Isles Get First Pick In Draft
by Alan Hahn
As if there weren't already enough hockey business going on in the
metropolitan area yesterday, the Islanders crept into the buzz by
winning the draft lottery, which earns them the No. 1 pick in the
entry draft on June 24 in Calgary. The Islanders, who were seeded
fifth in the lottery drawing behind Tampa Bay, Atlanta and expansion
clubs Columbus and Minnesota, beat an 8 percent chance of winning.
"It feels like the worm has begun to turn here a little bit," said an
elated Islanders general manager Mike Milbury, referring to the
depression the organization endured throughout the latter half of the
1990s, when they had many chances to earn the top pick but never did.
Perhaps the turn started when Computer Associates executives Charles
Wang and Sanjay Kumar bought the team in April. It didn't take long
for the new owners to enjoy a piece of Islanders history.
"This is great news for our team and our fans," Kumar said. "We are
already working with the staff to give the team the resources it
needs. To win this is just an added and very special bonus." The last
No. 1 overall pick the Islanders selected was in 1973, when a young
defenseman named Denis Potvin was tabbed by the second-year
Potvin went on to captain the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups
from 1980-83 and collect three Norris Trophies (1976, '78, '79) as
the league's top defenseman.
This season, there are three players touted to have NHL star
potential, starting with Wisconsin freshman Dani Heatley, a 6-3, 200-
pound left wing who was rated the top prospect by the Central
Scouting Bureau. Right wing Marian Gaborik of Slovakia and Boston
University goalie Rick DiPietro are others the Islanders could
consider with the pick.
But the likelihood is that Milbury will look to trade the pick for an
immediate impact player. "I think it's incumbent upon us to explore
every option with this," Milbury said. "I would dare say there will
be plenty of action around this pick. That doesn't mean we will trade
it, but it's an option to be explored."