June 26, 2000
CALGARY, Alberta – Notre Dame sophomore-to-be defenseman Evan Nielsen (Evanston, Ill.) was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the eighth round of the 2000 National Hockey League Entry Draft, following Sunday’s second and final day of selections.
No other Notre Dame players were selected in the nine-round draft while the rights to former Notre Dame center Ben Simon (Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1996-2000) were traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to Atlanta. As compensation, the Blackhawks received the Thrashers’ ninth-round pick in the 2000 draft and used that pick to select center Peter Flache of the Guelph Storm (which plays in the Ontario Hockey League).
Ten Notre Dame players have been selected during the last seven NHL drafts, including seven in the last four seasons. Since 1989, at least one Irish player has been selected in every NHL draft except 1995 and ’98.
With the selection of Nielsen, Notre Dame is slated to have five NHL draft picks on its 2000-2001 roster, including senior defenseman Ryan Clark, senior left wing Jay Kopischke and junior centers David Inman and Brett Henning.
Since the inception of the NHL draft in 1967, a total of 38 Notre Dame hockey players have been chosen by various teams. Nielsen is the first Irish player drafted by the Thrashers, which recently completed their first season of competition in the NHL.
Nielsen-who prepped at The Taft School in Watertown ,Conn.-was the 242nd overall player taken in a draft that again saw European players comprise a large portion of the selections (nearly one-third of the 293 picks hailed from Europe). Nielsen was the 30th NCAA college player-and the 11th college defenseman-selected in the nine-round draft. He was the fifth player selected from a Central Collegiate Hockey Association school, joining Michigan center Andy Hilbert (37th pick, Boston), Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Greg Zanon (156th, Ottawa), Northern Michigan defenseman Sean Connolly (158th, Ottowa) and Michigan State defenseman John-Michael Liles (159th, Colorado).
Nielsen ranked as Notre Dame’s seventh-leading scorer-and tops among Irish defenseman-during the 1999-2000 season with 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) while appearing in 41 of 42 games. He also finished second on the team in plus-minus ratio (+3), with his other season stats including 27 penalties for 54 minutes, two power-play goals and two game-winning goals. His top scoring outputs included a goal and two assists in a 7-4 win over UNO, an assist in a 1-1 tie with Bowling Green and a game-winning assist in the 4-3 CCHA Tournament win over Ferris State.
Simon concluded his stellar four-year career with 129 points (44G-85A) in 143 games played. His 129 career points are second-most by any Notre Dame player, since the Irish rejoined the CCHA prior to the 1992-93 season. Simon was Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer in 1999-2000, with 32 points (13G-19A) in 40 games played, plus a team-best 10 power-play goals, 21 penalties for 53 minutes, a team-best +6 plus-minus ratio and two game-winning goals. He served as the Irish team captain in 1999-2000, was a second team all-CCHA pick as a junior and closed his career with 13 points (7G-6A) in his final 10 games (including a pair of overtime assists).
College players must be 19 years old to be eligible for the entry draft and the respective NHL clubs maintain rights to drafted players even if they elect to continue with their college careers (as is the expected course of action for Nielsen). Players younger than 19 may “opt-in” to the draft but lose their remaining college eligibility (as was the case with Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro, the first overall pick of the 2000 draft).