Devils 2000 draft evaluation

By Jared Ramsden

The New Jersey Devils, having just come off a second Stanley Cup Championship, had 13 selections in the 2000 NHL Draft, held in Calgary. Through trades and free agent compensation, GM Lou Lamoriello and Co. were able to accumulate the picks to load up an already strong prospect base with even more talent. New Jersey did not disappoint, striking gold with many of their selections, bouncing back from a sub-par 1999 draft.

Of New Jersey’s 13 picks, four of those players have established themselves at the NHL level, and four others are currently ranked in the Devils Top 20 prospects rankings at Hockey’s Future. This draft class has played a total of 306 NHL games for an average of almost 24 NHL games per pick. Two of the other draft picks are still in the organization, but have below average chances at having careers in the NHL. The 2000 draft was a very good one for the Devils. They unquestionably took advantage of having seven picks in rounds 1 through 3 of the draft, as only one of those seven players can officially be labelled as a bust.

David Hale, D – 1st round, 22nd overall (Sioux-City, USHL)
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 65

The Devils had finished the regular season fourth in the overall standings, which gave them 27th overall pick in the first round. However, in a prior trade with the Colorado Avalanche in which the Devils dealt Brian Rolston to Colorado for Claude Lemieux and a second round 2000 draft pick, the Devils and Avalanche agreed to swap picks in the first round of the 2000 draft. So instead of selecting 27th, the Devils were able to move up five spots to the 22nd slot.

Though the Devils were quite well stocked in prospects, a lack of quality blueliners was a definite weakness within the organization. For such a successful drafting team, the Devils had struggled to find quality defensemen in the previous few drafts, with Sheldon Souray (3rd Round, ’94), Colin White (2nd Round, ‘96), and Willie Mitchell (8th Round, ’96) being the only defensemen since the 1994 draft to make it to the NHL. So it was not a huge surprise to see the Devils take David Hale at 22nd, who was University of North Dakota bound after two seasons in the USHL with Sioux City. Not an offensive player, his 6’1, 204 lb frame, physical play and play without the puck were enough to get him drafted in the first round.

Hale spent the next three seasons at North Dakota. While he didn’t put up more than nine points in any of his three seasons, that’s not what Hale was expected to do. The tough and rugged Hale provided solid defensive and physical play in his own end and was eventually named an assistant captain. Of minor concern to the Devils and Hale was a kidney ailment that was discovered after his first collegiate season. It caused him to miss some time over his next two seasons and caused his conditioning to labor somewhat. As a result of this ailment, known as IgA nephropathy, Hale was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time in his third season at UND and only was able to play in 26 games.

Hale contemplated with the idea of returning to UND for his senior season, but with Ken Daneyko’s retirement after the 2002-03 season, a spot on the Devils blueline was there for the taking and Hale stood to have an above average chance to crack the Devils roster. His signed his first pro contract during the summer of 2003 with the idea of skipping the AHL altogether and going right to the NHL. Hale, along with fellow rookie Paul Martin both made the opening season roster. The two often were rotated in and out of the line-up, but as the season wore on, Hale saw less action in favor of the more mobile and offensively gifted Martin. An injury to Scott Stevens allowed Hale to see more time down the stretch, but he only suited up for only one playoff game. For the season, he managed to get into 65 games, registering four assists and 72 PIM’s along with a solid +12 rating.

2004-05 was expected to be a coming out party of sorts for Hale, but the NHL lockout killed Hale’s NHL aspirations for the season before they even had a chance to begin. However, he was eligible to play for the Devils top AHL affiliate in Albany. While Hale would have rather been playing in New Jersey, playing for the River Rats was seen as something that would be beneficial to him down the road as he would see more ice time and play in more key situations for the more inexperienced River Rats squad. He got off to a solid start, but midway through the season, his kidneys acted up again and he missed a significant amount of time. To the relief of the Devils, Hale was eventually able to return to the line-up near the end of the season. For the year, he managed two goals and three assists and 39 PIM’s in 30 games. When the NHL starts back up, Hale should have no difficulty cracking the Devils roster. With Scott Stevens future up in the air, Hale’s ice time and responsibilities could increase significantly. The only thing that stands in Hale’s way from becoming a top 4 defenseman is his chronic kidney problem.

Teemu Laine, RW – 2nd round, 39th overall (Jokerit, Finland)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

The Devils, through the trade with the Avalanche and compensatory draft picks, had four picks in the second round. With their first pick in the second round, the Devils took Finnish right winger Teemu Laine, one of the best skaters available in the draft. A former competitive speed skater, Laine seemed like a prototype Devils forward: fast, feisty and full of energy. With his blazing speed, at worst the Devils projected Laine to play in a checking/pest type role at the NHL level, but did have hope that he might develop a little more offensive touch as he developed. However, after five more full seasons in Finland in the SM-Liiga, his offensive game has been streaky at best.

Laine did set a career high in points this season with 17, and tied his career high for goals with seven, but much of that offensive output came in the first half of the season. Laine’s scoring cooled off quite considerably after the red-hot start. The 6’1, 200 lb. Laine had spent his entire career in Finland with Jokerit, but often struggled to get much ice time on a team loaded with veteran talent. His first few years, the limited ice time was understandable, but in 2002-03 after Laine put up seven goals and 12 points in 53 games, he hoped that he would be able to play on a scoring line in Jokerit. That was not be though as next season, he again spent much time on the third and fourth lines, scoring only five times. With all of that in mind, Laine decided to transfer to Tappara Tampere for the 2004-05 season in hopes of a more offensive role. But while it looked like he might have finally turned the corner offensively at the beginning of the season, it was not sustained.

Five years after drafting him, it appears the Laine may never develop that scoring touch and become the two-way force the Devils envisioned when they drafted him. That is not to say that Laine doesn’t have an NHL future, because his world class speed is something that you just can’t teach. Every NHL team needs role-playing third and fourth liners and Laine does have the ability to be just that. Ideally, the Devils would like to bring over to North America as soon as possible and get him seasoned in Albany. While he may never justify his high selection in the second round, the Devils would likely be satisfied to eventually see him settle in as a checker with the big club in the very near future. He is still a top prospect in the organization, but his time is running out.

Alexander Suglobov, RW – 2nd round, 56th overall (Yaroslavl Torpedo, Russia)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 1

It wouldn’t be a true Devils draft without some surprise selections, and with four second round picks, this appeared to be a ripe opportunity for the Devils to make some. When the Devils took Russian forward Alexander Suglobov, who wasn’t even in the top 100 of Central Scouting’s European prospects, there was a collective “who?” echoed around most NHL circles. The Devils usually do their homework when it comes to drafting lesser known talents, and so far, it appears as though taking a gamble on Suglobov in the second round is a gamble that is going to start paying dividends for New Jersey soon.

While not many knew his name when he was drafted, Suglobov is well known now and is one of the Devils most exciting offensive talents in the system. The winger, who is blessed with breathtaking skill and speed, spent three seasons in Russia after being drafted, but he had difficulty maintaining a regular spot in the very competitive senior league in Russia. He bounced from team to team and while he flashed his offensive talent every so often, it seemed like his game, most notably his sub-par defensive play, was never going to fully develop properly until he came over to North America. The Devils did not want to see his offensive talents go to waste, so during the summer of 2003, the Devils signed the 6’1, 180 lb. Suglobov with the intention of playing him regularly with the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany.

By this time, the word was now out on the offensive talents Suglobov possessed, and many within the organization and even fans were intrigued to see this Russian sniper in action. He got off to a very strong start, strong enough to earn a call up to the big club, where he got a chance to play with Russian hockey legend, Igor Larionov, who was winding up his illustrious career with New Jersey. Suglobov likely would have received a longer look with the Devils, but a wrist injury prevented that from happening. He missed a significant chunk of the season and eventually required surgery. He ended up suiting up for only 35 games with Albany but scored 11 times, leading the Devils to believe that if fully healthy, that they may have a legitimate 25-30 goal scorer on their hands.

Had the NHL not been locked out this fall, Suglobov unquestionably would have been given a good shot to make the Devils out of training camp, and at worst, he would have received a call up at some point during the season. Nevertheless, a full and healthy season at Albany definitely should not be seen as a step back in his development. While his consistency at times left something to be desired, you can’t argue with the results he put up with the River Rats this past season. In 72 games, he scored 25 goals, tied for the team lead and added 21 assists for 46 points, good for fourth best on the team. Suglobov’s defensive play still needs quite a bit of work, but defense is not what will make or break Suglobov in quest to become an NHLer. Instead it is his game breaking offensive ability. The way things are looking now, Suglobov may need one more full season in Albany to improve his defense, but his scoring ability looks to be NHL ready and his future with the Devils looks very bright.

Matt DeMarchi, D – 2nd round, 57th overall (University of Minnesota, NCAA)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

The Devils had their third second round pick right after making the Suglobov selection, and went back to the blueline by taking aggressive and rugged University of Minnesota defenseman Matt DeMarchi. DeMarchi was considered a strong skater but was more of a presence in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. He wasn’t considered the flashiest prospect, but still was a solid, in-your-face type of defenseman. In a way, he was quite similar to David Hale, but with a little less upside.

DeMarchi played out his full collegiate eligibility at Minnesota, helping the Golden Gophers win two straight NCAA championships in his final two seasons. While DeMarchi wasn’t counted on to be much of an offensive contributor, his point totals increased each season. DeMarchi made his presence felt most nights as one of the Golden Gophers most physical and antagonistic blueliners as evidenced by his 473 career PIM’s. After completing his college eligibility, he signed a pro contract with the Devils and was off to Albany for the 2003-04 season.

DeMarchi’s first pro season in the AHL with the lowly River Rats was definitely a learning experience. Though he didn’t look completely out of place, DeMarchi’s play was spotty and streaky at times as he was often prone to defensive miscues. He also battled a number of minor injuries that limited him to 52 games. Not surprisingly, as a rookie, DeMarchi’s PIM total was not as high as he was accustomed to in college, finishing with only 78, while also chipping in with four goals and 14 points. DeMarchi’s second pro season was much like his first, and though he still was often prone to defensive errors, his play did improve marginally. The Devils had probably hoped to see more consistent play from him, but he did receive more ice time and responsibility being a second-year pro.

DeMarchi wasn’t likely to see any NHL action in 2004-05 had there even been a season, as the Devils knew that he needed more seasoning in Albany. Next season, DeMarchi will likely spend his third full season with the River Rats as well. While the Devils have been patient with DeMarchi, 2005-06 is very important in his development. He is currently the No. 1 defensive prospect in the organization, but he still has a ways to go to reach his potential and there is no guarantee that he even will get there. He hasn’t played horribly by any stretch, but in his third pro season, he must step up his game a notch or two. For the type of style that he plays, he also must add bulk and muscle to his lanky 6’2, 185 lb. frame. He has a chance to make it in the NHL as a serviceable No. 5 or 6 defenseman, but this is the season he must show some improvements in his defensive play and show more consistency from night to night or he will risk falling down the depth chart.

Paul Martin, D – 2nd round, 62nd overall (Elk River, USHS)
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 70

With their fourth and final pick of the second round, the Devils added their third defenseman to the fold with Minnesota high school product Paul Martin. However, unlike Hale and DeMarchi, who were more stay-at-home defensemen, Martin was more of a skilled offensive type. Considered more of a project, Martin put up fantastic numbers at Elk River High School averaging two points a game. The negatives for Martin were his size, standing at a paltry 6’0 170 lbs when he was drafted, and low level of competition that he played against. Nevertheless, most agreed that he had very good potential because of his strong skating ability and offensive instincts.

Martin’s next stop in his young hockey career was the University of Minnesota where he played from 2000 to 2003, including back to back NCAA championships in his final two seasons. In his first season with the Golden Gophers, he put up a respectable 20 points including three goals in 38 games. He really made a name for himself in his last two seasons, putting up 38 and 39 points respectively. His third season was most impressive as Martin had to take over for Jordan Leopold assuming responsibilities as the team’s No. 1 defenseman. Martin was very tempted to return to Minnesota for his senior season, but the Devils convinced him to turn pro and he signed his first pro contract over the summer of 2003.

Out of Hale, DeMarchi and Martin, all of whom turned pro after the 2002-03, most within the organization believed that Hale was the most NHL ready of the three and that Martin and DeMarchi would best be served to start their pro careers in the AHL with Albany. While Hale did crack the opening night roster, and DeMarchi started the year with the River Rats, Martin surprised and had a strong training camp and exhibition season and convinced the Devils that for the time being, he was NHL ready. At the beginning of the season he and Hale often rotated in and out of the line-up. When Scott Stevens went down with a concussion at mid-season, both rookies played more, but Martin seemed to gain confidence the more he played and by the end of the regular season, he was playing upwards of 20 minutes a night, and had full confidence of the coaching staff. In 70 regular season games, he scored six goals and 18 assists for 24 points, to go along with an excellent +12 rating. In the post season, he was one of the Devils best performers, with a goal and an assist in a five game series opening loss to Philadelphia.

The Devils no doubt had to be excited at what Martin would do with a year of experience under his belt, but since the season was washed out due to a labor dispute, he never got a chance to strut his stuff. Unlike Hale, who spent the year with Albany, Martin opted to go to Europe and play in the Swiss League. However after 11 games, Martin left the team after scoring three goals and four assists. After faring well in the World Cup tournament with Team USA last summer, he was invited back to play for the US in the World Championships in Austria in May. Martin’s quick jump to the NHL and how well he adapted in his first professional season had to have caught the Devils off guard somewhat as they most likely figured he would need at least a year of seasoning in the AHL. Though he still could stand to add a few more pounds to his frame and play a little more aggressively in the defensive zone, he has developed much quicker than anticipated. He is one of the league’s most promising young defensemen. When the NHL starts things up again, Martin should be ready to continue his rapid ascension with the Devils and blossom into an offensively gifted top 4 defender. He could turn out to be the best pick of this draft class.

Max Birbraer, LW – 3rd round, 67th overall (Newmarket, OHA-A)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

With the number of selections the Devils had amassed for this draft, they decided to go with another wildcard choice in Kazakhstan forward Max Birbraer. One of the feel-good stories of the draft, Birbraer grew up in Israel with NHL aspirations after his family was forced to flee from Russia due to religious persecution. He even briefly spent time in jail in Israel in 1999 for failing to complete a mandatory two-year military service. Birbraer eventually found his way to North America where he played three seasons of Tier 2 junior hockey in Ontario, including 50 goals in 46 games in his draft year. He was solidly built at 6’2, 185 lbs and it looked as though he had great offensive potential. Since he was too old to play major junior hockey, Birbraer was to jump straight to Albany to begin his NHL journey.

It was a big step up in the level of competition from Tier 2 hockey, right to the AHL, and as expected, he adjusted very slowly with the River Rats, playing in 50 games, and scoring seven times to go along with six assists. The Devils expected Birbraer to pick it up in his second season, but he failed to do so, suiting up for only 40 games and scoring only six times. After one more non-descript six-goal season in 2002-03, New Jersey officially gave up on Birbraer as he did not get his contract renewed for 2004. He signed on with the Florida Panthers organization but toiled mostly in the CHL and spent this past season in the ECHL with San Diego, where he scored 19 goals. It appears though that Birbraer will not likely achieve his dream of an NHL career and as of right now, should be labelled a bust.

Michael Rupp LW/C – 3rd round, 76th overall (Erie, OHL)
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 83

With their seventh and final choice on a busy first day the draft, the Devils took big and skilled 6’5, 225 lb forward Michael Rupp, a former first round pick (10th overall) of the New York Islanders in 1998 who had re-entered the draft. Rupp was the second draft re-entry to be taken as St.Louis took Justin Papineau with the previous pick. Rupp was a burgeoning power forward, but had been slow to develop, which is not uncommon for players of this type. However, in his last junior season with Erie, he appeared to turn the corner in his development, scoring 32 goals and piling up 134 PIM’s in only 58 games. The Devils signed him right after the draft with the intention of grooming him in Albany.

Rupp started fairly slowly in his first pro season, scoring only 10 times in 71 games, but overall his first AHL season was a step in the right direction. With no need to rush him, Rupp played a second full season in Albany in 2001-02 and jumped to 13 goals and 30 points in 78 games as he continued to physically mature into his big body. After a couple of AHL seasons, Rupp appeared as though he was ready to challenge for an NHL job. He did not have a stellar pre-season however, and was dispatched to Albany yet again. After a slow start, he picked up his play and earned a call-up to the Devils and scored two goals in his first NHL game. He managed to get into 26 games, and scored five goals and eight points. During the Devils 2002-03 Stanley Cup run, Rupp was forced to watch most of the action from the press box as one of the black aces, but an injury to Joe Nieuwendyk in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference Finals allowed Rupp to get his first taste of the post-season. In four Stanley Cup final games, Rupp chipped in with a goal and three helpers. His goal was a big one that he will no doubt never forget as he scored the game-winning goal in the seventh game of the finals against the Mighty Ducks.

After a spectacular finish to his rookie season, much was expected of Rupp in 2003-04. With Nieuwendyk now moved on to Toronto via free-agency, the second line center spot was there for the taking, and even though he was only going into his second NHL season, the Devils had confidence that Rupp could do the job. As the season wore on though, Rupp struggled to hold onto the job and after 51 games, had only six goals and 11 points. At the trade deadline, Rupp was shipped along with a second round 2004 draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for the more experienced Jan Hrdina. He was likely would have been penciled into the Coyotes roster for 2004-05, but a lockout killed any chance of that happening. The Devils may have expected too much out of Rupp at such a young age, but he has come along enough in his development that he should have no difficulty sticking around in the NHL with the Coyotes.

Phil Cole, D – 4th round, 125th overall (Lethbridge, WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

After making seven selections in the first three rounds of the 2000 draft, the Devils still had six more to go in rounds four through nine. With their first pick on the second day of the draft, the Devils added their fourth defenseman to the fold when they took Phil Cole of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 6’4, 190 lb Cole was a physical rearguard who like prior picks David Hale and Matt DeMarchi, was a defensive-minded defender. Cole had just finished his second full WHL season with the Hurricanes, where he had 112 PIM’s in 51 games.

Cole returned to Lethbridge for the 2000-01 season and turned in his best all around junior campaign. In 63 games, he managed 21 points, including a career high of six goals to go along with 129 PIM’s. Cole’s overage year in the WHL was a whirlwind of sorts that saw him start the year in Lethbridge, have a brief six-game stopover in Vancouver before being dealt to Medicine Hat for the remainder of the season. He still was able to manage a career-best 23 points in 54 games. With his junior eligibility maxed out, Cole signed with New Jersey after the season to begin his pro career.

Cole had hoped to start his pro career by cracking the River Rats line-up but instead wound up spending the majority of the 2002-03 season in the ECHL with Columbus. He played 51 games there, registering nine points (four goals, five assists) and 135 PIM’s. He did manage to sneak into four games with Albany during the season. After some ECHL seasoning, Cole had hoped to stick in Albany next season, and while he did play in 39 games, he was not a regular. He was often a healthy scratch and as a result, he was often farmed out to the ECHL to get some playing time. This past season was much the same, but he spent even less time in Albany (only 18 games), despite the rash of injuries that Albany had to their defense. He suited up for 42 games with the Augusta Lynx, scoring once and adding four helpers to go along with 80 PIM’s.

While Cole is still in the organization, he will be hard pressed to ever make to the NHL. Cole first has to prove he can stick in the AHL for a whole season before he will be considered even an average prospect for the Devils. It appears that Cole will more than likely develop into no more than a journeyman minor-pro defenseman.

Mike Danton, C – 5th round, 135th overall (Barrie, OHL)
Status: former NHL player
NHL games played: 87

The Devils got much more than they bargained for in more ways than one when they drafted Danton in the fifth round, who at the time was known as Mike Jefferson. Known to have somewhat of an odd personality, Danton had a special bond with his agent, the controversial David Frost, but his parents had been almost completely erased from his life. As an overage forward playing in the OHL with the Barrie Colts, Danton put together a stellar season scoring 34 goals and 53 assists for 87 points and a whopping 203 PIM’s in 58 regular season games. He didn’t stop in the playoffs either, leading Barrie to an OHL championship. He scored almost a point a game (23 points in 25 games) and continued to show a penchant for PIM’s, racking up 107. The feisty and pesky Danton looked as though he was a late bloomer, and despite his size, he seemed determined to forge out a career in the NHL. Danton signed a contract with the Devils after the draft and started the 2000-01 season in Albany.

His first pro season with Albany was quite a successful one. In 69 games, he scored 19 times and added 15 assists for 34 points, to go along with 195 PIM’s, which was tops on the team. He even earned a two-game call-up to New Jersey. The Devils had to be pleased with how smoothly Danton’s transition from junior to pro went, and it looked as though his stay in the AHL might be a short one. However, it was not to be as he suffered an abdominal injury the next year during training camp that derailed his season.

This is where some bizarre things began to happen between Danton the Devils organization. The Devils would have been quite wiling to assist him in his rehabilitation, but he went outside the team to get medical advice on the abdominal injury he had. Danton was quoted as saying, “I’m not drinking Lou’s Kool-Aid” after the Devils refused to pay for the outside medical treatment he was receiving for his injury. When the Devils assigned Danton to Albany, he refused, and as a result was suspended. This whole disagreement/conflict resulted in Danton missing the entire 2001-02 season.

During the summer of 2002, Danton legally changed his last name from Jefferson to Danton, to further distance himself from his family. The Devils and Danton had agreed to try to move on from the troubles of last season and now fully healthy, he hoped to have a strong training camp and possibly make the Devils opening season roster. He did just that, and scored a couple of goals in a fourth line role after 17 games. However, Danton and Devils management again clashed during this time. After being scratched for a game in October, Danton was furious and voiced his displeasures to the organization. When the Devils tried to send him down to Albany in December, he refused assignment and was suspended again by the team. He then took his frustrations a step further, taking legal action to try to gain a release from the team. He ended up sitting out the remainder of the season, and his future in New Jersey looked to be coming to a crashing halt.

While Danton did prove to be somewhat of a head case, he still had the talent to play an agitator type role at the NHL level. But with all the turmoil between him and the Devils, Danton was going to have to do it with a different organization. Before the 2003 draft, he was dealt to the St.Louis Blues where he hoped to get a fresh start. Danton cracked the Blues opening season roster and put together a rock-solid 2003-04 season, scoring seven goals and five assists to go along with 141 PIM’s in 68 games. The Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, but Danton’s season had to be considered a success as he established himself as an NHL player, and all the trouble he caused with New Jersey seemed to be a thing of the past. That was not going to be the case though as just hours after the playoffs ended, he found himself in trouble with the law.

Danton was arrested by officials from the FBI in California for his alleged role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was apprehended in San Jose the next morning, not long after the Blues were eliminated by the Sharks in the playoffs. In an even stranger twist, the person to be murdered was apparently his agent, David Frost. Frost denied this was the case but apparently Danton was fearful that Frost would ruin his career by telling Blues management about his reckless type of lifestyle. Katie Wolfmeyer, a 19-year-old woman who worked at the Blues practice rink, was the connection through which Danton tried to carry this outrageous scheme. Danton was no longer worrying about a career in the NHL, but instead about possible jail time. And in November 2004, he was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison. What looked like a once promising NHL career for Danton, had come to a crashing halt shortly after it started.

Matus Kostur, G – 5th round, 164th overall (Banska Bystrica, Slovakia)
Status: NHL bust

NHL games played: 0

With Martin Brodeur manning the nets in New Jersey, any goaltending prospect in the Devils system knows that they will be given plenty of time to develop. Aside from selecting Ari Ahonen in the first round of the 1999 draft, the Devils have not spent any high round selections on goaltenders since Brodeur has established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. The Devils have used the later rounds of the draft to try to unearth some sleeper type goaltenders, as was the case in 2000 when they drafted Slovakian netminder Matus Kostur in the fifth round.

After playing two seasons in Slovakia and with the Devils goaltending depth thinning out at the minor pro level, the Devils signed Kostur before the 2002-03 season to compete for a job in Albany. At worst, he would play in the ECHL and as it turns out, that is where he spent his first pro season, playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths. He played 44 games, winning 16 of them, and posting a .891 save percentage with a 3.72 GAA. Next season, Kostur again started off with Columbus but earned a few games in Albany after winning nine of 13 games and posting a stellar .927 save percentage and 1.97 GAA in Columbus. He did appear overmatched in Albany, however, with winning only three of 10 starts and posting a sub-par .882 save percentage.

Kostur had hoped to challenge for the back-up job with the River Rats in 2004-05, but with the NHL locked out, Scott Clemmensen, who likely would have been Brodeur’s back-up in New Jersey was back in Albany sharing time with Ari Ahonen, relegating Kostur to the ECHL once again. With the Augusta Lynx, he was a back-up behind veteran Jason Saal, winning only seven of 30 games and once again had a sub .900 save percentage. Kostur’s immediate future does not appear to be bright. He has yet to prove himself at the ECHL level, and recent draftees Josh Disher and Jason Smith are likely to jump ahead of Kostur on the depth chart in the very near future. Kostur’s contract is up this summer, and it’s not terribly likely that he will be re-signed.

Derek Engelland, D – 6th round, 194th overall (Moose Jaw, WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

Having taken four defensemen already, the Devils chose their fifth and final blueliner in the sixth round when they took Derek Engelland of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. Engelland put up decent numbers in his five years with the Warriors, including a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 2001-02, though the 6’2, 200 lb rearguard is a defensive, stay-at-home type. With the defensive depth the Devils had in the system, the Devils chose to not sign Engelland after his career-best season and he became a free agent.

Engelland hitched on with the Calgary Flames organization after a tryout at the club’s 2003 rookie tryout camp. He split time between the Flames ECHL affiliate in Las Vegas and the team’s AHL affiliate in Lowell in 2003-04. In 26 AHL games, he was held off the score sheet. Engelland spent all of 2004-05 in Las Vegas and put together a solid season, scoring five goals and 21 points and racking up 138 PIM’s in 72 games. Engelland will hope to challenge for a regular spot with the Flames new AHL affiliate in Omaha next season, but with the amount of defensive depth the team has at the NHL level, Engelland does not stand much of a chance of progressing past the AHL and his overall chances of ever reaching the NHL are very remote.

Ken Magowan, LW – 7th round, 198th overall (Vernon, BCHL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

When the Devils drafted winger Ken Magowan, he was definitely a prospect who was rough around the edges. The 6’2, 200 lb Magowan had just finished off a solid season with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers, scoring 31 goals in 58 games. Magowan was a strong skater who played solidly both ways and always gave 100 percent. He went on to Boston University for the next step in his hockey career.

In 34 games, Magowan scored five goals in his first collegiate season, and the next season he only scored six times, he added 15 helpers for 21 points in 27 games. Magowan stepped his game up another level in 2002-03, hitting double digits in goals with 11 and adding 13 assists for a career-high 24 points. He wasn’t just contributing on the score sheet as his effort game in and game out was second to none. His senior season looked like it was going to be his best season yet, but a mid-season knee injury forced him to miss eight games and he was a little rusty upon return. He scored nine times, and added six helpers for 15 points in 26 games, most of which came before his injury. After his senior season, Magowan signed a pro tryout deal with the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany, and suited up for five games and was held off the scoresheet. The Devils were pleased enough with Magowan’s development that they signed him to a contract over the summer of 2004.

Magowan had hoped to make the River Rats opening season roster, but due to the glut of forwards in Albany, he was sent to the ECHL where he could get more quality ice time. He could have stuck around as a spare forward with Albany, but for his development, playing in the ECHL was a much better alternative. Magowan spent the majority of the season in the ECHL with Augusta and he turned out to be one of the Lynx’ top players, even making an appearance in the ECHL All-Star game. Magowan scored 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points in 69 games and for good measure, he tacked on 107 PIM’s. His strong play even earned him some time in Albany when the Rats ran into injury and suspension problems up front. He did not look out of place at all, playing in four games and registering four points including two goals, one of which was a game winner.

After a solid season in the ECHL, Magowan should challenge for a full time spot in the AHL next season for the sometimes offensively-starved River Rats. He has been developing at a steady pace, and while he still needs much more development time in the minors, his first pro season indicates that he is on the right track. For a seventh round pick, Magowan has played quite well and given a few more seasons to develop his all around game in the minors, he could very well turn out to be the Devils diamond in the rough of this draft class. A solid 2005-06 season could move Magowan up the Devils prospect depth chart, and it is certainly not out of the question that he could make it.

Warren McCutcheon, C – 8th round, 257th overall (Lethbridge, WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

With their 13th and final pick in the 2000 draft, the Devils took Lethbridge Hurricane Warren McCutcheon, a towering 6’4, 190 lb center. Having only scored two times in 62 games in his first WHL season, the Devils were hoping that McCutcheon would develop a scoring touch as his junior years progressed. He did have a much better second season with Lethbridge, scoring a career-high 17 goals and 29 assists in 69 games, and posted very similar numbers next season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Nonetheless, the Devils chose not to sign McCutcheon and after being cut from the Tigers after five games in 2002-03 did not play another game that season. He has played the last two seasons at the University of Manitoba and is the only player of this Devils draft class to have not played any games at the professional level.

Summary

With 13 selections in the 2000 draft, the strong drafting Devils did not disappoint. David Hale and Paul Martin look to be fixtures on the Devils blueline for the very foreseeable future. Alexander Suglobov looks to be a sniper in waiting, while Teemu Laine, Matt DeMarchi and Ken Magowan are still considered some of the Devils brightest prospects who should challenge for NHL jobs down the road. Mike Rupp, while no longer in the organization, has established himself as an NHL regular and looks to continue his success as a pro with the Phoenix Coyotes. Mike Danton had also established himself as a regular NHL player, but put an end to his own career.

Out of the rest of the players New Jersey selected in 2000, most will likely never get a sniff of NHL action, but only one of them is not currently playing professional hockey in North America, a testament to the Devils excellent drafting ability. With the Devils hitting on so many of their early picks, the 2000 draft will go down as a successful one for GM Lou Lamoriello, Head Scout David Conte and the rest of the Devils organization.

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