ISLANDERS HIT DRAFT JACKPOT
By BARRY BAUM
Charles Wang, the Islanders' billionaire owner, won the lottery
The NHL lottery.
Wang's jackpot will give the club the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft
on June 24 in Calgary. The Isles' only other No. 1 picks were Billy
Harris in 1972 and Denis Potvin in '73.
With only an eight-percent chance of winning the top spot, the
Islanders defied the odds by beating out the four teams positioned
ahead of them.
Unaccustomed to good fortune, general manager Mike Milbury was
shocked when he got the news from league VP Colin Campbell.
"My first reaction was to find out if he was kidding," Milbury
said. "It's a tremendous break for us, an overdue one."
Milbury said he will consider trading the pick for a top veteran. He
expects teams to begin pitching deals to him immediately.
"I'd entertain trading it, but I won't be unhappy if we don't," he
said. "It's incumbent upon us to explore all options.
"It feels like the worm has begun to turn."If the Isles keep the No.
1 pick, they will likely draft either left wing Dany Heatley or left
wing Marian Gaborik.
Heatley, 18, had 27 goals and 25 assists in 35 games last season as a
freshman at Wisconsin. Ranked first by NHL Central Scouting, the
Calgary native has a powerful shot and great puck-handling ability.
Attending a press conference for top prospects yesterday in Hasbrouck
Heights, N.J., Heatley said he would welcome playing for the
"I'd be happy if they took me," he said. "It's a great organization."
Gaborik, 183 pounds, had 25 goals and 22 assists for Trencin in the
Slovakia Senior League last season. At 18, he is an excellent skater
and playmaker who needs work on defense.
If the Islanders trade the pick, they might want to receive a high
first-round pick in return. Teams picking from two through six
include Atlanta, Minnesota, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Nashville.
In any case, the Isles hope they have better luck in this draft than
in 1998, when they selected forward Michael Rupp with the ninth pick
in the first round. Unsigned, Rupp will probably re-apply for this
year's draft, which would give the Isles a second-round pick as
"It hasn't panned out for Michael yet," Milbury said.
The Isles plan to meet today with OHL defenseman Rostislav Klesla,
who is ranked second by the NHL Central Scouting.
It is unlikely the team would take him at No. 1, but could consider
it if they trade down.