Class of ’02: A Review of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft

asPhoto: Mike Slobe/Getty Images

With the 2019 NHL Entry Draft just weeks away, the offseason and teams will soon begin to conduct their business and personnel decisions. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look back at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, offering analysis, and a player-by-player look at the first-round.

First-Round
1. Rick Nash, Left Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets – Rick Nash joined the Blue Jackets the season immediately following the 2002 draft (2002-03), scoring 41 goals the following season, which tied for the league lead. Nash was a very productive player during his nine-year career with the Blue Jackets, generally scoring 30-40 goals per year and recording 30-40 assists. He was traded to the New York Rangers before the 2012-13, lockout-shortened season. He suffered a concussion early in the 2013-14 season and missed 17 games as a result; despite this, he scored 26 goals but had fewer assists than normal. He rebounded in 2014-15 to score 42 goals and 27 assists. But his subsequent seasons with the Rangers were plagued by injury and less productive, dealing with muscle spasms in 2015-16 and a nagging groin issue in 2016-17. He was traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline of the 2017-18 season, as part of the Rangers’ decision to begin a rebuild. He suffered another concussion in March 2018. Lingering effects of his last concussion prompted him to retire from the NHL in January 2019.

2. Kari Lehtonen, Goalie, Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) – Lehtonen played mostly with the Thrashers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, for his first two professional seasons in North America (2003-04 and 2004-05), but played a few games for the Thrashers in 2003-04. His first full NHL season came during 2005-06. On the first night of that season, he suffered a serious groin injury when then-Florida Panthers center Nathan Horton, collided with him; this injury would sideline him for 35 games. He was injured again near the end of the season, spraining his ankle in a collision with a player of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lehtonen suffered a groin injury early in the 2007-08 season and missed 16 games as a result. He had offseason back surgery during the summer of 2009 to repair damage from a back injury sustained the previous season and needed more back surgery just before the 2009-10 season began. When he finally returned, he was back in the AHL for a few games. He was then traded to the Dallas Stars in February 2010, after going 94-83-17 in 445 games played with Atlanta, with whom he played until the end of his NHL career following the 2017-18 season. Lehtonen reached free agency in the summer of 2018, but was unable to come to terms on a contract, which effectively ended his NHL career.

3. Jay Bouwmeester, Defenseman, Florida Panthers – Bouwmeester played with the Panthers from 2002-03 through 2008-09, with one AHL stint in 2003-04 and the entire 2004-05 season during the NHL lockout. Because he and the Panthers could not agree on a contract extension, his rights were traded to the Calgary Flames prior to the 2009-10 season. He remained with the Flames until he was traded to the St. Louis Blues near the trade deadline of the 2012-13 season. At one point of his career, Bouwmeester played in a stretch of 737 consecutive games without missing any. This streak lasted from the 2005-06 season through November 23, 2014, when he missed a game with a “lower-body injury” caused by skating into a rut in the ice. His streak was the fifth-longest in NHL history and broke the record of consecutive games played by a defenseman.  Bouwmeester is currently perceived to be less effective as a defenseman than he was earlier in his career, as he was a healthy scratch on at least one occasion during the 2018-19 regular season, but he resumed a Top 4 role under new head coach Craig Berube.  Unlike many in his draft class, Bouwmeester’s career has been marked by durability.

4. Joni Pitkanen, Defenseman, Philadelphia Flyers – Pitkanen played with the Flyers from 2003-04 through 2006-07. During his time there, he was a key member of their power play unit and led the team in ice time during his final two seasons with the team. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers on July 1, 2007, and signed a one-year contract with them. The following year, he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and signed a three-year contract to remain with the team. He remained with the Hurricanes through the 2012-13 season. That season, in a game against the Washington Capitals, he raced to the offensive zone in an attempt to retrieve the puck and avoid an icing call but was checked into the boards by a member of the Capitals, suffering a broken heel as a result. Pitkanen missed the entire 2013-14 season. The injury was serious enough that he never was able to return to the NHL, although he later played in a Finnish league in 2015-16. The NHL adopted the hybrid icing rule, largely as a result of Pitkanen’s injury.

5, Ryan Whitney, Defenseman, Pittsburgh Penguins – Whitney played with the Penguins from 2005-06 through 2008-09, when he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks near the trade deadline. During the 2008 offseason, it was discovered that Whitney had suffered from a chronic foot injury during the 2007-08 season.  It turned out that Whitney had been born with abnormally high arches in both his feet. He attempted to use orthopedic inserts in his skates to help with the condition, but that method failed.  As a result, he resorted to osteotomy surgery to realign the bones in his left foot in August 2008. It was expected that he would miss five months of the season, but he did a conditioning stint with Pittsburgh’s AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in December before returning to the Penguins. He was traded to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline in 2009. The Ducks then traded him to the Edmonton Oilers during the 2009-10 season, where he remained through the 2012-13 season. During the offseason of 2010, he underwent osteotomy surgery on his right foot to realign the bones. He suffered another injury in 2010, when he injured his right ankle in December and was unable to return for the remainder of the season. He signed a one-year contract with the Florida Panthers for the 2013-14 season, but was waived only a month into the season and sent to their AHL affiliate, a move that proved to be the end of his NHL career. He played one season in the KHL and another season in Sweden.  He announced his retirement from hockey in September 2015.

6.  Scottie Upshall, Right Wing, Nashville Predators – Upshall made his NHL debut with the Predators late in the 2002-03 season. For most of his tenure in the Predators organization, he bounced between Nashville and their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. He spent most of the 2005-06 with Nashville. He was traded in February 2007 to the Philadelphia Flyers and remained with the Flyers through the end of that season, finally establishing himself as a full-time NHL player. He remained with the Flyers until he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes at the trade deadline in 2009. His offensive production increased with the Coyotes the following season (2009-10) when he scored 18 goals, but was unable to play in the playoffs due to injuries. The Coyotes traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline in 2011. He then signed a four-year contract with the Florida Panthers. In 2011-12, his first year with the Panthers, he played in only 26 games, as he was plagued with a hip injury and, in addition, needed sports hernia surgery.  He played in only 27 games in 2012-13 due to an ankle injury.  He played the last three seasons of his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues. He signed a professional tryout with Edmonton prior to the 2018-19 season, but was cut in training camp, effectively ending his NHL career.

7. Joffery Lupul, Left Wing, Anaheim Ducks – Lupul played his first season with the Ducks the season following the draft, but spent the 2003-04 season in the minors due to the NHL lockout. He returned to the Ducks during the 2004-05 season and became a regular in the lineup. He was the hero in a Ducks’ playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche, when he had scored all four of the team’s goals, including the game-winner in overtime.  During the 2006 offseason, the Ducks traded him to the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he remained for just one season before getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on July 1, 2007. During his first season with the Flyers, he was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion after a collision with a teammate, missing a month of playing time. He was traded back to the Ducks during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He played in only 23 games for the Ducks during the 2009-10 season due to back surgery in December and then a blood infection that developed. He remained out for a total of 12 months before returning to the Ducks for 26 games in 2010-11. He was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2011. He was healthy for the 2011-12 season and scored 25 goals and recorded a career-high 42 assists. The 2012-13 season, shortened by a labor lockout, was another injury-plagued season for Lupul. He fractured his forearm in the team’s third game following the lockout after getting hit in the arm by a slapshot and missed 25 games as a result. He returned and was productive but was injured again late in the season during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. This time, he was diagnosed with a concussion.  During the 2015-16 season, he reached a milestone when he scored the 200th goal of his NHL career, but suffered a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve.  He came back but was soon shut down for the season to have surgery. Prior to the 2016-17 season, it was announced that he would sit out the season. He failed his physical in training camp prior to the 2017-18 season and has not appeared in an NHL game since the 2015-16 season. In 701 games played in his career, he has recorded 420 points (205 goals, 215 assists).

8. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Center, Minnesota Wild – Bouchard played with the Wild the season following the draft. Except for the 2004-05 season, in which he played for the Wild’s AHL affiliate, Houston Aeros, he remained with the Wild through the 2013-14 season. In the four years following the lockout, Bouchard was an effective player, scoring in double digits in goals, with a career-high of 20, and around 60 points overall.  However, near the end of the 2008-09 season, he was hit in the head and missed the remainder of that season and nearly the entire 2009-10 season, except for one game. He signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders during the 2013 offseason but was sent to their AHL affiliate that season; he was then traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and sent to their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs. The 2013-14 season was his last year in the NHL. He played two seasons with Zug EV in the Swiss-A League.  He announced his retirement from hockey in March 2016.  He decided that he did not want to risk any more health issues, especially after missing nearly a season due to a concussion.  Bouchard’s younger brother, Francois Bouchard, was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the second-round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft but never made it to the NHL.  Bouchard is also a cousin of former NHL player, P.A. Parenteau.

9. Petr Taticek, Center, Florida Panthers – Taticek played in three games for the Panthers during the 2005-06 season but never appeared in the NHL again. He bounced around several AHL teams until 2006-07, when he returned to the Czech Republic to play hockey there. After that, he played in the Swiss Hockey League for several years and the Deutschland Elite League in Germany after that.

10. Eric Nystrom, Left Wing, Calgary Flames – Nystrom made his debut for the Flames during the 2005-06 season. However, he missed most of the 2006-07 season after suffering a tear in his right shoulder during a preseason game. He tried to rehab the injury but eventually he had surgery.  He was limited to just 12 games with the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Omaha Knights, for that season.  He did not return to the NHL until the 2007-08 where he spent time with both the Flames and their AHL affiliate, the Quad City Flames, and ended up playing 44 games with Calgary.  He remained with Calgary through the 2009-10 season.  That season, he posted what was then a career-high in goals for him, 11, despite playing through a groin injury.  He left Calgary after that season in free agency, signing a contract with the Minnesota Wild. While he played every game that year, he only had four goals. Things got worse for him with the Wild the next year as he was waived at the end of training camp.  Since nobody claimed him, he was sent down to the Wild’s minor league affiliate, the Houston Aeros. He played only one game with the Aeros as he was soon traded to the Dallas Stars.  He ended up having a career-high in goals with the Stars in 2011-12, scoring 16 goals.  He remained with the Stars through 2012-13.  He signed a four-year deal with the Nashville Predators during the 2013 offseason. However, he lasted just three years with the Predators before they bought out the remaining years of his contract after the 2015-16 season, a move that ended up signaling the end of his NHL career. He signed a tryout contract with the St. Louis Blues but failed to make the team.

11. Keith Ballard, Defenseman, Buffalo Sabres – Ballard was traded twice before he made his NHL debut. He was first traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2003 and later traded to the then-Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in 2004. He made his NHL debut with the Coyotes at the beginning of the 2005-06 season and was a regular in their lineup during his rookie year.  He remained with the Coyotes for three full seasons, but was sidelined for 13 games during his second NHL season due to a fracture of his hand.  In 2008, he was traded to the Florida Panthers, with whom he remained for two seasons.  While he played every game during his two seasons with the Panthers, he played part of the 2009-10 season with a hip injury and had surgery to repair a stress fracture and remove a cyst and that summer, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. He had spent two months of the offseason on crutches but reported to training camp. Just four games into the 2010-11 season, he was checked into the boards and suffered a concussion, missing five games; while he returned to the lineup, his play deteriorated, his ice time decreased, and he found himself a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.  In February of that season, he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and ended up playing in less than half of the games in Vancouver’s long playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final. His second season with the Canucks (2011-12) was also marked by injuries, including a back injury and a season-ending concussion in February.  He played one more season with the Canucks and was waived afterwards. The Minnesota Wild subsequently signed him to a two-year contract. During his second year with the team, his head struck a glass partition after being checked by an opponent. He suffered a concussion and facial fractures as a result of the collision. As he was still suffering from post-concussion syndrome in the 2015 offseason, he opted to end his career.

12. Steve Eminger, Defenseman, Washington Capitals – Eminger played in 17 games for the Caps during the 2002-03 season but played most of the season for his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers. In 2003-04, he divided his time with the Caps and with their then-AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. Due to the lockout, he remained with the Pirates in 2004-05. He returned to the Caps the following season and remained with them until he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2008 offseason.  He played with the Flyers for 12 games before being traded to Tampa Bay, who subsequently traded him to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline. He signed a two-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks before the 2009-10 season but was traded to the New York Rangers in the 2010 offseason. He played three seasons with the Rangers after that, primarily as a depth defenseman, and spent four games with their minor league affiliate during his last season with them (2012-13).  The 2012-13 was his last year in the NHL, although he spent a few seasons bouncing between various AHL teams and even the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for one season. His last professional season at any level came during the 2015-16 season and he is now a scout for the New York Rangers.

13. Alexander Semin, Left Wing, Washington Capitals — Semin’s first game action with the Capitals came during the 2003-04 season; he stayed with Washington nearly the entire season, except for four games with the Portland Pirates. He did not return to the Caps for two years, returning for the 2006-07 season. That year, he bloomed as a scorer, scoring 38 goals. He remained with the Caps through the 2011-12 season, scoring between 21-40 goals in each of those seasons. His tenure with the Caps was plagued by nagging injuries (including a sprained ankle in 2007-08, a pinched back nerve in 2008-09, and a wrist injury in 2009-10) and an, at times, questioned work ethic.  After not being offered a contract by the Capitals, Semin signed with the Carolina Hurricanes in free agency. While playing in Carolina, he suffered concussions in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Additionally, he also injured his wrist in training camp before the 2013-14 season, for which he had surgery after the season and when he returned the following season, was unable to replicate his previous scoring prowess from earlier in his career.  Carolina bought the remaining years of his contract out during the summer of 2015 and he then signed with the Montreal Canadiens.  After a slow start, he was waived, did not report to Montreal’s minor league team, and his contract was terminated, effectively ending his NHL career, which spanned 650 games and saw him record 517 points. 

14. Chris Higgins, Left Wing, Montreal Canadiens – Higgins made his debut with the Montreal Canadiens early in the 2003-04 season, but spent most of the season with their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Due to the NHL lockout, he did not return to the Canadiens until the 2005-06 season. About a month into the following season, he sprained his ankle, which limited him to 61 games; despite this, he still managed to score 22 goals. He remained with the Canadiens through the 2008-09 season and was traded to the Rangers during the offseason.  His goal total in his final season with the Canadiens had plunged to just 12 goals after scoring around 20 goals a season in the prior seasons. His offensive struggles continued with the Rangers during the 2009-10 season and Higgins was traded to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. After the Flames did not offer him a contract extension, Higgins signed a contract with the Florida Panthers just before the 2010-11 season. In his first season, he missed five games with a staph infection in his foot and later missed seven games with a hamstring injury, and was eventually traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline that season.  He remained with the Canucks through the 2015-16 season but had numerous injuries and illnesses during his time in Vancouver, which included suffering two bouts of staph infection during the 2010-11 season (including issues with the medication he took to combat the condition).  During his last season (2015-16), the Canucks attempted to trade him but failed to do so.  After passing through waivers, he was sent down to their AHL affiliate Utica Comets, for a few games.  The Canucks bought out his contract at the end of that season which effectively ended his NHL career.

15. Jesse Niinimaki, Center, Edmonton Oilers – Niinimaki never made it to the NHL and bounced around in European Leagues, while briefly playing in the AHL.

16. Jakub Klepis, Center, Ottawa Senators – Klepis was traded twice before making it to the NHL. He was first traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2003, then to the Washington Capitals at the 2004 trade deadline. He played with the then-Caps’ AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates in 2004-05, and spent most of the 2005-06 season with their current affiliate Hershey Bears. He played 25 games for the Caps during the 2005-06 season and 41 games with the Caps in 2006-07, dividing time between the Caps and the Hershey Bears in the latter.  He was unable to crack the Caps’ lineup for 2007-08 so he returned to the Czech Republic to play hockey.  After that, he’s spent most of his professional career in the KHL

17. Boyd Gordon, Center, Washington Capitals – Gordon made his NHL debut with the Caps in the 2003-04 season, a season he divided between the Caps and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. He remained with the Caps through the 2010-11 season.  He signed with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent and stayed with them for two years. After that, he spent time with the Edmonton Oilers for two years before he returned to the Coyotes for the 2015-16 season.  He ended his career with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2016-17 season.

18. Denis Grebeshkov, Defenseman, Los Angeles Kings – Grebeshkov had two “cups of coffee” with the Kings, playing four games with them in 2003-04 and eight games with them in 2005-06. On March 6, 2006, he and Jeff Tambellini were traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel. He played 21 games for the Islanders to finish out the 2005-06 season.  He and the Islanders were unable to come to a contract agreement.  As a result, he returned to the KHL to play for his hometown team, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, for the 2006-07 season.  The Islanders traded his rights to the Edmonton Oilers in February 2007.  He remained with the Oilers until he was traded to the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in March 2010, playing in two playoff games, recording two assists. He then played in the KHL for the next three seasons.  He returned to the Oilers for the 2013-14 season, spending most of the season with their minor league affiliate but seven games in the NHL. After that, he spent one more year with the KHL before his career ended. 

19. Jakub Koreis, Center, Phoenix Coyotes – Koreis never made it to the NHL. He played three seasons in the AHL, first with the Utah Grizzlies in 2004-05 and then with the San Antonio Rampage in 2005-06 and 2006-07. After that, he returned to Europe and played hockey, primarily with teams in the Czech League.

20. Daniel Paille, Left Wing, Buffalo Sabres – Paille made his NHL debut with the Sabres during the 2005-06 season, playing in 14 games, scoring one goal and recording two assists. The following year, he played in 29 games, scoring three goals and adding three assists. His first full season came during the 2007-08 season, in which he had a fine season, scoring 19 goals and adding 16 assists for 35 points overall this season turned out to be the best season of his career. The following season (2008-09), he dropped to 12 goals and 15 assists.  He was traded to the Boston Bruins early in the 2009-10 season, remaining with the Bruins through the 2014-15 season. Boston chose not to offer him a contract after that season, making him a free agent. He signed a Professional Tryout Contract with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2015-16 season, but was unable to crack the NHL roster, instead playing with their AHL affiliate, Rockford Ice Hogs. He was traded to the New York Rangers organization later that season.  He played 12 games with the Rangers, recording no points and playing 23 games with their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, a season that would ultimately finish his career in the NHL.  He continued his career with Brynas IF Gavle, with whom he played for two seasons.   During his second year with Brynas, 2017-18, he was the victim of a blindside hit that was so severe, he was unable to play hockey since then, this after suffering three prior concussions during his tenure with the Bruins.

21. Anton Babchuk, Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks – Babchuk made his debut with the Blackhawks at the end of the 2003-04 season after spending most of the season with their then-AHL affiliate, Norfolk Admirals. During the 2005-06 season, he played 17 games with the Blackhawks in addition to his time with the Admirals and was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes midway through the season. He played a portion of the 2005-06 season with the Hurricanes and was part of their Stanley Cup-winning team. He played with Omsk Avangard in the KHL for the 2007-08 season, but returned to Carolina for the 2008-09 season. Unlike the previous season, Babchuk spent the entire season with Carolina, but returned to Omsk for the 2009-10 season; he then returned to Carolina for the 2010-11 season. Early in the season, he was traded to the Calgary Flames and spent the remainder of the season with the Flames.  He played for Dombass in the KHL during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but returned to the Flames for the remainder of the season, his last in the NHL. He returned to the KHL and played two more seasons with three different KHL teams.

22. Sean Bergenheim, Left Wing, New York Islanders – Bergenheim made his debut with the Islanders at the end of the 2003-04 season, following the conclusion of the season of his team in Finland. He was sent down to the Isles’ AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, for their playoff run. He played for Bridgeport for the next two seasons, returning to the Islanders for 28 games during the 2005-06 season. He and the Islanders were unable to agree on a contract for the 2006-07 season, and as  result, he played overseas, initially for a few games with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the Russian League and most of the year with Frolunda in Sweden.  He returned to the Islanders for the 2007-08 season and remained with them for another three seasons. After a hot start in 2008-09, he lost some time due to injury and illness.  In 2010-11, he played with the Tampa Bay Lightning and performed extremely well in the playoffs as the Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. He then joined the Florida Panthers for the 2011-12 season and remained with them until he was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline of the 2014-15 season. The 2014-15 season was his last year in the NHL.  After that, he played in Europe in both the Swiss League and the Swedish Elite League.  During his NHL career, he generally scored between 10-20 goals per season but had trouble finding a role with the Panthers in his last season with the team. He suffered a concussion while playing with the Swiss League during the 2015-16 season and was unable to play in the playoffs.

23. Ben Eager, Left Wing, Phoenix Coyotes – Eager never played with the Coyotes but was, instead, traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in December 2003 in a trade for Mike Comrie. He finally debuted for the Flyers during the 2005-06 season and played in 25 games at the end of the regular season and two games in the playoffs. He spent most of the 2006-07 season with the Flyers, playing in 63 games, scoring six goals and adding five assists with 233 penalty minutes. He began the 2007-08 season with the Flyers but was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he remained through the 2009-10 season.  The Blackhawks traded Eager and Dustin Byfuglien to the Atlanta Thrashers for draft picks at the time of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to the San Jose Sharks midway through the season. He joined the Edmonton Oilers in free agency for the 2011-12 season, a season that proved to be his last in the NHL, although he played for Edmonton for a few games in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, although he would never return to the NHL.  In what turned out to be his last professional hockey season in 2014-15, he played for CSKA in the KHL and returned to North America to play for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

24. Alexander Steen, Left Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs – Steen made his NHL debut with Toronto during the 2005-06 season. He played with them from 2005-06 through the early part of the 2008-09 season  when he and Carlo Colaiacovo were traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Lee Stempniak. While his first season with the Blues was a relatively down season (he scored two goals for the Leafs and six goals for the Blues), he became a very productive forward in the seasons following, generally scoring between 15-25 goals a season, including one season in which he scored 33.  He has lined up as both Center and Wing for the Blues, position wise.  He has the third-most goals of any player in his draft class and ranks second in his draft class in assists. Only Rick Nash and Alexander Semin have scored more goals but Steen will likely pass Semin in career goals early next year. Steen has been dogged with injuries throughout his career, as he has played all 82 games in a season just once, during his career in Toronto.

25. Cam Ward, Goalie, Carolina Hurricanes – Ward made his NHL debut with the Hurricanes during the 2005-06 season and played in 28 games with them. playing most of the season with their AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters. Most importantly, he was in goal when the Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff most valuable player. Following the championship, he was the team’s starting goaltender for Carolina through the 2017-18 season, after which he left the Hurricanes in free agency for the Chicago Blackhawks. During his time with the ‘Canes, Ward was instrumental in the team advancing to the third round of the playoffs in 2009.  Following this, however, Ward mixed a struggle with injuries with periods of consistency and workhorse-like play.

26. Martin Vagner, Defenseman, Dallas Stars – Vagner never made it to the NHL. While he played junior hockey in North America, he never played professional hockey outside his native Czech Republic. His professional career ended in 2010-11.

27. Mike Morris, Forward, San Jose Sharks – Morris never made it to the NHL. He completed his college career with Northwestern University in 2006-07. After that, he played two seasons with the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worcester.

28. Jonas Johansson, Right Wing, Colorado Avalanche – Johansson was traded to the Washington Capitals early in the 2003-04 season, along with Bates Battaglia, for Steve Konalwalchuk. Johansson played only one NHL game with the Capitalsm which came during the 2003-04 season. He spent most of his time with their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Reports are that Johansson suffered an injury during one of his training camps with the Avalanche and was considered risky to sign a contract.

29. Hannu Toivonen, Goalie, Boston Bruins – Toivonen made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season when he played in 20 games for the Boston Bruins. He played in 18 games with the Bruins the following season but primarily spent time with their AHL affiliate in Providence. He played in 23 games with the St. Louis Blues for the 2007-08 season, which proved to be his last NHL appearance. He spent most of his time with the Blues’ AHL affiliates during the next several years. He bounced between European leagues and the AHL for the remainder of his professional career.

30. Jim Slater, Center, Atlanta Thrashers – After a four-year college career at Michigan State University, Slater made his debut with the Atlanta Thrashers during the 2005-06 season, playing in 71 games with them. Except for two brief appearances with their AHL affiliate, Chicago Wolves, he remained with the Thrashers until the 2010-11 season after the team moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets. He remained with the franchise through the 2014-15 season, after which he moved to Geneva in the Swiss League, where he remains to this day

Other Notable Players in 2002 Draft

There were other notable NHL players that were drafted in later rounds of the 2002 draft. As expected, a lower percentage of players made it to the NHL from the latter rounds.  The most notable players drafted in the later rounds are listed below.  As a rule, players drafted in the second round or later, are listed only if they played at least 300 games in the NHL, but may include a player with slightly less that that total.

Second-Round Picks

Jarret Stoll, Center, Edmonton Oilers (36th overall)– Stoll debuted with the Oilers during 2002-03 but did not become a full-time NHL player until 2005-06.  He remained with the Oilers through the 2007-08 season and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings during the offseason. He remained with the Kings through the 2014-15 season and was part of their two, Stanley Cup-winning teams.  He signed with the Rangers for the 2015-16 season but was waived and then picked up by the Minnesota Wild, which would prove to be his last season in the NHL.

Trevor Daley, Defenseman, Dallas Stars (43rd overall) – Daley played part of the 2003-04 season with the Stars, but did not become a full-time player until the 2005-06 season.  He remained with the Stars through the 2014-15 season, after which he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks during the summer of 2015. He was then traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in December 2015 and was a member of the Penguins’ two Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2016 and 2017. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings in free agency in 2017. Daley played in his 1,000th career NHL game in December 2018 and was the 330th player to reach that milestone.

Matt Greene, Defenseman, Edmonton Oilers (44th overall) – Greene made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season and remained with the Oilers through the 2007-08 season. He and fellow second-round pick, Jarret Stoll, were then traded to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky; he remained with the Kings through the 2016-17 season. After an injury-plagued 2015-16 season, in which he played just three games due to a shoulder injury, the Kings placed him on unconditional waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract. However, the Kings did not buy him out then and he returned for the 2016-17 seasonm which proved to be another injury-plagued season during which he had back surgery and played in only 26 games. His contract was bought out following the season, effectively ending his NHL career.

Duncan Keith, Defensemen, Chicago Blackhawks (54th overall pick) — Keith made it to the NHL for the 2005-06 season and soon established himself as a regular with the Blackhawks, where he has been a fixture on their top defensive-pairing, along with Brent Seabrook, ever since and has played in over 1,000 games. Keith was an important part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. He has excelled as a two-way defenseman, both offensively and defensively.

Matthew Stajan, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs (57th overall pick) – Stajan played in one game for the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2002-03 season and earned a full-time role with them during the following season. He spent time in the minors through the labor lockout of 2004-05, but returned to Toronto in 2005-06 and remained with them until he was traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2009-10 trading deadline. He remained with the Flames until the 2017-18 season, his last in the NHL. He played for Munich in the Deutsch League for the 2018-19 season.  During his NHL career, he scored in double digits in goals with Toronto on a yearly basis overall, except for the 2013-14 season, in which he scored 14 goals, and did not exceed 10 goals in any other season with Calgary.  He was dogged by numerous injuries during his time with Calgary, including a sprained ankle, a leg contusion, and a knee injury.  He played in 1,003 NHL games for his career.

Jiri Hudler, Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings (58th overall pick) – Hudler played 12 games with the Detroit Red Wings but did not become a full-time NHL player until the 2006-07 season. He played three full seasons with the Red Wings but played one season (2009-10) with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL, during a salary dispute with the Red Wings.  He returned to Detroit for the 2010-11 season and stayed on for the following season.  After the 2011-12 season, he signed with the Calgary Flames as a free agent, where he remained until the 2015-16 season, when he was traded to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline. He signed with the Dallas Stars for the 2016-17 season but played in only 32 games of what would prove to be the final season of his NHL career. In 708 games played, he recorded 428 points (164 goals, 264 assists).

Johnny Boychuk, Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche (61st overall pick) — Boychuk did not make his NHL debut with the Avalanche until the 2007-08 season, mostly playing with the Avalanche’s AHL affiliates. In June 2008, the Avalanche traded him to the Boston Bruins, with whom he appeared in game during the 2008-09 season. The following season, he spent most of the season with the Bruins but was a healthy scratch for much of the early part of the season.  After a short conditioning stint in the minors, he established himself as a regular with the team. He remained with the Bruins through 2013-14. Just before the 2014-15 season began, he was traded to the New York Islanders. In 661 games played in his NHL career thus far, he has recorded 195 points.

Tomas Fleischmann, Left Wing, Detroit Red Wings (63rd overall pick) – Fleischmann never appeared in a game for Detroit but was instead traded to the Capitals during the 2003-04 season. He made his debut for the Capitals during the 2005-06 season, but returned to the minors to start the 2006-07 season.  He returned to the Caps for the remainder of the season and, aside from a conditioning stint in 2009-10 when returning from a medical condition, he remained with the Caps through December 2010, when he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. He signed with the Florida Panthers for the 2011-12 season and remained with the team until he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline in 2014-15. He signed with the Montreal Canadiens for the 2015-16 season and was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. The next season, he failed a physical during a tryout stint with the Minnesota Wild, which proved to be the end of his career in the NHL. In 657 games, Fleischmann recorded 335 points.

Third and Fourth-Round Picks

Greg Campbell, Center, Florida Panthers with 67th overall pick (Third-Round) – Campbell debuted in the NHL during the 2003-04 season, playing two games for the Panthers.  He played most of the 2005-06 with the Panthers although he spent a few games in the minors that season. The following season, he remained in the NHL with the Panthers throughout the course of the year. He played with the Panthers through the 2009-10 season and was traded to the Boston Bruins in late June, remaining with the Bruins from 2010-11 through 2014-15, and was a member of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011 and the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014. He signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent after the 2014-15 season, remaining with the club through the 2015-16 season, but was released during the following season.  He officially retired in June 2017 and became a developmental coach for the Blue Jackets.

Erik Christensen, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins with 69th overall pick (Third-Round) – Christensen debuted in the NHL with the Penguins during the 2005-06 season, playing in 33 games. He began the following season with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but played in 61 games in the NHL, scoring 18 goals and recording 15 assists. The Penguins traded him to the Atlanta Thrashers at the 2007-08 trade deadline and his productivity never returned to the totals of his rookie season following the trade.  The Thrashers traded him to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline in 2008-09.  The Ducks waived him in December 2009, and he was claimed by the New York Rangers who kept him until February 2012, when he was sent to the Minnesota Wild.  2011-12 was his last season in the NHL and, after that, he played in the Czech League and the Swedish League before retiring from professional hockey in 2017.

Frans Nielsen, Center, New York Islanders with 87th overall pick (Third-Round) – Nielsen got his first taste of NHL action when he appeared in 15 games with the Islanders during the 2006-07 season and appeared in 16 more games in 2007-08 before becoming a full-time player in the NHL during the 2008-09 season. He remained with the Islanders through the 2015-16 season, after which he signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings, with whom he currently plays. During his career, Nielsen has normally scored 10-20 goals per year and had two seasons with the Islanders in which he exceeded 20 goals.  He has the distinction of being the most successful player in the NHL in shootouts, having a conversion percentage north of 60%.

Matthew Lombardi, Center, Calgary Flames with 90th overall pick (Third-Round)– Lombardi played for the Flames during the entire 2003-04 season but due to the labor lockout of 2004-05, did not appear in an NHL game until 2005-06.  He remained with the Flames he was traded to the then-Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes at the 2008-09 trade deadline. He played the remainder of that season and through the 2009-10 season in Arizona before signing a contract with Nashville. Unfortunately, he played in only two games for the Predators during 2010-11 due to a concussion and was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the summer of 2011; he played with the Leafs for the 2011-12 season before he was traded back to the Coyotes. Unable to regain the scoring touch he had during his earlier stint with Arizona, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks at the 2013 trade deadline. He played his next three seasons in Geneva in the Swiss League.   During that time, he had appeared in training camp for the New York Rangers but failed to make the team. The 2012-13 season proved to be his last season in the NHL.

Valterri Filppula, Center, Detroit Red Wings with 95th overall pick (Third-Round) – Filppula made his debut with the Red Wings during the 2005-06, playing in four games. After that, he remained with the Red Wings through the 2012-13 season. He signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 2013-14 season, remaining with them until the 2016-17 trade deadline, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, with whom he played through the 2017-18 season, after which he signed with the New York Islanders.

Patrick Dwyer, Right Wing, Atlanta Thrashers with 116th overall pick (Fourth-Round) – Dwyer never appeared in a game with the Thrashers. He eventually signed a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes organization and made his NHL debut with them near the end of the 2008-09 season.  While he spent time with their AHL affiliate, then the Albany River Rats (now the Charlotte Checkers), during the 2009-10 season, he spent more time with the Hurricanes that season. He remained with Carolina through the 2014-15 season.  He was unable to gain an NHL contract during the summer of 2015 and accepted a tryout contract with the Arizona Coyotes but did not make the rosterm instead playing a year in Sweden. He returned to North America and played the 2016-17 with the Checkers.  After that, he played in two overseas leagues.  The 2014-15 season was his last in the NHL

Cam Janssen, Winger, New Jersey Devils with 117th overall pick (Fourth-Round) – Janssen made his debut for the Devils during the 2005-06 season, playing in 47 games and leading the league in fighting major penalties. The next year, Janssen spent time with the Devils (48 games) but played with their AHL affiliate, then the Albany River Rats, as well. At the 2007-08 trade deadline, he was dealt to his hometown team, the St. Louis Blues, with whom he remained through the 2010-11 season.  He returned to the Devils for the 2011-12 season, which would prove to be his last full season in the NHL, although he appeared in parts of the next two seasons with the Devils. His last NHL game came during the 2013-14 season. He spent the 2014-15 season with the River Rats and then played overseas in England.  He has done a radio show in St. Louis since retiring as an active player.

Tom Gilbert, Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche, with 129th overall pick (Fourth-Round) – Gilbert never played a game for the Avalanche. During his four-year career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2004. He made his professional debut with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins during the 2006-07 season. He became a full-time NHL player during the 2007-08 season, remaining with the Oilers through the 2011-12 season, when he was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline. He would spend just one season in Minnesota before his contract was bought out at the end of the season. He signed with the Florida Panthers for 2013-14 and then signed a two-year contract with the Montreal Canadien, playing with them for the duration of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. After that, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings for the 2016-17 season, however he was sent to their American Hockey League affiliate. The Kings traded him to the Washington Capitals two weeks before the trade deadline, who sent him to the AHL to finish out the season, a move that signaled the end of his NHL career. He played two more professional seasons in Germany.

Remaining Rounds

James Wisniewski, Defensemen, Chicago Blackhawks with 156th overall pick (Fifth-Round) – Wisniewski debuted with the Blackhawks near the end of the 2005-06 season after spending most of the season with their then-AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. He was called up to Chicago early in the 2006-07 season and remained with the team; however, his season ended in early March due to a torn ACL.  He remained with the Blackhawks, aside from a post-injury, conditioning stint in the minor leagues, until the trade deadline of 2008-09, when he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.  His tenure with Chicago was marked by knee injuries, with the ACL injury in 2007, and a sprained knee in December 2008, among the notable ailments. He spent the 2009-10 season with the Ducks, and played with both the New York Islanders and the Anaheim Ducks during the 2010-11 season.  He signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent just before the 2011-12 season and played with the team until 2014-15, when the Blue Jackets traded him to Anaheim. The Ducks traded Wisniewski to the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2015-16 season, but he tore his left ACL in his first regular season game with the team, an injury that kept him out for the remainder of the year. The Hurricanes bought out his contract, effectively ending his NHL career. He started the 2016-17 in the KHL but returned to North America to play for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.  The following year, he played in the German league and that proved to be the end of his professional career, one that was plagued by knee injuries. He played a total of 552 games, recording 274 points.

Paul Ranger, Defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning with the 183rd overall pick (Sixth-Round) – Ranger debuted with Tampa Bay during the 2005-06 season and spent most of the season with the team, except for one game with Springfield, their AHL affiliate.  He spent the next two seasons with Tampa Bay and played in most of the team’s games.  He played for Tampa Bay during 2008-09 but appeared in only 42 games, playing his last game in February and undergoing labrum surgery in his shoulder in March which resulted in him missing the rest of the season. He returned to professional hockey in 2012-13 with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and then with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-14.  In 2014-15, he played for two teams in the Swiss Hockey league and ultimately ending his NHL and professional career.

Ian White, Defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs with 191st overall pick (Sixth-Round) – White debuted with the Toronto Maple Leafs near the end of the 2005-06 season and remained with the team through 2009-10, when was traded to the Calgary Flames.  He returned to the Flames for 2010-11 but was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and then traded to the San Jose Sharks. He signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings before the 2011-12 season.  During the second year of that contract, after the NHL lockout, he found himself in a reduced role for the Red Wings.  He was unable to get a new contract for the 2013-14 season. He played in the KHL for 2013-14 and, in 2014-15, played for two different AHL teams, which proved to be the end of his NHL career.

Maxime Talbot, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins with 234th overall pick (Eighth-Round) – Talbot made the Penguins’ Opening Night roster for the 2005-06 season but was sent to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton soon after the midpoint of the season. He started the next season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but was called up after five games.  He remained with the Penguins through the 2010-11 season, becoming an important member of their penalty killing unit. He scored several important goals during the 2008 postseason, in which the Penguins advanced to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. After the 2010-11 season, Talbot signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in free agency.  He remained with the Flyers until early in the 2013-14 season when he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he remained for the rest of the year. He remained with the Flyers until he was traded to the Boston Bruins at the 2014-15 trade deadline. He spent 2015-16 with the Bruins but was sent down to their AHL affiliate in Providence.  After that, he played three years in the KHL where he remains to this day.

Dennis Wideman, Defenseman, Buffalo Sabres with pick #241st overall pick (Eighth-Round) – Wideman never signed a contract with the Sabres. Instead, he signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues in June 2004.  He was called up to the Blues during the 2005-06 season, in which he played in 67 games and scored eight goals. He began the 2006-07 season with the Blues but was traded at the trade deadline to the Boston Bruins.  He remained with the Bruins through the 2009-10 season, after which he was traded to the Florida Panthers with whom he remained until the team traded him to the Washington Capitals at the 2011 trade deadline. He played with the Caps through the 2011-12 season when, as he was about to become free agent, his rights were traded to the Calgary Flames. He remained with the Flames through the 2016-17 season. The 2016-17 season, his last season with the Flames, was also his last in the NHL. He has spent his post-NHL career as an assistant coach for the Kitchener Rangers.

Jonathan Ericsson, Defenseman, Detroit Red Wings with 291st overall pick (Ninth-Round) – Ericsson was the last player chosen in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.  He debuted with the Red Wings near the end of the 2007-08 season after playing most of the season for their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.  He started off 2008-09 with Grand Rapids but was called up later that season to Detroit, where he has played ever since.  He played in 22 games during the Wings’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2009 despite a bout with appendicitis.  In 2016-17, he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in February.  With age, his performance has started to decline, thus, his role with the Red Wings is getting reduced and some are calling for the Red Wings to move on from him.

Overall conclusions

The best forward selected was Rick Nash, the first overall pick.  The next best forwards, from a goal scoring standpoint were Alexander Semin and Alexander Steen, picked with the 13th and 24th, respectively. The latter is still active and should reach second in goals scored for members of the draft class early next season. They are the only two forwards who have topped over 500 points, besides Nash, with the latter topping 600.  Two very productive forwards, in overall points, were drafted in the third-round: Frans Nielsen and Valteri Filppula, who are both still active and have nearly 500 points during their NHL careers.  Other forwards with over 400 points include: Joffrey Lupul (seventh overall), Matthew Stajan (57th overall), and Jiri Hudler (50th overall).

The best defenseman selected was Duncan Keith (54th overall). Jay Bouwmeester, who was picked third overall and was the first defenseman picked, was the second-best.  Only one other defenseman has played in over 1,000 games, besides Keith and Bouwmeester (Trevor Daley). The other most notable defensemen drafted that year were: Dennis Wideman (241st overall), who played in over 800 NHL games, Keith Ballard (11th overall), Matt Greene (44th overall), Johnny Boychuk (61st overall), and Jonathan Ericsson (291st overall), who all had over 600 NHL game.  Boychuk and Ericsson, who was the very last draft pick that season, were all still active during the 2018-19 season.

Of the players selected in this draft, the only still active at the end of the 2018-19 season were: Bouwmeester, Steen, Daley, Keith, Boychuk, Filippula, Ericsson, Cam Ward, and two career backup goalies, Curtis McElhinney and Mike McKenna, who’s spent most of his career in the minors but plans to retire at the end of this season.  Two of the still active players, Bouwmeeser and Steen, participated in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final as members of the St. Louis Blues.

One oddity in this draft is that the last player picked, Jonathan Ericsson, will remain active after the first pick, Rick Nash, has retired.

The first-round included several players who proved to be disappointments in their career.  There were four players drafted in the round who never made it to the NHL: Jesse Niinimaki (15th overall), Jakub Koreis (19th overall), Martin Vagner (26th overall), and Mike Morris (27th overall).  Two more players in that round did not play more than five NHL games: Petr Taticek (ninth overall) and Jonas Johansson (28th overall). Two more players in that round did not exceed 100 NHL games: Jakub Klepis (16th overall) and Hannu Toivonen (29th overall).

Several players drafted in the first-round dealt with injuries that likely derailed their career prematurely.  This included Nash, who had multiple concussions plus a groin injury, Kari Lehtonen (second overall), who dealt with a back injury and other injuries, Joni Pitkanen (fourth overall), who injured his heel on an icing, Ryan Whitney (fifth overall), who had foot issues, Scottie Upshaw (sixth overall), who dealt with a sports hernia injury, among other things, Joffrey Lupul (seventh overall), who dealt with a variety of injuries, including spinal cord contusion and a concussion, Pierre Bouchard, who dealt with concussions, among others

The Washington Capitals had three picks in the first round: Semin, Steve Eminger (12th overall), and Boyd Gordon. While Semin was a productive scorer for them for several years, Eminger only ended up becoming a depth defenseman, and Boyd Gordon ended up as a fourth-line center. They also had acquired two of the other first-rounders in trades: Jonas Johansson and Jakub Klepis, but neither panned out. Johansson played in just one game for the Caps, in 2003-04.  Klepis played parts of two seasons with the Caps but when he did not make it to the Caps during the 2007-08 season, returned to his native Czech Republic to play hockey there.

Related Reading
2002 Entry Draft Picks from Hockey DB
21st Century Capitals: A Look At the Capitals’ Draft Picks Since 2000
2019 Stanley Cup Final Preview: Atlantic #2 Bruins vs. Central #3 Blues
Capitals Alumni Profile – Alexander Semin

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in Draft, History, Injuries, News, NHL, Players, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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