janis Sprukts, signed but still playing in Europe. Olson’s five NHL games make for a very low NHL games per pick average for Florida for this draft class — under one game per pick.

While the Panthers didn’t make a lot of great selections in 2000, then GM Bryan Murray did pull off a stunning trade with Mike Milbury and the New York Islanders: Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen. In doing so, the organization picked up a goaltender who was at that point perhaps the best prospect in hockey, and who solidified the Panthers net for years to come.

Vladimir Sapozhnikov, D (2nd round, 58th overall, Russia-3 Novokuznetsk-2)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL bust

With their first pick of the 2000 draft, at 58th overall, the Panthers took a 6’3 physical defenseman in Sapozhnikov. After his draft, he played two years for the North Bay Centennials of the OHL. He played in the 2002 World Junior Championships for his native Russia. Sapozhnikov was signed to a contract by Florida and played just four games in the AHL for San Antonio in 2002-03. He is no longer playing professional hockey.

Robert Fried, RW (3rd round, 77th overall, USHS Deerfield Academy)
NHL games: 0

Status: NHL bust

Drafted out of high school, Fried played four years at Harvard University, reaching offensive totals of just 13 points in 30-some games. Fried was assistant captain his senior year and also a three-year letterwinner in lacrosse for the Crimson. Graduating in 2004, he went unsigned by the Panthers. Fried attended 2004 training camp with the Binghamton Senators and the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators, but was cut from both and did not continue in hockey.

Sean O’Connor, RW (3rd round, 82nd overall, WHL Moose Jaw Warriors)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL bust

O’Connor was signed to a contract by Florida in 2002, and played the next two years in the ECHL and with AHL affiliate San Antonio. But in 28 games with the Rampage in 2003-04, he had just one point. O’Connor signed with the ECHL San Diego Gulls in 2004-05 were he had 30 points in 46 games, and saw 15 games with the AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks as well. The physical 6’3 winger is productive at the ECHL level, but can’t seem to transfer his game any higher.

Chris Eade, D (4th round, 115th overall, OHL North Bay Centennials)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL bust

The 6’2 defenseman changed teams in 2001-02, becoming part of the 2002 OHL Champion Erie Otters. Eade was not signed by Florida that summer and allowed to re-enter the draft. He was a free agent invitee to the Montreal Canadiens development camp in 2002. After playing seven games in the UHL at the end of the 2002-03 season, Eade is now a sophomore at the University of Western Ontario and in 2004-05 had 13 points in 22 games.

Davis Parley, G (4th round, 120th overall, WHL Kamloops Blazers)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL prospect

Parley could end up being one who got away for the Panthers. Despite good numbers with Kamloops, Parley was not signed to a contract and re-entered the draft. He was not reselected, but was invited to 2003 Calgary camp and earned himself a contract. Parley was assigned to the expansion ECHL Texas Wildcatters in 2003-04, where he got a lot of work. He spent most of the 2004-05 season with them as well, until was re-assigned to the Bakersfield Condors near the end of the season. Parley has one more year remaining on his contract with Calgary and will try to make the AHL team, to be located in Omaha, next season.

Josh Olson, LW (6th round, 190th overall, USHL Omaha Lancers)
NHL games: 5
Status: NHL prospect

Drafted out of the USHL, Olson moved on to the WHL for two years and was then signed to a rookie contract by Florida. He played most of the first year in the ECHL with affiliate Jackson Bandits, and 23 games with AHL affiliate San Antonio. In 2003-04 he played 73 games with the Rampage, putting up 38 points. He also had a five-game stint with the Panthers, scoring a goal.

Olson was re-signed to a one-year contract in the summer of 2004. Olson played most of the last year with San Antonio, but was loaned to the AHL Hershey Bears in March. His rights remain with Florida. The bigger prospects take longer to develop, and at 6’5, 236 pounds and 23 years old, Olson might still put it together and play in the NHL, but the likelihood is small.

Janis Sprukts, C (8th round, 234th overall, Finland-Jr Lukko Rauma)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL prospect

Drafted out of the Finnish junior league, the hulking 6’3 235-pound Sprukts did come to North America to play in the QMJHL, but did not stick it out. After a 2001-02 season with 79 points in 63 games, in which he also played in the 2002 WJC’s for his native Latvia, he returned to Finland to the Finland-2 league, coming back to Bathhurst in the middle of the year. Sprukts played a handful of games in Latvia and Denmark in 2003-04, and again in Latvia in 2004-05. Playing on the Latvian World Championship team as an 18-year-old, Sprukts is now a critical part of the team. He has reportedly improved greatly in the past couple of years. Florida signed him to a contract in the summer of 2003. The challenge will be getting him to North America and staying here.

Matt Sommerfeld, LW (8th round, 253rd overall, WHL Swift Current)
NHL games: 0
Status: NHL bust

Sommerfeld made the earliest exit from hockey of anyone on the list. After being drafted, he played two more seasons in the WHL, and none after that. A tough customer, the 6’2 winger had 12 points and 272 penalty minutes his last year in junior.

Summary

Hockey’s Future’s review of the Panthers 2000 draft turned out to be quite accurate five years later.

“Murray took quite a few projects, and went with ‘safe’ character picks. There is no doubt that the Panthers need a great deal of character within the organization, but perhaps choosing a couple of offensively-talented players would have helped stocked the system a lot better for the future.

“Panthers fans, however, will talk about this draft for years to come. The big trade for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen is truly a franchise turning point.”

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.