CALGARY — Now the nail-biting begins.
Wisconsin’s Dany Heatley has been drafted – at No. 2 by the Atlanta Thrashers in Saturday’s NHL entry draft – and now faces his decision.
Should he stay or should he go?
The decision rests a bit with him and a bit with the Thrashers, who could tell the 19-year-old they would either like to see him in training camp next season or to return to the Badgers to work on his game.
“I think that’s still up in the air,” Heatley said on an Internet chat session after being selected. “We’ll talk to the team over the next month or so. We will see what’s best for the team and take it from there.”
One NHL general manager, however, said it might be a waste for Heatley to return to Wisconsin for his sophomore season.
“Heatley is not going to have a better year or he might not be challenged to have a better year,” Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “It’s kind of in his court, but I think he’s got to look past what more he can do at that level.”
Heatley, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound left wing, admitted he might need to get in the weight room before he can step on the ice in the NHL. There is also some question if he is quick enough for the top level.
But NHL coaches and general managers have lauded his ability to move the puck, which may overshadow his flaws.
The top-ranked North American skater, Heatley was projected in some reports to go to the New York Islanders with the top pick in the draft. But the Islanders traded away their top two goaltenders and picked Boston University’s Rick DiPietro at No. 1.
Just as well, Heatley said.
“I came into the draft with an open mind and I wasn’t expecting anything,” he said. “I’m happy to go No. 2.”
Heatley scored 28 goals and added 28 assists in 38 games as a freshman at Wisconsin. He was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s first team and was the conference’s rookie of the year.
Wisconsin had a player selected in the first round of the draft for the second straight year. In 1999, the Carolina Hurricanes selected freshman defenseman Dave Tanabe with the 16th pick.
Tanabe left Wisconsin last summer and played 31 games for the Hurricanes in the 1999-2000 season.