Wings Take Goalie with Lone Day One Draft Pick

With their lone pick on the first day of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings selected goaltender James Howard of the University of Maine.

The Red Wings had no picks in the first or third rounds, having traded their first-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings in the March deal for defenseman Mathieu Schneider and their third-round pick to the Nashville Predators in return for a third-round pick in last year’s draft (used to select Valtteri Filppula).

Rounds Four through Nine will take place on Sunday. The Red Wings have picks in each of the remaining rounds.

The Wings chose Howard with the sixtieth overall pick late in the second round. The Hockey News had rated him at fiftieth overall. The 19-year-old, 6’0″, 218 pound netminder was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 2 North American goalie available in this year’s draft.

Howard had an 8-1-0 record at Maine prior to the World Junior Championship but his play tailed off at the end of the season. He finished at 14-6-0 with a .916 save percentage.

The feeling among NHL scouts is that Howard could become a top NHL goalie.

“I look at so many college goalies who are 20 or 21, and he was every bit as good as them,” said one scout.

Day One Draft Notes:
Ninety minutes into the draft, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the passing of Ottawa Senators assistant coach and Hall-of-Famer Roger Neilson. Neilson died at his Peterborough, Ontario home after a lengthy battle with skin and bone cancer. He was 69.

Several trades took place on Saturday. Florida traded their first-overall pick along with their third-round pick to Pittsburgh for the third-overall pick, a second-round pick and Mikael Samuelsson. Carolina acquired defenseman Danny Markov and a conditional pick from Phoenix for d-man David Tanabe and prospect Igor Knyazev. The Colorado Avalanche sent enforcer Scott Parker to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a fifth-round pick and got forward Andrei Nikolishin from the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations. The Atlanta Thrashers traded their second round pick to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Ivan Majesky. The St. Louis Blues picked up a second-round draft pick from Tampa Bay for forward Cory Stillman and either a fifth-round pick this year or a fourth-rounder next year from Phoenix for forward Tyson Nash.

The Penguins selected goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the first-overall pick.

Rangers Win Kovalev Sweepstakes

The cash-strapped Pittsburgh Penguins traded All-Star forward Alexei Kovalev to the New York Rangers in an eight-player deal designed to help alleviate the Penguins’ financial woes. Kovalev was sent to the Rangers despite rumors that a deal had been agreed upon between Pittsburgh and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The deal sees the Penguins acquire forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Rico Fata, defensemen Joel Bouchard and Richard Lintner, and $4 million. In return, the Rangers get Kovalev, forward Dan LaCouture, and defensemen Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson.

Kovalev will be making his second tour of duty with the Rangers. He was traded to the Penguins from New York during the 1998-99 season. Kovalev has twenty-seven goals and thirty-seven assists in fifty-four games with Pittsburgh this season.

Samuelsson is the only regular sent to Pittsburgh in the deal. He has eight goals and fourteen assists in fifty-eight games for the Rangers this season.

Fata has two goals and four assists in thirty-six games and Bouchard had five goals and seven assists in twenty-seven games. Litner has spent most of the season with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

LaCouture has scored two goals and added two assists in forty-four games this season, while Laukannen has just one goal and seven assists in seventeen games played. Wilson has scored once and assisted once in seventeen games.

Kovalev is eligible for salary arbitration after this season and would most-likely have been awarded a salary that the Penguins could not afford.