June 27, 2004
Raleigh, N.C. – Two Notre Dame hockey standouts – sophomores-to-be Wes O’Neill (Essex, Ont.) and David Brown (Stoney Creek, Ont.) – heard their names called on the second day of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Entry Draft held at the RBC Center, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.
O’Neill, a 6-4, 215-pound defenseman, was selected in the fourth round, 115th overall by the New York Islanders while Brown, a goaltender, was selected in the eighth round, 228th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For O’Neill, who was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the 23rd-ranked North American skater, the wait was longer than he had hoped. The Islanders were happy to take O’Neill in the fourth round according to their website New York Islanders.com.
“There’s huge upside to this kid,” said Islanders’ Midwest scout Brian Hunter. “Two years ago, he was a top pick in this draft and he’s been highly-touted for a long time. He’s a young kid for this draft, which will, down the road, work in his favor because it’ll give him a chance to develop.”
“He’ll need four years in college to develop,” said Hunter. “He projects as a two-way defenseman who has the ability to do some things offensively and also be very capable in his defensive zone.”
Irish head coach Dave Poulin was surprised that his talented defenseman lasted until the fourth round.
“Overall, I’m very happy that we had three kids get drafted this year. It was a huge surprise to me that Wes slid so far. I was stunned,” said Poulin.
“People that I talked to before the draft told me that they had him ranked as high as 14th on their board, that he was definitely a top four defenseman. I don’t understand what teams are thinking. The best thing about this is that Wes now has the chance to prove every day that these teams made a mistake. And knowing Wes’ maturity level he will do just that.”
Brown was excited about his selection by the Penguins.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to get drafted. It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It’s a great feeling and an honor to know that someone has the faith in you and thinks your good enough to someday play at that level,” said Brown.
“I wasn’t really concerned about where I went. Pittsburgh is a great organization for developing their younger players. I know they have some great young goaltenders.”
David Brown was selected in the eighth-round, 228th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Penguins chief scout Greg Malone had this to say about Brown on Pittsburgh Penguins.com:
“He (Brown) was a kid that came in as a freshman and took over as the number one goaltender. He’s a standup goaltender and he played very well for them this year. They go to him all the time and he had a lot of success this year. He’s got three more years down there to develop. We always like to get a goaltender somewhere in the draft. And at this time we were really fortunate to get this quality of goaltender,” said Malone.
Poulin was happy for his young goaltender.
“David is real happy. He knows that a team owns his right and he will get a chance to play. I’m surprised that he lasted this long. Here’s a kid who’s played at a high level. He beat Boston College, Wisconsin and swept Michigan. I followed the draft and saw players being selected that we decided not to recruit go ahead of him and it’s sometimes hard to understand,” said Poulin, now in his 10th year at Notre Dame.
O’Neill and Brown both had impressive freshman seasons during the 2003-04 campaign that saw Notre Dame appear in the NCAA tournament for the first time in the 36-year history of the program.
As a member of a veteran defensive corps, O’Neill, who’s birth date is March 3, 1986, was among the top four defenseman for the Irish while playing most of the year as a 17-year old. He scored a pair of goals and added 10 assists for 12 points in 39 games and had a +7 plus-minus rating, tops among Notre Dame defensemen. He was a member of Team Canada at the World Under-18 championships in April where he had a goal and an assist in seven games as Canada finished fourth. He has been invited to attend Canada’ World Junior Developmental Camp in August in preparation for the 2005 World Junior Championships.
Brown was 14-7-3 for the Irish setting single-season school records with a 2.32 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and four shutouts.
He was selected the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s rookie of the week three times and defensive player of the week once during the year. Brown was also named the Hockey Commissioner’s Association’s (HCA) rookie of the month for October and was an honorable mention rookie of the month in January and February.
The 5-11, 188-pound goaltender set a Notre Dame record by recording three consecutive shutouts and a school-record shutout minute streak of 193:27. Among his three consecutive shutouts was a 1-0, 40-save blanking of then top-ranked Boston College in October.
The three players selected in the draft are the most for the Irish since 2002 when Rob Globke (2nd round – Florida Panthers), Mike Walsh (5th round – New York Rangers) and Yan Stastny (8th round – Boston Bruins) were taken.