This is part three of a multi-part series on previous drafts by the Erie Otters. Each story focuses on a pair of OHL Priority Selections.
2000 OHL Priority Selection
Site: Hershey Centre
Date: June 3, 2000
This was the last draft to be held offsite, and a brief return to the “never ending” format in which teams chose players until they passed on a pick. The Otters bolstered their already tough blue line by using their top two picks on defensemen who became key figures with the Otters.
First round selection: Otters “ironman” Brian Lee was selected in the tenth slot and holds the Otters career games record by a wide margin with 319. He played in a team-record 200 consecutive games from February 8, 2002 to January 29, 2005 and was a solid two-way defenseman in his five-year Otters career. A third round pick by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002, he has played overseas in the last four seasons, most recently in Italy.
Notable Selections Who Played in Erie: Chris Campoli, the Otters second selection, was a vastly underrated defenseman in his OHL career who might be classified as a late bloomer. Although he accumulated 36 points in his first two OHL seasons, Campoli rattled off 48 and 66 point campaigns to close out an outstanding Otters career. He holds most team defenseman scoring records, and his exploits in the 2003-04 season earned him a seventh-round selection by the New York Islanders. Campoli has been a mainstay in the NHL ever since, and he is currently playing in Montreal. Seventh round selection Chase Trull is one of the last examples of a player to play in the NCAA after playing in the OHL, before the NCAA strengthened their eligibility rules. Trull played four games for Erie in the 2001-2002 season, then lettered for three seasons at St. Lawrence University. He then played professionally for three seasons, mostly in the ECHL. Gritty forward Brad Bonello proved to be a hidden gem in the ninth round, as he collected 101 points in 147 games with the Otters. He holds the team record for fastest goal in a game, scored 10 seconds into a game against Owen Sound in 2003. Goaltender Thomas Lee appeared in five total games during the 2001-2002 season (three regular season, two postseason) and then latched on with OHL Finals foe Barrie the following season. After four years at Brock University in St. Catharines, he has played in the SPHL and FHL. 13th round pick Steve Dix played just 17 games for Erie before he was traded to North Bay in 2002. He remained with the squad during the move to Saginaw, where he played for two seasons as an enforcer. After a three-year pro career, Dix returned to the OHL as a linesman in 2011.
Notable Selections Who Did Not Play in Erie: Ninth round pick T.J. Fox played two seasons at Union College before going pro with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks in 2007. He is currently one of the leading scorers with the CHL’s Texas Brahmas. 15th round pick Jim Slater played four seasons at Michigan State and was a first round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002. He made the Thrashers in 2005 and continues to be a part of the franchise in Winnipeg today with over 400 NHL games to his credit. 16th round pick Ryan Murphy stayed with the U.S. National Development Team and had a four-year career with Boston College. The sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2002 played four seasons of pro hockey in the AHL and ECHL before retiring in 2009.
2001 OHL Priority Selection
Date: May 5, 2001
Although Sarnia had been chosen as the site in the previous year, the league decided to move the draft to a conference call and push the draft up to the first Saturday in May. The draft returns to a 15-round format.
First round selection: With the best record in the OHL, the Otters selected 20th in the first round and chose defenseman Noel Coultice. He didn’t make much of an impact in his Otters career with just 10 points in 119 games, and in the middle of the 2003-2004 season he departed to pursue an education at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Notable Selections Who Played in Erie: One of the most notable names in Erie hockey history was chosen in the third round with 2002 OHL Championship hero Sean Courtney. Although he is best remembered for the championship clinching goal, Courtney had a decent career with the Otters with 90 points in 167 games. He was the centerpiece of a trade to Saginaw in which the Otters acquired Geoff Platt in 2004, and he later graduated from the University of Western Ontario in London. Hard-working defenseman Jake Heller kept the puck out of the net more often that he put it in (just five goals), but he was a steady influence in the blue line with 211 games under his belt. The Otters managed to find two diamonds in the rough in the 14th round. The first, Derek Merlini, was a towering defenseman who played 152 games for Erie and led the team with a +11 rating in the 2003-2004 season. He recently retired from hockey after three seasons in the pros, mostly with Port Huron of the IHL. The second, Chris Greene, didn’t make the Otters until 2004, but posted two solid seasons in Erie with a mix of toughness and offense. He is currently in his sixth pro season and skating with the CHL’s Wichita Thunder.
Notable Selections Who Did Not Play in Erie: Goaltender Jeff Weber was selected in the 11th round, and a few months later was traded to Sault Ste. Marie for an 11th round pick where he began a four-year OHL career that also included stops in Plymouth, Barrie and Saginaw. He played in the ECHL before moving on to the University of Calgary. In 2010, Weber was called up as a practice fill-in with the Flames. The Otters selected Toronto native Oren Eizenman in the 12th round, and he went on to have a solid four-year career with RPI. Eizenman is best known for representing Israel in international play, and he is arguably the country’s top player. After four seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, Eizenman is one of the leading scorers in the Asia League with High1, a team based in South Korea.