On May 31st, 2000, the Carolina Hurricanes made a minor trade sending a 2002 eighth round pick for Paul Ranheim. That trade marked the first of five involving 2002 draft picks GM Jim Rutherford would make prior to the 2002 NHL entry draft. By draft day, Carolina had just four picks remaining in a year that would see 291 players selected. The chances of finding a star player were low with their first pick at No. 25. But the Hurricanes scouting staff found a player who would go on to make a huge splash in his first season. He is the only player of the Hurricanes crop to see any NHL action, but the impact he had in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs makes the 2002 draft year one of the most significant in franchise history.
Ward was rock solid for the Red Deer Rebels in his draft year, posting a 2.26 goals against that paced the league and logged 30 wins, which was good enough for second among WHL tenders. He also was a member of the 2001 Memorial Cup winning team.
Ward turned pro in 2004 with the Lowell Lock Monsters and registered the best numbers of his hockey career. In 50 games, Ward posted a 1.99 GAA and .937 save percentage, earning him a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team.
In 2005-06, Ward became the backup goaltender behind Martin Gerber. He played 28 regular season games and showed flashes of brilliance, but was overall less than spectacular. Ward placed last in GAA (2.93) and save percentage (.882) among the 13 rookie goaltenders. But Ward showed up when it counted most. With his team down 2-0 in the opening round of the playoffs, Ward replaced Gerber and carried the Hurricanes all the way to a Stanley Cup Championship, beating out Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller along the way. In 23 games, Ward posted a 2.14 GAA and .920 save percentage. Ward became only the fourth rookie goaltender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy and set multiple records.
The Hurricanes became the first team in ten years to miss the playoffs after winning the Cup and Ward showed few signs of becoming the elite-level goaltender he advertised in the playoffs. In 60 games in 2006-07, he posted below average numbers of 2.93 GAA and .897 save percentage. The starting position is his for another year, but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see him replaced in a few years.
Jesse Lane, D – 3rd round, 91th overall, Hull Olympiques, QMJHL
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Bust
Jesse Lane’s hockey career seemed to be gathering momentum when he was drafted in 2002. The 6’2, 205-pound defenseman has played all over the map, for Des Moines of the USHL, spending a season with the US Junior National team, and even making a stop at Harvard University, before making a name for himself with the Hull Olympiques in the QMJHL. Lane spent two seasons in the QMJHL posting attractive numbers including 75 points in 70 games in 2002-03, split between the Olympiques and the Victoriaville Tigres. In the fall of 2003, Lane attended the Hurricanes’ rookie camp, but failed to agree on a contract. He returned to Des Moines for 24 games, posting 14 points, while completing his freshman studies at Harvard and working at the Cato Institute in Washington. At the start of the 2004-05 season, Lane again attended a rookie camp, this time with the Washington Capitals. He was not offered a contract and decided to continue his education and keep fit by playing lacrosse.
Lane has had numerous opportunities to get his hockey career going. In 2005, the Boston Bruins invited him to rookie camp, but he was unable to earn a contract. Lane is now out of hockey.
Daniel Manzato, G – 5th round, 160th overall, Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Prospect
Carolina selected two goaltenders in the 2002 draft, the second being Daniel Manzato. After three unimpressive seasons with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, Manzato returned to Switzerland and has reestablished himself as a solid prospect. Playing in the Swiss-A league, Manzato has steadily improved, becoming the No.1 netminder for Basel. Manzato’s best season came in 2005-06, when he lead a weak Basel team to the playoffs with a 2.63 GAA. In 2006-07, Manzato posted a 3.50 GAA in 43 games for Basel, who placed last in the 12-team league.
After attending the annual goaltending camp held in Verbier, Manzato received the recommendation of Anaheim Ducks’ goalie coach Francois Allaire, who compared the Fribourg native to a young Patrick Roy. The 6’0, 181-pound goaltender plays a butterfly style and has good quick reflexes. Manzato is an extremely hard worker and has shown a remarkable desire to improve his game. His attitude and competitive nature will serve him well as he attempts to progress to the next level. He has already signed a contract with Carolina and could return to North America in 2007-08. It is likely he will need to spend significant time in the AHL to reacquaint himself with the North American style.
Adam Taylor, RW – 7th round, 224th overall, Kootenay Ice, WHL
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Prospect
After being released by Carolina, Adam Taylor signed with the Florida Panthers in 2006. Following a quick stop at the University of British Columbia, Taylor made his way to the ECHL and has spent the last two seasons there. During his rookie ECHL season, Taylor notched 57 points in 72 games, his highest point total ever. In 2006-07, he averaged over a point per game while playing for the Florida Everblades, tallying 21 goals and 41 points in just 37 games. In total for the season, which included 15 games each with the Victoria Salmon Kings and the Pensacola Ice Pilots, Taylor produced 58 points in 67 games, surpassing the career high he set the season prior. His strong play earned him a brief call-up to the Rochester Americans when their roster was purged to fill the injury-riddled Buffalo Sabre team. Taylor finished the season with a solid performance in the ECHL playoffs notching 12 points in 16 games.
Taylor could potentially become a gritty depth forward. For now, he needs to continue to prove himself at the minor league level and work his way up. Taylor has another year left on his contract with the Panthers.
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