Two of the first five story requests from PB readers were about the trading of 2004 Islanders first round pick Petteri Nokelainen to the Boston Bruins. What follows is a remembrance/factual account of events.
Petteri – “Nokey,” everyone calls him – was taken in the middle of a wild and wacky first round in 2004 that saw great players, huge misses and question marks to this day:
1. Alex Ovechkin
2. Evgeni Malkin
6. Alex Montoya
17. Marek Schwarz
20. Travis Zajac
25. Rob Schremp
29. Mike Greeen
Nokelainen was taken 81 selections before Detroit took Johan Franzen, 144 picks before Boston drafted Ben Walter, 209 picks before the Islanders took Chris Campoli and 242 prior to Montreal taking a Swiss defenseman named Mark Streit.
That’s the draft for you. What I recall about his selection was the Islanders not billing him as any kind of star, but a top-notch two-way player who could chip in 20 goals and contend for a Selke. (Most of you are better at this Internet thing than me, so if you can find the articles feel free to link them in Comments). The Islanders were very happy with the pick, although no one walked out of there thinking they grabbed a star with the 16th pick.
What I also recall is that year the hockey staff (at the time) was talking “character, character, character.” (Reminds me of the Commenter a few days ago who ranted that character doesn’t mean diddly if you can’t play). Nokelainen fit the “character” component, as did Blake Comeau (second round) and Campoli (7th round).
And yes, so did Wes O’Neill (4th) – who has split this season between the Johnstown Chiefs and Lake Erie Monsters. Steve Regier (5th) was also in that draft. Reg is a point-a-game with Peoria (AHL) this year and has dressed 8 times this season for the St. Louis Blues.
Petteri went through a rough, frustrating ordeal in his time in the organization. After showing real solid promise, he suffered a knee injury in a game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 5, 2005 and missed the rest of the season. He developed tendinitis in the knee and underwent countless treatments. It was a heartbreaking time. Nokey is a real good kid whom everyone liked. He loves to play and it was killing him to be unable to. Every time I saw him in the press box…well, it was tough.
The following season, the feeling was the knee injury measurably slowed him down. Nokelainen played the season in Bridgeport, going 6-10-16 in 61 games. It was mutually agreed by the team, Petteri and his agent that the proverbial “change of scenery” was in order.
Garth Snow shopped him around for most of the summer of 2007. On Sept. 11, he finally landed a deal with the Boston Bruins that met his requirements: a center prospect (Ben Walter) and “protection” in the form of a conditional draft pick. When Nokelainen played in 57 games last season for Boston, the pick became a second rounder in 2009.
Petteri is scoreless this season in 19 games with Boston, averaging 10 minutes a game on the fourth line. He was recently a healthy scratch for five consecutive games, but has become a useful depth forward on an excellent team. Ben Walter played 8 games for the Islanders this season. After starting this year on the IR, he is 5-8-13 in 14 games in Bridgeport. Walter is 24, Nokelainen will be 23 in January.
Ironically, both Walter and Nokelainen played well under Scott Gordon in Providence. I doubt Scott would tell me whom he’d rather have. Although the Bruins’ superb season will result in the pick being in the back end of the round, I’m sure the Islanders are excited to have an extra second-rounder next summer.
On Parise and others: Many of you have requested articles about the Islanders decision to pass on Zach Parise and stuff like that. Being on the PR side and not the hockey side, most times I really don’t know what I could add to the discussion. In the case of Parise, the scouting staff in 2003 - I believe only two scouts remain from that group – had Robert Nilsson ranked ahead of Zach. I have no idea why they passed on Parise at that pick or the hundreds of other players they didn’t take in any draft. I was only privy to some knowledge on who they took and why.
I personally don’t recall anyone sitting about the table saying Parise stunk, or anything crazy like that. It was simply a matter of a team taking the player they had higher on their board – like the Rangers also did when they took Hugh Jessiman over Parise and Dustin Brown. In a bad draft for both New York teams, the Islanders and Rangers passed on Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron, Corey Perry and many others.
No doubt, a regettable move by the Islanders. I’ll admit to remembering how Lou Lamoriello moved up to pick 17 to take Zach and thinking, “Uh oh.” Short of the Islanders’ chief scout at the time granting an interview where he would release his rankings and scouting reports on Robert and Zach to me – not gonna happen – there’s not much left for me to enlighten you on.
Same thing for just about all the reader story ideas about hockey trades and drafts that start with “What were they thinking when…”
Reaction to this story in Comments. Please place any additional story ideas in “You Play Point Blank Editor” thread below. Thanks for all the responses…CB