For every kid who grows up playing hockey, putting on an NHL jersey is the ultimate dream. Two current Cornell players and three incoming freshmen took their first steps into making that dream a reality, as rising sophomores Matt Moulson and Shane Hynes, along with newcomers Ryan O’Byrne, Mark McCutcheon, and Byron Bitz were selected in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
The draft, held on the weekend of June 21-22 in Nashville, saw five Cornell players taken. A defenseman, O’Byrne, part of the highly touted incoming recruiting class, was the first Red player selected, taken in the third round by Montreal with the 79th pick overall. As a member of the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League last season, the 6-4, 200 pound O’Byrne scored 15 points from the blue line.
Just seven picks later, a second Cornell player, sophomore right winger Hynes was snagged by Anaheim 86th overall. Hynes enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign in carnelian and white, tallying 11 goals and nine assists.
Bitz, another Nanaimo product and incoming freshman, was the next Red player taken off the board. Selected with the 107th pick by Boston in the fourth round, Bitz was Nanaimo’s leading scorer a year ago, with 73 points on 27 goals and 46 assists.
Son of former Cornell captain and head coach Brian McCutcheon ’71, center Mark McCutcheon was the Colorado Avalanche’s fifth round selection. With the New England Jr. Coyotes last season, McCutcheon scored 49 points on 27 goals and 22 assists.
Moulson was the final Cornell player drafted, taken in the ninth round by Pittsburgh with the 263rd pick. Moulson led all Red freshman a season ago with 23 points. He also netted the team’s first hat trick since the 1998-99 season, scoring three goals on Feb. 7 in a 6-1 win over Dartmouth.
“I thought I’d probably go a bit higher, but you never know with the draft,” Moulson said. “Anything can happen.”
“I wish Matt would have snuck through the draft instead of getting drafted in the ninth round,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “He’s a great player now, I just think he’s going to get better and better.”
Despite being drafted, Moulson realizes that the hard work lies ahead.
“It’s the first step to going to the NHL. It doesn’t really mean anything unless I perform the next three years,” Moulson said. “You can get drafted in the first round and still blow it.
“It’s going to be hard work all the way in from here. It’s an opportunity, it’s a door that can be opened,” Moulson continued.
The five Cornell players selected were the most for the program since six players were taken in both the 1989 and 1990 drafts. That number also matched Colorado College, Minnesota, and Michigan for the most among college teams.
“It’s always great to get drafted and obviously a gauge of their ability, so it’s a great recognition of our program,” Schafer said. “A couple of the guys didn’t opt in, they were too young, and I think that, that whole freshman class is going to be very solid as it enters into Cornell.”
Archived article by Alex Ip