Wild 2000 draft evaluation

By Glen Jackson

At the 1997 Entry Draft, the NHL announced that it would be returning to Minnesota for the 2000-01 season, seven and a half years after owner Norm Green earned the ire of fans in the Twin Cities by moving the North Stars to Dallas. Doug Risebrough was named General Manager of the expansion franchise and Tom Thompson was initially placed in the role of chief scout. Together they have made the bulk of the draft day decisions in the Wild’s short history.

The 2000 NHL Entry Draft was the first for the organization and they were awarded the third selection overall, high enough to have the potential of landing a franchise player. Goaltender Rick DiPietro was selected by the New York Islanders first, then the Atlanta Thrashers took Dany Heatley. The Wild selected Slovakian forward Marian Gaborik. Not only with that first round choice, but overall, the Wild’s first draft year can be considered extremely successful.

Of any team that year the Wild have gotten the most out of their draft picks, with an average of 84 NHL regular season games per player, by far the best average that year with only the Philadelphia Flyers in the same ballpark at an average of 62 games played on eight picks.

Granted, the Wild also had the oldest average age for their nine draft picks in 2000. After the selection of Nick Schultz in the second round, five of the seven remaining picks had been available in previous drafts with 31-year-old defenseman Lubomir Sekeras the oldest player taken in the entire draft.

Overage players account for 256 of the 757 NHL games played by the 2000 draft class (and 28 of their average per game), but with a new franchise, they were needed to fill in the team and make it somewhat competitive right from the start, and older European pros were where the Wild looked to answer their needs later in the draft.

Marian Gaborik, LW – 1st round, 3rd overall (Slovak – Trencin)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 295

At the time of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the consensus opinion on Marian Gaborik was that he was the most NHL-prepared of any player in that draft, and five years later that has turned out to be an accurate assessment.

Although second-overall pick Dany Heatley has many fewer games played due to his 2000-01 season being spent at the University of Wisconsin and his off-ice tragedy before the 2003-04 season (and subsequent rehab time), his points per game mark of .95 is greater than Gaborik’s .70. But beyond Heatley and Gaborik, no other forward in the class comes close in terms of total production and star potential.

The only real bump along the way for the Wild left wing was after the team’s miraculous 2003 Stanley Cup run in which he led the team all the way to the semi-finals with nine goals and eight assists in 18 games before they were eliminated by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

That off-season, Gaborik and his agent sought a new contract and the Trencin, Slovakia native played nine games for his hometown team in the Slovak league while waiting for the Wild to acquiesce to his demands. Gaborik didn’t like the progress during his holdout and changed agents along the way, from Allan Walsh to Walsh’s partner David Schatia.

The Wild and Gaborik eventually came to a compromise on October 31st, 2003 but Gaborik ended up having an only slightly more productive year than his rookie campaign as the Wild finished in 10th place in the Western Conference, eight points out of playoff contention.

The strong skater with superior offensive skills has played in 295 NHL regular season games, with Nashville’s Scott Hartnell a close second with 291 games played, and Gaborik’s 208 regular season points is only in jeopardy by Heatley who has 181 thus far. With the third overall pick the Wild did the absolute best that they could in selecting Gaborik.

Gaborik split his lockout time in 2004-05 between Dukla Trencin, the team he had a short stint with during his 2003 contract holdout, and Farjestads of the Swedish Elite League.

Nick Schultz, D – 2nd round, 33rd overall (WHL – Prince Albert)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 206

Defenseman Nick Schultz already has a wealth of quality pro experience including time with the Wild (52 games in 2001-02), a 14-game Houston Aeros playoff run that same season, and the 18 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Wild the following year.

Schultz was effective at the NHL level at an early age and he’s done very well as a responsible blueliner who can chip in with the odd goal.

Aside from overage draft picks (one-time teammate Lubomir Sekeras, Carolina Hurricane Niclas Wallin, and Lubomir Visnovsky of the Los Angeles Kings), Schultz’s 208 games are the most for any 2000 draft class defenseman, and he continues to develop into a top pairing rearguard.

Schultz spent 2004-05 in Germany with the Kassel Huskies where he had 22 points in 46 games.

Marc Cavosie, C – 4th round, 99th overall (ECAC – Rensselaer)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Cavosie, a native of Albany, New York, was drafted by the Wild 99th overall in 2000 having just been named to the ECAC All-Rookie team following a strong first season with Rensselaer (RPI). Two years later he was the ECAC player of the year and was named to the NCAA East First All-American team. He finished his strong college career with an average of 1.12 points per game.

Following RPI, Cavosie joined the Houston Aeros in 2002-03 where he’s since played each of the last three seasons. In his rookie year, the Aeros made their Calder Cup winning run and he had eight points in 19 games. His best offensive year was in 2003-04 when he had 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 75 games. In 2004-05 he collected 20 points in 60 games for the Aeros.

Never a big point producer as a pro, Cavosie is relied on for his hard work, fast skating, and checking ability. Although he showed offensive flash when he was younger, including a strong performance at the 2001 World Junior Championships where he had six points in seven games, it’s as a checking line center that he has the best chance of one day donning a Wild uniform.

Maxim Sushinsky, LW – 5th round, 132nd overall (RUS – Avangard Omsk)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 30

Sushinsky was one of those overage selections from overseas intended to supplement the expansion team’s roster with some required experience. Five days short of turning 26 at the time of the draft, Sushinsky had 11 points in 30 games for the Wild in 2000-01 before returning home to Russia to play for Avangard Omsk, where he still plays today.

In fact, those 30 games with the Wild were the only games he played for a team other than Avangard since 1996-97. He scored 20 goals and added 41 assists in 2003-04, Sushinsky’s most productive in the Russian league, but he wasn’t far off that pace in 2004-05 when he potted 17 goals and 37 assists in 50 games played.

Erik Reitz, D – 6th round, 170th overall (OHL – Barrie)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Reitz has become known best for his responsible and tenacious defense, and that has been the case in almost every season of his career other than 2001-02 when, with the OHL’s Barrie Colts, he had 13 goals and 27 assists in 61 games.

Most seasons Reitz has scored five or fewer goals, and that was why this preseason when the third-year AHL pro got off to a quick start offensively it seemed somehow out of place. It also appeared to be an advantage for the Detroit, Michigan native in securing a full-time roster position. That was an even more difficult accomplishment than usual with the Dallas Stars as a secondary affiliate to the Houston Aeros in 2004-05. Despite playing well enough to stay in the line up he sustained an elbow injury in a fight with Jordon Tootoo and missed the final ten weeks of the season.

All told, Reitz ended up playing in only 38 games in which he scored two goals and added 12 assists.

Brian Passmore, C – 7th round, 199th overall (OHL – Oshawa)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Even before he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild 199th overall in 2000, Brian Passmore was on his way to becoming a hockey journeyman.

He finished his OHL career in 2001 having played for three teams in four seasons before suiting up for the University of Prince Edward Island (CIS) for two seasons. Then, in 2003-04, it was off to the ECHL where he played for four different teams, his longest stop being with the Texas Wildcatters for a 26-game stint.

He began 2004-05, again with the Wildcatters, this time for 15 games, before moving on to join the Augusta Lynx where he remained for the rest of the season. But his production decreased and in 2004-05 he had six goals and 10 assists in 71 games compared to last season when he had 17 goals and 21 assists in 73 games for the four teams.

Passmore was not signed by the Wild and after his 2004-05 season and he looks to be destined for no higher than ECHL play in his career.

Peter Bartos, LW – 7th round, 214th overall (Czech – Budejovice)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 13

Twenty-six years of age at the time of the draft, Bartos had already played five seasons in Europe before the Wild selected him in the seventh round.

Bartos played only 13 games with the Wild in 2000-01, scoring four goals and adding two assists, while the rest of his time in North America was with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL, the Wild’s primary development affiliate that year. He appeared in 60 games with the ‘Jacks and had 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists).

After his one-year North American experiment, Bartos returned to HC Budejovice of the Czech league, the same team that the Wild had drafted him from. He played three more seasons with Budejovice before heading to Zvolen HKm of the Slovak league in 2004-05 where the Czech winger had 11 goals and 13 assists in 40 games.

Lubomir Sekeras, D – 8th round, 232nd overall (Czech – Trinec)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 213

As far as eighth rounders go, Sekeras was extremely successful. The rest of the players in the eighth round in 2000 have combined to play only 73 regular season NHL games compared to his 213. Not only that, but Sekeras is second only to Gaborik in total games played for all 2000 draftees.

Of course, Sekeras was also 14 years older than the first-year eligible players at the draft in Calgary, Alberta, and those games in a Wild uniform were for the relatively thin defensive corps of the Wild during the expansion period.

The experienced Slovakian blueliner filled in everywhere for the Wild and his first two seasons with the team he had four power play goals in each (in 2001-02 those four power play markers were the only goals he scored).

In 2002-03, his last season with the Wild, his offensive production dropped by just over half compared with the year before, and it was only one-third of his output in 2000-01. He was also a career worst -12. As a result of this and other factors, the Wild chose not to exercise the option for the 2003-04 season and Sekeras returned overseas where he played with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Russia for 15 games before joining Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League.

Despite how it might have appeared his NHL career wasn’t over, and on March 9, 2004, Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong announced that the team had signed free agent Sekeras for the remainder of the season to add depth to their blueline. Sekeras played in only four games for the Stars in 2003-04 and had one goal and one assist.

Sekeras spent 2004-05 in Germany playing for the Nuernberg Ice Tigers where he had four goals and 27 assists in 52 games. Although Sekeras is now 36 years of age, his time in the NHL may not necessarily be done just yet, depending on when the lockout ends.

Eric Johansson, C – 8th round, 255nd overall (WHL – Tri-City)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Wild selected this Edmonton, Alberta center in the eighth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft after he’d gathered 24 goals and 36 assists in 72 games with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.

Fast forward to two years later and Johansson scored an impressive 44 goals and added 59 assists in 69 games for the Amerks. Perhaps due in part to Johansson’s increasing offensive prowess, the Wild were unable to reach an agreement with their final pick of 2000, and he re-entered the 2002 draft where he was snapped up by the New Jersey Devils in the sixth round. Despite having soft hands and good offensive awareness, concerns still existed about Johansson’s skating and lack of physicality at the time.

The Devils inked Johansson to a contract and assigned him to the Albany River Rats of the AHL where he played his entire pro career up until 2004-05 when he split time between the River Rats and the ECHL Augusta Lynx, coincidentally becoming a teammate of fellow 2000 Wild draftee Brian Passmore.

Johansson had 11 points in 22 games with the Rats, and with the Lynx he had a respectable 36 points in 42 games.

It’s been oft-stated that the 2004-05 edition of the AHL was much tougher than usual with the influx of NHL talent, and the Devils might consider that an extenuating factor and give Johansson another chance.

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