The 2000 NHL Draft was an important one for Minnesota Wild. After all, it was the first in the franchise’s history and its effects were felt within the organization for years to come.
The Wild entered the 2000 NHL Draft having nine draft picks in the first eight rounds. Doug Risebrough, who previously served as general manager for the Calgary Flames, was heading into the draft. The team had Jacques Lemaire, a Stanley Cup-winning coach, behind them. This was a testament to how crucial it was that the organization succeed as quickly as possible. Both men spent nearly a decade playing for the Wild. You will have some success.
After all, the team was able to make a decent showing in the 2000 NHL Draft. Their top two selections went on to have successful NHL careers where they played over 1,000 games apiece, but the rest of the club’s selections left a lot to be desired. Keeping that in mind, here’s a look at each of those draft picks.
Early Rounds (1st & 2nd)
Round 1, 3rd Overall – Marian Gaborik, RW (Trencin Dukla, SVK)
Marian Gaborik is easy to find Wild history’s greatest playerAs well as being one of the best options in the first round, he was selected. His last season in the Slovak Extraliga saw him score 25 goals in 50 games. This is a testament to his scoring abilities before he ever made it to NHL. He won a bronze medal in the IIHF World Juniors and U18 World Championship with Slovakia in 1999. His talents were evident enough for Wild scouts to pick him as the first franchise pick. Fortunately for fans, Gaborik didn’t disappoint, scoring 18 goals and 18 assists as a rookie through 71 games.
Gaborik quickly became a Minnesota fan favorite, impressing the crowd with his goal scoring abilities. Gaborik was a fan favourite in Minnesota after he scored 30+ goals five times during his eight seasons with them. He also set the franchise record with 42 goals in 2007-08. The hockey world will never know his true scoring potential as injuries plagued him throughout the course of his career. Out of a possible 656 regular-season games he could’ve played for the Wild, he wound up missing 154 of them.
Gaborik was still a success with the Wild. He played 502 games and scored 219 goals. Gaborik also had 218 assists. This gave him 437 points. He still holds the franchise record for the most goals, Zach Parise is the closest Wild player at 199. Gaborik holds the record, despite not playing for the team for over a decade. This is a testament to how great he was during his prime. He played for the New York Rangers as well as the Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets. Before retiring, he was with the Ottawa Senators.
Round 2, 33rd Overall – Nick Schultz, D (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)
The Wild also found another player, who ended up spending close to a decade with them. Nick Schultz, a solid two-way defenceman who played in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Prince Albert Raiders, scored 114 points in 189 games. After being drafted 33rd overall, Schultz played another season in WHL and four games with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League before making a pro debut in 2001-02 NHL season. Schultz’s career was more defined as a defensive defenseman after he joined the Wild.
Schultz was an extremely physical player. His Wild stint ended with 549 hits (and 980 blocked shots), which ranks third and second among the franchise records for defensemen. He served as an alternate captain in Minnesota towards the end, proving that he was a leader on and off the ice. The Wild traded defenseman Tom Gilbert to the Edmonton Oilers for Schultz at the 2012 Trade Deadline. He was the final player in his draft class to be on the team before the trade. He played for the Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and retired from hockey after the 2016-17 season.
Middle Rounds (3rd – 5th)
Round 4, 99th Overall – Marc Cavosie, W (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ECAC)
To say that Marc Cavosie’s professional hockey career was a bit disappointing would be a bit of an understatement. He was drafted by the Wild at No. 99 in the fourth round, so it’s not like there were a lot of expectations on him. He was impressive in his college freshman season with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He scored a total of 30 points over 33 games.
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After his time at R.P.I, Cavosie made his American Hockey League debut in 2002-03 with the Houston Aeros and helped them win Calder Cup. Cavosie spent three more seasons with the Aeros, scoring 18 goals and 52 assists in 189 matches. Unfortunately for him, the Wild never called him up and he’d spend the rest of his career bouncing around the AHL and ECHL with the occasional excursion to Europe. Since then, he’s returned to R.P.I. He is now back at R.P.I. Serves as an assistant coach for their men’s hockey team.
Round 5, 132nd Overall – Maxim Sushinski, RW (Omsk Avangard, Russia)
While the Wild’s first three picks of the 2000 NHL Draft were relatively young, the team went older in the fifth round by drafting 25-year-old right wing Maxim Sushinski out of Omsk Avangard in Russia. He had been playing in Russia the previous eight seasons which gave him more experience against men. Disappointingly, he played just 30 games for the Wild, all in the club’s inaugural season. He’d have 11 points during his tenure, but he ended up leaving the team in the middle of the season to return to Russia for personal reasons. He did not return to the NHL and ended his hockey career in Russia.
Late Rounds (6th – 8th)
Round 6, 170th Overall – Eric Reitz, RW (Barrie Colts, OHL)
Eric Reitz wasn’t expected to become a mobile, flashy defenseman. Reitz was known more for his toughness, and willingness to take on physical challenges. Reitz had an incredible 416 penalty minutes in three seasons playing for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He’d make his professional hockey debut for the Aeros during their Calder Cup-winning 2002-03 AHL season. Even in the AHL, Reitz couldn’t resist staying out of the box, recording 721 penalty minutes in 363 games with the Aeros.
Reitz made his NHL debut in 2005-06, playing five games and recording zero points and four penalties minutes. Before being released, he only played 37 games for the Wild. In January 2009, the New York Rangers were traded for Dan Fritsche. After two seasons in Europe, Reitz ended his hockey career.
Round 7, 199th Overall – Brian Passmore, C (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
Brian Passmore, despite being in the seventh round of the draft, was a very impressive player for the Oshawa generals in 1999-2000 OHL season. He scored 58 points per game and was a point-per–game player. He was also the first center that the Wild drafted in franchise history, so it would’ve been nice if he managed to become somewhat of a role player for the team. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as he never played a game for the organization. After playing another season in the OHL, Passmore spent two seasons playing for the University of Prince Edward Island’s hockey team. After that, Passmore spent most of his time on five different ECHL hockey teams. He also spent some time in Europe.
Missed Chance: New York Rangers select Henrik Lundqvist, G (Chicago Steel, Sweden) – 205th overall
The Rangers selected Henrik Lundqvist (a Swedish goalie) just six picks later than the Wild took Passmore. Obviously, nobody knew just how good he would become, but the fact is that the Wild could’ve used him on the roster. In their inaugural season, Jamie McLennan and Manny Fernandez were the club’s top goaltenders. While both of them had decent NHL careers, neither had one as good as Lundqvist’s.
While Uncertainty surrounds his futureLundqvist’s feat is unmatched by any other goalie. Lundqvist ranks sixth in wins (459) and 10th in save rate (.918%). He also ranks 18th among all-time goaltending statistics (64). He’s also won Vezina Trophy in 2012 and was a part of multiple all-star teams. With how durable and successful Lundqvist has been, it’s not hard to wonder how he could’ve changed the Wild’s history if they selected him instead of Passmore.
Round 7, 214th Overall Peter Bartos C (Ceske Budejovice HC Czech).
Wild preferred to draft older players back in 2000, for some reason. With the 214th selection in Round 7, the organization drafted Ceske Budejovice HC’s Peter Bartos, 26 years old. To his credit, he was coming off back-to-back 48-point seasons in the Czech Republic and that played a role in him making his pro debut in the Wild’s inaugural season. His impact on the Wild was minimal as he played only 13 games, scoring six points.
The Cleveland Lumberjacks IHL team spent the majority of 2000-01 season with him. He was impressive, scoring 46 points in 60 games. Unfortunately, that was it for the Wild and Bartos’ relationship. He’d return to Ceske Budejovice HC in the following season and continue playing hockey across the Czech Republic and Slovakia until retiring in 2017.
Round 8, 232nd Overall Lubomir sekeras, D. (Trinec Ocelari HC, CZECH).
For some reason, the Minnesota Wild couldn’t stay away from drafting another older European player when they selected 31-year-old defenseman Lubomir Sekeras from Trinec Ocelari HC in the Czech Republic. By the time he was drafted, Sekeras had 12 professional hockey seasons under his belt and slid into the Wild’s defensive rotation right away. In the franchise’s inaugural season, he finished with 34 points in 80 games. He played two more seasons with the team but his greatest moment was in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sekeras made a big comeback in Game 6, scoring his NHL postseason debut goal. It proved to be the game-winning goal and helped the Wild force a Game 7. They won that game. He was out of the league sooner than expected. In the 2003-04 season, he signed with the Dallas Stars. He only played four games before returning home to Europe where he continued playing until his retirement in 2011.
Round 8, 255th Overall Eric Johansson C (Tri-City Americans WHL)
The Wild drafted Eric Johansson eighth round. This gave them their third center in the final four selections. He was coming off a WHL campaign which saw him score 60 points in 72 games with the Tri-City Americans. He continued to play in the juniors two more seasons, increasing his point totals by 80 and 103 respectively. Johansson did not sign with Minnesota, and instead opted to re-enter draft.
He was drafted 187th by the New Jersey Devils in 2002, which slightly improved his draft ranking. After playing three seasons in the AHL and one in the ECHL, Johansson’s North American hockey career was over. He’d find himself playing for 11 different European teams before hanging up his skates in 2018.
Overall Grade: C
Gaborik and Schultz were the only significant players that the Wild won at the 2000 NHL Draft. Both had successful careers with the Wild in the early 2000s. They are still fondly remembered today. It’s because of Gaborik and Schultz that this grade is as high as it is. The rest of the Wild’s picks that year barely played any NHL games and a lot of them were too old to have lengthy NHL careers. The entire draft class was weak, so it is possible to argue that the Wild are just playing with what they have.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent Master of Journalism graduate, it’s always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! My work can also be found on FanDuel and the Ottawa Citizen as well as various betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat