Islanders 2000 draft evaluation

By Gregory Maker

After six consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, GM Mike Milbury was set to secure the financially burdened franchise’s future in the 2000 NHL entry draft. The New York Islanders finished the season 26th out of 28 teams with 58 points and only 24 wins better than only Tampa Bay and the expansion Atlanta Thrashers. With the team newly purchased by software executive Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, a promise of a higher payroll was given. Financial issues had been a problem that plagued the franchise which was forced to trade away quality NHL talent such as Darius Kasparitus and Zigmund Palffy in previous years. Milbury then sent the team’s first round selection (4th overall) from 1997, goaltender Roberto Luongo to Florida for forwards Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. The New York Islanders then made history as they selected Rick DiPietro out of Boston University first overall making him the highest goaltender ever selected in any NHL draft. Luongo had previously held the record as highest goaltender drafted.

Out of the Islanders nine selections, two are NHL players and two are NHL prospects. Their picks from the 2000 draft have averaged 21 games in the NHL since being selected.

Rick DiPietro, G – 1st round, 1st overall (Boston University)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 81 games

After only one season at Boston University where the 5’11 190-pounder posted an 18-5-5 record with a 2.45 GAA and a save percentage of .913, DiPietro signed with the team where he played his rookie year both with Chicago of the IHL and the Islanders. DiPietro made his NHL debut at the age of 19 on Jan. 27, 2001 at home against Buffalo. DiPietro played 20 games in the NHL his rookie season posting a record of 3-15-1 with a 3.49 GAA and an .878 save percentage on the worst team in the league.

The next season, DiPietro was sent to the expansion Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL to further his development. This proved to be a highly successful move. In 59 games, DiPietro posted a 30-22-7 record with a 2.32 GAA and a .913 save percentage leading the team to the Calder Cup Finals ironically enough against Chicago, the team he played his first professional game with. Bridgeport lost the series in five games. DiPietro did not play in the NHL that season.

DiPietro continued to develop in Bridgeport the following season. In 34 games played he posted a 16-10-8 record decreasing his GAA to 2.14 while increasing his save percentage to .924. DiPietro returned to Long Island for 10 games where he went 2-5-2 with a 2.97 GAA and .894 save percentage. Chris Osgood was traded at the trade deadline to St. Louis clearing the way for DiPietro to back-up Garth Snow in the 2002-03 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

DiPietro was given the No. 1 spot on the depth chart for the Islanders for the 2003-04 season. That season, with the exception of a stint of two games in Bridgeport after a few bad games and a Garth Snow hot streak, DiPietro’s numbers continued to improve. In 51 games he went 23-18-5 decreasing his GAA tremendously to 2.36 while increasing his save percentage to .911 leading the Islanders to a playoff berth. DiPietro started all five games going 1-4 against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. DiPietro finally looks like the player the Islanders wanted when they drafted him. DiPietro should be the No. 1 goaltender on Long Island for years to come.

Raffi Torres, LW – 1st round, 5th overall (Brampton – OHL)
Status: NHL player (Edmonton Oilers)
NHL Games Played: 111

The Islanders secured another top five pick when they traded goaltender Kevin Weekes, and defenseman Kristian Kudroc as well as a second round pick in the 2001 NHL entry draft to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the fifth overall pick, a fourth round selection and a seventh round selection. With the fifth overall pick, the Islanders selected Raffi Torres. Torres started his professional career in the 2001-02 season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 24, 2001 at home against Anaheim. He played 14 games that season for the Islanders, recording one assist.

The Toronto, Ontario native appeared in 17 games for the Islanders the next season recording six assists. He played 49 games for Bridgeport scoring 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) before being sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs after a trade deadline move by the Islanders. The Islanders traded Torres along with Brad Isbister to the Oilers for defenseman Janne Niinimaa and a conditional pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Torres made his second consecutive appearance in the Calder Cup Finals for Hamilton losing to Houston in seven games.

Torres made it to Edmonton for the 2003-04 season appearing in 80 games and recording his first career NHL goal. He recorded 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in his first full NHL season. Torres was set to play in the NHL in 2004-05, but was sent to the Oilers AHL team due to the lockout. The 6’0 218-pounder tied for the team lead in points in 67 games played with 46 (21 goals, 25 assists) playing nine games less than co-leader Tony Salmelainen. Torres showed his toughness in the AHL posting 165 penalty minutes, a career high for both juniors and the pros. Torres looks to be a key piece for the Oilers in their future.

Arto Tukio, D – 4th round, 101st overall (Ilves Tampere – FNL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

After their two first round selections, the Islanders did not pick again until the fourth round where they selected defenseman Arto Tukio out of the Finnish SM-Liiga. Drafted at the age of 19, Tukio was coming off a rookie season in which he scored 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) and took only 20 penalty minutes in 42 games.

Tukio was voted the best defenseman at the 2001 World Junior Championships. The 5’10 176-pounder moved on to Jokerit Helsinki in 2002 where he played two seasons before joining Vastra Frolunda HC Goteborg of the Swedish Elite League. Tukio is developing nicely in Europe. He recorded 8 points (1 goal, 7 assists) in a more competitive league. Tukio is seen to be undersized for the NHL and still has not made his North American hockey debut.

Vladimir Gorbunov, F – 4th round, 105th overall (HC Moscow – Russia 2)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With one of the picks acquired in the deal which got the Islanders the fifth overall pick, they selected Vladimir Gorbunov out of the Russia 2 league. Gorbunov stayed with CSKA Moscow for two more seasons improving his point, goal, and assist totals each year. The 5’11 196-pounder recorded 58 points (27 goals, 33 assists) in 92 games during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, ending 2002 in the Russia 3 league. It is unlikely that Gorbunov will sign and play in North America. Last season he played only one game for Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the Russian Leagues.

Dmitry Upper, F – 5th round, 136th overall (Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo – Russia)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Islanders took a chance on Upper, who was 21-year-old at the time. At 6’1 203 pounds, he was coming off a 19-point year (14 goals, 5 assists) with Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo of the Russian League. Upper recorded a career-high 25 points (16 goals, 9 assists) for Moscow Spartak the following season, his third team in as many years. Upper played the last two seasons with CSKA Moscow where his production has dropped. It is doubtful that he will ever play in North America.

Kristoffer Ottosson, RW – 5th round, 148th overall (Djurgardens IF Stockholm – SEL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

The Islanders took another chance with their second selection in the fifth round selecting 24-year-old Kristoffer Ottosson from Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the SEL. In hopes of finding developed talent, the pick was not a bad one, but Ottosson at 5’10 183 pounds never signed and remains with Djurgardens. Ottosson has played nine seasons to date in the SEL, all with Djurgardens. In 346 games in the SEL, Ottosson has recorded 173 points (86 goals, 87 assists). There is almost no chance of Ottosson ever playing in North America.

Ryan Caldwell, D – 7th round, 202nd overall (Thunder Bay – USHL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

With the third pick received from Tampa Bay, the Islanders selected Ryan Caldwell out of the USHL. The 6’3 195-pounder served 152 penalty minutes in 46 games in his only season in the USHL. The Brandon, Manitoba native then attended the University of Denver of the WCHA as a freshman for the 2000-01 season. Caldwell duplicated his point, goal, and assist total 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists) in his first season with the Pioneers in 36 games. Caldwell started playing a more disciplined game taking 76 penalty minutes that season.

In his senior season, Caldwell scored a career-high 27 points, including tripling his career high in goals with 15 en route to a national championship. Caldwell made his professional debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL in 2004-05. He recorded 21 points (2 goals, 19 assists) as a rookie. With solid defensive players in the system, Caldwell brings a physical presence to the franchise and should compete for playing time in the NHL in the near future.

Dmitri Altarev, F – 9th round, 264th overall (Penza – Russia)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A 19-year-old at the time, Altarev was selected with a pick acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Altarev played parts of the next three seasons in the top Russian league and the Russia 2 league. Altarev had a breakout year in 2002-03 in the Russia 2 league. In only 22 games, he recorded 32 points including a career-high 26 goals for Penza. The 6’3 191-pounder was promoted to the top Russian league playing for Penza the following season. Over the last two seasons, Altarev has played 108 games recording 63 points (32 goals, 31 assists). It is not likely he will play in North America any time soon.

Tomi Pettinen, D – 9th round, 267th overall (Ilves Tampere – FNL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 6

The Islanders selected another overage player with their final selection in the 2000 NHL entry draft, 23-year-old Tomi Pettinen, a teammate of their third selection Arto Tukio. Pettinen played in Finland until signing in 2002 for the Calder Cup playoffs with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers where he played in nine games. In the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, Pettinen played 146 games for Bridgeport recording 18 points (2 goals, 16 assists). He made his NHL debut during the 2002-03 season. He played six games in the NHL over that season and the next. The 6’3 211-pounder returned to Finland in 2004-05 to play for Lukko Rauma. It is uncertain if Pettinen will return to North America to play. He is now 28 years old.

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