For the past few weeks, I’ve been diving into David Poile’s draft history as general manager of the Nashville Predators. Since he’s been the franchise’s only GM, he’s been at the helm for every draft since 1998. Beginning with that first draft, I’m working forward to the present, with this installment covering the 2002 Draft. For reference, here are the drafts I’ve covered so far:
- 1998: Franchise’s Inaugural Draft
- 1999: Erat Leads to Forsberg
- 2000: Scott Hartnell and Nothing Else
- 2001: Hamhuis and Tootoo
The 2002 Draft was not a good one for finding NHL talent as only 104 players reached the league. But if your team did draft one of the prospects who played in the NHL, there was a good chance he had a productive career as 35 players went on to appear in at least 500 games, including five who reached 1,000 career games. While no skater accumulated 500 goals or 1,000 points, two goaltenders did win at least 300 games.
For the Predators, it was a draft to forget. Only three of their eight picks reached the NHL and the trio totaled 897 games, 149 goals and 308 points. However, only 77 games, 11 goals and 29 points occurred in a Predators sweater. Granted the team didn’t draft in rounds two and three, but that’s still a poor result considering they picked sixth overall. Poile didn’t have great drafts early in his Nashville tenure, and 2002 was one of the worst.
Early Rounds (1-3)
Round 1, 6th Overall – Scottie Upshall, W (Kamloops Blazer, WHL)
The Predators ended the 2001-02 season tied for next-to-last in the Western Conference with 69 points. That resulted in them having the sixth-overall pick that they used on winger Scottie Upshall of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. With the Blazers he had 32 goals and 83 points in 61 games, and he also had six points in seven games for Team Canada at the World Juniors Tournament in his draft season.
He played eight NHL games in 2002-03, scoring one goal, before being returned to the WHL. He played the next two seasons in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular in 2005-06. In Feb. 2007, the Predators traded Upshall to the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the deal to acquire Peter Forsberg. He played in a total of 77 games with the Predators, scoring 11 goals and 29 points, and was worth 3.1 point shares. He played 11 more NHL seasons through 2017-18 before retiring. He finished with 759 games played, 138 goals, 285 points and 29.4 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Duncan Keith, D – Drafted 54th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks drafted Keith in the second round, and what a steal they got. They drafted the future Hall of Famer from Michigan State University. Through the 2018-19 season he played 14 NHL seasons, won two Norris Trophies, three Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy, two Olympic gold medals and was worth 106.7 point shares.
Middle Rounds (4-6)
Round 4, 102nd Overall – Brandon Segal, RW (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
With his fourth-round pick, Poile went after another winger, this time Brandon Segal from the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He had 43 goals and 83 points in 71 games his draft season. He played two more junior seasons before turning pro in 2003-04 with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He never reached the NHL with the Predators, and instead they traded him to the Anaheim Ducks in June 2007.
He finally reached the NHL in 2008-09 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and bounced between the AHL and NHL through the 2013-14 season. He appeared in 103 NHL games with 11 goals, 22 points and 2.1 point shares. He left North America in 2014-15, and as of 2018-19 was in Germany’s DEL with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers.
Missed Opportunity: Tom Gilbert, D – Drafted 129th overall by the Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche drafted Gilbert from the University of Wisconsin. The Avalanche traded his rights to the Edmonton Oilers in March 2004 and he reached the NHL with the Oilers in 2006-07. He played 11 NHL seasons with five teams and totaled 655 games, 45 goals, 223 points and 40.0 point shares. He joined the DEL’s Nürnberg Ice Tigers in 2017-18 and played there through 2018-19.
Round 5, 138th Overall – Patrick Jarrett, C (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
The Predators drafted center Patrick Jarrett out of the OHL, where he had six goals and 30 points in 47 games between the Owen Sound Attack and Mississauga IceDogs. He played three more junior seasons, all as captain of the Attack, and the Predators never signed him. He played part of one season in the AHL but spent the majority of career in Germany’s second-tier league. He retired after the 2017-18 season and was an assistant coach of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2018-19.
Missed Opportunity: James Wisniewski, D – Drafted 156th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks drafted another quality defenseman in the 2002 Draft, this time James Wisniewski from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. After one more OHL season, he turned pro in 2004-05 and reached the NHL in 2005-06. He played a total of 11 seasons in the NHL with 552 games, 53 goals, 274 points and 44.8 point shares. He played the 2016-17 season in the KHL and the 2017-18 season in Germany’s second-tier league before retiring. He represented the United States at the 2008 World Championships and 2018 Winter Olympics.
Round 6, 172nd Overall – Mike McKenna, G (St. Lawrence University, NCAA)
In the sixth round, Poile drafted the first of two goaltenders he took in 2002 when he selected Mike McKenna from St. Lawrence University where he had an .898 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.16 goals-against average (GAA) in 20 appearances. He played two more college seasons before turning pro in 2005-06. He only made one AHL start in the Predators system and the Lightning signed him in Feb. 2009, making his NHL debut with them that season. Through 2018-19, he made 35 NHL appearances for seven teams, with a 7-17-3 record, an .890 SV%, a 3.60 GAA and 3.5 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Ian White, D – Drafted 191st overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs drafted White late in the sixth round from the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. He played two more junior seasons before turning pro in 2003-04. He reached the NHL in 2005-06 and played eight NHL seasons with five seasons. He played in 503 games and totaled 45 goals, 179 points and 35.2 point shares. He played the 2013-14 season in the KHL and the 2014-15 season in the AHL before retiring. He also represented Canada at the 2009 World Championships.
Late Rounds (7-9)
Round 7 – 203rd Overall – Josh Morrow, D (Tri-City Americans, WHL)
The Predators drafted defenseman Josh Morrow from the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. He split the 2001-02 season, his draft year, between the Americans and Medicine Hat Tigers, where he combined for 76 games played, 10 goals and 37 points. He never signed a professional contract, and instead played two more seasons in the WHL, somehow giving him six junior seasons. He retired after the 2003-04 season.
Missed Opportunity: Max Talbot, C – Drafted 234th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins took Talbot in the eighth round from the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques. He played one more junior season, turned pro in 2004-05 and reached the NHL in 2005-06. He played 11 NHL seasons, most recently with the Boston Bruins in 2015-16, and won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Penguins, scoring both goals in Game 7 of the Cup Final. He left the NHL for the KHL in 2016-17, where he remained in 2018-19. For his NHL career he accumulated 704 games, 91 goals, 204 points and 12.4 point shares.
Round 8 – 235th Overall – Kaleb Betts, F (Chilliwack Chiefs, BCHL)
One pick after the Penguins picked Talbot, the Predators drafted forward Kaleb Betts out of the BCHL, where he had 35 goals and 72 points in 54 games his draft season. Already committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, he played four seasons of college hockey. The Predators never signed him and he turned pro in 2006-07 in the United Hockey League. He spent the next two seasons in the ECHL and retired after 2008-09.
Missed Opportunity: Dennis Wideman, D – Drafted 241st overall by the Buffalo Sabres
Six spots after the Predators drafted Betts, the Sabres picked Wideman. They drafted him from the OHL’s London Knights and he turned pro in 2004-05. He first reached the NHL in 2005-06 and played 12 NHL seasons with 815 games, 99 goals, 387 points and 66.3 point shares. He retired after the 2016-17 season and is most notable for abusing an official in a Jan. 2016 game. After retirement, he became an assistant coach with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, a position he held through 2018-19.
Round 9 – 264th Overall – Matthew Davis, G (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)
Poile used his first of two ninth-round draft picks on goaltender Matthew Davis from the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats. In 2001-02, he had an .897 SV% and a 3.87 GAA in 34 appearances. He played two more junior seasons, never turned pro and finished his career with six university seasons in Canada. He most recently played the 2011-12 season for the University of New Brunswick.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 9 – 266th Overall – Steven Spencer, D (Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
The Predators spent their final pick of the 2002 Draft on defenseman Steven Spencer of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. He had one goal and five points in 65 games his draft season. He played one more season with the Broncos and was never signed by the Predators. He turned pro in 2003-04 and played the next three seasons mostly in the ECHL. He retired after the 2005-06 season having never reached the NHL.
Missed Opportunity: Adam Burish, W – Drafted 282nd overall by the Blackhawks
Unsurprisingly, the Predators’ last missed opportunity of the 2002 Draft, Adam Burish, was drafted by the Blackhawks. They selected him from the Green Bay Gamblers, and after four college seasons, he turned pro in 2006-07. He played nine seasons in the NHL, won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks and finished with 378 games, 27 goals, 60 points and 0.9 point shares. He also represented the United States at the 2008 World Championships. He left North America for Sweden in 2015-16, playing one season there before retiring at season’s end.
Overall Grade: D-
Even taking into account Poile only having eight picks, the 2002 Draft was forgettable at best for the Predators. Anytime only three picks from a given draft reach the NHL, it’s a bad sign. However, when only one does in your sweater, it’s nearly inexcusable. Granted, Upshall, that one player, was used to acquire Peter Forsberg, but Forsberg only played 17 regular-season games and five playoff games as the Predators were eliminated in the first round. All-in-all it was a bad draft for a team needing a successful one.