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Three Irish players chosen in NHL Draft

Justin Schuver | Friday, August 27, 2004

Though they’ve only recently started fall semester classes, some Notre Dame hockey players already have their plans set for professional careers.

Three members of the 2004-05 Irish were selected in the NHL Entry Draft this summer in Raleigh, N.C. Sophomores Wes O’Neill and David Brown were selected in the fourth and eight rounds, respectively, while freshman Victor Oreskovich was selected in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche – a ringing endorsement for a player who hasn’t even skated a single shift yet for the Irish.

“We’ve always liked Victor as a player,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin, who successfully recruited Oreskovich away from such big-name programs as Boston College. “He doesn’t come to the team with any more expectations because of his draft status, though.

“It’s still going to come down to the way that he performs during the regular season.”

There were some surprises in the order that the three players were taken. O’Neill, who played on the top pairing of defense on last year’s team, was widely predicted to be taken in one of the early rounds, and it was a bit of a shock when the defenseman was not selected until the 115th pick overall, by the New York Islanders.

Central Scouting, a private organization that ranks prospects in each year’s draft, ranked O’Neill as the ninth-best North American defenseman in the draft this year, and the third-best collegiate defenseman behind Grant Lewis of Dartmouth and A.J. Thelen of Michigan State.

Poulin was among those who would have predicted O’Neill would be selected in the earlier rounds of the draft.

“It’s such an inexact science,” he said. “[Representatives from] a number of teams told me even on the day of the draft that Wes would go in the first or second round.

“He’s handled it extremely well because he knows that [a college career] is a long journey.”

Brown’s selection was also perhaps a bit surprising, but collegiate goalies have long had to overcome the stigma of being seen as inferior to their European and North American counterparts who play in professional leagues, and this year was no exception.

After Michigan’s Alvaro Montoya was selected No. 10 overall, not a single additional collegiate goalie was selected until Brown, who went with the 228th pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Brown was a big part of Notre Dame’s success last year, as the team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program’s history. Along with senior Morgan Cey, Brown helped the Irish have one of the best defenses in the nation.

The sophomore finished the year with a 14-7-3 record with a .925 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA while playing what was considered one of the most difficult schedules in the nation.

“I’m familiar with a lot of the goalies who were taken ahead of David this year,” Poulin said. “And frankly, I wouldn’t take any of them over David.”

Oreskovich was a bit of a surprise as well, but in a different way. The forward, who turned 18 on Aug. 15, was one of the youngest overall players in the draft this year and came in ranked as the 72nd overall North American skater.

Oreskovich’s low ranking on Central Scouting’s list didn’t dissuade the Avalanche from making him just the second Irish player to be selected in the second round – recently-graduated Rob Globke was the first.

“I think that Central Scouting is sometimes looked at as more than what it really is,” Poulin said. “When you get down to it, it’s just a guy who scouts – it’s just that guy’s opinion.

“Someone within the Avs’ system saw something he really liked in Victor, and when a player fits into your system that’s often more important than how they’re ranked.”