Panthers 2002 draft evaluation

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Jay Bouwmeester was the consensus No. 1 pick heading into the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, until a trade threw that into turmoil. The Florida Panthers, who had the first overall pick, traded picks with Columbus, and Bouwmeester was eventually selected third by Florida.  At the same time, the Panthers gave two picks to Atlanta for not taking a player that they weren’t going to take anyway.  Then-GM Rick Dudley traded a third-round pick (No. 82 overall, later traded) and 2003 fourth-round pick to Atlanta for the Thrashers’ promise not to draft Bouwmeester at No. 2 overall.

Five years later, the Panthers ended up drafting a cornerstone defenseman, and a forward for the bottom half of the rotation.  The Panthers draft class of 2002 have played a total of 492 games at the NHL level for an average of 49.2 NHL games per player.  These totals put them well above average among NHL teams in this draft year.

Other than the can’t miss selection of Bouwmeester with the third overall pick, the Panthers could only glean a fourth-line penalty killer from the other nine picks up until this point.

Jay Bouwmeester, D
— 1st round, 3rd overall (WHL – Medicine Hat)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 307

Bouwmeester was one of those rare players who graduated from the CHL directly to the NHL as an 18-year-old. After two seasons of getting his feet wet in the NHL prior to the lockout, in which he put up point totals of 20 points or fewer, the former WHLer spent the 2004-05 lockout season with the AHL‘s San Antonio Rampage and Chicago Wolves. During that span he totaled 26 points in 82 games. None of this prepared onlookers for what happened when the NHL came back to life in 2005-06. Bouwmeester’s style meshed perfectly with the new crackdown on obstruction by the refs. He had a breakout season with five goals and 46 points in 82 games. He averaged 25:29 of ice time per game with 4:59 per game on the penalty kill and 3:30 on the power play.

This past year saw him produce slightly more modest offensive totals of 42 points in 82 games but saw him take a giant leap forward defensively as his plus/minus increased by 22. Indeed even his physical game has picked up as he has nearly doubled his hits from 77 during 2005-06 to 143 in 2006-07.  Bouwmeester has also already suited up for Team Canada as a pro and will probably be a regular there for the next 15 years.

That said, perhaps it is not so much this selection in and of itself that needs to be looked at but Dudley’s strategy at the top end of this draft. Indeed it was a canny move to flip-flop picks with Columbus to move down in the draft, especially when they were looking for a defenseman and two of the top four prospects were blueliners (Joni Pitkanen being the other one). However, the subsequent deal sending a third and a fourth round pick to Atlanta, who had the second overall pick, to ensure they were going to let Bouwmeester slide to Florida in the third slot, especially with Pitkanen available and knowing Columbus was going to take Rick Nash, smacks of a GM with tunnel vision.  There is not much if anything separating Bouwmeester and Pitkanen, but Florida got their chosen man.

Peter Taticek, C — 1st round, 9th overall (OHL – Sault Ste. Marie)
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 3

Taticek was drafted on the strength of a season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds that saw him tally 63 points in 60 games. He followed that up with a similar second season for the same club (57 points in 54 games), before moving onto the pro ranks in 2003-04. After two unremarkable years of 19 and 22 points at San Antonio in the AHL, which included a four-game, seven-point stint for Laredo in the CHL, Taticek found himself plying his trade for the Houston Aeros in 2005-06. There he tallied 30 points in 44 games before being called up for three pointless games that sealed his fate with the Panthers.

Dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Richard Jackman, the Czech finished the year for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins counting eight points in 17 games. The Pens left him go after the season and the Washington Capitals subsequently signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2006. He played but one game for the Caps AHL affiliate in Hershey, PA in which he scored a goal before signing a deal to play in Davos, Switzerland where he stayed for 15 games, tallying five points. He then moved back to his homeland to play with the organization where he got his start in Kladno. As of today, the Caps still hold his rights.

Rob Globke, RW — 2nd round, 4th overall (NCAA – Notre Dame)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 37

Globke was selected after his sophomore season at Notre Dame in which he put up 22 points in 33 games. His junior year came close to eclipsing the point a game mark and in his senior year he did indeed top it (40 points in 39 games). He moved onto the AHL in 2004-05 when he put up 12 points in 63 games as a rookie in a season that included a 10-game, 12-point stint in the ECHL. The following year the Panthers moved him to Rochester where playing with the Americans for 52 games he had 15 points. It was during that season that he got his first serious look at the pro level as he suited up for 18 games but only scored a single goal in his time there.

This past season was much like 2005-06 in that he played a good portion of the year for the Americans (18 points in 48 games) but also had another lengthy stay in Florida. This time he got into 19 games, but again his offense failed him as he tallied just a lone assist. As he’ll turn 25 shortly after the beginning of the 2007-08 schedule, Globke is rapidly turning into a career minor leaguer, albeit one that is the first warm body shipped to the pro club in case of injury.

Greg Campbell, C/W — 3rd round, 67th overall (OHL – Plymouth)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 145

A product of the Plymouth Whalers system who was traded to the Kitchener Rangers as a 19-year-old, Campbell never tallied more than 56 points in 55 games during his OHL career, having achieved that with the Rangers in 2002-03. He was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons amassing a meager 29 and 28 points respectively during those years. In his rookie professional year he had a two-game cup of coffee with the pro club in which he went pointless.

Although he started out the 2005-06 season in Rochester, he was recalled to the Panthers for good on Nov. 8 of that year after 11 AHL games. He ended up suiting up for 64 matches in south Florida, earning fourth-line ice time and becoming a regular on the penalty kill. In 64 games he totaled three goals and nine points. Last season he raised his total ice time by approximately two minutes per game and his short-handed ice time per game by 1:20. In 79 games he scored six goals and had nine points. At this point in his career it is pretty safe to assume that Campbell’s upside is that of a third line checker who excels on the penalty kill.

Topi Jaakola, D
— 5th round, 134th overall (SML – Karpat)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Jaakola has been nothing if not consistent during his pro career. Since the 2001-02 season he has suited up on the blue line for Karpat of the SM Liiga, with never more than eight points. It’s telling that when the Panthers went trawling in Finland for a defenseman this summer, they signed Cory Murphy, five years his senior from HIFK Helsinki rather than bring Jaakola over. It’s highly doubtful that the Finn will ever suit up on this side of the ocean.

Vince Bellissimo, C — 5th round/158th overall (USHL – Topeka)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A product of the USHL, Bellissimo put up 31 goals and 79 points in 61 games in his draft year. He followed that up with three productive years at Western Michigan where he totaled 36, 40 and 37 points in 37, 38 and 35 games respectively. After a six-point 12-game cameo for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage following his junior year, the collegian looked ready to embark on a successful pro career. Alas it was not to be. The next season he could only muster 14 points in 47 games and was sent down to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. In 17 games there he put up 23 points.

Last season, he suited up for the Everblades full time and tallied 29 goals and 72 points in 56 games. He then went on to record totals of 12 goals and 23 points in 16 playoff games. It is clear that Bellissimo has mastered the ECHL and probably deserves another shot at the AHL. He will be 25 halfway through this season and time is definitely not on his side.

Bellissimo has signed a tryout contract in Germany for 2007-08.

Jeremy Swanson, D — 6th round, 169th overall (OHL – Barrie)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Selected out of the Barrie Colts in the OHL, Swanson put up modest totals of eight goals and 24 points in 67 games in his draft year. He followed that up with seasons of 41 and 34 points in 68 and 66 games respectively before graduating to the AHL for the 2004-05 season. Although he started off the year suiting up for 21 games with the San Antonio Rampage tallying a meager four points, he was later demoted to the Texas Wildcatters of the ECHL where he appeared in 44 games producing an unimpressive seven points. The next season he started off in the ECHL with the Everblades appearing in only 14 games (4 points) before a concussion felled him for a lengthy period. He did get another shot at the AHL with the Rochester Americans later in the schedule though, playing in 11 games but going pointless.

In the 2006-07 season, he once again started off with the Everblades for the first 16 games counting three points before being brought up to the Americans for good. There he was on the blueline for 47 games but only was able to chip in three points. An encouraging sign offensively was his four points in six playoff matches that spring. With his latest stint in Rochester it appears that Swanson has established a foothold in the AHL. He’ll need to do considerably more and do it soon if he expects to make it to the NHL.

Mikael Vuorio, G — 6th round, 196th overall (SML-Lukko Rauma)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Vuorio, a Finn, was a product of Lukko Rauma in the SM-Liiga when the Panthers selected him. He toiled for the same club up until the end of the 2004-05 season though he didn’t play in 2003-04 as a backup netminder and was relegated to third string in his last year with the club when Dwayne Roloson signed with them for the strike year in the NHL. His best showing was in 2002-03 when he appeared in 10 games going 1-3-1 with a save percentage of .884. His career highlight would have probably come in 2003-04 when he backed up Hannu Toivonen on the Finnish side for the IIHF U-20 Championships though he appeared in no tournament games. After he left Lukko Rauma he had a tryout contract with Kiekko-Vantaa for the 2005-06 pre-season but doesn’t seem to have made the cut. He has been out of hockey since then.

Denis Yachmenev, LW — 7th round, 200th overall (OHL – North Bay)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A Russian playing in the OHL for the North Bay Centennials in his draft year (17 goals, 29 points in 65 games), he moved to Saginaw with the franchise the next season. There he increased his point total to 45 in 68 games though he scored the same 17 goals as the campaign previous. He returned to the RSL for the 2003-04 season suiting up for 27 games with Khabarovsk Amur and counting but a single assist. He then fell off the face of the hockey earth re-emerging this past season for 16 pointless games with Novosibirsk Siber. It’s highly unlikely he’ll make it in hockey in Russia much less North America.

Peter Hafner, D — 8th round, 232nd overall (NCAA – Harvard)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Hafner, an Ivy League product, played for Harvard University from 2002-03 to 2005-06. He never totaled more than eight points (his senior year), was not signed by the Panthers, and didn’t play hockey last year.

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