Predators 2000 draft evaluation

By Gregory Maker

The Nashville Predators selected seven Europeans and five North Americans in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Of the 12 picks, only first round pick Scott Hartnell is an NHL regular. Only one other player drafted in 2000, Libor Pivko, has worn a Nashville uniform.

The Predators selections have played a combined 294 NHL regular season games, with 291 of those by Hartnell, for a draft class average of 25 games per pick. Four players remain prospects in the organization.

Scott Hartnell, C – 1st round, 6th overall (Prince Albert – WHL)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 291

After nearly doubling his point total from the previous season, the 18-year-old from Lloydminster, Alberta was taken sixth overall by the expansion franchise in 2000. Hartnell, who had recorded 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) for Prince Albert in the WHL, was a natural fit at center for a team entering its third year of play in the NHL.

Hartnell was thrown right into the mix that fall, playing 75 games for Nashville and recording 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) in his rookie season. Hartnell recorded a career high 41 points including 14 goals next season in 75 games and began taking a more physical role with 111 penalty minutes. Hartnell remained durable playing in all 82 games during the 2002-03 season.

The following season, Hartnell, now 22 years old, missed 23 games with an injury to his right ankle. However, Hartnell proved to be a key piece to Nashville’s first playoff season scoring a career-high 18 goals in 59 games, and a goal and two assists in all six of the franchise’s playoff games against Detroit.

Hartnell is 6’2 185 pounds. At 23 years old, he has not only played a key role to Nashville’s success at a young age but is still developing into a solid NHL player.

Daniel Widing, C – 2nd round, 36th overall (Leksands IF – SEL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Predators selected another center with their second pick, Swede Daniel Widing. Widing scored 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 34 games in Swedish Juniors, and played three games in the Swedish Elite League. However, Widing has yet to leave Scandinavia. After three more seasons with Leksands of the SEL, Widing moved to the Finnish league to play for the Pelicans.

In two seasons in Finland, Widing has improved his game. He doubled his goal, assist, and point total for the Pelicans in 2004-05. It is uncertain if Widing will come to North America, although the 6’0 184 pound 23-year-old is playing well in the Finnish leagues.

Mattias Nilsson, D – 3rd round, 72nd overall (Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik – SEL)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Nilsson was the first of five defensemen the Predators selected in the draft. He played one more year for Modo in Swedish juniors before playing for Hammarby in 2001-02. He then played three years for Hammarby both in juniors and in the Swedish 2 league. In 2003-04, Nilsson played seven games for Vallentuna before returning to Hammarby where he played a career-high 40 games in 2004-2005. Last season he also spent five games with Troja/Ljungby of the SEL.

Nilsson has spent all of his time in pro hockey in Sweden, but his rights are still retained by the team.

Libor Pivko, LW – 3rd round, 89th overall (Havirov Femax HC – Czech)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

Pivko spent one more season with Havirov of the Czech league, then played two seasons with Zlin ZPS HC of the Czech league before coming to North America. Drafted by the Predators at age 20, Pivko made his North American debut in 2003-04 with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. In his first season in North America in 2003-04, he recorded 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) for Milwaukee in 67 games. Pivko helped lead Milwaukee to its first ever Calder Cup Championship that season with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in the playoffs.

Pivko made his NHL debut for Nashville on Nov. 24, 2003 at Colorado where he recorded 2 shots. A knee injury limited his action in the AHL to 56 games in 2004-05 where he helped the Milwaukee penalty kill to the top half of the league. Pivko recorded 20 points (5 goals, 15 assists) last season for Milwaukee. Pivko will be a contender for a spot in Nashville in the near future.

Matt Hendricks, C – 5th round, 131st overall (Blaine Academy – Minnesota)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

Nashville took a chance on the high school player with the first pick in the fifth round. Hendricks attended St. Cloud State University, and in 152 career games, recorded 112 points (54 goals, 58 assists). Hendricks’ best season was his sophomore year where he recorded 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 42 games. His production dropped to 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) his senior year.

Hendricks made his pro hockey debut for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2003-04 where he played one game and took two penalty minutes. Hendricks started the season with the ECHL Florida Everblades and earned a call-up to the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters where he played 15 games, recording 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists). Hendricks is now back, healthy, with Florida and is currently playing in the 2005 Kelly Cup Championship against Trenton. During the regular season, Hendricks recorded 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists). Hendricks may find a full time role in the AHL next season.

Mike Stuart, D – 5th round, 137th overall (Colorado College – NCAA)
Status: NHL prospect (St. Louis Blues)
NHL Games Played: 2

Drafted after his sophomore season at Colorado College, Stuart is currently a prospect in the St. Louis Blues system. Stuart played four seasons at Colorado College. In 140 career games Stuart recorded 47 points (8 goals, 39 assists).

Stuart made his pro hockey debut during the 2002-03 season playing 19 games for the Peoria Rivermen of the ECHL and 41 games for the Worcester IceCats of the AHL. Stuart made his NHL debut in 2003-04 where he played two games for St. Louis. In 70 games for Worcester last season, Stuart scored a career-high 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists) and led the team with a +5 plus/minus rating.

Matt Koalska, C – 5th round, 154th overall (Twin City – USHL)
Status: NHL prospect (New York Islanders)
NHL Games Played: 0

After finishing a successful season with the Twin City Vulcans of the USHL, Koalska attended the University of Minnesota. In four seasons at Minnesota, Koalska won two consecutive national championships in 2002 and 2003. In 171 career games, Koalska recorded 136 points (42 goals, 94 assists).

The Predators did not show interest in the St. Paul, Minnesota native and he signed with the New York Islanders. Koalska made his pro hockey debut in 2004-05 where he played 60 games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Koalska recorded 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) as a checker. He is continuing his development with Bridgeport.

Tomas Harant, D – 6th round 173rd overall (Zilinia – Slovakia Jr.)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Harant never signed and played in various European leagues since his draft. He played one and a half seasons with Zilinia of the Slovakian league before joining Havirov of the Czech league in 2002-03. Harant then played for Moscow Dynamo of the Russian league in 2003-04 before returning to the Czech league to play for Karlovy.

Zbynek Irgl, LW – 6th round, 197th overall (Vitkovice HC – Czech)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Nashville’s ninth selection in the draft has developed well with Vitovice of the Czech league. Irgl’s numbers keep improving. In seven seasons with the team, Irgl has played in 308 games. He has recorded 106 points (57 goals, 49 assists). Irgl recorded a career-high 21 goals in 2004-05.

Irgl’s status in North America remains uncertain. His rights are still owned by the Predators, but it’s not clear if or when Irgl will come to North America to play. His play has improved greatly as the 24-year-old continues to develop in the Czech league.

Jure Penko, G – 7th round, 203rd overall (Green Bay – USHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The only goaltender taken by the Predators in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Slovenian Jure Penko is now out of hockey. Penko played two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, with a combined record of 53-20-13, a goals against of 2.60 and a save percentage was .910.

Penko proceeded to a back-up role in the ECHL with Cincinnati playing 17 games and going 2-7-0 in 2001-02. The following season, Penko played 17 games for Lubbock of the CHL where he went 6-6-1. Penko is no longer playing professional hockey.

Mats Christeen, D – 8th round, 236th overall (Sodertalje SK Jr. – Sweden)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Nashville’s eighth round selection played for three different teams in Swedish Juniors, Sweden’s 2 league, and the SEL, and attended Nashville’s conditioning camp in 2000 and 2001 before returning to Sweden. Christeen did not play more than 15 games in any league since being drafted by the Predators after making an attempt to make it in the SEL, and is now out of hockey.

Martin Hohener, D – 9th round, 284th overall (Kloten – SwissA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With their final selection, Nashville selected Swiss defenseman Hohener, who has flourished in the Swiss leagues and represented his home country at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The 24-year-old has played 239 games in the SwissA league since 1998. He has recorded 54 points (20 goals, 34 assists) in that time. After spending five seasons with Kloten, Hohener went to Servette Geneve for the 2003-04 season where he was second among defenseman with 19 points and tied for first with seven goals. Hohener played last season for Zurich. It is unlikely that he will ever play in North America.

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